Book Review: The Raven Boys
I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races last spring and when I saw she had another book out this year I grabbed it up as quickly as I could. Which means I requested it from the library but it was not available for some time due to Stiefvater’s popularity. I did discover that her Shiver series was available in eaudio format from my library and I finished all three before getting my hands on The Raven Boys. You would think that after finally reading The Raven Boys I would be over-saturated with her books, but instead I’m am now going through her Books of Faerie series and have just finished Lament. Basically, I’m an addict. I started reading (coughstalkingcough) her blog and watching trailers and what not when I discovered she lives in my hometown. I mean honestly, it’s like we are long lost family. Also, how have I never met her before? It’s not that big of a town. Well, there is the fact that I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Mt. Crawford and didn’t attend the local high school as I was busy being home schooled. But still!!! Ok, Ok, so it’s likely I’ve never run into a lot of people in Mt. Crawford. It was still lovely to see the place where I grew up show up the internets. . . . I know, I’m weird.
*I don’t consider this review spoilery. But that is because I define spoilers as things that happen after the first five chapters or which include major plot twists. However, even any little description of this book could possibly considered to be a spoiler because so much hinges on all the tiny things that happen in the beginning of both the book and the series. You have been warned. (I’m not sure why people read reviews if they expect not to learn anything about the actual story, but that is another rant for another day.)
The Raven Boys follows the story of Blue and four boys from a local prep school set in the Virginia nowhere. Blue, daughter to a psychic, goes with her “aunt” to the corpse road on St. Marks Eve as amplifier for her psychic aunt who sits on a wall drawing a strange symbol waiting for the soon to be dead people to walk down the path. Every St. Marks Eve those people who will be dead within the next year appear as ghosts traveling the corpse road and Blue’s family takes down names to tell clients if they are soon to die. Blue never sees any of them herself, merely an energy amp, she is tasked with writing down the names and waits for her aunt to be finished. But this fateful St. Marks Eve (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) she sees a ghost, a boy who calls himself Gansey. No less shocked her aunt tells her “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
Ever since she can remember her mother and other psychics have warned her to never kiss boys. Not because they are prudes (though they are protective seeing as Blue is a teenager) but because they foresee she will kill her true love with a kiss. Knowing her mother’s powers to be real, Blue resolves to never kiss anyone. And like all blossoming teens she takes it one step further and resolves to never fall in love, but that way she wont have the possibility of kissing her true love. That goes doubly for the boys from Aglionby, who come in to the local pizza joint where she waits tables, and whom she despises as rich, stuck-up, know-it-alls. One night Gansey and his crew show up at her work and she encounters him for the first time in the flesh. Of course she doesn’t know it is him yet, but when Gansey tries to get her phone number for his shy friend Adam they have a quick sparring of words and she turns her heel thinking she’s through with his crowd.
However, Gansey becomes irretrievable entangled in Blue’s life because he seeks an ancient king said to be buried on a ley line somewhere nearby, and the person who awakens the King will be granted a favor. As a rich kid who has never needed anything in his life Gansey is less intrigued by the promise of a favor and more intrigued by the mystery of magic. After one failed experiment, quiet Adam sets up an appointment with the local psychic believing the boys can quizzes her about energy and possible ley lines. Gansey and Blues worlds clash and collide when he appears at her mother’s place of business asking for a reading and knowledge about energy. The story veers off in expected and unexpected ways. I sat at the edge of my seat and barely slept for two days as I devoured The Raven Boys. It is hard to describe the feeling that welled up within me when I came to the end of the book and realized it was the first book in a series! I was angry, heart broken, relieved, pained, and overwhelmed with joy.
I’m a huge fan of Stiefvater. I loved The Scorpio Races naming it one of my top four books of last year, and enjoyed the Shiver series. I had really high expectations for The Raven Boys and I am happy to report I thrilled with her latest book. While many of her other books alternate chapter by chapter from one person to the next, The Raven Boys is told from the perspective of all five people at once. Unlike my blundering, her writing is so subtle, and the emotions and thoughts of each person so unique unto themselves, that it works brilliantly. The Raven Boys is a cunningly crafted story of magic, friendship, and asks the question: If you knew you had one year left to live, what would you do?
Blue and her Raven Boys are all compelling characters. I fell in love with them all. Even Ronan, the most raven and wild of all the boys, engenders empathy when by all rights he is one of the least likable characters I have ever read. Completely selfish and self destructive his tactless ways and black energy are a dark spot on the lives of the people around him. I liked Adam for his quiet ways, and though he comes from an abusive household and struggles with feelings of worthlessness, he stands up for what he believes in and works his way steadily through life going after what he wants with determination and perseverance. Noah is a strange character, charming and unfathomable. Blue is a pretty straight forward character both in how she interacts with her universe and how she is written. Her struggle with how to deal with the new relationships in her life is almost tidy and it is only the glimpses of the future at certain points that shake up who she thinks she is. I look forward to her character development past exasperated teenager who wants to be thought of as weird to a strong figure who does what she thinks of as right whether or not it fits in with the image she wishes to project. Gansey is the most interesting of all the characters, a boy with manly tendencies whenever he pulls his political persona to the foreground to deal with problems. Far less intuitive than one would hope for in a person seeking out magical beings, he stumbles along hurting people with his careless words and belief that everything should happen the way he wants it to.
The Raven Boys is the first book in a four part series and I didn’t understand this when I began the book. I thought it was a stand alone novel like The Scorpio Races and couldn’t figure out how Stiefvater was going to wrap up the big mystery in the last half of the book. Well, she doesn’t. There is a B plot line that involves one of the Raven Boys that is the main mystery of the book which does get resolved, but most of the book is centered on informing the reader about the larger magic involved and how each person feeds into the mystery and why. While completely engaged in the story that is presented in the first book, it is exceptionally exasperating for there to be some unresolved issues after reading the last word. But like a true magician, Stiefvater weaves her own magic with this spellbinding book, her tantalizing glimpses of a possible future and the inevitable ending told from the beginning, equal a compulsion to just know, when any sane person would walk away.
I honestly don’t know whether to recommend this book to people or just tell them to wait until the whole series is finished and published because AUGH! Some of the things that are alluded to have my mind going in circles! On the other hand, it is such an engagingly written piece of prose that I couldn’t deny someone the joy of reading the story as it unfolds. They say anticipation is half the worth of a story.