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The Ravenmaster, Christopher Skaife The Ravenmaster, Christopher Skaife. Photo: Paul Maleary

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Book Review: The Ravenmaster
Alex Kolton finds out about the Ravens of the Tower of London in the new book by Christopher Skaife exploring his life as The Ravenmaster
Reviewed By Alex Kolton
Published on December 11, 2018
Buy The Book Here

There are millions of career choices and for some, the job chooses you. For Chris Skaife, a fated child hood encounter with birds awoke a love of the creatures, not knowing that one day avian management would be the butter to his bread. And ultimately, that he would write a touching and entertaining historic book about his esteemed position as the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. It is a fine lesson to anyone that working diligently, remaining honorable on a path and taking every opportunity along the way can hold many surprises and much fulfillment. This has certainly been the case for Chris the Ravenmaster.

Chris is one of the few and proud Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London having respectfully served in the British Army for over 24 years. He found himself as the paternal master of the celebrity ravens which turned out to be far more challenging and equally rewarding then ever could have been imagined, both physically and psychologically. A bit like parenting really or managing a raucous rock band. Chris was drawn to the majestic ravens never losing site of their iconic, imperial importance and of course knowing that as the legend has it, if the ravens should ever leave the Tower, the Monarchy will crumble to dust, and great harm will befall the kingdom. No pressure there and that is some tall job description.

A wise person suggested Chris write down his stories about the ravens and here they are, compelling and fulfilling, at times dangerous, heart-warming and an insight into the complexity of the creatures. The stories are not at all predictable, and the often-impetuous birds behave like a swathe of children at a posh boarding school with unpredictable demands, cheeky hilarity, teenage stubbornness and some wanting to fly the coop and spread their wings.

In a time when story lines can be complex with building drama or intense espionage, this book takes you in a fresh direction entering the world of this talented figure who serves the ravens, the Monarchy and our country in an unmeasurable way. There are the lucky few who can become a tenant in a royal castle and not many books gain you entry. Chris lives at the Tower with his marvelous wife Jaz who is a talent in herself (her cooking and baking are legendary - perhaps a Tower Cookbook next - and their charming daughter. The Yeoman Warders know when royal ceremonies are upcoming, be it a wedding, funeral, trooping of the colors or a head of state visit as rehearsals must take place. They are discreet keepers of tradition and if those ravens could only talk...

Read this book - The tender, unusual relationship reminds us that you never know where you will find kindness, responsibility and love. The Ravenmaster has a broad appeal to most anyone who can read from historians, to royalists, to those who adore animals and it could certainly even be read to a child at bedtime. The Tower of London received around 2.8 million visitors in 2017 and it is no wonder that the ravens are a major attraction, particularly for children. Americans are absolutely devouring the book, they love the Beefeaters and I could see it moving into an animated blockbuster with each raven in full personality getting in and out of mischief and righting the world. These stories have legs - uh hum.

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