Title: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Supernatural
How I got it: I bought an eBook.
“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.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
How to even begin?
This book has been around for a long time before I decided to pick it up. Mostly, it’s because of Tumblr and all the quirky edits about the series that I’ve encountered while reblogging photos of cats. I mean, a book series getting that much traction in a website full of picky, easily offended people must be really something for a whole community to collectively love. So I decided, why not? I jumped right into that bandwagon and read the book.
… And I was not disappointed.
At least, not that much. I like the story as a whole, and the characters are colorful and lively. A houseful of psychic women, a gang of rich, good-looking boys, a quirky female character… what’s not to like, right?
The plot basically goes like this: Blue is a non-psychic in a house of psychics. She’s basically an anomaly, but she’s like a conductor, so to speak, in the sense that she can amplify psychic powers for some unknown reason. Growing up, she’s always been told that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die.
Gansey is a rich guy with a clueless kind of demeanor, especially towards the less fortunate. He’s very interested (obsessed) with ley lines, and quite obviously she’s Blue’s true love. He’s a nice guy overall, really determined, a great friend, but he’s doomed to die because he will be inevitably attracted to Blue which will bring on his tragic demise. It sounds a little shallow, put like that. But before the whole tragic demise thing, a lot of other stuff happens which add substance to the story.
As I’ve said previously, what I like best about this book is the characters. Mainly, the Raven Boys. In my opinion, they really make the story with their contrasting characters adding some serious weight and texture to the plot. I like that they’re easily distinguishable from each other not only due to physical attributes, but due to expert characterization. Stiefvater managed to breathe life into these four boys and make them unforgettable, almost tangible characters that you can’t help but love.
It’s really hard not to play favorites so I will. I have to admit now that I’m Noah Czerny trash. This poor boy with his big heart, who was the first one to love Blue when she became part of the gang just because he’s the sort of guy who would automatically be attached to a person who’s nice. He didn’t have any agenda for welcoming Blue with open arms, unlike Adam. He did it because he’s just genuinely warm. Noah Czerny is precious and important and in my mind, I’ve pictured him looking like Niall Horan. I’m so sorry, but it can’t be erased.
Ronan is another one. You know those people you know you’re supposed to stay away from but for some reason you can’t? Yeah. That’s him. You’ll rationalize with yourself that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. But you will be inexplicably drawn to him like a moth to a flame, and you’d rather burn than be far apart. To explain better, here’s my favorite quote pertaining to Ronan Lynch:
“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”
Do you know what I mean? Do you get it now? Ugh. I don’t know any better way to explain, but if Ronan Lynch was an actual person that I know, I’d be in big trouble.
Adam and Gansey are alright. They each have their moments. Sometimes Gansey manages to shine and set my heart a-flutter, but they’re both not as remarkable to me as the other two.
It’s Blue that I have a problem with, though.
I don’t know but she seems like a frail copy of Frankie Landau Banks. Actually, if you think about it, The Raven Boys is a bit like E. Lockhart’s book in a sense that it’s about a girl who dreamed to belong in a man’s world. Only that Blue succeeded where Frankie failed, which I can’t really credit to Blue since it’s more for the fact that The Raven Boys are a much nicer bunch than the Basset Hounds of Frankie’s boarding school.
Blue is like a faded photocopy of Frankie, a much less intelligent ghost. She lacks Frankie’s ingenuity and is sometimes rather annoying even when she’s trying to come across as the epitome of girl power. This is the reason why I can’t give this book a 5-coconut rating. It feels so much like a tapestry of stories that other authors succeeded in telling (The Gemma Doyle trilogy comes to mind. A group of girls in a boarding school playing at magic and managing to transport themselves in an otherworldly realm, just like The Raven Boys with the ley lines and Cabbeswater.) and Stiefvater is trying to piece together to form a literary masterpiece, only that it didn’t quite work all that well.
Don’t get me wrong, The Raven Boys is still all kinds of amazing, and fantasy-wise, it’s quite remarkable considering the plethora of others we currently have in YA. The Supernatural element is fantastically executed, but it feels familiar, and not in a good way. It feels like stories I’ve heard before, disguised as something else by wearing a new jacket.
Still, I’m giving this book 3 coconuts. 3 for Stiefvater’s undeniable talent in writing a beautiful prose, 3 for Noah and Ronan and Blue’s mom, Maura, for all the feelings they evoked in me, and 3 for the fact that I finished this book in one sitting. But I’m withholding the other two stars because of a somewhat questionable claim at originality.
Finally, I recommend this book to all lovers of YA Fantasy, doomed love stories, sharp-as-knife characters, and supernatural aficionados. I personally think that I get what the hype is all about, and maybe the comparisons I’ve drawn and the similarities are all coincidental. But if Gansey didn’t believe in coincidences, why should I?