Ravencliffe: The Blythewood Tales, Book 2

Book review by
Julie A. Carlson, Common Sense Media
Ravencliffe: The Blythewood Tales, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Heroic cast and terrific plot keep fantasy sequel exciting.

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn a bit about early 19th century New York City and surrounding areas, Coney Island amusement park, transportation, manners, etiquette, style of dress, colloquialisms, being educated at a private all-girls school, historical events such as the Titanic sinking, racism, discussions of war, slavery, and civil rights, corruption, living in tenements. 

Positive Messages

Strong messages about putting yourself before others, the value of friendship and the importance of family, helping others in times of need, being a Good Samaritan, being kind, listening  to people of different ethnicities and religions, believing in yourself and others, trusting your instincts and other people, and doing well in school and focusing on your studies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ava Hall is once again a stand-out heroine. She fights not only for herself but also for those less fortunate, as do friends, Daisy and Helen, and her beau, Raven. But Ava has to keep her secret of being a Darkling from her friends, which is very difficult for her. She doesn't want to be cast out from Blythewood Academy or have people, including the ones she holds so dear, think of her as a monster. She also believes tolerance and equal rights -- no matter your race, religion, social or economic status, or who you love. She's a very modern, forward-thinking young woman. During her summer break, Ava assists at a settlement house. Ava and Raven are still in love with each other, but she gets jealous of Raven's female friends. At school, Ava, Daisy, and Helen are in charge of the younger students.

Violence

The villain, Judicus van Drood, is up to his old tricks -- trying to release evil into the world as the Shadow Master and controlling the tenebrae -- but nothing's overly graphic. The story has more of a spooky, gothic atmosphere, and there's always a sense of danger lurking around the corner. A secondary character is killed.

Sex

Mild flirting, kissing, and romance. Two girls are placed in a brothel, but no sexual act is shown or discussed.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ravencliffe is the second book in Carol Goodman's exciting Blythewood Tales series, following Blythewood. Set in early 19th century New York, it features a mythical world of fairies, angels, dark angels and other magical creatures at a secret boarding school for girls, Blythewood Academy, where they're trained to defend humans from the shadowy forces among us. War, slavery, corruption, race, religion, love, including loving someone of the opposite sex, are discussed. There's very little violence, but one character is killed and one is kidnapped. Mild flirtations, hugging, and kissing, but no strong language.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written bygnewman April 7, 2017

Absolutely Incredible

In the second of this series, Goodman again manages to blend historical fiction and fantasy along with a message of acceptance. The strong cast of girls is empo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Avaline Hall and her friends are back, and this adventure starts when they're on summer break after freshman year, and they help a young Jewish girl who's sister has has gone missing in New York City. Ava believes her nemesis, Judicus van Drood, is behind the disappearance. Once she locates the missing girl, Ava enters Blythewood Academy for her second year. But she's worried that her friends and the teachers will discover her secret: that she's a half-Darkling. While at school, Ava must figure out her feelings for the Darkling Raven, and how to reveal her secret without becoming an outcast and being banished to live in Faerie. Ava and her friends must also stop van Drood from wreaking more havoc and releasing more evil and demons into the world.

Is it any good?

Just like series opener Blythewood, RAVENCLIFFE is a gloomy, gothic and atmospheric novel. It has an array of likable and unlikable characters, including Ava, Raven, and Judicus van Drood. Readers will immediately be swept up, once again, into the excitement of old New York. Goodman definitely knows her early 19th century history. The first 12 chapter are spent in New York searching for a missing girl, but there's still plenty of magic, mischief, adventure, and even a ball to keep readers entertained before Ava arrives back at Blythewood. There are new teachers, and readers will get to meet Raven's parents and discover who Ava's father is, as well as the meaning behind Ravencliffe.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger and leaves readers wondering what happens next to Ava and her friends in the final installment. There's so much to like in this series -- from the heroic and unusual cast of characters and historical setting to the terrific plotting to the  fantasy and supernatural elements weaved naturally into the narrative.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about life in tenement houses and settlement houses in the early 19th century. How does author Carol Goodman make this history come alive? 

  • How do you think Ravencliffe compares with the series opener, Blythewood? How do you think the trilogy will end? 

  • In Ravencliffe, Ava, Helen, and Nathan visit New York's Coney Island, where one of the attractions was the "freak" show. Why were people with disabilities or physical abnormalities put on display for visitors to gawk at?

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