I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
These Dark Wings is a middle grade novel by John Owen Theobald. This WWII story follows young Anna Cooper, who moves into the Tower of London after her mother is killed during the Blitz. Her uncle is the Ravenmaster at the Tower, and helping him care for the ravens gives Anna a purpose as she adjusts to her new life. As the German bombardment continues relentlessly, Anna becomes increasingly preoccupied with the myth that the fate of England is tied to the ravens remaining at the Tower; if the ravens leave, then England will fall.
Anna is a likeable narrator, and it is easy to empathize with her discomfort at having to uproot herself from her old life, and begin a new life with an uncle she doesn’t know very well. She misses her best friend, and this makes her struggle to make new friends even more poignant. At times, Anna is an unreliable narrator, and it’s difficult to discern her perception from reality. Of course, this only serves to make the book interesting- and to make the reader pay closer attention to the events in the book.
World War II seems to be a popular setting in children’s literature; I’ve read several books in the past year that were set during World War II. Theobald does a wonderful job with describing life on the home front; retreating to a bomb shelter or walking amongst the rubble of a bombed-out building becomes part of Anna’s new routine, but it does not become any less unnerving.
I would recommend These Dark Wings for older middle grade readers. This is a very thoughtful book, and the revelations over the course of the novel have piqued my interest. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Anna; I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!