Anne Ravenhall, a student at an exclusive school for girls, is mostly okay with her life, although she’s nervous about her upcoming mock exams. She has a best friend, even if some of the other girls look down on “Binky” for being a scholarship student. Then a great-aunt she’s never heard of dies and she inherits Ravenhall and a secret legacy.
As Anne explores Ravenhall, talks with the housekeeper Eve, and discovers the many secrets of her great-aunt and Ravenhall itself, she builds new friendships and faces dangers. She discovers a legacy of superhero powers related to birds and, with the help of her friend, seeks out the other girls who inherit the magical stones that contain those powers. But one of the descendants is unhappy with her prophetic powers and hostile to Anne; there is a frightening villain, Mr. Adder, and hints that the adversaries of the original group may still be around. If that wasn’t enough, Anne’s parents are using her legacy as a bargaining chip in their volatile relationship and pressuring Anne to sell Ravenhall.
The art is created in shades of blue and black with clean lines and neatly drawn backgrounds. Most of the characters are white; one girl who inherits powers is black, wealthy, and the leader of the popular “in-group.” The girls joke lightly about not fitting into the original costumes, made for the slimmer body types of the past, and their group presents a variety of body types, hair styles, and presentations of femininity. The motif of birds reappears frequently and the girls are sometimes shadowed by their particular bird as they manifest their powers. The panels are cleanly drawn, making it easy to follow the action, although the limited palette makes it difficult to tell some of the characters apart at times.
There’s nothing inappropriate for younger readers, but the general tenor of the book says middle school to me. There is a hint of romance, drama with friends and parents, and lots of unsupervised time with friends and on the internet.
For readers who want a quick superhero/girl power fantasy with some fun costuming, this is a quick and enjoyable read. It does give readers a feeling of having been dropped into the middle of a story, but this is inevitable with the shorter medium of graphic novels as opposed to a prose book. Although there are many questions about how the original Dissimulation got their powers, the background of the girls, and the future of the new group, enough information is supplied in the book to create an intriguing story even if it doesn’t answer all possible questions. Fans of Faith Erin Hicks’ One Year at Ellsmere (a new edition is being released in 2020) or Gotham Academy will enjoy this quick glimpse into an alternate world.
Conspiracy of Ravens
By Leah Moore and John Reppion
Art by Sally Jane Thompson
Dark Horse, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 10-13 yrs.