by Maggie Steifvater
September 18, 2012
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.(Taken from Goodreads.)
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love.
My Take On It
I always, always include the opening lines of Maggie Stiefvater's books because of an article I once read where she discussed just how important it can be in terms of setting the tone of the book. And the opener for The Raven Boys is no different. Attention grabbing, no?
If you read my review of Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races (read it HERE) than you are fully aware of how much I fangirl over this author. Her writing is incredible, her storytelling abilities are like no other, and she's one heck of a talented artist as well. I will read anything she puts out there. Anything. When I heard that she was developing a new series to be entitled The Raven Boys I was, of course, beside myself. Didn't matter what the book was going to be about, I was IN. When I was approved an e-ARC from NetGalley back in July I wore a perma-grin on my face the entire day. I sat down to read the book one evening and from that opening line above knew I was once again in for something special. A little warning: I love this woman's writing like crazy. Be prepared for voluminous quotes and excerpts. My sincere apologies, I just can't help myself:)
In a nutshell The Raven Boys is a book about a girl named Blue who is the only "normal" in an extended "family" of psychics. While sitting with her half aunt on St. Mark's Eve, Blue who has never once seen a spirit or ghost, encounters the spirit of Gansey, a raven boy, a student at the prestigious Aglionby school in Blue's hometown of Henrietta, Virginia. Blue has always been told that when she is sixteen she will meet her true love and he will die after she kisses him. When Blue sees Gansey her aunt Neeve tells her that he is either a) someone she will kill in the next 12 months b) her true love or c) a combination of the two.
But there is much more to this story. In fact the synopsis I just gave you is true but misleading if you think this is the main focus of The Raven Boys. Yes, it's a central theme that many other plot lines revolve around throughout the course of the book. But there are as many delicious layers to the story as there are layers to the characters found within it's pages. And THIS is what author Maggie Stiefvater excels at.
Where to start... how about the writing and the mood and 'feel' of the story because that was something that caught my attention as soon as I began reading. Guys, I was absolutely floored by The Scorpio Races' lush and evocative writing. I had so many stickies in that book because nearly every passage was something that spoke to me. So the bar was set mighty high when I started reading The Raven Boys. I know the term 'lyrical writing' is sadly overused these days, but I think Maggie Steifvater, alongside Lauren Oliver, Beth Kephart and Laini Taylor, actually does write words that read like lines of poetry. And although The Raven Boys isn't quite as lyrical as The Scorpio Races, it's still got that Maggie Stiefvater trademark feel to it.
The reflection of the leaves outside rippled slowly in the bowl, a forest still, but darkly.The Raven Boys is written in 3rd person Omniscient point of view, and I do sometimes have problems reading and relating to the characters in this perspective. However I didn't find this as jarring as I expected and in fact, the switching of narratives was seamless and smooth.There is a lot of story to each of the players in The Raven Boys so there is a lot to absorb. I don't think that this book would have worked as well had it not been told in this way and from multiple viewpoints.
Let's talk characters.
Blue the female lead. I LOVE Blue. When I envision her in my head I see both the drawing Maggie drew of Blue and the author herself.
Blue didn't reply. She wasn't interested in in telling other people's futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.and here:
Blue had developed two rules: One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble. And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.
Guys, I am totally infatuated with Blue's mom and "aunts." And not just because they are a house full of psychics. I love reading about strong matriarchal family units, and the more non-traditional the better. I love Blue's relationship with each of the women in her home, especially her mother Maura and her Aunt Calla.
"You are in trouble. I told you to stay away from him and you didn't," Maura said. "I just haven't decided what to do about it yet. My feelings are hurt...Do teenagers still get grounded? Did that only happen in the eighties?"
"I'll be very angry if you ground me," Blue said, still wobbly from her mother's unfamiliar displeasure. "I'll probably rebel and climb out of my window with a bed sheet rope."
"You could at least say sorry," Maura said. "Pretend like I have some power over you."
Blue wasn't sure how to reply to this. Maura had all sorts of control of Blue, but it wasn't usually the sort that came with ultimatums or curfew. So she just said, "I'm sorry. I should've told you I was going to do what you didn't want me to do."
Maura said, "That was not as satisfying as I imagined it would be."
