Top Five Books, LLC,
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The Raven's Seal



"Baltakmens captures the flavor and scope of classic British fiction."
Kirkus Reviews (11/1/2012)

"That New Zealander Baltakmens is a Dickensian scholar will come as no surprise to readers who choose his second novel: his writing style perfectly reflects the Victorian master, right down to the sly humor in characters' names, like the housekeeper Mrs. Scourish, the journalist William Quillby, and Swinge, the bribe-taking jailer. Falling into the moody twilight of Bellstrom Gaol, " a black spider on a heap of spoils" above the fictional English city of Airenchester, readers experience the dank despair of the debtors imprisoned within.... This atmospheric, character-driven, and plot-twisty bildungsroman is a worthy paean to Oliver Twist and Great Expectations."
Booklist (Jen Baker, 11/1/2012)

"Baltakmens gives readers of The Raven's Seal all of the history and mystery his subtitle promises. The mood, color, details, and dialogue come across as very authentic, and without the feeling of being forced that so often weighs down historical novels, let alone mysteries set in historical periods. Baltakmens's characters would not be out of place in a work of Defoe or Thackeray. In fact, there is much of the latter's Barry Lyndon here, with its plots and duels and confidence games, as well as deft touches of the former's Moll Flanders, with its bawdy wenches, prison intrigues, and period squalor.... There is something in it for almost everyone who likes a good eighteenth-century tale, and one with a mystery to keep the story moving." (5 stars)
ForeWord Reviews (Mark McLaughlin, 10/17/2012)

"The author's exquisite prose rushes along full of surprises, shadows, betrayal, and squalid situations where the high-born and criminals intermix. A superb mystery with vibrant characters."
Historical Novels Review (Diane Scott Lewis, Nov. 2012)

"Baltakmens uses the backdrop of 1700s England very well for a thematic and riveting tale. The Raven's Seal is a must for mystery lovers who also enjoy the setting of pre-Victorian England."
Midwest Book Review (Feb. 2013)

"Baltakmens brings Airenchester to life the way Dickens brought London alive—through descriptions so vivid you feel as though you're standing alongside the characters.... Fans of Charles Dickens' stories, and those who love murder mysteries, will enjoy The Raven's Seal." (5 quills)
Copperfield Review (Meredith Allard, 11/3/2012)

"Andrei Baltakmens' The Raven's Seal is an amazing work of historical mystery set in the fictional city of Airenchester, England, in 1776. Baltakmens has an incredible gift for writing in period English without bogging it down with either unnecessary Dickensian bluster or anachronisms. Even if the plot weren't great (which it is), it would be a treat to read this book just for the language Baltakmens uses.... Baltakmens did mountains of research about this period in England's history, especially regarding the penal system of the time. But he has a remarkably light touch with exposition.... I very much look forward to more from Baltakmens. This is easily my favorite book of the year."
—Annie Smith (Summer Reading Project, 12/16/2012)

"It's been a while since I've read a Historical novel that I've enjoyed so much. The prose is lyrical, descriptive and so evocative that you are easily drawn to the fictional town of Airenchester and the characters inhabiting it. From the genteel salons of the gentry to the squalor of the tenements in The Steps, every location is brought vividly to life.... The author loves words and language, you can tell just by the way he's written this book. It's a book you want to savour like a good meal. Despite its old-fashioned language, it is easily read and fast-paced. Nothing I say in a review can do it justice. It's wonderful, a joy to read and I can't recommend it highly enough." (5 stars)
—Annette Gisby (Books and Tales, 11/2/2012)

"Historical fiction is a difficult style of writing. The author has to be authentic, modern, archaic, and updated all at the same time. It must 'feel' right, but it can't go overboard into the historical details and forget the narrative. The Raven's Seal by Andrei Baltakmens is a great example of how it should be done.... Baltakmens writes with the same descriptive flourish as Charles Dickens. His novel is part mystery and part social commentary on the conditions of nineteenth century England. While he evokes Dickens, he succeeds because he doesn't try to reproduce Dickens. The novel maintains a modern pacing and narrative style for modern readers. The dialogue, details, and even the names ring with authenticity. Plus it's just a darn good mystery yarn!"
—Drake Morgan (Book Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone, 1/22/2013)

"Baltakmens does a more than admirable job of evoking Dickens' marvelous descriptive prose without turning it into caricature.... Baltakmens is not the first author I have read who has intentionally tried to reproduce Dickens' style but he is certainly the best."
—Maxine McLister (on Goodreads, 12/21/2012)

"A terrific read whose ending suits its adventure. The characters are human in their thinking and make mistakes in judgment just as you or I would. The Bellstrom Gaol is a character in itself and a study in good and evil. Read this one independent of the comparisons to Dickens. The Raven's Seal stands on its own, and I look forward to more by this author."
—Wanda (on Goodreads, 1/11/2013)

"The prose and language used are really wonderfully descriptive.... The imagery the author conveys is so easy to picture, that I think it played out in my head like a film and indeed, I think this story could be made into a good, dark, shadowy moody movie, though, as is usually the case, it would never be as good as immersing yourself in the book, especially one as well written as this."
—Diane Johnston (on LibraryThing, 9/27/2012)