Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: Blythewood by Carol Goodman

Title: Blythewood
Carol Goodman
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
Release Date: October 8, 2013

Welcome to Blythewood.

At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended—and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood.

But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isn’t sure if she’s losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes.

Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all.

My Review

I almost didn't read this book. You know how it goes - you get busy, life poops on you, blah blah blah... I said to hell with my reading schedule, and I read this book when I was already behind. I spent extra time with the book because it released after my turn with the ARC. I wouldn't say that I couldn't put the book down, but I picked it up at every opportunity that I had.

Blythewood was a surprising read for me. I thought at first it was going to be a piece of historical fiction with a small bit of magical realism with an unreliable narrator who was unsure of her sanity. (I was unsure of her sanity.) However, I was a few hundred pages into the book before I saw it for what it truly was. I adore magical realism, but what the story progressed to was fine with me. As a history nerd, I was hooked from the start, but as the layers of the mystery surrounding Ava's mother and Blythewood were peeled away, I was sucked even further into the story. As good as it was, I had nearly all of the twists figured out well before the end of the book.

The characters in Blythewood were extremely well-developed, but I expect no less from a book that clocks in with nearly 500 pages. Ava Hall had experienced quite a few terrible things prior to her going to Blythewood, but she was a resilient young lady, and I didn't really have a problem with her moving on so quickly. Young people tend to be able to move on from such things rather easily. She meets a plethora of friends and allies at the school, and I would be here all night if I attempted to name all of them. One of my favorites was Gillie, who reminded me of Hagrid in a way. Even American schools deserves an outstanding, fascinating groundskeeper. The villains were suitably terrible, and the mystery surrounding who/what the "bad guys" really were made for interesting drama.

The world-building of Blythewood is fabulous, and this is probably one of my favorite stories that is set in the United States. I don't come across many American fairy tales, and I'm always happy to read them, even if they consist of European transplants. The mythology/legends about the bells, chime children, and the fae was handled in a way that I have never read before. I hated the leave the Blythe Wood behind, and I hope there will be more stories set in this world. It was also genius the way Carol Goodman weaved real historical events into the story. Genius, I tell you!

Blythewood, though a bit of a slow burn at first, builds its way up into being a blazing inferno and is not a story to be missed. If you enjoy historical fiction, boarding school stories, or fairy tales, this is not a book to be missed. You may have to work for it at first, but Blythewood is definitely worth the effort.

- 4.5/5 Stars -

Buy Links
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Fishpond

To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.

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You are going to put words in my box?! *squeezes you* Now I shall stalk YOUR blog!