The Ravenmaster’s Boy

Written by Mary Hoffman
Review by Henriette Gyland

‘Being friendly with the king is like playing with a tame lion.’ As it turns out, Thomas More couldn’t have been more right in his assessment of Henry VIII, and the quote sets the mood for The Ravenmaster’s Boy.

Orphaned Kit is brought up by the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London and discovers he can communicate with the ravens in his adopted father’s charge. A relationship of trust and affection develops between Kit and the ravens, which lends a semi-magical and, at times, humorous element to the story-telling.

The main action of the story takes place when, aged sixteen, Kit meets King Henry and Queen Anne Boleyn, who’s later imprisoned in the Tower on charges of adultery. Enchanted by the diminutive queen, Kit vows to do what he can to help her. When the ravens alert Kit to a plot which could have dire consequences for the future of the monarchy, he enrols the help of friends Isobel, the baker’s daughter, and Alice, daughter of Sir Edmund Walsingham, Lieutenant of the Tower.

The trouble with historical fiction using real people is that we know the outcome for them, even as we hope that it turns out differently. Having said that, the tense political atmosphere of 1536 is so skilfully recreated in this story that is has that elusive page-turning quality, and it almost doesn’t matter.

Although the number of characters called Thomas, including one of the ravens, is a little confusing, The Ravenmaster’s Boy is written in an easy, accessible language, and there’s more than a nod to Norse mythology in the names of two of the other ravens, Huginn and Muninn (named after Odin’s ravens).

This novel is suitable for teenagers aged 14 and up, as the many references to torture and beheadings may upset younger readers.