The Raven Boys [Book Review]
Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published Date: 18th September 2012
Rating: 5 Stars.
Synopsis: “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.
Review: Three years ago, blogger friends told me how amazing this book was supposed to be, so I bought it. Since then, people have been telling me to read it for three years… but I didn’t. I started off by reading Shiver by the same author and I detested that book so much it put me off. But when thetravelingbookworm on Instagram said she was going to start reading this series I decided to buddy read it with her. And I went off into a world of fangirling, fandom, fanfiction (I KNOW. My first venture into it) and then got sucked into the most major book hangover ever. THAT’S how much I loved this book and series.
For starters, I absolutely loved our main characters. You have the four Raven Boys, who go to a school where the logo is a raven (hence the name.) You’ll meet Adam, Noah, Gansey and Ronan. Gansey struck me right away because he is an incredibly intelligent character, but he feels burdened with great purpose because of all the privilege he has been given in life. You can tell right off the bat that he sort of resents being so privileged, but also can’t help the way he has grown up. Which already opens up an interesting discussion about privilege and how it should be used. But it was Adam who truly captivated my heart. He’s the one who has a scholarship to go to the prestigious school, is incredibly broke, and has to work to be able to afford anything. He doesn’t want handouts. He’s trying to make it in life and I can never not love the loyal side kick and underdog…
Ronan comes across as an angry character at first, but he is really troubled. There’s a lot of unknown about his past to discover as you read. Noah is also a character who is very mysterious, and I’ll leave things at that. Blue, the female lead, has grown up in a house full of psychics who have told her she can’t kiss her true love or he will die. She’s very independent, quirky and brave. Truthfully, it’s difficult to have favourite characters with a book like this because they are all facing their own demons and trying to make it through. They’re all so complex and hurting in their own way. I appreciated how their stories all unfolded and Stiefvater shared the spotlight between them.
The plot was interesting to me. I knew nothing about Welsh history or mythology before reading this book. The term ‘ley line’ was entirely unfamiliar to me. But that’s okay because everything gets explained on the journey without a single info-dump. I felt like my knowledge was growing as the boys discovered more and more. I couldn’t help becoming intrigued and feeling like I was along for the ride too!
The novel is so well written and crafted that I wanted Stiefvater to teach me a class on how to write YA! The beauty is not in the poetic writing style, although she pulls out some lovely phrases from time to time. (Example: as soft as a poem) But more so in how she manages to keep a steady sense of foreboding and a spooky atmosphere running throughout the novel. There is plenty of foreshadowing and suspense, but in no way does it make the book predictable.
I know I already mentioned the characters, but I felt especially captivated by the bromance and friendships in this novel. Stiefvater perfectly captured a group of boys who don’t show favouritism but at the same time do show favouritism. Who know what is going unsaid when their friend says something, and knows when to pick up on it and pull it out of them, or leave it alone. It doesn’t mean they never fight or disagree, either. But somehow, she has managed to portray the kind of closeness I have with my best friends and family perfectly within the Raven Boys, and I can’t think of many books where I have seen it pinpointed so exactly.
There were also little things I appreciated. For starters, that these are secondary school kids who actually have to do homework in the book. Who have to work and worry about their grades. I don’t know about you, but it’s so rare for me to find that in a YA novel even though it’s a reality students have to face. Which made me happy to see it here!
The ending was perfect! It wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger, but it wasn’t entirely not-a-cliffhanger either. Isn’t that the ideal way to end a book? Needless to say, only 2 days after I’d finished reading the book, despite just starting a new book ban, I splurged and bought book two. I can’t recommend this read more!
Oh, and did I say Adam is bae? 😀
Relevance to today: I think what really resonated to me was the complexity of relationships. Regardless of what the boys and Blue discover, or regardless of what they magical situations they are put through, ultimately who they worry about is each other. The boys are worried about their well-being of their friends and the issues they are struggling with, and that is what they prioritise above everything else. It reminded me of how important it is to support and love each other, and help each other through the difficult times.
Olivia’s Question: Do you like open or closed endings? Do you have a favourite Raven Boy?
Psst! This post uses affiliate links! Click them to support Olivia’s Catastrophe =)