Title: The Ravenmaster’s Secret
Author: Elvira Woodruff
Major Themes: England, London, Tower of London
Synopsis: When his father is assigned to care for a young girl imprisoned in the Tower of London, Forrest has to choose whether to be brave or to let cowardice rule his life.
My children have enjoyed listening to The Ravenmaster’s Secret a number of times. It is a very exciting story. The conflict continues almost to the end of the book—is Forrest a coward, or is he actually brave? What is right for him to do—to obey the law, or to be merciful? How will he resolve this conflict?
Forrest’s father is the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. A number of ravens must always stay at the Tower, because of the ancient legend which said that the Tower would fall to its enemies if the ravens should fly away. Interestingly, a friend of mine was recently at the Tower of London, and she mentioned seeing the ravens there—apparently, they are still kept there, with their wings clipped so they can’t leave, 300 years after this story is set!
Anyway, Forrest helps his father take care of the ravens, and also helps to take care of their occasional prisoner. When he hears that some new prisoners are coming, some Scottish rebels, he hopes that theirs will be a dangerous man so he can brag to the boys who are always taunting him for his cowardice. Imagine Forrest’s dismay when his father is assigned a young girl! When Maddy asks him to carry forbidden messages for her, what will he do?
In a lot of ways, this is rather a dark, gloomy story. So much of life in London, and in the Tower, in 1735, was dismal. The frequent hangings, the raw sewage in the moat, the horrible life of the chimney sweeps, and the threat of execution hanging over the prisoners all made life difficult for Forrest. At the same time, he had a close friend, and a pet he loved, and an imagination to make life better. So, while I didn’t like a number of elements of the story, I loved the ending.
WARNING: Chapters 2-4 describe a public execution. A man dies accidentally in chapter 31.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15