For as long as she can remember, Cordelia and her fellow triplets have been hidden deep in the enchanted forest, protected by their mom from the dangers she insists are beyond its walls--dangers she's too secretive to tell them the truth about. But Cordelia has always found her own ways to escape, because she can turn into any animal she chooses, and flying over the wall in bird-shape to explore the forest is one of her favorite pastimes.
All that changes when unfamiliar soldiers encroach on Cordelia's home, kidnapping her mom and older brother and leaving the triplets fleeing deep into the forest. It turns out that one of them is the heir to the throne of the kingdom beyond the forest--but no one knows which of them is eldest, and their mom refuges to divulge the truth. And with good reason: ever since the magical Raven Crown broke, battle after battle has broken out over who holds the throne, and no ruler has survived more than a few years.
Fleeing is the only way for Cordelia and her siblings to survive, but she swiftly realizes that their mom was keeping other secrets, too--and that ending the kingdom's constant conflict might be the only way to ensure her family's safety. Can Cordelia transform not just into animals, but into a hero?
I've loved some of Stephanie Burgis's earlier middle-grade fantasy novels, including The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, and so I was excited to read this one! I wasn't disappointed. The magic system managed to be both familiar and unique, with Burgis's strong descriptions and very practical day-to-day applications making it feel distinct and creative. I particularly liked Cordelia's ability to transform--the way her abilities were altered and limited by the different shapes she took, and the fluidity of her transformations, were especially intriguing. She and her siblings were all strong characters, and the way they played off one another was delightful; although they easily could've felt like classic 'very different' siblings, their dynamic was so realistic it brought them to life. I recommend The Raven Heir to readers ages nine and up, particularly those who like sibling relationships and fantasy quests.