top of page

Book Review: The Raven Riddle by Vashti Hardy & Natalie Smillie (Barrington Stoke)

For ages 8+ (dyslexia friendly)

When you find a book series you love, it’s so joyful. I love the pairing of Blue Peter Book Award-winning author Vashti Hardy (Harley Hitch adventures, Brightstorm Adventures and more) with children’s illustrator Natalie Smillie (Rosie Jones’s ‘The Amazing Edie Eckhart’, LD Lapinski’s ‘The Strangeworlds Travel Agency’ series and more)!! This 'Griffin Gate' series is superb!!

This middle grade series is published by Edinburgh-based publisher Barrington Stoke. l LOVE this publisher, as they publish books for kids by only the finest and fabulous children’s authors for children who might have learning difficulties e.g. dyslexia, or who might find longer texts more off-putting to progressing their reading journey.

About the story

After being adopted into the Griffin family at the end of the second book in the Griffin Gate series by best-selling children’s author Vashti Hardy, Tom Eely is doing mighty well in his training to become a fully fledge Warden. The Griffin family use a map invented by Grace Griffin’s grandmother as a portal to transport themselves through a system of gates land to help those in need come day or night. The Griffin family consists of Grace, her older brother and her mum. Whilst her mum and brother tackle the more serious crimes and cries for help, Grace is charged with helping to solve less deadly crimes and mysteries. She’s inquisitive and a keen inventor herself!

What I love about Grace is that she never judges a book by its cover. She’s always seeks the truth in a fair and compassionate way. A great influence on Tom, who’s watching Grace’s every move as he learns on the job.

Grace and Tom head out on an assignment at Brook Hollow to investigate some troublesome ravens. Incidentally the family pet and mascot, Watson, is a mechanical raven himself and goes everywhere with Grace to guide, advise and protect. On questioning the locals it seems that they are very suspicious of a witch that lives in the mountains and think that she lives there in a haunted house… and that she’s the cause of the disruptive ravens!! Grace, Watson and Tom head into the forest to investigate and there they find the haunted house, but all is not what it seems… a mechanical house on legs, a rather lonely witch called Nellie, and if they can put all the pieces of this puzzle together then they’ll be just in time to save the local community from a terrible disaster!!

This is a perfect middle grade or confident younger reader series to collect and cherish. Each book is treated to the most wonderful illustrations throughout by the lovely Natalie Smillie, who is one of the main-stays of children’s fiction illustration!! I’m very pleased to let you know that book 4 in the series ‘The Weather Well’ is coming soon!! Can’t wait, Vashti and Natalie, and the team at Barrington Stoke!!

About the creators

Vashti Hardy (author)

Vashti Hardy was a primary school teacher for several years and has always had a keen interest in children’s writing, leading to her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester. Vashti is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning adventures Brightstorm, Wildspark, and Darkwhispers.


Natalie Smillie (illustrator)

Natalie Smillie is an illustrator specialising in children's illustration. Natalie has worked with some amazing clients, including Hachette, Ladybird, Little Golden Books, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Penguin Random House and Scholastic.

Natalie lives in Devon with her Husband, Son and dog (Maggie). You'll usually find her either scribbling furiously at her computer with a decent box set on in the background, or out in the garden supervising her digger obsessed son and her stick obsessed dog.


Key themes







Empowering girls


Buy the book!

Here are my affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I make a small commission when you click the links and complete a purchase.

Format: Paperback

Publication date: 3 March 2022

Format: Kindle e-book

Publication date: 3 March 2022

Format: Audible audiobook

Publication date: 3 March 2022

If you haven't started this series yet, please find out more about the first two books below:

The Griffin Gate (Book 1) by Vashti Hardy, illustrated by Natalie Smillie (Barrington Stoke)

The Puffin Portal (Book 2) by Vashti Hardy, illustrated by Natalie Smillie (Barrington Stoke)

Please like this post and leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts too!

28 views0 comments
bottom of page