The Raven's Children by Yulia Yakovleva Book Review: Breaking the Silence around a Dark Period of History

The Raven's ChildrenThe Raven's Children by Yulia Yakovleva and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (translator), £6.99 (Puffin Books, 9780241330777)
Publication date: 5 July 2018
My rating:

A bestseller in its native Russia and translated into English for the first time, The Raven’s Children was written to ‘break the silence’ surrounding a dark and largely hidden period of history. However, despite its setting of Stalin-era Russia, a time of terror, paranoia and the Secret Police, Yakovleva delivers an accessible, engaging and resolutely hopeful story.

This is achieved through the courageous protagonist, seven-year-old Shura, whose innocent world is shattered after his family—Mama, Papa and baby brother Bobka—vanish overnight, spirited away by a mysterious figure called The Raven. Nevertheless, Shura determines to find them himself, navigating a hostile, unpredictable city where birds talk, the walls have eyes and few can be trusted.

As Shura discovers the truth about the Stalinist regime, fact and fantasy are increasingly interwoven to occasionally disorienting effect, encouraging the reader to question everything, much like Shura. With vivid, symbolism-rich imagery and page-turning tension, there is enough depth and intrigue here to appeal to older as well as younger readers.

Overall, Yakovleva has succeeded in a penning a powerful story that engages and informs while raising important questions about complicity, challenging the status quo and the importance of freedom—issues that are just as relevant today.

Note: I received a free proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review was originally posted in the NYALitFest newsletter.


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