Historical Fantasy · review · YA

Blythewood (Blythewood #1) by Carol Goodman


Hardcover, 496 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Viking Juvenile
Source: Library

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.


I liked this book. Quite a bit, actually. It has gothic elements interspersed with paranormal happenings. Some folk fantasy happening and it is all set in the past in the early 20th century. Ava has lost her mother, her only relative in the world, and circumstances have led her to work in a clothesmaking (sewing?) factory in order to make ends meet and retain a roof over her head. Then there is the presence of two strangers, a horrific fire (that may be based off a real life event, I’m not sure) and the discovery of a grandmother. A rich grandmother, mind you, who pays Ava’s way into a boarding school, the same one that her mother used to speak of so fondly.

So Ava equipped with curiousity and not a small amount of misgivings sets off to boarding school where she meets all sorts of different girls. Some are nice, some are not, some are poor, some are not. She keeps on thinking about the winged boy who saved her from the fire and who was all so nice and beautiful. At school she is introduced to the real world, one where creepie crawlies of an entirely different nature exist and told that her purpose in life is to eradicate such beings. Oh and there is also the headmistress’s son who has been sent home from school in Scotland to keep things interesting and create a love triangle. Not that there is actually a solid love triangle. Ava doesn’t waffle about her feelings for her winged creature.

Things happen, fae are discovered, battles are fought, discoveries are made and the Titanic is sunk. Ava makes some unwelcome realizations about her own nature and goes into a deep funk about the meaning of being human (good luck with that, I’m still figuring it out) and then things sort of wrap up and we are left to wait for the next book in the series. It’s not a bad book. As I said, I quite enjoyed it. It brings together several tropes that I quite enjoy in a good way. The ending is quite strong and I am sure the next installment will be quite enjoyable. There is friendship between the girls and I appreciated that but the love triangle has me a bit hesitant. I don’t hate love triangles when the girl is not using one of the boys for emotional support when the other one whips her mentally and this one is complex enough that even if the love triangle develops more fully, it’ll be fun to see how it works out.

I recommend this to people who like entertaining stories. (Doesn’t everyone? How about angels?) For people who like supernatural stories that may or may not have angels in them.

And gothic castles.

And slightly mad, daisy picking uncles.

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