January 25, 2013

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Raven Cycle
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: September 8, 2012
Pages: 409

From the Publisher: “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.

 A huge thanks to Dawn, our guest poster today

I read The Raven Boys because a good friend of mine (a young adult librarian who’s read everything) named it the best YA book of 2012.  Amazon raved. Reviewers seem to universally love it. My opinion is a bit more complicated.

This is very clearly a retelling of the Arthurian legend: a sleeping king, a search for lost magic, prophecies, dangerous love, and dangerous enemies. The book even goes so far as to acknowledge the similarities. Yet these are big shoes to fill, almost impossible to do without falling into the normal (and predicable) plot and character patterns.

Richard Gansey is on a quest to find a lost king, surrounded by a tightly bound group of classmates (i.e. the raven boys). Blue – a magical and somewhat outcast psychic – lives under a prophecy that she will kill her true love (or at the very least, have a hand in his death). The characters are a combination of Arthurian characters and high school archetypes; they are likeable and realistic, yet very typical.

The most compelling parts of the story were the coming-of-age and family issues of each character, not the quest itself. Blue has a beautiful but complicated relationship with her mother; Gansey lives under significant family pressure and expectation; his best friend, Adam, is dealing with poverty and abuse. They’re all in a love triangle. These struggles seemed more important and interesting than whether or not they succeed in their magical quest.

All that said, I still read this in two sittings. I got attached to the characters, who were strong yet vulnerable. The ending was unexpected, but still felt natural. I wasn’t quite expecting it to end as the first in a series (the plot didn’t really hint at that), but I’m happy there will be more, particularly if the characters continue to grow and change like they have here.

Thank you, Dawn!

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