The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London
Forrest Harper is the son of a guard at the Tower of London who holds the additional role of Ravenmaster. The boy’s best friends are Tuck, a raven he’s raised from a fledgling, and Rat, a boy who works for the Tower’s rat-catcher. Excitement surrounds news that they’re to have a new prisoner, a dangerous villain of a Scot taken in battle. Only the prisoner put into his father’s keeping turns out to be a girl no older than himself.
Rat-catchers and chimney sweeps. Indenture and collar days. Wardens and wealthy prisoners. Turnips and trotters. Sympathy and destiny. A fascinating peek into the lives of those born and raised within the confines of a prison, where hanging days are like festivals and orphans are worse off than the royal ravens. Forrest faces bullies, fails in boyish ways at being a friend, takes his home and family a little for granted, struggles to understand the unfairness of war, and makes choices that shake up his ideas of justice and loyalty.
Rising tension that had my heart racing by the end. Excellent storytelling!
Fair warning: in keeping with this era’s harsh realities, there’s casual cruelty toward children forced to do dirty work (like chimney sweeps). And we do witness a hanging. (I cringe at the idea that executions used to be festive events for the whole family.)