My favorite in the house was definitely Blue's Aunt Calla who is best described here:
Calla blew into the room, her eyebrows quite angry at being disturbed. She was wearing lipstick in a dangerous shade of plum, which made her mouth a small, pursed diamond under her pointy nose. Calla gave the man a lacerating look that plumbed the depths of his soul and found it wanting.Calla's always quick with the sarcasm and witty one liners, in other words she's made of awesome. At this time I would like to make a formal request of Steifvater to please include many more 'Calla moments' in upcoming books. Thank you:)
But what of the raven boys themselves? What a complex lots of personalities. They are each introduced slowly and methodically, and we receive the narratives of two of the group: Gansey and Adam. One thing that is really cool about having multiple narratives is that different facets of each character's personality is touched on as the narrative alternates. We get Blue's perception of Gansey, which is very different than Adam's. Then the reader hears from Gansey himself, and that perception is different as well. In the end you have a group of people that wear many coats, and all these layers round out and make each of the characters more whole. However, Stiefvater, true to form, leaves just enough information out to keep the reader guessing and wanting more.
Gansey is the charismatic and unequivocal leader of the group. From the start we know that it is Gansey who Blue sees on St. Mark's Eve and that he is going to play a major role in her future.
As always, there was an all-American war hero look to him, coded in his tousled brown hair, his summer-narrowed hazel eyes, the straight nose that ancient Anglo-Saxons had graciously passed on to him. Everything about him suggested valor, and power and a firm handshake.That is Blue's take on Gansey, now here is Adam's, another of the raven boys:
Adam remembered finding him intimidating when he first met him. There were two Gansey's: the one who lived inside his skin, and the one Gansey put on in the morning when he slid his wallet into the back pocket of his chinos. The former was troubled and passionate, with no discernible accent to Adam's ears, the latter bristled with latent power as he greeted people with the slippery, handsome accent of old Virginia money.See what I mean about layers? There is something about Gansey, something that makes people gravitate toward him. And of all the different subplots found within The Raven Boys, Gansey's quest to find a sleeping Welsh king carries the most weight.
But I have to admit that of the four boys Gansey was the hardest for me to relate and warm to. Eventually I did, but in the beginning I felt strangely detached in regards to him. I like Gansey, I think he is an amazing friend and caretaker to this group of boys, but his aristocratic nature and tendency to say the right thing in a very wrong way made me keep him at arms length. In addition, Gansey felt parental and not at all like a teenager or young man. And I struggled with the idea of him as a possible and future love interest for Blue. All of this aside I can't deny that Gansey exerts a certain pull, and while I found him a little hard to get into in the beginning, I am also fascinated with his character and the role he is being set up to play in this series. Happily by book's end I definitely could see Gansey in a more romantic light.
Whereas Gansey seemed distant and hard to wrap my head around, Adam, the other narrator of the group, elicited a TON of emotion from me. Adam is the only member of the group that doesn't fall into the category of privileged.
Adam tried so hard to hide his roots, but they came out in the smallest gestures.Adam is the outsider looking in, he is the one person who tries so hard to belong, but never feels that ever will. It's so easy to feel sympathetic to Adam. He's a scholarship kid trying to make a better life for himself. He has a terrifying home life. He's sensitive, smart and somehow both shy and assertive. He is the one member of the group that Gansey seems to rely on and turn to most.
Unlike Ronan, Adam's Aglionaby sweater was secondhand, but he'd taken great care to be certain it was impeccable. He was tall and slim, with dusty hair unevenly cropped above a fine boned, tanned face. Adam was a sepia photograph.But Adam, like all the other characters in this story, is not just those things. Adam and Gansey's relationship, while tight, is also an uncomfortable study in social and economic differences. But don't be fooled, there are other sides to Adam's personality that are far cry from sad and sympathetic.
The member of the group that is focused on the least (at the beginning of the book, anyway) is Noah.
Noah, unlike his pristine room, always seemed a little grubby. There was something out of place about his clothing, his mostly combed-back fair hair. His unkempt uniform always made Adam feel a little less like he stuck out.I love Noah, he's quiet, unobtrusive and remains largely in the background for much of this book.
Noah was smudgy, just as he (Gansey) said, with a rumpled, faded look about his person, like his body had been laundered too many times.I loved that he is described as "smudgy", and yes it's a very apt description. Like the other boys I wanted to learn more of Noah's story and I will say that I was curious as to why his role seemed somewhat lesser in comparison to the other raven boys. The good news is that as the story moves forward those questions are answered (for the most part.)
