I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
These Dark Wings by John Owen Theobald
Release date: August 11th, 2016*
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
* Originally released on February 1st, 2016
After her mother is killed in the Blitz and her father in the North Sea, 12-year-old Anna Cooper is sent to live with an uncle she has never met – the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London.
Amid the Tower’s old secrets and hidden ghosts, the ravens begin to disappear and Anna must brave the war-torn city to find them.
With Nazi forces massing on the other side of the Channel, the fate of Britain might be at stake, for an ancient legend foretells that Britain will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower.
“Always there have been six ravens at the Tower. If the Tower ravens fly away, the kingdom will fall.”
I really enjoyed reading this book! The Second World War is a topic that has been widely covered in historical fiction. If you can think of it then it probably has been written about. What really drew me to These Dark Wings was the setting, the Tower of London during the Blitz. Throw in a myth about the Tower’s ravens and a few mysteries and I can just say this book was non-stop. Putting it down was seriously difficult.
The story is about a young girl named Anna. She had just lost both her parents to the war with Germany and was sent off to live with her estranged uncle, the Ravenmaster, at the Tower of London. The story is told from her POV which I thought was great because as you really get to know the character well. She’s isolated, lonely and afraid. My heart just ached for her. The progress Anna makes from the beginning to the end of the novel made me love her even more. She messes up, makes mistakes, but is resourceful and resilient. A wonderful heroine that you can totally get behind!
The book was extremely well written – it was moody, tense and full of emotion. The Tower of London, a damp and gloomy place known for its history of torture and executions, acted as a perfect backdrop to the story. The Blitz (the German bombing of Britain) caused intense fear and destruction. The British boarded up their windows, lived off of rations and when the sirens sounded they retreated to makeshift shelters or underground tube stations. It created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion and having Anna’s story take place at the Tower only amplified these feelings. It was always hard to tell whether a threat was real or just the imagination of a stressed 12 year old.
Sometimes with books based on historical events the authors do A LOT of information dumping. This can be a real drag and often takes away from the story. I love history but can understand how it can be a bit much. These Dark Wings thankfully doesn’t do this. The details were inserted organically and it actually made me want to learn more about the Tower. Now that to me is the sign of a well written piece of historical fiction!
The author’s writing style reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief, both books I also really liked. I believe the book is aimed at a middle grade audience, which makes it flow really well. It’s a quick read (I finished it 2 days and I’m a slow reader), but don’t let the “middle grade” label fool you. I really believe that all ages would enjoy it, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction or the two books mentioned above.
The ending left me wanting more and more! Thankfully for me, the sequel What the Raven Brings will be released in March 2017.