Source: Won from Bibliopunkk
Edition: ARC, 395 pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
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Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she’s confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it’s a comfortable life, and if it weren’t for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.
But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O’Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.
The Aviary is a mystery novel with a very interesting and original twist. We are introduced to the main character, Clara, who is a willful young girl with the urge to find something more then her sheltered life in the Glendoveer mansion. However when the elderly mistress of the house chooses to show Clara a picture of her son Elliot things begin to change in the young girl’s world. Suddenly everything in the house becomes a part of a story that she feels compelled to know, especially the suddenly talkative birds that are caged in the large aviary.She meets another young girl named Daphne and quickly enlists her help in solving the Glendoveer mystery.
I found Clara and Daphne to be a very likable and sweet young girls, who have that surprisingly tough and determined side that can be found in all girls their age. Their personalities are a compliment to the others’ and it was fun to read their conversations, it’s filled with that youthful acceptance and love that really warms your heart. Harriet and Ruby were also lovely characters and played their roles well. Harriet the sensible but overprotective mother and Ruby the open-minded and flighty family friend.
The story surround the Glendoveers’ and the birds is a very intriguing one that wasn’t expecting at all. I caught on pretty quickly after a few clues were uncovered but it by no means diminished my want to know exactly what happened. The book’s info page states that this is intended for 8-12 year olds and while I personally wouldn’t give this a child under 10 I’m pretty sure that the intrigue and mystery will be even stronger for them. I also really loved the part the birds play in helping Clara figure out what exactly had happened to Glendoveer family, but I also found them to be a sad aspect of the story. To be completely honest this book reminds of The Secret Garden, the main character is far more agreeable but the writing has that same feel to it and the setting is similar. It was however a bit darker then I expected from a middle grade book, it’s by no means a Gothic novel but it does deal with a very sad story centered around the Glendoveer children and even malicious intent on the part of the ‘bad’ guy.
The writing is wonderful and gives you just the right tone to make you ‘feel’ what Clara feels, and despite some more the more sad aspects it still holds that innocent and light tone that children are so famous for. Overall I really enjoyed this book and if I had a child of about 10 I would certainly consider letting them read this (depending on their mindset of course), but I’d also recommend this to those who enjoy mysteries with a sort of whimsical twist. Oh and as a side note, I love the cover art for this book.