Review Blog

Oct 16 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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Raven Cycle Book One. Scholastic Books, 2012. ISBN: 97814077134611.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. The Raven Boys is a clever, appealing book which combines genres most effectively. The third person narrative revolves around Blue, a 17 year old girl who lives with her mother and aunts outside Henrietta, a small town in Georgia. We are thrown straight into the drama, finding out immediately that Blue's psychic family have been telling her constantly she will kill her one true love. Blue has lived with this knowledge, this curse, this burden since she was 7, so when her mother's half-sister shows up and claims this is the year Blue falls in love, Blue barely reacts.
From this great start, the book settles into a fairly conventional mystery. Blue becomes involved with four boys from the local boarding school, a private elite place which houses some of the wealthiest boys in the South. They are on the trail of a famous Welsh king, buried somewhere in the US, who, tradition has it, will offer a boon to the person or people who free his spirit. At times the story of Glendowner bogs down the narrative, and Stiefvater has to balance the fine line between adding details to create tension and atmosphere, and going on too long. I never felt overwhelmed with the wheres and whys of the myths and legends of Glendowner, and I hope young people can get through these sections, because The Raven Boys is an excellent tale of mystery and adventure.
The four Aglionby boys - Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah - are distinct individuals. We are allowed into both Gansey's and Adam's thoughts (as well as Blue's), and their motives and secrets are complex and messy. The romantic elements are downplayed, but I'm sure they'll become more important in the next book. Ronan is the most complicated character. He's angry with good reason, but he's there when the boys need him. His last line is a shocker which sets up the next book. A side issue of Adam's family situation seems more suited to a contemporary novel, but it works well here, especially as it contrasts nicely with the wealth and opportunity of the other boys. Adam has the most to gain and the most to lose, so his narrative arc offers the most emotional pay-off.
This is great storytelling, with lots of twists and turns, and although it reads smoothly it's dense with ideas and issues. Highly recommended. Themes include power and responsibility, wealth, family, domestic abuse, psychic phenomena, murder and betrayal, corruption, grief, loss, and romance.
Trisha Buckley

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