Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater
Read: September 18-20, 2012
Published: September 18, 2012 by Scholastic Press
Source: Purchase (also signed by author!)
Category: YA
Series: The Raven Cycle, Book 1

“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. (This is only part of the description. It's long. If you want more, go HERE)

I have a secret to tell you. Sometimes, I think that Maggie Stiefvater writes her books just for me. She crafts her stories exactly how I want an author to write them - slowly building characters, revealing them from different angles and perspectives. Her stories are complexly layered, and feel like a puzzle that the reader gets to put together piece by piece. I LOVE reading books written this way. 

Take Gansey for instance, we meet him first as a spirit through Blue's eyes in the graveyard, but then we get his own perspective, see him described by Adam, and again by Blue when she meets him in person. Every detail we read about him - from his Topsiders to his preference for organic applesauce to the name of his car - adds a layer of complexity. 

We see not only Gansey this way, but all of the characters in book. And sometimes the reader doesn't know they've gotten a piece of the puzzle until later. When it clicks into place, it's a triumphant feeling. Ms. Stiefvater excels at this method of writing.  

The Story: 
The plot of The Raven Boys is complex to break down and best to go into without much information. But basically, Blue's been told all her life that "If she were to kiss her true love, he would die." Then in a graveyard one night she meets the spirit of Gansey, a wealthy boy who goes to a local private school. Seeing him there means that 1) He's going to die within the next year, and 2) He's either her true love or she kills him. Soon after that night, Blue meets the real Gansey and his three friends. She is drawn into their lives - and they into hers. Together they embark on a mysterious quest that combines ley lines and Welsh kings (among other things).

If that doesn't sound exciting, The Raven Boys also features helicopters, guns and fast cars. As well as many surprising revelations that had me picking my jaw off the floor.

The Setting:
The simple answer is that The Raven Boys is set in present day in Henrietta, Virginia. But there is a certain timelessness and otherworldliness to the story despite the fact that they carry cell phones. I'm not sure I can articulate how Ms. Stiefvater achieves this (except to say that she does something similar in The Scorpio Races, though that is a historical setting), but I think it added to the mystery and mood of the book, and I really loved the feel of it. 

The Characters:
(Part of the fun is discovering them for yourself, but I will give you a small glimpse of the main players)

Residents of 300 Fox Way:
Blue has made it her mission in life to avoid the private school boys and to never fall in love.
Maura, Neeve, Calla, Persephone and Orla, are Blue's mother and family respectively (some related, some not). They're all psychics, but that's where the similarities between these women end. 

The Aglionby (Raven)Boys: 
Gansey is the determined leader. 
Adam wants to make something better for himself.
Ronan is more than just a bad boy.
Noah watches from the periphery.

One of the best parts about The Raven Boys is the friendship between the four boys. I loved watching them interact with, and care for, each other. It gets even better when Blue meets them and starts to become part of their world. Blue's eccentric family is pretty awesome as well. I love that EVERY single character in this book is uniquely and richly drawn. 

The Pacing: 
The first half of The Raven Boys was a bit slow as we got to know the setting and the players, and also because some pieces of the story feel disjointed. But the second half really picked up with surprising revelations and much more action. If you haven't made it to the halfway point and are feeling discouraged, I encourage you to keep reading! I promise that the pieces will fit together.  

It's important to remember that this book is the first of a four part cycle. Not everything is resolved, and we meet a lot of characters. It takes time to find out who they are and why they're all here. But that is part of the magic of Maggie Stiefvater's writing for me. I'm excited to see where this story goes. I have a feeling the next one will read much faster.

The Love Story: 
The Raven Boys is the beginning of the cycle, and the book is very much about characters meeting and getting to know each other (don't worry there are some sweet moments and peeks at a deeper romance to come). A few crushes develop, but as Maggie Stiefvater herself said, the romance so far is fairly "amorphous." I was actually really pleased that the love story develops slowly, especially because it is part of a four book series and constrained by the fact that Blue can't kiss anyone (or they'll likely die). 

I will admit that when I started the book, I assumed that the identity of Blue's true love was a given. But as I read the story, I discovered that it wasn't actually immediately clear. Even so, by the end of this first cycle I'm certain enough of his identity that Ms. Stiefvater would need to work hard to dissuade me (she's quite capable of this). However, that doesn't mean that the characters themselves are as convinced as I am.  

