Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson
A suspenseful story of magic and magical creatures that even a reluctant reader will enjoy.
Anna Ballinkay had just turned 13 when her power manifested itself. But rather than being something cool, like moving things with her mind or seeing into the future, she was given the ability to see death. If she touched someone who had witnessed someone dying, she had a vision of that memory. Not cool, frightening, to say the least, and what was she going to do with that?!
Anna's family owned and operated the Ravenfall Inn in Wick, Oregon. Nora, Anna's mother, was the proprietor while her father was gone most of the time, seeking out and securing magical objects around the globe. Nora was helped by her sister, Elaine, and brother, Roy, when they weren't traveling to Ireland or squabbling all the time like, well, siblings! Kara and Rose, Anna's magically gifted older twin sisters, rounded out the Inn's staff while the house itself, a magical house no less, made sure the beds were made up, the rooms cleaned, and minor repairs were completed as needed.
Anna loved Ravenfall, and it was her dream to one day be in charge. But to say she was disappointed with her magical gift would be an understatement; she worried its lack of usefulness would jeopardize her chances to run the inn eventually. Then during a big party at the Inn, Anna inadvertently brushed against someone in the crowd in the ballroom and had a vision of a dead woman and a man dying at the hand of a shadowy, distorted figure and a boy about her own age bursting into the room. If Anna could find the boy, she could help him find his parents' murderers. However, she had no idea who the boy was or where to find him. Anna began to think that maybe there was a use for her gift after all.
Colin Pierce and his family had been on the run for several months, never staying in the same motel long. His parents had told him that they were in the witness protection program, but he didn't know the details or why they were now having to flee for their lives. One evening Colin and his older brother, Liam, were away from the latest motel room and returned to find two strange men inside, their mother dead and their father dying. Liam attacked the man who seemed to be in charge, wounding him severely, but the two killers still got away. The boys fled to a safer location, and as Liam prepared to pursue the murderers, he told Colin to meet him at the Ravenfall Inn if he didn't return in a couple of days. When Liam failed to show up, Colin set off for Wick, Oregon.
Ravenfall by author Kalyn Josephson is an entertaining and exciting middle-grade novel full of unique supernatural creatures, magic, and mystery. It is also a coming-of-age story, though under extraordinary circumstances, told from the dual viewpoints of Anna and Colin. The cast of characters is broad, and young readers will find a diverse range of strong, good, and capable personalities. I enjoyed the wide array of magical abilities presented in the story and liked Anna's remark about living with a sister whose special power was hearing other people's thoughts. One that would surely come to mind for all of us if that ability was real.
"It's hard not to think about something you don't want Kara to hear, because by thinking about not thinking about it, you always end up thinking about it."
I liked that both the lead characters, Anna and Colin, experienced similar feelings about their place in their families and the world. These are feelings that almost all of us can recall experiencing at one time or another growing up: not fitting in, not feeling valued, not belonging, or feeling like no one is listening or taking us seriously. Both are lonely kids, though in vastly different situations, revealing these feelings can occur under a variety of circumstances.
Both Anna's and Colin's families are loving ones with a lot going on at the moment, and in their different ways, they are just trying to keep their children safe. But both Anna and Colin are kept in the dark about certain family matters, with their parents not recognizing they are growing up faster than they thought.
The story is set in the charmingly described town of Wick. Surrounded by old woods with colorful cottages, shops, and a Faerie Garden, the magical and non-magical live side by side with one group none the wiser. I enjoyed the interesting and unique beings, some of which I'd never heard of before, mentioned throughout the book, such as cù-sìth, dybbukim, or merrow. The author borrowed from a wide range of cultures. Max the "cat" is mischievous, fun, and definitely, my favorite.
With its exciting and suspenseful plot, interesting characters, and dual viewpoints, RAVENFALL grabbed me from the beginning and kept me engaged and entertained until the very last page. I was delighted to read that there is a sequel in the works. I recommend this book to middle-grade readers who like a story with magic, magical creatures, and determined and capable young protagonists.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.