Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 8, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended—and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isn’t sure if she’s losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes. Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all."Avaline Hall is now an orphan. Her mother committed suicide and she never knew her father. Now she must find a way to support herself. The year is 1911, which means there really is only one respectable way to earn money, which is to work in a factory. Avaline takes a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and she is there when the building catches fire and kills hundreds of workers. It doesn't help that she keeps spotting a strange man wearing a cape before the fire and she saw him before her mother's death as well. Just when she realizes that she may perish in this horrible fire a man with wings saves her life. Is this man a figment of her imagination? Ava has always seen and heard things that aren't there, so no one believes her story about the winged man; in fact, she ends up at an insane asylum. Ava is finally released from the mental institution thanks to her grandmother, a woman she didn't even know existed and she sends her to Blythewood, a private school that Ava's mother also attended. At Blythewood Ava not only discovers more about herself and her mother, but also about magic and the evil creatures that exist in the world. If you enjoy fantasy, I highly recommend Carol Goodman's Blythewood.
How could I not root for Ava from the get-go? She is an orphan living in New York City trying to make a living and find her way. She finds a group of girls she likes and is working with her best friend at the factory when her world crumbles around her again. Once her grandmother finds her, I was immediately intrigued. I wanted to learn more about Ava's mother's alleged suicide and about the many secrets she kept. There is definitely more than meets the eye with Ava's mother and her time at Blythewood.
Once Ava attends Blythewood, I was even more engrossed in the story. I love boarding school stories and the fact that Blythewood is reminiscent of Harry Potter sort of gave me goosebumps. I absolutely loved the fact that Blythewood is a magical boarding school filled with interesting students, teachers, and resides near a captivating town. Some people may find this derivative of Hogwarts, but I thought Goodman did a great job making it her own in Blythewood.
Another aspect of Blythewood that I loved was the time period. The year is 1911 and things are very different for women during this time. I think Goodman portrayed the struggles females had to endure very well and even included some historical details (Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, woman's rights, Bellevue Hospital, etc) that really added to the story. I love when authors incorporate real-life events and sort of give them a life of their own.
The magic in Blythewood is really well done. The idea of magical creatures, faeries, and Darklings kept me captivated. Plus, the mysterious caped man that breathes smoke out of his mouth kept me flipping the pages. I had to know what he was up to! Speaking of magical creatures, Ava does find out about the winged man who saved her and learns more about him in Blythewood as well.
Needless to say, Blythewood has everything I could want in a fantasy novel. A fantastic setting, its atmospheric, has a lot of magic, friendships, romance and a heroine I enjoy. It is most definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year. I can't wait to read book two, Ravencliffe, which just came out this month.
Thanks to Penguin, I am hosting a giveaway for Blythewood and one lucky US reader will win. Please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is December 30th. Good luck!
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