The Cliffy:
When The Raven Boys endsthe players are not in mortal danger or in the middle of a major action sequence, therefore I wouldn't call it a true cliffhanger. The action for this story wraps itself up, and the characters are all in a safe place (for now). However, not all the plot-lines that have been introduced are resolved. Also, there are a few revelations at the very end of this book that bring up new questions, and set the reader up for what is to come.  Basically, the ending made me excited to get my hands on the next book, but not stressed about the current state of the characters and the story. 

Love Triangle Factor: It's complicated - not enough information yet. 
Rating: 5 stars

To read about my fantastic evening meeting Maggie Stiefvater at the Cambridge Public Library, go HERE


  1. This is good.

    I read a great blog post about this book from Carla at Makeshift Bookmark. She mentioned the cliffhanger but when I questioned her further about it (you know how I am about those cliffies, she said I should just go for it). So I'm not going to wait for this series to complete before I start it, which is a relief because it is four books and I love Maggie's language.

    Sidenote: Because of my weird fear of finishing a series, I have not read Forever. I'm working my way through this because I have since finished a couple of series. It used to be anxiety-inducing though, and still is to a small degree. Those are fairly quick reads so I should just go ahead and finish - plus they're so stinking PRETTY with the colored ink and stuff.

    1. Yes. I think this is a doable "cliffhanger," if you'd even call it that. Really it's just that the four book plot is so big that everything couldn't be solved here. Also, I'm considering adding a Cliffhanger Scale to my blog alongside the Love Triangle Scale. So many people say books have them, when they really don't. I will put KNIFE at the top of it.

      You and your quirks are so funny. I really loved Forever. I hope you read it.

    2. Ooh, I like the idea of adding an cliffhanger scale, Lauren! I think you should do it!

      And Asheley, I agree with Lauren and Carla, I think this one straddles the line between minor cliffie and shocking revelation:)

    3. YES. The cliffhanger scale. DO ITTT.
      If only for me, do it please.
      I am clapping right now with absolute happiness at this possibility.

  2. Yayy! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I liked it, but it wasn't as amazing as TSR in my opinion which was a little disappointing. Still, I am THRILLED that you loved this so much and I CAN'T WAIT for the rest of the series! :D Wonderful review, Lauren!

    1. Scorpio is still my favorite. But this was really good too. Though I don't ever feel like I can fully judge a book like this until I finish the entire series and look at it as a whole. But I have high hopes after this beginning!

  3. I feel like she writes her books just for me too! Especially when you said her fave character is Cole St. Clair! Total connection between us (and yes, that sounds all stalker-ish but I don't care:)

    Jeez, your review has so many similarities to mine! I swear I didn't lift passages from yours, but it almost seems that way when I read your thoughts!

    So yes to everything you said: I love all the layers of the characters; I love that you noted how sometimes things don't make sense but then later they all "click" and you are stoked when that occurs; I love that you looked at pacing issues and the way information was laid out over the course of the book; and I love that you're okay with the slight love triangulation going on:)

    You know how I said I sometimes go back and adjust my rating of a book after writing the review? Yep, did it here. I originally thought 4.5 stars, but after further thought I bumped it up to a full 5 stars. I am just so excited about this series! I love all the subplots and how they connect and converge. I can't wait to see what MS has in store for us!

    1. HA! I love how much we think alike. And I also waffled between 4.5 and 5 on this one, but i just thought it was so strong as a whole that I went with 5 as well. Plus I'm anticipating the series just getting better from here. Yes. I love all the sub plots too, and I'm especially excited to see how they continue through the entire series. I LOVE when an author plans a series as a whole so that it all connects together. Like Ashely for instance, who shows up briefly twice in Raven, no way have we seen the last of her!

  4. I just wanted you to know this is a extremely informative and fabulously written review. I just LOVED this book and you did it a huge amount of justice in your review without spoiling anything. In fact, I was so impressed with your summary, I used it on my blog with a link and credit back to you as the original author. I sure hope this is ok. If you do not approve please notify me A.S.A.P so I can take it off of my blog post and write my own summary. I'm happy I found your blog and added myself as a new follower. I love your writing style!


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