Book Review : The Raven Boys
The Raven Cycle
By Maggie Stiefvater
“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.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I found myself intrigued by The Raven Boys from the beginning. The opening hook of the story is that Blue has been told a specific tale from her clairvoyant family – the first boy she kisses will die. Her true love will die and so she has decided to never fall in love.
“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” (p. 1 – first line)
How could I not want to read what comes next?
“Her family traded in predictions. These predictions tended, however, to run toward the nonspecific.” (p. 1 continued)
Blue has never had to rebel because her mom is already too weird and accepting to have had such a common problem with her daughter. They are both caught off guard when Blue defies her mother, and continues to see the Raven Boys. She had always despised the boys who attended the private school, but she becomes intrigued with this set of boys – they all orbit around Gansey like he is their sun. Gansey is described as condescending, pristine. He is at odds with his money and he is driven to solve a mystery.
“But Gansey and Adam sought Glendower for different reasons. Gansey longed for him like Arthur longed for the grail, drawn by a desperate but nebulous need to be useful to the world, to make sure his life meant something beyond champagne parties and white collars, by some complicated longing to settle an argument that waged deep inside himself.
Adam, on the other hand, needed that royal favor.” (p. 51)
Ronan’s father has died, he fights constantly with his older brother, is full of angst and born into an affluent family. He is prickly, harsh and self-destructive and he’s keeping a secret.
“Ronan wasn’t sorry for his behavior; he was only sorry that Gansey had been there to see him. What lived between the Lynch brothers was dark enough to hide anyone else’s feelings.” (p. 50)
Adam works harder than all his friends to be able to attend Aglionby – a private school, has an abusive father and passive mother. It’s interesting that he isn’t jealous of the wealth surrounding him, it just produces an intense wanting, a drive to get out of his family’s state of poverty.
“Adam felt the familiar pang. Not jealousy, just wanting. One day, he’d have enough money to have a place like this. A place that looked on the outside like Adam looked on the inside.
A small voice within Adam asked whether he would ever look this grand on the inside, or if it was something you had to be born into.” (p. 41)
Noah is fairly non-descript, at one point he actually makes a suggestion and everyone goes along with it because he’s usually so passive. He is described as the smudgy boy by Blue, and he always looked a little grubby – though his room is kept in a pristine state. He is also very truthful.
“In the deep, shadowed entrance of the church, Noah stood silently. For a second, all that seemed to be visible was his pale face; his dark clothing invisible and his eyes chasms into someplace unknowable. Then he stepped into the light and he was rumpled and familiar as always.” (p. 96)
I’ve included several quotes so you can get a feel for the writing style, which relies on inference and instinct. Some reviewers said they were confused whose point of view it was at any given moment. I think it’s fairly simple – instead of being strictly broken into chapters relying heavily on an inner dialogue – comments are slipped in when that character is front and center – for that moment. I felt like I knew each character a little better because I saw into their thoughts.
“Adam’s heart was still a flighty thing. He had to confess to himself that until how he probably had never really believed Gansey’s supernatural explanation for the ley line, not in a way that he’d really internalized.” (p. 241)
“Gansey turned to the others….He became aware that he was shivering, but he didn’t know if it was from the newly winter cold or anticipation.” (p. 247)
See how easy that is to follow? I’m a fan of these subtle changes in POV. I find them un-intrusive and fill in the narrative. I love knowing what’s going on inside the characters.
The Raven Boys is a YA book written for teens in high school. There is coarse language and cursing, murder and whispers of occult witchcraft. Nothing is overly sexual, though Blue is shocked to hear of how her mother was swept away by her father (nicknames Butternut) – who disappeared without an explanation.
I recommend this book, but with a caveat, because of the language. I consider it to be a modern gothic romance. Stiefvater is a master at mood and tone, guiding us through a new world.
5 out of 5 stars
If you like this one try:
The Gray Wolf Throne – Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
And for an adult fantasy recommendation:
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern