Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA contemporary, fantasy, fairy tales retold, AWESOME
Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (Scholastic – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: “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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – another hit from Stiefvater!
Review: You guys know I loved Stiefvater’s last effort, “The Scorpio Races”, and so of course when I heard about “The Raven Boys”, I just had to read it. I mean, I HAD to. Would it get my heart racing the same way it did for the last book? In a way, it did, and in a way, it didn’t – this book is a quieter, sneakier book than the fast-paced horse race that is “Scorpio Races”, but that doesn’t make it any less good. If you love epic bromances, pompous names, and obscure mythology retold into a new tale, you simply must read “The Raven Boys”.
The only issue I had with the book that brought down my rating just a bit was the length – as in, I feel like parts of it could have been cut and connected a bit better/in a more linear fashion for the reader to follow. I love Blue’s adventure with her boys, but I do think some of it could have been cut and saved for another book, or an outtake, or something. And the mystery behind Noah, as well as the one behind Barrington Whelk (who loves this name and has two thumbs? this girl does!), could have been a bit more linearly connected, though it does get easier to see where things are going by the last third of the book.
Otherwise? This is a very different animal from Stiefvater’s previous efforts – it’s a little of everything she’s done so far, along with a slow, simmering mystery that’s both supernatural and worthy of Sherlock Holmes at the same time. Her worldbuilding, characters, and sensory imagery/language are all top-shelf, and Stiefvater’s at the top of her game aside from my nitpicks about the length of the book. If anything, the area where I feel like she improved the most was creating this cast of five main characters (four raven boys and one Blue). She’s done casts of characters before, but not at this large number. I feel here that she really grew in this area, just with the characters of the boys, how they moved, what they looked like, their backstories, how they acted – and they all knit back into the very strong worldbuilding that Stiefvater did. Good on you, Maggie – you did great here.
Though we do spend a lot of the book tramping around Virginia trying to figure out several mysteries at once (interwoven with delicate care by Stiefvater, though parts do get very slightly muddled in the sheer length of it all), there are still moments, and moments of absolute magic, moments that will have you wanting to burst out into the great outdoors and trying to find all of this magical realism in your own local park or nature preserve.
What’s possibly the best part about this book is that it uses a pretty obscure (compared to most of YA paranormal) Welsh legend about a sleeping king. I love authors willing to take a chance on the unknown, and Stiefvater did very well with this. It left me panting after that second book – what will become of everyone, especially Blue’s open-ended romantic future? Who does the king favor, now that the lines have been woken up? What will the boys do next? All of those questions that we’re left with are great ones, and while they do leave you on a bit of a cliffhanger, the feeling of completion of this first volume in the series is pretty complete (as in, I’m comfortable with what happened at the end and am ready to move on). And without using a dire cliffhanger and nothing else, that’s pretty hard to do. Stiefvater managed to do a fantastic job with that.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a a quieter, more thoughtful YA book this fall season, you can’t do better than “The Raven Boys”. It’s out now from Scholastic in North America, so be sure to check it out. Its place on my best of 2012 list is very, very well deserved, and I definitely need that next book now!