The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
On a cold night every spring, sixteen-year-old Blue and her psychic mother wait in a churchyard for the dead to arrive. Her mother is usually the one who sees the spirits of people who will die within the next twelve months, but this year, Blue herself is startled by the sad, desperate sight of a boy named Gansey falling to his knees before her.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”
With those chilling words, Blue is caught up in a mystery she never expected involving the privileged Raven Boys from Aglionby Academy. She must guard her heart closely, however, because Blue’s always been told that she’s destined to kill her true love with a kiss.
If Edgar Allan Poe had taught the boys of Dead Poets Society, The Raven Boys is the type of tale he might’ve told, one that emerges through curl of smoke and excites with a flash of fire. This story, which seems to be loosely based on a real Welsh folk tale, is haunted by ghosts, invigorated by a fantastical search for a legendary sleeping Welsh king, and tinged with the frightening dark beauty of centuries-old magic.
While the story starts out from Blue’s point of view, the book is actually told in third-party omniscient style, a welcome change from the author’s usual first person perspective, and a necessary one given the many characters we get to know, particularly the raven boys. Gansey, who is obsessed with the supernatural; Adam, who yearns for a life outside what he knows; Ronan, whose anger hides untold regret; and Noah, a troubled soul who knows a great deal more than he lets on. I loved the complicated relationship between these boys, from their good-natured jeers to their anxious concern for one another. There is a collegial feel to the book that I very much enjoyed, but beyond that, there is also a deeply felt connection and a mysterious synergy between the characters that I hadn’t felt in the author’s books since Shiver and Linger. It’s a surprise to find that the strongest and most compelling facet of this novel isn’t necessarily the romance–although that is also intriguing and incredibly complicated–but the brotherly love between this tightly-knit group of boys.
There are several mysteries going on, all of which aroused my curiosity. I have to admit, however, there are so many characters and plot lines to keep track of that the first half of the book was occasionally bewildering and a little maddening. As with The Scorpio Races, I also find some of the names a bit distracting since there are so many unusual ones (although I do like some of them, including the rather gloriously pompous “Barrington Whelk”), and the propensity to overuse proper nouns when a simple “he” or “she” would do occasionally tried my patience. While I think the novel would be stronger overall if it was a little more focused and lost some of its cluttering details, these are small nitpicks in such an imaginative book, and the whirlwind of the second half definitely rewards those who stick with it. I liked that we see more of the author’s offbeat humor in this novel, and her gift for seeing beauty in ordinary things still moves me.
The air moved slowly around his body, somehow tangible, gold-flaked, every dust mote a lantern.
I’m happy to find another Maggie Stiefvater book that I like so much and I’m incredibly excited to see where this story goes next. That cryptic ending–and the loose ends with Blue’s romantic destiny–will guarantee that I’ll be one of the first people in line for the sequel.
For fans of intelligent mystery and fantasy, this unkindness of ravens is well worth your time.
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Win a Raven Boys ARC
We know we’ve been spoiling our readers with giveaways recently, but there are a ton of great books releasing this fall! Thanks to our friends at Scholastic Books, we’re offering you a chance to win a copy of Maggie’s latest book. As usual, all you have to do is leave your contact details through the Rafflecopter form along with a comment below! This contest is open to internationally to readers aged 18 and up.
If you’d like to sample the novel, you may also read the first two chapters on Entertainment Weekly!