Raven’s Gate

107664

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publication: 2008, Scholastic

Pages: 272

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Matt is an orphan living with an aunt who doesn’t want him. Alone and penniless, he falls in with the wrong crowd and helps break into a warehouse where a security guard gets stabbed. As punishment, Matt is enrolled in the LEAF project and sent to live with the frightening Mrs. Deverill in the remote Yorkshire village of Lesser Malling. But the people of Lesser Malling are not what they seem, and Matt soon discovers that he’s been sent to live with a coven of witches. And these particular witches want Matt for a reason. They’re trying to open Raven’s Gate, an ancient portal to a world of evil, and he’s the blood sacrifice that will make it happen.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Horowitz does an excellent job of piecing the story together, dropping a few clues at the beginning, but letting the tension build bit-by-bit as Matt begins to uncover the truth about where he is, what’s going on, and why he’s been chosen. Each piece of the puzzle seems to come at the exact right moment – a hint about Matt’s powers, a clue to who Mrs. Deverall really is, a tidbit to help us understand what’s really happening in Lesser Malling.

Mrs. Deverall herself is a wonderfully creepy villain – stern, skeletal, and deceptively fragile. She might look like a weak old woman, but as readers we know from early days she has the power to kill Matt where he stands. And her house, the place where Matt is sent to live, provides the perfect setting for the story to play out – a broken down, dirty old pig farm, where Matt is little more than slave labor. It’s the kind of place that could break the most hardened criminals – even if it weren’t also magic central for a coven of black witches.

What I Liked the Least: This is a small detail, but I never understood why or how Matt was taken into the LEAF project that got him set to Lesser Malling instead of serving out his time in a reformatory. He committed his crime in Ipswich, but after being arrested he’s suddenly transported almost 100 miles to London and put through a whole battery of tests for the LEAF project without us ever being told what LEAF was, why Matt had been singled out, and why he was going all the way to London for the tests. The shift from the Ipswich police station to London felt sudden and jarring.

How Good was the Action? As with every book by Anthony Horowitz, the action is top-notch. It’s not the center of the story – at its heart this is more fantasy horror than action – and much of fear and tension underlying the book revolves around Matt’s increasingly desperate search to discover what’s going on in Lesser Malling and why he’s there. But bits and pieces of action wend themselves throughout the tale – brief scenes where the pace suddenly ratchets up as Matt finds himself fighting for his life. They’re short, sharp, and bristling with tension.

How Engaging was the Story? With everything else I’ve said it should come as no surprise that Raven’s Gate was a serious page turner, a story that pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. Matt is an incredibly sympathetic character, and I found it impossible not to get drawn in by his plight and the ever deepening mystery of what he was doing in Lesser Malling and why Mrs. Deverall was so intent on keeping him there.

Overall Assessment: Tense and atmospheric, with great characters and just the right touch of fear, magic, and violence. A great horror story for the younger set – but exciting enough to appeal to teens.

Profanity: Little to none

Sex: None

Violence: Some. This is meant as a horror novel for tweens. There are a few stabbings, someone’s throat is cut, and there are many moments of darkness and tense danger. But on the whole the violence is relatively bloodless and tame.

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