Author: Carol Goodman
Series: Blythewood, #1
The year is 1911. With the passing of her mother, Avaline Hall is forced to fend for herself working as a seamstress at the Triangle Waist Factory for a meager wage. But Ava’s life is about to be altered irreparably when a man in an Inverness cape begins following her, the same man who pursued her mother before her death. As Ava attempts to flee him with the help of a strange boy, she finds herself trapped inside the factory when a mysterious fire breaks out.
Though she survives, Ava is haunted by the images of smoke-filled shadows and the evil she felt when her eyes beheld the man in the Inverness cape. Institutionalized and labeled mad, she has almost given up hope when her grandmother reappears in her life. Given a second chance at her mother’s alma mater, Blythewood Academy, Ava discovers her new school is home to secrets–dangerous secrets–including the truth about her mother’s death, the identity of the boy who saved her, and the real reason the man in the Inverness cape is so interested in her.
“…I looked down at the girl at the next machine…and saw in horror that the needle was moving in and out of her own flesh. I looked down the row and saw that all the girls were sewing their own flesh, binding themselves to this place forever. Their blood trickled down into the trough that ran along the middle of the table, merging into a stream that flowed to the end of the table where, his mouth open wide to catch the gory spill, sat the man in the Inverness cape.”
Ava has a strong spirit and sharpness at the beginning of this book that made me immediately like her. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but notice that this sass burnt out a bit as the novel progressed, but her determination and courage more than made up for it. The mysterious Raven was one of my favorite characters. He isn’t simply this irresistibly charming guy that enraptures Ava. He’s his own person and I liked the fact that the two of them weren’t always in sync with each other. He didn’t act like he owned Ava which is a characteristic all too common these days. He was driven by his feelings for her and showed a level of vulnerability that even Ava didn’t display.
I’m just going to say that I really didn’t like the way Ava reacted to Nathan, the sole boy at the school. She’s instantly jealous the moment he spends time with someone else, which I don’t understand because she never seems too interested in him. So either her jealousy is a poor attempt at a love triangle or is used to highlight Ava’s immaturity. I doubt the latter because a girl that’s been through what she has shouldn’t be so easily afflicted with a juvenile desire to be the center of a boy’s attention simply because he’s the only boy around.
Blythewood is full of creatures from sprites to goblins to the magnificent Darklings. This world is both beautiful and eerie. In a way you forget what time period the book takes place in because the author must explain this other world, which is a little unfortunate because I found the time period to be part of the book’s charm. Blythewood reminded me a little of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series and Franny Billingsley’s Chime; both authors do mythical fables extremely well. So if you enjoyed Blythewood or even found it wanting in some degree or another, I’d recommend books by the aforementioned authors.