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A Shadow Above
The Fall and Rise of the Raven
For millennia, we have tried to explain ourselves using the raven as a symbol. It occupies a unique place in British history and has left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape.
The raven's hulking black shape has come to represent many things: death, all-seeing power, the underworld, and a wildness that remains deep within us. Legend has it that the fate of the nation rests upon the raven, and should the resident birds ever leave the Tower of London then the entire kingdom will fall.
While so much of our wildlife is vanishing, ravens are returning to their former habitats after centuries of exile, moving back from their outposts at the very edge of the country, to the city streets from which they once scavenged the bodies of the dead.
In A Shadow Above, Joe Shute follows ravens across their new hunting grounds, examining our complicated and challenging relationship with these birds. He meets people who live alongside the raven in conflict and peace, unpicks their fierce intelligence, and ponders what the raven's successful return might come to symbolise for humans in the dark times we now inhabit.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Early in the book, the author makes a confession: 'I came to birds late'. Joe Shute may have misspent his adolescence - youth without ornithology is, by definition, wasted - but he's made up for it. This hymn to Corvus corax is the work of a birdman -- John Lewis-Stempel * Country Life * Shute writes superbly and his book is both evocative and provocative -- Hephzibah Anderson * Mail on Sunday * Shute's enthusiasm, although lightly worn, is deeply infectious [...] he is never pretentious or aggrandising. At his best, he writes with a charming, immediate humanity -- Robert Leigh-Pemberton * Daily Telegraph * He has brought the raven out of the shadow into the light -- John Lewis-Stempel * Country Life * Filled with glimpses of ravens in the wild, woven together with fascinating historical details, this book sheds light on the role the bird has played in the life of these islands. Ravens appear in many guises: harbingers of death, but also heralds of new beginnings; thieves and murderers, but also affectionate and loyal. Brilliant! -- Michael Morpurgo * The Week *