Published by Scholastic Inc. on July 30, 2013
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.
I will freely admit that this was not the first time I picked up The Raven Boys in an attempt to be cool like all the other book bloggers and vloggers. Nor was it my second. In fact, this was my third time on the Raven Boys struggle bus. Luckily for me, the third time was the charm, and I finally finished this 400 page first entry into a much-beloved series – I hope that it won’t be my last.
How I’d Describe This Book to A Friend
I cannot fairly say that there is a main character in The Raven Boys – that would be like trying to figure out which side dish is the star at a Thanksgiving dinner. You might have a preference (mine will always be dressing), but it’s not Thanksgiving unless all the other fixings are along for the ride too – without macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole, without a relish tray or sweet potatoes or freshly-baked rolls, it’s just a turkey dinner. If The Raven Boys is a Thanksgiving feast, then every single character is a necessary component.
If you’re reading this, odds are good you’ve already read this book, if not the entire series. But just in case you somehow have managed to sleep on this book like I did (6 years too late, whoops), I’ll do my best to sum it up without giving too much away.
The Raven Boys is an introductory book for a young adult urban fantasy quartet. It revolves around four teenage boys and their newfound lady companion who can hold her own against all four of them, any day of the week, off on their quest for the holy grail. And by “the holy grail,” I mean a ley line in their tiny town of Henrietta, Virginia – where psychic powers are boosted and where maybe, just maybe, a dead Welsh king waits for a brave group of perspicacious teenagers to bring him back to life. Why? Because if they can, he might bestow a wish upon them. And also: because they can.
Blue – Our heroine, who never met her father and comes from a long line of badass women, Blue’s mother is a renowned psychic and Blue exists as an amplifier – that is, she herself is not psychic, but when she’s around someone who is, she makes their powers even stronger. Blue also has known since she was born that the man she one day loves will die if she kisses him. This makes Blue, understandably, a bit reluctant to talk to just about anyone with a … ding ding dong, so to speak. But she is feisty and spirited, sharp and intelligent and witty. I see a lot of myself during high school in Blue.
Gansey – It is no secret that (Richard Dick) Gansey (III) is meant to die within the next year. Read the back of the book and you’ll glean that much. The hiccup is that Blue is the only one who knows it. Gansey is a complicated young man, sharp as a tack who is the leader of this group of friends. He comes from old money and has a very hard time seeing past it, but not in an irritating way – more like he just doesn’t know any better and wishes he did. Gansey is irritating, but not so much that you dislike his character. I look forward to seeing more of him develop in the next books.
Adam – Adam is a sweet cinnamon roll who must be protected at all costs. Gansey’s right hand man, Adam attends the private school the other boys attend on a scholarship and is painfully aware of it – he lives in a trailer park with his abusive father and taciturn mother, and tries his best to not let the fact that he is not made of money like his peers get the best of him. He has the world’s most adorable crush on Blue and I just ship them to pieces.
Ronan – Ronan is the token “strong silent type” guy, who speaks only when he must and chances are when he does that it’s going to be a smarmy one-liner. He is covered in tattoos and has a very strained relationship with his brother Declan after his father’s untimely demise. Ronan slipped into a depression that he hasn’t been able to really get out of – at least until recently, when he found a baby raven and decided to take it under his (metaphorical) wing. Ronan is slowly yet surely growing on me.
Noah – Cinnamon roll part 2, the roll-ening. Noah is the quiet sort of kid who is always in the background of all the photos of the party, but you never remember actually seeing him beyond maybe a cursory acknowledging nod at the punch bowl. He has a memory sharp as a tack, and is always a little ragged-looking, like he sleeps in his school uniforms. I think we all love Noah.
There are other characters, but this mess has gone on long enough – I am primarily interested in seeing how my opinions of these 5 change as the next books unfurl between my fingers.
The Bottom Line
I enjoyed this book, but it took me 3 tries to actually finish it for a reason – it starts off so. stinking. slowly. The first 50 pages felt like dragging my feet through mud, and while it got better, it didn’t really start to pick up until we were well past 100 pages. A plot like this requires so much backstory and character development – we have so many characters that are all richly fleshed out that it takes time to do so, at the cost of the plot being more character-driven than action-driven for the bulk of the book.
I have, however, heard that the plot and pace pick up with book two and only get better. Considering I only own book two and not three and four, I sure hope that’s the case, but not too much the case, because I need to buy myself the other two books as a Christmas gift to myself and if I finish two and need to immediately get into three but don’t have it … I shudder to think of what would happen!
TL;DR: Amazing book, but suffers from serious execution lag in the first half. Stick with it, and you’ll really like where it takes you. I feel like I spent this entire book on the first hill of a roller coaster, and now that I’ve finished it I am sitting at the top waiting for the real adventure to happen – I won’t lie, I can’t wait.
PS: This is the first chance I’ve had since I was in high school myself to read and translate Latin – ya girl’s still got it! Take that, Dead Language Police.
“You’re looking for a god. Didn’t you suspect that there was also a devil?”
“People shout when they don’t have the vocabulary to whisper.”