And last but not least, who of the raven boys did I feel drawn to and want to read more about? RONAN. God, I am so freaking predictable when it comes to the bad boy, aren't I? Because we don't get Ronan's narrative (damn it) his part in the story is slightly less than Gansey and Adam's. But GAH, I am so intrigued with him.
Like Gansey, he wore the Aglionby uniform, but as always, he managed to make it look as disreputable as possible. His tie was knotted with a method best described as contempt and his shirttails were ragged beneath the bottom of his sweater. His smile was thin and sharp. If his BMW was shark-like, it had learned it from him.He's angry and he's lost and he's sharp tongued and jagged and like all bad boys I just want to wrap my arms around him and save him from himself.
Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn't know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.And he reminds me so very much of Cole St. Clair in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series that I can hardly stand it.
Ronan didn't sound very interested, but that was part of the Ronan Lynch brand. It was impossible to tell how deep his disinterest truly was.Ronan's complicated, he has some serious bad blood with his older brother Declan and a haunting past to boot. He's described as the most "raven" of the raven boys and, like Aunt Calla, I just want MORE.
There are some other secondary characters that play minor to minuscule roles in the book: Barrington Whelk, a teacher at the school; Neeve, another of Blue's psychic half-aunts; Declan, Ronan's brother and his girlfriend Ashley; and Helen, Gansey's sister. However, because this is a Steifvater book I feel that NOTHING is minor and that we will see more of them in the future.
And as with all of Maggie's books, there is an element of magic written in, a feeling of the supernatural, a feeling that this place she is introducing, be it the island of Thisby; the woods of Mercy Falls; or the hills and valleys of Henrietta, Virginia, is infused with something not quite of this world. It's one of things I love most about the setting's that Steifvater creates.
The story of Glendower, the sleeping Welsh king who Gansey believes is buried near Henrietta, and who legend has it will bestow a single favor on the one who wakes him, is fascinating. I have read somewhere that this story is actually based on on a Welsh folktale but I haven't learned more than that. I will say that the whole time I was reading about Glendower and ley lines and raven imagery my mind kept returning to Faerie folklore. I'm not certain that this connection is made outright in The Raven Boys but given there is faerie magic afoot in Maggie's first books, Lament and Ballad, as well as bits of pieces worked into The Scorpio Races (water horses and kelpie lore,) I somehow feel that the connection is there and that it's something that will be touched on more in upcoming books.
For the synopsis and blurb to talk so much about true love and kisses, the romance angle is surprisingly downplayed. Blue's prophesy that she will kill her true love is instead a very subtle plot line that lies just below the surface of the story while all the other converging plot lines revolve around it. There is a bit of a love triangle setting up, but because the stakes are so high (one kiss from sweet Blue equals death to her true love) I am super excited to see how this play will out. I am in the camp that believes in slow burn over insta-love, and how much more slow burn can you get when you can't have the female lead kissing anyone? I have utter faith in Stiefvater however, and feel that the romance will intensify accordingly as the story progresses.
Guys, many reviews I have read speak about how the first half of The Raven Boys was confusing and hard to get into and I must say that I agree. So much going on! So many layers to this story. There was so much foreshadowing in the first part of the book that I didn't pick up on until later and then I was shocked and amazed at how it all came together and just how very, very clever Maggie Steifvater really is. And there are several shocking revelations found in The Raven Boys, including a jaw dropper at the end that literally had me tweeting "What the What?!?" around 3 in the morning.
So the moral of the story? Don't get discouraged if you you don't fall head over heel's in love with this book immediately. Don't fret if you are confused in the beginning. And please, don't give up, because the pay off is worth the wait.
The Raven Boys is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. I have yet to read a Maggie Stiefvater book that I didn't love, but the last two that I've read, Forever and The Scorpio Races, have really showcased how her writing has developed, and, at the risk of sounding haughty, matured. The Raven Boys, with it's incredibly intricate plot, amazingly well rounded characters, and of course, beautiful writing is yet another testament to the fact that Maggie Steifvater is one of the most talented writers working today. READ THIS BOOK PEOPLE. You won't be disappointed:)
Did you catch The Raven Boy book trailer that was created by Maggie Steifvater herself? Check it out HERE. You can also see the making of the trailer and the original music HERE.
|Sharpie Guitars- created by Maggie|
Jeez, does this woman's talent have no bounds?? Told you I was a raging fangirl...:)
Read more reviews of The Raven Boys:
Love is Not a Triangle
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves
Rainy Day Ramblings