Review: Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Ravencliffe by Carol GoodmanRavencliffe by Carol Goodman
Series: Blythewood #2
Published by Viking Juvenile on December 2, 2014
Genres: Gothic, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Avaline Hall is no ordinary girl. 

She’s a student at Blythewood Academy, an elite boarding school that trains young women to defend human society from the shadowy forces that live among us.  After the devastating events of her first year at Blythewood, Ava is eager to reunite with her friends—and with Raven, the compelling but elusive winged boy who makes her pulse race. She soon discovers, though, that the sinister Judicus van Drood hasn’t finished wreaking havoc on Blythewood—and wants to use Ava and her classmates to attack a much bigger target.

Ava’s the only one with any hope of stopping van Drood. But to scuttle his plans, she must reveal her deepest secret to everyone at Blythewood. What’s she willing to sacrifice to do what’s right—her school?  Her love?  Or her life?

Last week, I reviewed Blythewood. I enjoyed it, but it felt like one of those series openers that would lead to a series that got better from that starting point or that would take a turn for the worse. Blythewood left me with some concerns. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the plot or the romance, but I was tentatively excited for Ravencliffe, which dispelled my worries. Ravencliffe slightly edges out Blythewood in quality, with all the same positives and a couple of delightful improvements.

The plot of Ravencliffe is one of the areas where it exceeds Blythewood in quality. In the first book, I was easily able to predict much of the outcome. In Ravencliffe, I didn’t see the resolution coming. Partly, I think that’s due to my expectations for such set ups and the fact that people are working together better than I generally expect. While there are still plot points based on people not being honest with one another, I think this is a plot much less reliant on individuals holding back key information for stupid reasons.

The world building continues to delight me as it did in Blythewood. Though I admit some curiosity as to how the Darklings wear clothing and hide their wings, I’m pretty much willing to roll with it, because the mythology is so interesting. The villain serves essentially as a stand-in for self-doubt, which I think is really cool. The shadows and darkness take people over through their weaknesses and fears. This makes the shadows a hard enemy to fight, because everyone has weak points that could be manipulated that way. In Ravencliffe, it becomes apparent that only by working together and trusting in those around you to continue to care can the shadows be held at bay.

For the history nerds, Goodman’s added in several more fun scenes in Ravencliffe. There’s a more in-depth look at the sinking of the Titanic, which actually took place in the previous novel. Then there’s a trip to Coney Island, which would be a lot more fun if you weren’t there to track down scary people. Finally, there’s the opening of the Woolworth’s building.

In book one, I mentioned some disappointment in the romance. On one level, I definitely continue to feel the same, but I also understand it more now. The Blythewood books are very couched in history. The girls in the novel are primarily from the upper classes and, at Blythewood, they all live in a world where they’re intended to marry someone chosen for them. As such, there’s not really a concept of dating. Much like in a lot of historical fiction, instalove is pretty much how most relationships happen. It’s still not my favorite trope, but it does fit fairly well with the setting. Plus, though romance is fairly pervasive, not much time is spent on sentiment. My favorite thing about Ravencliffe, though, was the introduction of a lesbian romance. All the bonus points. Even better, this one wasn’t instalove, but friendship to love. So freaking sweet.

More touching than the romances, I think, are the friendships. The whole group is forging connections and learning to trust. As I said, I think this is the crucial plot element. The fact that Helen, Daisy and Ava have gone from grudging roommates to true friends by the end of Ravencliffe is really nice. In Ravencliffe, the main characters all have to confront their internal demons, in order to maintain their friendships and to have the strength to fight evil. Similarly, I adore the forming bonds between the darklings and the humans.

If you liked Blythewood, I think you’ll be impressed by Ravencliffe. If you were unsure about starting the Blythewood series, I would advise you to give them a chance if you can handle the historical instalove, appreciate mythologies, and love historical settings.

Favorite Quote:

“How did it feel?”

I blushed at the intimacy of the question. “Painful, frightening . . . amazing!” I admitted. “Like I was free for the first time in my life! ike I could have kept on going into the clouds . . .”

“. . . and straight on till morning.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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