Review: ‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie StiefvaterPosted: July 11, 2014
“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.
I can’t remember when I first heard about The Raven Boys. I know it was from a recommendation on line, from someone who also recommended Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which I reviewed over at Goodreads more than six months ago. Maybe it was a blog post about ghost novels?
Either way, I owe that person a lot. Anna was good, but The Raven Boys was great. And it’s all about the characters. There were a lot of characters — there’s the four raven boys themselves, plus Blue, her mother, and all the crazy female aunts and her mother’s aunt-like friends, who all live in the same house as Blue (there are four of those too, if I’m counting right). It takes some skill to be able to describe that many characters of a “type” (teenage boy at a rich school; middle-aged psychic woman) and make them all distinct and alive. I’ve never read a Maggie Stiefvater novel before, but I’ve clearly been missing out, you guys. She’s got game.
Plus I decided early on that the Blue in the novel looked like my friend Blue, which really worked for me — except when Noah patted the “tufts” of her her and I was, like, what?
Blue is great. I was trying to think of the perfect way to describe her, and I realised what it is: she’s just so grounded. I love the way she approaches everything with logic while at the same time completely accepting the magic all around her. She’s grown up in a world with different rules than most people, and because those rules are fact to her, her logic doesn’t turn her into a “deny the obvious” Scully-type character.
She’s the perfect foil for the raven boys, and at the same time grounds them in a way that they all desperately need — because even though she has that pesky “curse” to angst about, she’s quite pragmatic about it for the most part. Of the boys, Gansey is driven, obsessed with making his life mean something more than his rich-boy upbringing; Adam is trying to educate himself and get into a good university so he can escape his trailer park life; Rohan is bitter and struggling after the death of his father; and Noah…well, Noah’s just Noah. Of the four of them, Rohan was definitely the least likeable, but then he spends a lot of time trying to drive people away, so that’s hardly surprising. Adam was probably my favourite, although I found him just as infuriating as Gansey did at times. So maybe my favourite is Gansey, because of the way he looks out for his friends as though he’s their mother.
Oh, I can’t decide!
The writing is beautiful — so atmospheric — and I love the way each of the main characters has a “thing” that sums them up and gives us a glimpse into who they are. Blue’s is her eccentric clothes, handmade from scraps and recycled material. In Gansey’s case it’s his well-loved journal, overstuffed with newspaper clippings and full of fevered scribblings. Adam’s is the fray on his school jumper, which he hopes no one will notice. Rohan’s is his relationship with the baby raven he rescues — which he names Chainsaw — giving us a glimpse of his gentler side despite how cruel he can be. And Noel’s is how “smudgy” and quiet he is while noticing absolutely everything.
Despite all that, the best line of dialogue in the book goes to Calla, one of the “aunts” that lives at Blue’s house:
“Maura,” Calla said, “that was very rude.” Then she added, “I liked it.”
That made me laugh.