Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
By Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher:
Scholastic Press

To Sum It Up:

Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychics. She isn’t one herself, but she possesses the ability to amplify clairvoyant powers. Blue and her mother have an annual tradition where they go to the churchyard, and her mother sees the spirits of those who will die in the next twelve months. This year is different, though; for the first time, Blue sees a spirit, and he speaks to her. He turns out to be Gansey, a student at the elite, all-boys school, Aglionby. Called the Raven Boys because of the raven emblem on their uniforms, Blue despises them and the old money and privilege that they represent. Whether she likes it or not, however, Blue is about to become an integral part of the lives of Gansey and his friends Ronan, Adam, and Noah, who are on a quest to find a legendary sleeping Welsh king.

Review:

Wow. What a different book this was compared to The Scorpio Races, the only other Maggie Stiefvater book I’ve read. As hard as I tried to love The Scorpio Races, I couldn’t do it. Although the setting was described with such beauty and eloquence, I felt so distant from the two narrators, Puck and Sean. I slogged through that book; it never seemed to gain any momentum plot-wise. I’d seen similar comments made about the pacing of The Raven Boys, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I liked the premise, and Stiefvater’s writing in The Scorpio Races really impressed me even though I wasn’t too keen on the novel overall. I had a hunch that there was a Maggie Stiefvater book out there that was perfect for me, and I found it with The Raven Boys.

To me, The Raven Boys read like a character study with a supernatural element to it, and I can see where the critiques of the pacing came from. Luckily for me, I found the characters utterly compelling, so I had no problem whatsoever. That’s not to say that the book is devoid of action, but if you’re expecting a heart-pounding paranormal read, The Raven Boys doesn’t fall into that category. Everything about it, from the plot to the romance, is slow-building; my enjoyment of the book came from observing the dynamic between the characters, especially the friendship between the Raven Boys, and how the addition of Blue affected it. I also became engrossed by the search for the legendary Glendower, a Welsh king who is supposed to grant a wish to whoever wakes him from his slumber. I couldn’t get enough of this storyline because I’ve always been fascinated by Arthurian legend and Holy Grail-type quests.

A sure sign that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a book is when I can’t stop thinking about it after I’ve finished it. The characters from The Raven Boys have taken up permanent residence in my brain. I loved Blue’s independent personality and how she refused to fawn over the Raven Boys just because they were wealthy and good-looking. She has a solid head on her shoulders and uses it, unlike some other female protagonists I’ve come across in YA.

It was the Raven Boys, though, who made this book an absolute page-turner. They’re a rather motley quartet, and yet they’re friends. You have hot-headed Ronan, who welcomes trouble with a smile and is always ready with a snarky comment. Then there’s Adam, who attends Aglionby on a scholarship and struggles with feeling like he doesn’t really belong to the group. His pride won’t allow him to accept help from anyone, especially Gansey, even though it would mean escaping from his physically abusive father’s house. Noah is the quietest of the four and seems to lurk in the background, but his backstory is perhaps the most intriguing of all of the boys’ richly detailed histories.

And then there’s Gansey. Gansey (full name: Richard Campbell Gansey III), who prefers to be called by his surname and who stole the book as well as my heart. There’s nothing conventionally swoon-worthy about him; I just found him to be a kindred spirit. We share a need to avoid stinging insects and to hold the phone right up to our faces if we’re not wearing glasses or contacts. Gansey is also the nucleus of the Raven Boys; without him, they would probably be off leading separate lives. Instead, they’re a close-knit, almost family-like unit, with Gansey as the primary caretaker. Whether he’s trying to keep Ronan out of trouble or offering Adam a place to live, Gansey truly cares about his friends. While he may not always say the most tactful thing, particularly in his conversations with Blue, I don’t think that he means to offend anyone. He’s grown up in a sphere of privilege and doesn’t realize that he can sound condescending to those outside of it. What really drew me to Gansey was his heart, which is extremely generous.

In case it’s not evident by now, I loved The Raven Boys. Stiefvater’s writing is beautiful, and even wryly humorous at times. Waiting for the next installment is torture because I’m one hundred percent invested in these characters and what happens to them. At least I have the first book to think back on in the meantime, and I often do because it made such an impact on me.

All in All:

I’d love to recommend this to everybody because I loved it so much (I mean, I’ve already used “love” twice in this sentence), but I realize that it may not be to everyone’s reading tastes. If you think there’s even a tiny chance that you’ll enjoy The Raven Boys, then by all means, go ahead and read it!

12 comments:

  1. THis sounds awesome. I need to pick it up soon.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. It's such an amazing book. I hope you have the chance to read it.

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  2. Oh I'm thrilled you loved this one! I really want to read this one too, even though I haven't read anything by Stiefvater yet...I have a feeling this one will be my first. GREAT review Lee :)

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    1. I really hope you love it as much as I did! It was just perfect.

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  3. I really like Stiefvater's writing so I am glad to hear you loved it!

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    1. Her writing is so elegant. Even though I didn't like The Scorpio Races as much, I admired her writing talent.

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  4. Hello, I nominated you for the ONe Lovely Blog award.
    to see my post go here http://kimberlysnovelnotes.blogspot.com/2013/01/one-lovely-blog-award.html

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  5. A lot of people said the same thing about Scorpio Races, I haven't read it myself and now I don't really want to.

    I'm happy to see you loved this book! I was so into it myself, it's so unique and the myth was just phenomenal. Can't wait to read book 2!

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    1. I can't wait to read the sequel, either! I would have given this book an infinite number of stars because it was just brilliant.

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  6. "A sure sign that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a book is when I can’t stop thinking about it after I’ve finished it. The characters from The Raven Boys have taken up permanent residence in my brain."
    That is EXACTLY how I felt when I finished! This is probably my favorite Stiefvater novel yet and oh my goodness I fell in love with the Raven Boys' friendship! Gansey and Ronan were my favorite characters of this book and I really REALLY need the sequel to come out soon!

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    1. Their friendship, which was so wonderfully complex, just made this novel for me. As great a character as Blue was, I LOVED the Raven Boys!

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