Rating: 3.5 Stars
Published: October 2013
Genre: Young Adult// Fantasy
(On demerits) “Nate had eighty. Twenty for the explosion, thirty for tardies, ten for stealing Miss Frost’s bustle and putting it on the statue of Diana, ten for sneaking into town at night and getting drunk at the Wing & Clover, and ten for throwing up on Miss Frost’s shoes the next day.”
“If they could talk they weren’t animals, but “hungry” seemed to be the sum total of their vocabulary, and I didn’t have time to turn around and try to converse with one.”
Blythewood by Carol Goodman is about a teenager named Avaline Hall. She unexpectedly loses her mother to an overdose of laudanum and has to start working in a factory to make ends meet. She battles with the idea that she might be going crazy because she started hearing bells going off in her head before her mom died. Haunted by the bells and a mysterious man in an Inverness cape, she barely escapes a deadly fire at the factory only to end up in an insane asylum. Saved by the grandmother she never met, she soon winds up at Blythewood: an elite boarding school for girls. The same boarding school women in her family have been going to for generations. She hopes to find out more about her mother and the secrets being kept at this mysterious academy. Will the winged boy turn out to be her savior or her down fall? Will the secrets the academy is keeping be scarier than the girls who attend?
The novel takes on a lot, which lead to some of its low points. And honestly, I almost gave up on this book. I really did. But I was determined to find out what happen to Ava, the steadfast heroine. I think it was a really interesting story but it, at times, left me bored. Don’t get me wrong, it was worth it to read it all the way through. The last half of the book made me not want to put it down. I just wish I felt that compelled the whole way through. I liked the attention to detail and the little elements like Gillie and the clocks, and the specimens. In their own way, the all moved the plot slightly forward but I wish other elements would have been intertwined with those as a bigger driving force to the climax of the novel. I understand that world-building had to occur and there was a lot of backstory to fill in which gave a strong sense of the environment but I think it could have been done in a more interesting way.
The last 200 or so pages, I was hooked. Ava formally met Raven and I was entranced again. It only took to page 300 to regain my interest after losing me somewhere in the middle. I started to see the potential this book had. For instance, Ava could have met Raven a little earlier and the climax of the story would have been just the same. I could see where the ending had left Ava coming from a mile away and I don’t that would have changed if the events leading up to it where any different. I enjoyed the book and I’m glad I made it to the middle because the rest was so worth it. I’m just afraid that if loses people, they won’t be as intrigued to finish reading it as I was. If I was busy, and put it down, I think it would have taken me a while to pick it back up. But as it were, I had a lot of time to spare reading.
One last criticism, I swear; I feel like there wasn’t enough mention of Tillie at the beginning to warrant the continuous thoughts back to her throughout the novel. I know she was important to Ava and her time at the Factory was life-altering but it didn’t get that much weight at the beginning of the story for me to really feel a connection.
In a couple of ways, this book reminded me a lot of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. But if the same fate befalls Raven, I will have someone’s head. I always love stories that take place at boarding schools. Especially boarding schools with secrets (lucky for me, they always seem to have some). This book has a couple of different elements from other fantasy novels I’ve been reading lately, and I’m okay with that. I think it’s interesting the way everything gets tied in together.
I did enjoying reading this story and getting to know the fantastical elements along with the other characters. It felt disjointed at times, like it was taking on too much, but it pulled together in the end. There’s still a lot of questions to be answered and I’m looking forward to finding out the answers in the next installment. I’m entirely intrigued as to what will become of Ava, the school, and Raven, of course. I’m just hoping for the sequel to be a little more fast paced.
Ravencliffe is due out at the beginning of December.