Title: Raven Dock
Author: Sara Caldwell
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy/ YA
Favourite Quote: “It was the blackest of nights, with only a quarter moon and few stars above – so unlike Chicago skies, where the city lights never allow total darkness.”
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Harper Duncan is a 17 year old teenager that is never in one place for too long. Her parents have been moving her and her brother Danny up and down the country so often she’s lost count, although no one quite knows why. ‘Another opportunity’ her dad would say, although she has managed to cross witness protection off the list. For the first time in years, Harper allows herself to feel at home when a bike accident initiates a friendship with a girl called Olive, which they have found themselves inseparable since. The idea of moving again sets her on edge so instead Harper and Olive make their own plans to stay together, that is, until Harper’s world comes to a crashing halt when her family are killed instantly in a car crash outside her home.
Harper soon discovers that her father had a secret sister living in Minnesota. Mary Duncan, the owner of Raven Dock wellness retreat, who is desperate to see her niece after the accident and arranges for her to visit. Keen to meet the mysterious secret family member, Harper makes her way up the country to Raven Dock for a couple of weeks to get to know her aunt. Of course what she discovers is more than she could possibly imagine, Mary isn’t her aunt after all, but in-fact her birth mother.
Well, I have to admit, I struggled to get into Raven Dock. I felt that it had so much potential to be something much greater. The storyline was good, but the pace was completely off. It only took a few pages for Harper’s world to change which didn’t give you a lot of time to get to know her family and her relationship with her younger brother Danny. I felt that the whole story was pushing towards the importance of family and staying together, yet you miss the whole family part. I was left with more questions than answers. What was the real reason her parents kept Mary away from her? Was it that they were scared? Did they blame them for the death of her mother? What is the overall intention? We don’t really know for sure that her family were keeping her from Mary at all, but someone else altogether. You’re left to put the pieces together yourself. Alongside it’s need for further proofreading, the story felt like a draft rather than the finished book.
I felt like we didn’t really get to know the characters because of the missing dialogue. Most of the conversations between characters weren’t spoken, so you missed a lot of their expressions and character building through their discourse. Harper is thrown into a new world with no means to communicate with the outside world. She tries to make an effort with the people around her by getting to know their way of life outside of the means of technology, yet the communication is at a minimum. The women at Raven Dock have secrets yes, but besides a brief explanation about where Nell and Alice came from, you don’t really know any of the others at all. Why does Margot dislike Harper? Who are the other women at the retreat? Who are the 10 and why are they important? It’s almost frustrating to know that the author is trying to push Harper to stay although gives us no reason too try or care enough besides the surprise ‘I’m your real mother’ plea from Mary and to try and save the mysterious Colton. Even with Colton, she only has a few conversations with him which end very quickly, it isn’t enough for us to build up a relationship between the characters.
I actually quite liked the enigma that is Colton. As a character he was actually quite interesting, knowing that he was kept against his will and made out to be the help, knowing that he could be injured but hushed up as being okay by the women in the retreat. When he appears again looking haggard, you don’t question that it could have been months of abuse other than a few days of no rest. The innocent victim with his desperation to escape kept Harper’s attention, not to mention his good looks and confident coy smiles.
‘“You’re really not one of them. Right?” asked Colton again, studying my face for clues.
“I never met any of these women before I came here,” I assured him. “This places sucks, and I’ll be out of here right behind you.”
I felt a twinge of guilt. What would Mary think if she’d heard me say that? She was family and Colton was a total stranger. But he was from my world, not hers. And I was sorely starting to miss it.’
I was really fascinated with Danny and his fondness for random facts. The fact that he was so young yet so intelligent, the fact that he was so innocent and different from Harper but he was everything to her. How is notebooks full of bizarre facts were what held Harper in place through her most difficult time. I adored his character even though he only survived 9 pages. I wish there were more flashbacks of their time together.
I really didn’t like how his last words were part of a bigger picture. Why would he be saying it of all people? He couldn’t have known who the driver was. Even if he could, there isn’t exactly a way of finding out since he’s now gone. I felt it was just another means for the author to put the pieces together, but didn’t give a thought about where the pieces came from in the first place.
‘When he looked at me again, several pizza rolls scattered to the floor. “I hope you realise that hair dye contains over five thousand chemicals and increases your risk for cancer,” he said matter-of-factly. Danny was a collector of morbidly curious facts, like the number of parasites and bacteria that can be exchanged in a single kiss or that jellybeans are shiny because they’re coated with insect poop. He also said I would look just like the Green Goblin if I had a turbo-powered broomstick.’
Overall I did enjoy the storyline, but felt it was missing too much which is why I’ve rated it so low.
Seventeen-year-old Harper Duncan never fit in anywhere her family moved…and they moved a lot. But after her parents and brother die in a tragic accident, she finds out she’s adopted, and her birth mother lives in a remote retreat called Raven Dock. Harper ventures north and discovers a dark family secret: her birth mother is a witch. And she’s one too. As Harper Learns about her own hidden powers, will she choose to embrace her chilling heritage, or return to the safety of the ordinary world?