Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Review (4)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater ||Publisher: Scholastic ||Pages: 419 ||Source: Book Purchase

I put off getting a copy of The Raven Boys for ages. I’d skim read a few reviews in the past but never been particularly interested in the book. I think one of the problems at first was the blurb. It didn’t sound like my type of book. Having read the book now, the emphasis the blurb puts on love does not match what I took away from the novel. The magic and the complex friendships are what really sang out to me.

Despite my hesitancy about first picking it up, I loved this book. Each character is vivid and interesting. As someone who reads more for character than action, this book was a great fit for me. The interactions and drama that plays out between the  characters creates a deliciously dark and twisted story. In addition to the awesome character work, another highlight of the novel is the twang of old magic coursing through its veins in a way that makes it a distinct relation to Susan Cooper’s fantastic Dark is Rising Sequence.

There are two main groups of characters in this novel: the Raven Boys, four boys attending the prestigious all boys school Aglionby Academy, and the women of 300 Fox Way, each endowed with psychic powers of one sort or another. The intermediary between these groups is Blue. She belongs to the women by blood and the boys by fate.

The eponymous Raven Boys are on a quest to find a centuries old (and most probably dead, but perhaps merely sleeping…) Welsh king called Glendower. They believe his body resides along the ley line that passes through Henrietta. The lead figure of the four boys is Gansey. Gansey is a rich, well-educated young man who has somewhat adopted the other three misfit boy and mothers them as much as he can. However, his help is not always wanted, as is the case with Adam Parish.

Adam comes from a rough household but he is determined to work his way to high things. He’s often desperately trying to resist Gansey’s attempts to buy him out of his misery. His fierce independence is his strongest character trait and flaw.  Ronan, on the other hand, takes little care for Gansey’s attempts to stop him from being kicked out of school for his violent attitude and failing grades. Ronan has a charismatic and dark personality. He’s like a beautiful knife. You can appreciate it but if you get too close and mishandle it you will bleed. The final raven boy is Noah. He’s a mystery; a sweet, smudgey, tragic mystery. [*weeps*]

All the boys are interesting in their own right. Their love for each other left a much larger impression on me than the romantic love the blurb hints at in regards to Blue. There is so much more I want to know about each of these damaged boys, such as Ronan’s past and Adam’s future. Luckily, The Raven Boys is just the start of a four book series so I shall have plenty more narrative to get my teeth into.

My favourite character at this early stage in the series is Gansey. I enjoy my time with him the most. From the start of the book we know his fate is to die within the year, and yet he is so vividly alive on the page. He is the character who most brings to mind the link with The Dark is Rising Sequence as he is the driving force behind this search for old Welsh magic.  I can so firmly imagine a middle grade series based on his previous adventures. He is not only a teen version of the children pulled into a quest you could find in the pages of many wonderful MG books, but he also quite clearly (to my mind) was one of those children.  This isn’t his first expedition into the unknown, even though it may be his last. The books that cover those years don’t exist but they would be just sumptuous if they did.

Whilst Gansey is the one searching for magic, it is the women of 300 Fox Way who are most entwined with the practice of supernatural power. Maura, Calla and Persephone are each brilliantly quirky. The way they work together is awesome and I have so many questions about their history together. I particularly loved Maura and her close bond with her daughter, Blue. MOAR MAURA, PLEASE. Ahem.

The Raven Boys is a fun, dark, highly readable novel with a brilliant cast of characters. And the plot?  I already want to reread The Raven Boys to better appreciate how cleverly plotted it is. Every tangle and twist in the novel is firmly rooted by breadcrumb clues dropped throughout the narrative, which makes their reveals all the more enjoyable.

Ren x

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