Reading Level: Young Adult
Length: 496 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Blythewood series
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I have had this book on my shelf for quite a while to read. I really enjoyed Goodman’s adult Demon Lover series, written under the name Juliet Dark, and was excited to read a YA novel by her. While there were parts of the book I really enjoyed, mostly the book just felt really long and slow moving.
Avaline (Ava) Hall has had a rough life. Her mother is dead and she’s been forced to work in a clothing factory to make ends meet. When the factory catches on fire, Avaline is saved by a winged boy and put into an asylum because of her ravings. Things take a turn for the better when Avaline’s mysterious grandmother rescues her from the asylum and Avaline ends up attending the mysterious boarding school that her mother went to, Blythewood. Blythewood is not even close to being a normal girls’ school. It has many dark secrets of its own and its students are trained in dark arts that aid them in a war Avaline (and the rest of humanity) didn’t even know was happening.
This is mostly a historical fantasy/paranormal read, the story is set in the early 1900’s. There were a lot of things I liked about this story. I enjoyed reading about Avaline’s struggles as a working girl in that time period and about the horrible working conditions the girls faced. This is something that is still going on in parts of the world and it was good to read about it and get some insight into it.
I also enjoyed the mysterious Blythewood school and the creepy woods that surrounded it. I love the mixture of mythology and faerie throughout the story.
Ava is an interesting character. She is definitely a survivor and seems much older than her classmates because of everything she has gone through. She makes a couple very good friends at Blythewood and as the book progresses she really starts to enjoy and depend on her friends. Ava doesn’t know a lot about her mother’s past or her father, she spends the majority of the book trying to unravel these mysteries.
There are a lot of important side characters in this book. Helen and Daisy are Ava’s roommates and they play a large role in the story. Nathan is the son of the headmistress and his younger sister was lost to the woods. Nathan drives a lot of the story in his search for his sister. Lastly there is Raven, the mysterious not-so-human boy who saved Ava during the factory fire.
Of course woven into all the above is a battle between light and dark that is threatening all of humanity. As Ava learns more about this she finds that things are not as black and white as they first seem.
Unfortunately despite my excitement to read this book there were a number of things I didn’t like about the story. The largest one is the pacing. There are vast portions of the book that just move very slowly, where our characters seem to be biding their time and just waiting for the next shoe to drop. These parts felt very long. I really think that this book could have been much more engaging if it had been tightened up some.
I also felt that while some parts of the story were very creative (the era it was set in, Ava’s background as a factory worker) some of it was very predictable and typical of YA paranormal literature. I was looking forward to something as beautiful and magical as Goodman’s Demon Lover series; and there is some of that here…but again there were parts that were very slow and very predictable.
Overall this ended up being an okay historical paranormal read. I wanted to love it but I didn’t, the book was just too cumbersome and moved too slow at parts. That being said I did love the era the story was set in and enjoyed some of the mythology and elements of faerie throughout. The characters were fairly engaging and fun to read about. I would tentatively recommend if you enjoy historical paranormal reads that focus on fae mythology.