Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The-Raven-BoysTitle: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Published: 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-42492-9

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

 

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from this book when I first picked it up. I struggled to get started and I couldn’t get my head into it. But I was pleasantly surprised. I picked up the book this morning, about 40 pages into it already, and finished it within three hours. That to me constitutes a good read.

I’d been briefly informed about this book by a friend and I was vaguely interested in the plot. This book really swept me up and away in its story. The characters are full of surprises and each is very well rounded. Stiefvater does an excellent job of creating very distinct individuals in this mismatched group of students each of whom is complicated in his own way. Gansey is a mysterious individual who is driven by a mad passion for the otherworldly, but is weighed down by this growing whole inside of him caused by his inability to reconcile his flippant attitude for wealth and privilege with the fact that life it not as easy for those around them who are less fortunate than he.

I love how much this book defied my expectations. The world that Stiefvater creates is so in depth and well thought out and there are so many elements to the spiritual side of things, making her story all the more believable with the ley lines, divining rods, energy sources, psychometry, and the paranormal.   I had goosebumps on every other page, unsure of how things were going to develop and what twist was going to be thrown my way next.

I felt like the side story of Neeve (Blues “half aunt” as she is described at one point) was unnecessary and not completely fully formed. Mystery shrouds Neeve but it can leave the reader feeling confused and a little lots when reading her sections. Neeve’s actions are often unexplained and are disregarded as her being a mysterious presence to the other characters, unsure of her motives and her actions. To me, she was a character created to add that spooky, mystical edge to the story, but the story may in fact be stronger without her. I’m sure that any appearances she makes in subsequent books will help to strengthen her importance to the story.

Noah was another character who, realistically, was inessential until three quarters of the way through the book. There are reasons for this that become apparent near the end (and I wont reveal them here), but his presence is so sporadic for so long and then suddenly, he becomes crucial to the plot of the story. There needed to be more of him in the beginning.

The reason I mentioned that I didn’t expect much is because the first 40-50 pages for me were an awful bumpy ride. I found Stiefvater’s writing style in the beginning to be very choppy and almost forceful. I couldn’t get into the flow of the story and that was quite a struggle for me. You can tell that she hit her stride though a few chapters in as the story evens out and begins to unfold in a much more natural fashion. There are still a few hiccups along the way. Every so often, I’d read a sentence that was jarring in its irregularity and that ground my reading to a halt for a moment, but these sections were few and far between as the story progressed.

This book is clearly constructed as the start of a series. Stiefvater is thoughtful in her placement of plot elements and of her characters. She’s paced herself and although this book is packed completely full of characters and story, there is so much that she’s held back, which I’m sure will be revealed as the series continued. Overall, a really good read. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s definitely an enjoyable and mystical tale.

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