Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater + Giveaway
PROS:vibrant characters; atmospheric writing; original plot with surprising twists
CONS:guaranteed Book One in a Series Blues....the story cuts off RIGHT when it's getting so awesome you can't put it down.
The Raven Boys hits all the right notes for an engrossing Southern gothic / buddy adventure.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
Blue Sargent is not a psychic, she just lives with a house full of them. Blue’s mother takes her along on St. Mark’s Eve to see the soon-to-be-dead souls walk the Corpse Road outside their small town—partially for some mother-daughter bonding, but mostly because Blue magnifies psychic energy.
When Blue sees the ghost of a soon-to-be-dead Raven Boy (the nickname for students at the ritzy all-boys Aglionby Academy), she knows it’s a Big Deal. Blue never sees anything psychic or ghostly in nature, and this calls to mind the slightly annoying psychic prediction that has followed her around her whole life—that she’ll kill her true love if she kisses him. Is this faceless boy, who will be dead in one year, meant to be her true love?
Meanwhile this boy, Gansey, and his three best friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah, are on a quest to find the elusive burial site of Glendower, a Welsh king whose body may or may not have been moved to Virginia and rested along a ley line, or a line of great psychic energy. The boys may each have their own reasons for pursuing this seemingly impossible quest, but they work together as a team, with Gansey acting as their leader.
The Raven Boys is unlike any YA novel I’ve read in recent memory. (Though neither was Maggie Stiefvater’s last book, The Scorpio Races.) I’ll give her this—when Maggie wants to tell a story, it is HER kind of story, and she tells it however she damn well pleases. The Raven Boys is a leisurely-paced, atmospheric story that hits all the right notes for an engrossing Southern gothic / buddy adventure.
While it does end with several questions (BIG ones) still lingering, it feels like a complete novel—most of the urgent book one plot lines are wrapped up. But the story’s major plot threads are left tantalizingly out of reach, and you’ll be ready for book two immediately.
The Raven Boys & Blue
The number one thing I always think after reading a Maggie novel, is DAMN can that woman write characters. Good or evil, starring or tertiary, they’re always so vibrant and alive, and self-motivated—it feels like they’ve crawled off the page and taken up residence in your mind. You start wondering ridiculous things, like what are they going to study when they go to college? what would they think of The Hunger Games? would they have laughed at the Gersberms girl? etc.
Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah could not be more different, but they compliment each other and create this unbreakable pack that seems held together by the sheer cosmic rightness of their friendship. It’s like Stand By Me level friendship. These guys definitely deserve their own movie, where they can banter and fight and make up and chase crazy legends together on a big screen.
When Blue enters the picture, it does not seem likely that she’d be in danger of falling in “true love,” or even in true friendship with any of these guys. But gradually she warms to them, to the point where she almost becomes an honorary Raven Boy in the hunt for Glendower. It’s a lot of fun to see her go from repeating mantras like this:
“One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble. And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.”
My boys! Blue thought, first in a huff, then flattered, then in a huff again.
The Real Psychics of Henrietta
Blue’s house is a rambunctious hive of activity, most of it wacky and offbeat because she lives with several psychic ladies. While her mother Maura tries to shield her from some of the magical coming storm in Henrietta by getting all parental on her when it comes to the Raven Boys, most of her psychic housemates have a bemused detached attitude toward her, that allows them to enable Blue’s Glendower/Raven Boys curiosity while offering up frustratingly vague, yet meaningful advice in passing.
It’s fun to see these psychic ladies hover on the fringes of the big ley line hut, offering clues or clamming up whenever it suits them.
This is not a super sexy-times heavy book (killer kisses tend to throw cold water all over sexy-times), but it does contain the suggestion of forbidden romantic entanglements to come. Prophecies and friendships will be tested for sure.
This aspect to the series story will undoubtedly be played up in later books, but for now we get a few maddening hints and glimpses into possible romantic futures for Blue.
Gansey is clearly trying to beat out all other YA fictional characters as the heir to Indiana Jones academic adventure throne. His obsession with Glendower borders on mania—he fills notebooks with sketches and research and maps in the hopes of locating this lost buried king. His friends indulge and share in his obsession, and the group is either researching or scouting for Glendower during most of their free time. This quest requires all the tools in a good academic quester’s arsenal—ancient language skills, cartography, knowledge of local and ancient lore, and a certain willingness to ignore the threat of bodily harm.
Like many Southern towns, Henrietta is a study in privilege and destitution living side by side. But even more remarkable and interesting are the spooky occurences in this town. Ley lines and almost-ghosts and all-the-way-ghosts contribute to an overall sense of dark possibility in the story. There is clearly a lot of magic, both currently in play and lying dormant in this town and its environs, and where there is great magic and power to be had, there is also great danger, both human and supernatural in nature. Several unsettling mysteries begin in this book, and not all of them will be solved by the last page.
If you’re a fan of The Scorpio Races, you will most likely find this book as enchanting, if not as concise and satisfying (merely a standalone vs. series problem). The Raven Boys introduces you to a wholly original, fully-formed world and crackling, strong characters you won’t soon want to leave.
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