“The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Read Date: 16 September 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Review Preview: Lyrical, atmospheric, and an attention-stealing introduction to a new series.

“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.

[ Disclosure: I (loved)x102 Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Scorpio Races,” and have since decided that I would read all of her new books despite being only ambivalent towards her “The Wolves of Mercy Falls” trilogy. ]

My immediate reaction after finishing The Raven Boys was “it was not what I was expecting.” I suppose I can be forgiven for envisioning a dark world inhabited by malevolent spirits after the synopsis promised me “a strange and sinister world.” But hey, I like what I read more than what I had envisioned, so it’s cool.

Most of the elements that I loved about The Scorpio Races were present in The Raven Boys. And forgive me for all the comparisons, but The Scorpio Races is my Stiefvater benchmark right now. 😉

The World – Despite being set in America, Blue Sargent’s hometown had this Scottish Highlands feel to it. It’s a place that is steeped in magic, and Stiefvater’s prose really makes you feel that. We don’t get to see the sights as much because of the focus on the characters and their present quest, but I hope to explore more of the town in the next books in the Cycle.

The Mythology – The Scorpio Races’ mythology was very simple but it was the centerpiece around which Stiefvater built her story and the device which she used very effectively to create conflict between her characters. The mythology of The Raven Boys is based on Welsh myths and legends; it’s a little more complex and it spans different continents and cultures. This was another of those unexpected things for me, because you certainly don’t get an inkling of the Welsh aspect from the beginning of the story. The book feels more magical and fantastical than even The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and it’s fun seeing the characters encounter magic when they are afraid to believe in it.

Magic existed, and Adam didn’t know how much that changed the world.

The Slow-burning Romance – The subtle, slow-burning romance in The Scorpio Races thrilled me more than some of the epic love stories that I’ve read. What romance there is in The Raven Boys is certainly subtle and…let’s just say that my One True Pairing will take at least one more book to get to where I want them to be. Strangely, I am okay with this, and that should probably clue you in on my feelings about The Raven Boys because I often demand good romantic pay-offs. 😛

I am highlighting the romance here only because the character hook for Blue in the book teasers is readings of her future say that she will kill her true love if she ever kisses him, and that the lone ghost she sees is either her true love or someone she killed. But I think the romance is only the icing on top of a wonderfully layered, and more complex story.

…if you get to know him– You’d better guard your heart.

Interesting Characters – A seemingly ordinary girl who comes from a family of psychics. A rich boy with an obsession with a dead king. A bunch of side characters who each have a painful past and who are dependent on one person to keep them together. They’re all interesting to me.

I like Blue despite finding her a little too quirky sometimes. I appreciate that she is the type who is willing to take control of her life despite Fate wanting to intervene with her all the time.

She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.

I haven’t warmed up to Gansey much yet, but I already like him enough. You see, I have a weakness for guys who like books and questing for dead kings. Indiana Jones? Yes, I love him.

And everywhere, everywhere, there were books. Not the tidy stacks of an intellectual attempting to impress, but the slumping piles of a scholar obsessed.

Blue and the Raven Boys also have a very interesting dynamic that I would like to see more of. And more psychic relatives, please.

One other aspect of this book that I liked is that Stiefvater opted NOT to use the first person point-of-view. (Thank you, Maggie!) I appreciated that style in The Scorpio Races, but in The Wolves of Mercy Falls, not so much. It’s a welcome change, and she tells just as good a story using this style.

Stiefvater’s lyrical prose and subtle humor introduces us to a lush and magical world that is brimming with the promise of a fantastical story. This is the first in a series, and it is understandably burdened with a lot of exposition and world- and character-building, but there are a lot of great set-pieces, character moments, and chilling events. While there may not be many satisfying pay-offs by the end of the book, there are plot lines that were satisfactorily resolved, and more interesting ones that have unraveled for the next installment.

You’ve stolen my attention, Maggie. I’m definitely on board for this series.

This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by Scholastic Philippines.

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