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Sign of the Raven

Review

Sign of the Raven

Julie Hearn first became known in the United States in 2005 with the publication of her highly successful, brilliantly plotted historical novel THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER. Now American readers can indulge in Hearn's first novel for young readers, originally published in the United Kingdom in 2003. Although SIGN OF THE RAVEN lacks some of the plot twists that made THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER so provocative, it nevertheless is a thought-provoking, exciting historical novel that will appeal to fans of Hearn's other fiction.

Twelve-year-old Tom and his mother, who's recovering from breast cancer, are spending the summer holidays at his grandmother's home in East London. Tom has a bunch of problems; on top of his mom's sickness, he has to deal with being away from his friends and trying to figure out the tense relationship between his mother and grandmother. And then, the voices in the basement start calling to him. The voice, which seems strangely familiar to him, calls from across a gap in both space and time.

The voice belongs to Astra, a tiny "changeling child" who's one of the circus "freaks" on display at the Bartholomew Fair in the early eighteenth century. Astra and her friends, like the Bendy Man and the Gorilla Woman, are constantly in peril, not only from the unscrupulous management and the fair's patrons, but also from physicians who would love to dissect their unusual bodies and perform experiments on them. When Tom is called across the gap, he is drawn into London's dark underbelly to help his friend. In the meantime, in the present day, Tom is finding out troubling secrets about his own family's history.

SIGN OF THE RAVEN is creepy, evocative and detailed as it portrays events of history, often in earthy and surprisingly straightforward terms. A mystery, a time-travel fantasy, a historical novel with modern-day appeal: SIGN OF THE RAVEN's fast pacing and vivid recreation of gruesome past events will appeal to fans of many different genres.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 27, 2005

Sign of the Raven
by Julie Hearn

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2005
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0689857349
  • ISBN-13: 9780689857348