These Dark Wings
by John Owen Theobold5 out of 5
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.
In the middle of war-torn 1940's London, Anna loses her mother in a bombing, and has to go live in the Tower of London with an uncle she has never met. War has altered the meaning of safety and friendship, and Anna must learn who to trust.
I won a hardback copy in Goodreads' First Reads, and I really enjoyed this story. It reminded me somewhat of The Book Thief, with the subject matter and style of writing.
It is written for a young audience, but it is equally easy to get swept along as an adult.
You get to see London during the blitz, through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, being suddenly wrenched from everything she knew, and having to live in a cold, creepy Tower. Her uncle is practically a stranger; and she is the easy target as an outsider at school.
Anna wants to think the best of everyone, with a certain naive charm; but she is being told that her only friend is an incurable liar; Churchill demands that they all look out for spies and Nazi-sympathisers; and Anna knows that her uncle is hiding something about her own mother.
These Dark Wings keeps you guessing throughout, whether it is all the over-imagination of a stressed girl that has lost everything, and lives in fear of a German invasion; or is there a sinister truth to it all?
I liked how Anna progresses, and her relationship with the ravens of the Tower.
To begin with, she sees them as scary beasts that she can't tell apart, but has to help her uncle (the Ravenmaster) look after. Eventually she starts to call herself a Ravenmaster, as though the title gives her a purpose in this mad world.
They have a saying that if the ravens leave, England will fall. Anna never truly admits believing this, but it gives her a way to feel like she's doing something in the fight against Hitler.
They story is genuinely very sweet throughout, and I was impressed with how strongly it finished. The final twist is definitely worth it!