It is 1625 and a young Richard Treadwell finds himself aboard his father’s boat, The Artemis, a future soldier on his way to take a comission in the Danish army to fight against the Catholics. Samuel Stone, his companion, takes the role of valet and guard, and was selected from among his father’s tenants for that role. They are halfway to Germany, on the first stretch of their long journey, and gambling, sea sickness and ill feeling of what is to come do not make this an easy journey. It won’t be long before Treadwell has his first dream of the beast that will haunt him for many years to come.
In 1645 Colonel Richard Treadwell of His Majesty’s Army of Horse is being pursued, captured and, more worryingly, tried for treason. The trial, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax, will reveal Treadwell’s treacherous pleadings with his countrymen’s enemies to aid he and his allies with their fight against the Papists. He will have to rely on his brother’s goodwill to ensure his family are looked after once his sentence is determined. Unfortunately for Richard, he and his brother rarely saw eye to eye when they were younger men, and he does not know whether the animosity that existed between them has lessened with age.
The Raven’s Banquet leads us through these two timelines up to the duel which began Beal’s previous novel, Gideon’s Angel. The main thread of this prequel shows the reader far more of Treadwell’s upbringing and background than was hinted at in the first book and helps to solidifiy his character. Indeed, we see him meet the fortune teller whose prophecies and charms lend him much stead in his later adventure, and those who have read Gideon’s Angel will enjoy these early moments of the hero’s life.
As with Beal’s previous book, this is an enjoyable and easy to read story. It maintains a good pace throughout and the added device of having letters and extracts from Treadwell’s journal at the start of chapters works well in retaining a sense of urgency and danger, as well as giving it a solid and coherent structure. Treadwell is once again a likeable character and this is a successful addition to the series.