Fun narration, but I don't care about the stories much. Exceptions to the awesome narration: Ice-T and David Duchovny. All actActual rating: 2.5 stars
Fun narration, but I don't care about the stories much. Exceptions to the awesome narration: Ice-T and David Duchovny. All actors are not great narrators. More emotion, guys. And also, Ice-T, you don't pronounce the w in sword....more
Last week, I reviewed Blythewood. I enjoyed it, but it felt like one of thoseFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Last week, I reviewed Blythewood. I enjoyed it, but it felt like one of those series openers that would lead to a series that got better from that starting point or that would take a turn for the worse. Blythewood left me with some concerns. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the plot or the romance, but I was tentatively excited for Ravencliffe, which dispelled my worries. Ravencliffe slightly edges out Blythewood in quality, with all the same positives and a couple of delightful improvements.
The plot of Ravencliffe is one of the areas where it exceeds Blythewood in quality. In the first book, I was easily able to predict much of the outcome. In Ravencliffe, I didn’t see the resolution coming. Partly, I think that’s due to my expectations for such set ups and the fact that people are working together better than I generally expect. While there are still plot points based on people not being honest with one another, I think this is a plot much less reliant on individuals holding back key information for stupid reasons.
The world building continues to delight me as it did in Blythewood. Though I admit some curiosity as to how the Darklings wear clothing and hide their wings, I’m pretty much willing to roll with it, because the mythology is so interesting. The villain serves essentially as a stand-in for self-doubt, which I think is really cool. The shadows and darkness take people over through their weaknesses and fears. This makes the shadows a hard enemy to fight, because everyone has weak points that could be manipulated that way. In Ravencliffe, it becomes apparent that only by working together and trusting in those around you to continue to care can the shadows be held at bay.
For the history nerds, Goodman’s added in several more fun scenes in Ravencliffe. There’s a more in-depth look at the sinking of the Titanic, which actually took place in the previous novel. Then there’s a trip to Coney Island, which would be a lot more fun if you weren’t there to track down scary people. Finally, there’s the opening of the Woolworth’s building.
In book one, I mentioned some disappointment in the romance. On one level, I definitely continue to feel the same, but I also understand it more now. The Blythewood books are very couched in history. The girls in the novel are primarily from the upper classes and, at Blythewood, they all live in a world where they’re intended to marry someone chosen for them. As such, there’s not really a concept of dating. Much like in a lot of historical fiction, instalove is pretty much how most relationships happen. It’s still not my favorite trope, but it does fit fairly well with the setting. Plus, though romance is fairly pervasive, not much time is spent on sentiment. My favorite thing about Ravencliffe, though, was the introduction of a lesbian romance. All the bonus points. Even better, this one wasn’t instalove, but friendship to love. So freaking sweet.
More touching than the romances, I think, are the friendships. The whole group is forging connections and learning to trust. As I said, I think this is the crucial plot element. The fact that Helen, Daisy and Ava have gone from grudging roommates to true friends by the end of Ravencliffe is really nice. In Ravencliffe, the main characters all have to confront their internal demons, in order to maintain their friendships and to have the strength to fight evil. Similarly, I adore the forming bonds between the darklings and the humans.
If you liked Blythewood, I think you’ll be impressed by Ravencliffe. If you were unsure about starting the Blythewood series, I would advise you to give them a chance if you can handle the historical instalove, appreciate mythologies, and love historical settings....more
Embarking on Blythewood, I was hesitant. I read the fFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 3.5 stars
Embarking on Blythewood, I was hesitant. I read the first few pages on Amazon preview before I accepted the review copy, mostly because of an ambivalence to paranormal stories, particularly those about angels. I really liked the writing and the sample and decided it was worth a try. I should probably make use of this sampling technique more often, since I often DNF within the first twenty pages. My instincts on Blythewood were correct: the writing is beautiful, the world building compelling, and it was indeed worth my time.
Carol Goodman, Goodreads informs me, has written adult fiction with much success for years. Blythewood is her debut young adult novel. Though I’ve not read any of her adult novels, I suspect that the writing is similar. Personally, I think it’s beautiful. However, Blythewood‘s got a slower, more measured pace than most young adult novels. I suspect Blythewood will have the most appeal for YA readers who also enjoy adult fiction and aren’t as driven by action and quick pacing. I realize it sounds like I’m saying this is a flaw, but I honestly don’t think it is; I just want you guys to know what to expect.
The setting of Blythewood delighted me. Set in the 1910s, Goodman blends history with the paranormal. There are paranormal explanations for big events of the time and I just love the way that she did that. The history nerd in me was overjoyed at these moments when the historical elements came to the surface. On top of the actual events, there’s some great stuff about votes for women and unions. Plus, there’s a brief foray into Bellevue.
Added to the historical elements is a complex and fascinating fantasy world. There’s a lot going on in the world building, but I think it all comes together pretty well. At the end, I was still left with some questions, but it feels like Goodman has a plan. There are a bunch of creatures, most of whom I’ve met before in lore and some which I have not. It took me a while to stop rolling my eyes at the Darklings, because, hey, you’re supposed to be singular and in Leigh Bardugo’s novels, but I came around.
What I like best about Goodman’s world is that it’s not black and white. Initially, it appears like there’s good and evil, as taught at Blythewood, the boarding school Ava goes to where girls are taught to fight faerie creatures. Ultimately, nobody’s really entirely evil, at least not always. I like that the villains have pasts and motivations, and the parallels between racism and the treatment of the faerie creatures are strong. The struggles inside Blythewood, though fantastical in nature, mirror the struggles taking place outside in ordinary human lives.
The characters are not perhaps the most lively and lifelike, but I do think they’re interesting. I’m not emotionally attached, but I’m enjoying their arcs thus far. Much like the creatures, the humans initially seem easy to categorize, but Ava keeps learning that there’s much more to her classmates and teachers. Sometimes I’m ready to dismiss someone and write them off as one thing and then they would develop in new unexpected ways. For this reason, I have hope that I’ll come to care for these characters along their journey.
The weakest part of Blythewood by far is the romance, which follows the traditional paranormal romance tropes. If those work for you, then obviously the romance here will, but they don’t work for me. Ava is entranced by visions of the boy who saved her from the Triangle Shirt Waist fire. He’s compelling and magical. They instalove all over each other. Though they don’t actually declare their feelings, there’s a bit of world building that explains that they two are in love. On the plus side, though, there’s not really that much time spent on the romance, so it wasn’t a huge detraction.
I’ve got Ravencliffe coming up next on my reading list and I’m looking forward to more of Ava’s journey. There’s a lot more that I want to know. I only hope that Goodman can convince me to care about this romance in the next book....more