When I first spotted this book and saw the blurb on the back I was immediately intrigued – a story about a young boy living through the Great Plague of 1666 and the fire of London, who also befriends a Raven. The Great Plague and the Fire of London are two significant events in the History of London and the Tower of London,a significant building. That just sounded like a great setting to me, plus the added Raven angle (my kids enjoy it whenever animals are included) so naturally I had to give it a read and I must admit I really enjoyed it and so did my daughter.
They story centers around a young boy – Nick who is living in London with his mother and younger sister (his father died fighting for the King), right from the start you can see Nick is a hard working young boy who is trying to keep his family together in very tough circumstances (money is in very short supply). Nick’s mother catches the plague so Nick takes his sister away so she does not also catch it. He drops his sister off with a caring couple and he disappears with the intent to somehow kill the King (he blames the King for his father’s death). And then a lovely little twist, he meets a raven and ends up “following” the raven into the Tower (well he has to bluff his way in). I really enjoyed the way the author managed to include a raven in the story the way she did, it was so natural, Nick meeting the raven but it also just tied it all together. Ravens are one of the symbols that you think of when you talk about the Tower, they are intertwined with the Tower’s stories so I thought bringing one in and building up this friendship between the bird and Nick was perfect for this story.
The story unfolds as Nick comes to grip with life as a servant in the Tower, he friendship with the Raven develops (we enjoyed this angle), he even meets the King but then the fire starts and Nick once again finds himself in the thick of things.
It is a sweet story about a young boy struggling to make a life for himself in a very harsh time. And yes the character of Nick is fictional but the events are true and the way the author writes about life in 1666 you do end up thinking how there must have been lots of boys like Nick, with no parents, no money and no real hope. For a fictional story it does just ring with truth about that time period.
The whole story itself was 158 pages long, followed by a few pages of notes from the author about the characters and events (I always love it when the author includes this) so it is a shorter read but it is an interesting read. My daughter read it as an independent book (is she read it to herself) but if you are a family who does family reads (when you all read a book together) then I do think this would be an interesting one to read together especially if you are covering that period in history.