The first behind-the-scenes account of life with the ravens at Britain's most famous national monument.
Legend has it that if the Tower of London's ravens should perish or be lost, the Crown and kingdom will fall. The Ravenmaster's role is serious indeed, and after decades of serving the Queen, Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife took on the added responsibility of caring for these infamous birds. In The Ravenmaster, he invites us over the tower's drawbridge to watch as he feeds his raven's ox-hearts and dog-biscuits soaked in blood, protects them from foxes, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy and ready to captivate the three million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.
A rewarding, intimate, and inspiring partnership has developed between the ravens and their charismatic and charming protector, the Ravenmaster. Weaving together insights from folklore, history, and contemporary behavioural science, Skaife shines light on these mysterious creatures and entertains his reader with anecdotes from his own experience with his beloved bird family. The Ravenmaster is a book for anyone with an interest in history, nature, memoir, and the macabre.
Christopher Skaife is Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) and Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. He has served in the British Army for twenty-four years, during which time he became a machine-gun specialist as well as an expert in survival and interrogation resistance. He has been featured on the History Channel, PBS, the BBC, Buzzfeed, Slate and more. He lives at the Tower with his wife and, of course, the ravens.
"Packed with insight and anecdote, his story brings the Tower ravens to vivid life, each bird with a personality of its own. I've been fortunate enough to tour the Tower and meet the ravens a few times in years past; after reading this book, I cannot wait to go back"
– George R. R. Martin
"A born storyteller with a gift for banter honed by years in the British army, Skaife has written a book that is far from a dry monograph about the species [...] [it is] a beguiling, fascinating, and highly amusing account of the strangely magical birds. He is making us love them in a way that makes them more than mere symbols"
– Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk, Atlantic
"A strange, wise and fascinating book that takes you deep into the interwoven myth and history of the raven. At a time when we're thinking more than ever about tradition and identity, this is a book that feels both urgent and timeless, with the Ravenmaster himself an eccentric, genial and quintessentially British narrator"
– Alex Preston, author of As Kingfishers Catch Fire
"Balancing fascinating tidbits (a raven's need for order and routine) with macabre details (blood-soaked dog biscuits and ghostly sightings), [Skaife] titillates as he educates, rehabilitating the gloomy reputation of the raven. Skaife's conversational style and disarming candor make this a rollicking tale fit for nearly any armchair adventurer"
– Publisher's Weekly
"This is an utterly fascinating book about one of those subjects you never thought you'd be interested in until, well, you were [...] Skaife is a very good storyteller [...] A splendid and constantly surprising book"
"For those seeking the secrets of the Tower of London without actually being imprisoned there, this is just the thing"
"A delightful read from a masterful and very funny storyteller"
– Jennifer Ackerman, author of the New York Times bestselling The Genius of Birds
"Skaife is both a raven master and a master storyteller. Compulsively readable I devoured the book in a single sitting!"
– Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art