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Sunday, March 24, 2013

“The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater (Reviewed by Lydia Roberts)

Order “The Raven BoysHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE (PDF)

The Raven Boys, written by New York Times Bestselling author, Maggie Stiefvater, was published September 18, 2012 by Scholastic PressStiefvater is the author of the previous bestselling YA series, the Shiver Trilogy. The Raven Boys has earned top accolades itself, such as being named one of Amazon.com's Best Teen Books of 2012, one of the 2013 American Library Association YALSA Top Ten Fiction Books for Young Adults, and a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. The Raven Boys is the first in a new four-book series.

The Raven Boys is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time, and once I started it, I could not put it down. Fans of Stiefvater's Shiver Trilogy will recognize the superb “show-don't-tell” quality of her writing, and it gives a sense of what I cannot help but describe as a fullness. Many books— not just those that fall in the YA genre—have adopted the post-Seinfeld, fragmented way that we often speak to one another. Personally, I don't want to spend time reading a book that sounds like a text-conversation. Stiefvater takes her time with her language, and that fits in perfectly with the sleepy Southern setting of the book. “April days in Henrietta (Virginia) were quite often fair, tender things, coaxing sleeping trees to bud and love-mad ladybugs to beat against windowpanes” (p. 7). Various Southern tropes, such as restless spirits,  local psychics, and blue bloods dripping in old money, make appearances, and in Stiefvater's deft hand they offer a welcome feeling of familiarity instead of banality. Also, the story is fleshed out gradually, requiring the reader to do a little work to figure out how things fit together instead of being taken by the hand and led from point A to point B.

The books starts with a prologue which introduces Blue Sargent, a 16-year-old who comes across as very sure of what she does and doesn't  like, who she is, and what she isn't. Blue is the only daughter of a psychic who has both a solid base of clients and an array of equally psychic female family members and friends that keep their small house just a bit hectic. The scenes that show Blue interacting with the women of the house reveal several colorful characters that are more than flat personas (Hip Mom, Crazy Aunt Type, Hostile Aunt Type, Creepy Aunt Type, etc.) at their roots. While Blue herself is not psychic, she acts almost like a battery for those with the gift; when she is present, magic is stronger, visions are clearer, etc. Another aspect to Blue's unusual life is the fact that from the time she was born, every psychic she encounters makes the same, oddly specific prophecy:  When Blue kisses her true love, he will die. Since she doesn't believe she will fall in love, Blue is not concerned about the prophecy. But, when she sees the spirit of a young man named Gansey who is destined to die in the coming year, a spirit that should be invisible to her non-magic eyes, she knows enough to worry, either because he is her true love or because she is the one who kills him—and in her case it just might be that both of those are true.

The not-yet-dead Gansey is a student at the prestigious private boys' school, Aglionby. Aglionby students have the school emblem, a raven, printed on their sweaters, thus leading to the nickname of Raven Boys. Raven Boys are seen by many—including and especially Blue—as spoiled, aimless rich kids who wreak havoc and have powerful parents to clean up their messes. While Gansey is careless regarding issues of money (a trait he is reminded of by his friend, Adam, who attends Aglionby on scholarship), he does have a goal: he wants to find evidence of magic, real magic, in the world, and that has him on a quest for the legendary tomb of Glendower. Gansey has earned the fierce loyalty of his best friends, Adam, Ronan, and Noah (all of whom have their own significant plotlines that will be further explored, no doubt, in later books), and though they do not always agree with one another, Gansey and the quest are the glue that hold them all together. Two chance encounters with Blue (at the pizza shop where she works and at her home when the guys go in for a scheduled reading) do not show Gansey in his best light, though, and also makes it clear that this isn't simply going to be a “boy meets girl; boy gets girl” type of story.

The murder mystery portion of the story played out in a very unexpected way. There were other story elements that also took me by surprise (one of which had me flipping back through the book to check for missed clues), but I won't spoil them for you by writing about them here. The plot of the story is wrapped up, so this book is a solid stand-alone; at the same time it left me very much in anticipation of the next book. According to Maggie Stiefvater’s website, the next installment in the series, The Dream Thieves, will make its appearance on September 17, 2013.

The Raven Boys: 5 stars

4 comments:

bibliotropic said...

This is one book that's been on my TBR pile pretty much since it came out. Thanks for the review; it's definitely rekindled my urge to read it sooner rather than later!

Brandie Mcnemar said...

I moved this one up my TBR list and loved it! Really got me into the fantasy side of YA fiction. I am now into Finding Tir Na Nog, it's part of Shari Whyte's Stelladaur series. It's been awesome as well. I definitely recommend those, www.stelladaur.com. Great review on The Raven Boys, it made me want to read it all over again!

Girl!Reporter said...

Ooh, looking forward to reading this. I've loved Stiefvater's previous work.

Lydia Roberts said...

Thanks all of you for reading the review and the positive comments! I have been off the frid for a bit, but will be posting more reviews starting next week!

I cannot wait for the follow-up for this, The Dream Thieves, which is up for release on Sept. 17th of this year. Check back here for a review of it!

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