Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor Book Poster Image
Wild tale of orphans, billionaires, mansions, and murder.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

One of the characters is the child of tech geniuses and is forever coming up with inventions, some of which save the day and others of which don't quite work as planned.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of friendship, the importance of everyone's talents, and why it's important to work together to help your friends, demonstrate clever thinking, and have courage and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The mysterious Sentinel, a superhero-like character, comes to the rescue at the most desperate moments. All the kids -- all orphans with abandonment issues -- appreciate finally being in a good place and share a determination to protect their home. Aside from the creepy villain, the adult characters are more than a bit mysterious, but pretty talented at coming through in a crisis to save the kids and one another. The band of children includes Sadie, a genius described as having dark skin and two cone-shaped ponytails atop her head. Violet is described as being small and having dark eyes, and on the cover has brown skin. April, Tim, and Colin, who's British, present as white. 

Violence

A villain has murdered the family members of at least two characters and is out to get the ones he missed. There's a lot of swordplay and knife-waving that gets a character badly injured. Some characters are believed dead and turn out not to be.  Some of the kid characters are at the Home because their parents are dead; others have just been abandoned. They're all traumatized in various ways.

Sex

Two adult characters are clearly in love, but it's complicated.

Language

Occasional butt mentions.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor is Ally Carter's wild tale involving five foster kids, a mansion, a missing billionaire who owns the place, the villainous uncle who's trying to get him declared dead, and a mysterious, sword-wielding guardian known as The Sentinel, who may or may not exist. In the past, two families have been killed, leaving only one survivor. Several of the kids have been abandoned by their parents. A character is stabbed, almost fatally, during one of the swordplay sessions, and there's a lot of sneaking around secret passages in the mansion. It's a fun, often a bit slapdash read, with a plot twist on almost every page -- and plenty of room for further development.

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What's the story?

Twelve-year-old April insists she's only in the foster care system temporarily, because her mom's coming back any day now. But meanwhile, she's OK with living in the WINTERBORNE HOME FOR VENGEANCE AND VALOR, because it's a whole lot better than the last several group homes she's been stuck in. It's a mansion, one whose billionaire owner escaped the accident that killed the rest of his family in his childhood -- and then, as an adult, disappeared. Ms. Nelson, who's in charge, and Smithers, the butler, are a bit mysterious. The other kids also have assorted abandonment issues, either because their parents are dead or because they ditched their kids. The billionaire's creepy uncle, meanwhile, is trying to have him declared dead so the uncle can seize the mansion and evict the orphans. But he may have overlooked a few things. Especially The Sentinel, a locally legendary superhero who may or may not exist.

Is it any good?

Plucky kids, creepy villains, a missing billionaire, his mansion that's now an orphanage, and a sword-wielding superhero make for a wild tale full of plot twists. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor feels like a prequel, with many intriguing characters barely introduced before it's all over, and a breakneck pace that sometimes gets a bit glib. Most readers will probably be having too much fun to quibble about such things, at least till they get to the ending that raises as many questions as it answers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories of kids in orphanages -- or maybe boarding schools -- who join forces to solve mysteries, foil villains, etc., like the ones in Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor . Do you have any favorites? Why do you think this theme is so popular?

  • Sadie invents a lot of scientific equipment and strange contraptions, from surveillance drones to pancake-making machines. Do you like to create devices (or apps) that do surprising things? Like what?

  • Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor leaves a whole lot of questions unanswered (and answers questioned) at the end. Do you like stories that do this, or do you prefer having things wrapped up more neatly?

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