This book was recommended to me by an old friend from school and I’d seen the series floating around the Bookstagram world for a while so in the midst of my Dragonfly in Amber book hangover, I picked it up because I knew it would be a quick and fun read and what a ride it was. I can’t wait to read the next in the series and would definitely recommend this to any Young Adult/Fantasy lovers.
The Raven Boys is the first novel in The Raven Cycle series and it tells the tale of a girl called Blue who lives in an all psychic household with her clairvoyant mother. The only thing is Blue doesn’t have any psychic abilities of her own – except that she makes other people’s power stronger like a walking battery charger. Blue crosses paths with a group of boys from the local private school, Aglionby, otherwise known as Raven Boys. However, Blue has met the leader of the pack, a rich student called Gansey, before… on a soon-to-be-dead-people-march. Also, add in the fact that Blue has been warned that she cannot kiss her true love because he will die! Yeah, it gets weirder. The novel follows Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah as they hunt for Glendower: an ancient Welsh king who is said to be laying dormant awaiting a true hero to awake him from his permanent slumber. Whoever wakes him up is granted one very special wish.
This book is crazy. It is filled with awesome and very quirky characters and I get the impression Maggie Stiefvater is not in the least bit interested in making her YA novels seem realistic. I actually detected a hint of magical realism in the way that all of her characters just seem to shrug and accept the magical and fantastical events that take place. Oh, my friend that I’ve been hanging out with has actually been dead this whole time, whoops oh well let’s go for ice-cream. At times it was difficult for me to invest in these eighteen-year-olds who were chasing down ancient Welsh kings and speaking Latin to trees but once I looked past that, I really got hooked on this story.
Like I said, the characters are really what make this series great. The protagonist, Blue, is unashamedly weird and embraces both her quirkiness and feistiness. Also, it was really refreshing that Blue didn’t have to slam the popular girls just to prove she’s ~different~; that’s a YA cliché that I despise. As for the Raven Boys, I love Gansey. I know a lot of people online seem to favour Ronan but his moping just annoyed me, to be honest. Although that last line really startled me, I think I’m going to like him a lot more in the next book if we learn more about his past and why he is such a phenomenal a**hole. Adam as the romantic interest of Blue didn’t really work for me. Again, I just felt he spent too much time moping. Gansey is the most dynamic character in the book and I felt frustrated on his behalf that everyone kept seeing him for his money and not his soul. Maybe I just like boys who are really passionate about stuff but he was my favourite out of the boys. If you’ve read the series, let me know who your favourite Raven Boy is.
“Crushed and broken,” Gansey said. “Just the way women like ’em…”
One of my favourite things about this book is Maggie Stiefvater’s talent for description. Sometimes she would describe something in the background, something unimportant, but it would stick out to me because her language is so vivid. For example, I actually felt like I was standing amidst this scene where Blue first sees Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah in the diner:
Close to the beginning of her shift, four boys came through the front door, letting a cold hiss of fresh air into the room that smelled of oregano and beer. In the window beside the boys, a neon light that said Since 1976 lit their faces a Limesicle green.
I swear I must have read those lines about twenty times because I just loved the description. That Limesicle green, the oregano and beer, it’s so tangible. Stiefvater’s world building ability is something I noticed throughout. I’m not sure if it’s the pretentious literature graduate coming out in me but for what I thought was going to be a “fluffy” read, the writing was stunning.
In addition to all the magic and the chaos, The Raven Boys also deals with more serious issues like domestic abuse and, oh yeah, murder. The way Stiefvater intertwines magic, fantasy, comedy and fun with dark issues like Adam’s poverty and the abuse of his father is carefully done. She shows family life as complex and sometimes painful and that’s not just Adam’s. At times she suggests that you make your own family by surrounding yourself with the people you love (your friends) The little circle of Aglionby boys was really heartwarming to read. They protect each other and look out for one another no matter what.
Basically, The Raven Boys is worth the hype. I thought I had fallen out of love with the Young Adult genre after reading a few that fell flat but this has restored my faith in all things hyped up. I look forward to diving back into this tumultuous adventure soon with The Dream Thieves.