The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London, by Elvira Woodruff

11 year old Forrest Harper has lived within the walls of the Tower of London his whole life. Being the son of the ravenmaster isn’t easy; his day-to-day boring chores never seem to end, although he doesn’t mind helping taking care of the tower ravens.

When several Scottish rebels are captured and imprisoned in the Bloody Tower, Forrest finds himself befriending the young Maddy Stewart, who he knows is not guilty of any such treason as is being claimed against her.

Upon learning that it is the King’s intent to execute all three Jacobite rebels, Forrest and the ratcatcher’s boy are given the choice: stay true to England and keep their families safe, or risk their own necks to help an innocent victim who happens to be from enemy country.

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What an interesting story! Although, to be honest, the title gives too much away from the very beginning.

It seems weird to me how lightly the author took heavy topics such as hangings, which were popular to watch in the 1700’s. Forrest happens to go watch, and it was a little gross to hear some of the descriptions of watching people hang. That was the only thing that really throws off the age range I would have given it. I would put an age cap on 14 as the oldest that would enjoy it.

I don’t have any bad things to say about this book, other than it may have been a bit predictable. The ending was very good, and wrapped up everything very nicely with a bow on top. The one thing I might have personally changed about the book was that I felt that both Forrest and Maddy were not very interesting people on their own, but the ratcatcher’s boy, called Rat, was very memorable.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 4/10 (the hangings were the only gross part in the story, and then there was a little violence aside, but none of the violence was graphic. Only the hangings.)

Language: 0/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 0/10

Audience: Ages 10-14, maybe 8 with parental prereading.

The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer A. Nielson

In the final book in the Ascendance Trilogy, the final battle for Carthya begins, and ends, here.

Jaron and his friends join together to take back their country for the people. But of course, for Jaron, nothing is ever that simple. Every plan backfires, but you can expect that from a person who never seems to be able to trust anyone.

Jaron is put to the test, even down to whether fighting for his country is worth it. Which is more important: the crown, and his country with it’s people, or his friends and everyone he loves?

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I know you can’t NOT  read this book if you have read the other two, but sorry to disapoint you. This book is my least favorite in the trilogy; it just wasn’t very solid.

The main flaw: there was almost too much going on for any real character development. While Jaron had a lot in the first two, it came to a sudden stand-still because there was a lot of action going on. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there.

I also felt like Jaron was not himself. The whole first half of the book I kept feeling like I was reading a book about an entirely different person; he wasn’t as witty, and not sarcastic at all. Until the very last bit, which I suppose saved the book a little.

To examine Jaron at this point in time: I suppose I could possibly see him not himself at this time, for if you step back and look at where he is at, it does seem like he bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. Which he practically does, for he never trusts anything to anyone. But you have to step back to see that, the author never actually brings that up enough.

Applause to the author for adding a little more character to his companions! If you felt like Roden and Tobias were practically the same person in the first book, they are more original in this last one as you begin to see them as diferent characters, and not always together to make it more confusing.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Violence: 4/10 (This is a war, and Jaron has a knack for nasty wounds)

Language: 1/10

Innappropriateness/Romance: 3/10 (of course whatever seed of romance was started in the other two has to have a little finality)

Audience: Ages 10 and up

Calico Bush, by Rachel Field

When Marguerite Ledoux is orphaned upon arriving in America in 1743, she has no choice but to become a ‘bound out’ girl. Bound out girls are contracted for a specified amount of time to a family, to serve wherever they are and whatever the circumstances. Six years is a long time to not have a say in your own life choices. At least she has a place to sleep, and food to eat.

The Sargent’s are kind enough, but their plans to settle in rural, unsettled Maine were not exactly what Maggie bargained for. Through harsh weather, Indian raids, and accidents that never end, Maggie struggles to feel at home in a land whose story is just beginning.

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Many mixed reviews on this book from various people have me confused. I can’t make up my mind. Several aspects of this story I liked. And several parts of each aspect I like, but I definitely didn’t like every bit of it.

The plot was only okay. If you don’t like historical fiction, this book does not cater to every taste. If you are interested in pioneers, then this is a good one. I have read my fair share of pioneer/settler type books and this one falls in with the rest in the same way: it portrays life back then, but the plot and characters are not as strong because it is not meant to tell a thrilling story, but more to teach and make a point.

There were several characters I liked: the endearing Aunt Hepsa was the best, but the rest don’t have a lot of originality. Only some are described, and all the children are lumped together as, well, ‘the children’. Maggie is alright, and her character was carefully thought out. Her courage and feeling towards the people who didn’t expect it from her is fresh.

As with other historical books of any kind, the Indians were never given any kind of understanding. In a lot of books, they always mention that some are friendly, and some are hostile. Apparently, only the hostile kind live in Maine. Yet the Sargent’s, in their prejudice never gave any thought to them other than ‘bar the door, the Injun’s are coming!’

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Violence: 3.5/10 (like I mentioned, lots of accidents that may make you wince do occur, along with a creepy incident in which Maggie runs into the murder site of some settlers who have been scalped. The body’s are never actually seen)

Language: 0/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 10-14, 8 and up with parental guidance (only the one creepy part gives me pause)