Ravens get a bad rap. They have been cast as harbingers of death and doom, immortalized in mythology and literature. In Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, The Raven, his midnight corvid visitor is described as having eyes that “have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.” They are opportunistic feeders, known for consuming carrion, and are as willing to feast on roadkill as they are on human remains on the battlefield. Even in the shamanic cultures of indigenous North American tribes, Raven is seen as both a creator deity and a trickster, driven by his greed for food. Raven is powerful—a clever shape-shifter who can change into anything or anyone to obtain what he desires.

It is true that ravens are intelligent. Ravens and their smaller corvid cousins, crows, are social creatures that brilliantly adapt to their environment. According to John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, and his co-author Tony Angell, a member of the American Ornithologists Union, ravens and crows have large forebrains similar to mammals, and demonstrate innovation in using tools and solving problems. In their book, Gifts of the Crow, Marzluff and Angell offer many examples of how corvids learn to manipulate their environment to obtain food. They recount an incident in which they observed crows working together to herd doves into high-speed traffic on an interstate near San Francisco, and then harvesting the roadkill. Near Seattle, corvids drop clams on a stretch of road near the ferry docks. When the ferries unload, cars drive over the shells, crushing them and releasing the mollusk meat. Once the unloading lane is empty, the crows converge and feast. In Tasmania, forest ravens have learned to check the pouches of dead marsupials in case there is a baby inside. Corvids also form alliances with people who feed them regularly, and remember and mob humans who have done them harm (Marzluff & Angell, 2012).

One of the reasons I feature ravens in Sign of the Throne is I admire their intelligence and ability to ad apt. When corvids bond with humans, they can be very loyal, even bringing the person gifts. I remember, as a child, hearing the Bible story of the prophet Elijah, who survived his time in exile because ravens brought him food. This story was the inspiration for Queen Eulalia’s corvid companions.

Another reason I wanted to include ravens in Sign of the Throne is that I too have a raven story. My mother told me that when I was 17 months old, I was eating crackers in our yard when a raven approached me. I shared my food with it, and it must have sensed that it was not in danger, because it stayed around long enough for my mother to grab a camera and take photos. Because of this experience, it was important to me to portray ravens in a positive light as clever, social animals. Abby, as an empath, bonds easily with animals. She and the raven Brarn become friends after she saves him from being mauled by a gang of stray cats. He becomes a guide to her, leading her to the queen, and joining her on adventures throughout The Solas Beir Trilogy. Brarn is a raven who never forgets, and always pays his debts.

Melissa Eskue Ousley

About Melissa 
Melissa Eskue Ousley is the author of The Solas Beir Trilogy. “Sign of theThrone,” the first book of this young adult fantasy series, will be released onSeptember 14. She is currently working on the second and third novels in thetrilogy, “The Rabbit and the Raven” and “The Sower Comes.”
Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and their Kelpie, Gryphon. When she’s not writing, Melissa can be found swimming, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, or walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.
Before she became a writer, she had a number of educational jobs, ranging from a summer spent scraping roadkill off a molten desert highway to years spent conducting research with an amazing team of educators at the University of Arizona.

About Sign of the Throne

Abby is an ordinary girl haunted by dreams of an ivory castle, blood-thirsty monsters, and a striking stranger. Working as a babysitter for a family of mythology lovers in wealthy Newcastle Beach, California, she struggles to define herself among the elite class while trying to make sense of her strange visions. Upon meeting David, the doppelgänger of the mysterious young man in her dreams, Abby’s life is changed forever.
Encountering the queen of Cai Terenmare, a magical kingdom in a parallel world, Abby learns of an evil lord hell-bent on usurping the throne, the murder of Cai Terenmare’s king, the Solas Beir, and the kidnapping of the Solas Beir’s infant son.
As the kingdom struggles to endure, the queen shows Abby the full extent of her destiny. She must convince her mysterious crush, David, that he is the lost heir. While braving attacks from the dark lord’s sadistic minions, David must realize his true identity and return to Cai Terenmare to claim his throne before time runs out, lest the evil that was temporarily locked away be unleashed, threatening to destroy both the kingdom and all of humanity.
Read an excerpt from the book
Abby spent the next evening babysitting for Cassandra and Riordan. She putthe kids to bed and laid out her homework on the coffee table downstairs. She was immersed in her work when she realized—the house was quiet. Eerily quiet.
She was used to the familiar creaks and groans of the old house, and night ushered in the occasional chirp of a cricket or flutter of moth wings around theantique sconces lighting the room. Tonight she heard nothing—there was only dead silence. She felt a prickle at the back of her neck and realized she was shivering. The room had gone unnaturally cold, and she had the distinct sense that she was not alone.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadowy presence, someone standing still, watching her. She turned to look, but there was no one there. She felt a terrible unease twisting in her gut. Something was wrong.
Responding to her intuition, she got up and climbed the stairs to check on thechildren. Ciaran was snoring, perfectly at peace. He had wriggled out of his covers in his sleep. Abby tucked him back in.
Leaving his room, she walked down the hall to the twins’ room. The nightlight inthe hallway began blinking erratically. She entered the room and froze. Perched monkey-like on the corner of Rowan’s crib was a shadowed figure thesize of a small boy, leaning over the sleeping child. Sensing Abby, it turned its head, blood-red eyes meeting hers.
Abby gasped with horror as the creature leapt with unnatural agility from thecrib and crouched like a spider high on the wall, staring down at her. Slowly, it smiled, revealing rows of pointed narrow teeth, sharp as razors. And then…it pounced.
Abby raised her arms to shield herself, scrunched her eyes shut, and screamed. But there was nothing. She heard a low chuckle behind her and saw the creature near the door. The shadow boy laughed and ran out. Thesmoky form changed into a large black housecat before disappearing throughthe hallway wall.
Abby ran to the twins’ light switch and turned on the lights. She checked to make sure Rowan and Siobhan were unharmed, and then hurried to Ciaran’s room, flicking on lights as she ran. Ciaran was still fast asleep—her scream had not disturbed him at all.
She jerked open his closet door and found his aluminum baseball bat. Then, scooping him and the quilt up from his bed, she ran back to Rowan and Siobhan’s room. She shut the door and nestled the five year old into a make-shift bed on the floor. Sitting against the dresser next to him, she hummed, trying to reassure herself. Armed with the bat and the adrenaline coursing through her body, she waited.

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