08 January 2013

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Author(s): Maggie Stiefvater

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press / September 18, 2012
Series: Raven Cycle (Book #1)


"Blue had two rules: Stay away from boys, because they're trouble, and stay away from Raven Boys, because they're bastards."

Case Study
Blue Sargent isn't normal despite being the most normal person at home. See, Blue comes from a unique family of seers and fortune tellers, though she herself, does not possess the gift. She is an outcast and with good reason. For as long as she can remember, it's been foretold that she will cause the death of her true love. And every year, with her mother, Blue sits in the abandoned churchyard awaiting the arrival of the soon-to-be dead. She neither sees nor hears them, until this year, when the Aligonby boy, Gancey's, spirit speaks to her. Little does he know, within the year, he will be dead. Blue is inexplicably drawn to Gancey and quickly becomes swept up in the strange world of the elite Raven Boys. Together, along with Ronan, Adam and Noah, they embark on a curious quest involving ley lines, a dead king and a mysterious murder. But it isn't long before Blue starts to ponder her own sinister prophey in connection to Gancey and the Raven Boys. Only time will tell who among them will die and why.

The Game's Afoot
After finally reading  The Scorpio Races, I thought I knew what to expect from Stiefvater. Boy, was I wrong. That's not to say, Maggie's writing isn't as organic and eloquent as ever (it is) but the story is just... WOAH! I was a little caught off guard by just how much The Raven Boys would stick with me, even long after I finished reading it. This is one of those stories that creeps up and wholly overtakes you, and before you know it, you're knee deep in all its magic and splendor. I was as engrossed by this story and characters in it as Gancey was with his quest, so yeah, it's to say I became obsessed.

Maggie has a way with words and subtlety which is lacking immensely in the YA world. There are no cliches here. Her prose is nothing short of beautiful, her characters eclectic and her story enigmatic. The paranormal elements are grandiose but never overdone. She takes on strong character development, an intriguing plot and flowing prose, each one working well on its own but still balanced out by all the others. It's easy to lose yourself in it. This isn't a climactic, gunslinging thrill ride, by any means. Instead, the pace simmers to a slow boil, not so slow to be boring, but slow enough to let you digest everything that's going on. And trust me, there's a lot. 

On the surface, The Raven Boys is about a girl named Blue and the mysterious quest she finds herself on. However, when you take a deeper look you find that, much like The Scorpio Races, it's more a story about people. We learn about a quirky girl with an eccentric family and the prophecy that manages to hold her back (more than she even realizes). There is the lure of magic and wealth and the temptation that it breeds. Not to mention, all the hunky eye candy. Yes, there are four (count em ladies!), four sexy dudes. But we quickly learn that these four aren't the swoon-worthy specimens of perfection that we're used to seeing. There is more to them than a bad-ass attitude or chiseled face. In fact, there's no discernable love triangle to be found (well, not really). The romance in it is sweet and builds at a slow, natural pace. And as it should, it takes a back seat to everything else. There's no rush, no insta-love to be found. REJOICE!

My favourite thing about the book by far though was the people. These guys (and gals) are the real deal. They are human instead of superhuman. With them, what you see is not what you get. You have to take your time and dig a little deeper. Get to know them. Maggie leaves us with an air of mystery about them. They are complex and you have to peel back the layers to get to the core. And the tragedy. Oh the tragedy! Every one of them, in their own way, struggles with personal demons. Though their lives might seem perfect on the surface, they are very far from it and it makes them so much more likeable. Honestly, I'm a little tired of the stock, one-note heroes/heroines that are commonly found in the YA genre but Maggie writes relatable characters who you genuinely feel for. I feel for you Ronan! I really wish I could hug you, Adam! And Noah... poor, poor Noah. You won't even believe...

If I have one criticism of the story, it's that it raises more questions than it does answers. So much is going on that we only have a short time to explore each avenue before we're taken down a new one. It's a lot to digest, but it's worth it (especially knowing this is a planned series). The Raven Boys is one of those books that, when you're done, the more you think on it the more it grows on you. It's contemplative, mysterious and complex and all around wonderful. I really enjoyed The Scorpio Races but The Raven Boys officially made me a Maggie believer. I BELIEVE!

Summary Prognosis
The Raven Boys is an imaginative and magical tale that stands out in a YA world full of clich├ęs. While there are an abundance of supernatural elements in the story, it's never too out there or overdone. Stiefvater has created such an original story that's perfectly steeped in beautiful prose and complex characters, all wound tightly in an engaging plotline. The only downer is the general lack of answers to all those mind-blowing questions she asks. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of book #2!



Rating: ★★★½  


Read It:  AmazonBarnes & Noble | Audible 
Discuss It: Goodreads | Author's Website 

14 comments:

  1. I am dying to read this...so glad you loved it. I hope I can fit it in soon! BTW, I'm doing a giveaway hop right now and giving away two Maggie books. (Lament and Ballad, in case you haven't read them, they're AWESOME.)Thanks for stopping by today, Nikki:)

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    1. I liked The Scorpio Races when I read it but I LOOOOOOOOOOVED The Raven Boys. It turned me into a devoted Maggie fan for life. I'm definitely interested in checking out her Shiver trilogy and I will CERTAINLY be entering your giveaway. LOVE IT! And you really should read it. It's amazeballs.

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  2. I started reading this book but got distracted and have yet to pick it up again. I know I need to soon, especially based on this and so many other reviews! Can't wait to continue reading!

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    1. I totally know what you mean. It's easy to do that with a book that moves as a slower pace (like this one), but it's SO worth picking back up. Trust me on this one!

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  3. I agree with SO MUCH you said. YES = the prose is so much better than a lot of YA, YES- the characters are SO FUN. Can they all be my friends? YES = so many questions left unanswered.

    Great review!

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    1. Thanks, lady! I soooooo want to be their friends (especially Noah's)!

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  4. OK, you've convinced me. I wasn't sure about this book but now I think I need to read it.

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    1. You really should, it's SOOOOOOO worth it!

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  5. The Raven Boys sounds great Nikki, and I like that cover. The strong character development and flowing prose you mention sell it for me. Wonderful review! I love the kind of stories that you love more and more as you think back on how great they are.

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    1. It's such a stellar book, one of the ones I'll be recommending to people for awhile.

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  6. I think I'm going to have to make this one my first Stiefvater - I've been wanting to read one of her books but I needed a last push to decide where to start. And excellent characterisation will get me every time!

    Great review!

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    1. You should because it's FANTASTIC! I've only read 2 of her books (so far) and this one takes the cake. Stiefvater really has a way with words and she clearly knows her characters inside and out, which is so wonderful.

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  7. Excellent review! I'm a total believer now too. I loved Scorpio Races and loved The Raven Boys even more. It really stuck with me too—I read this a few months ago and I'm still thinking about Blue and Adam and Gansey and what the heck is going to happen next. I can't wait for book two!

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    1. I knoooooow, Lauren! Book #2 can't come out soon enough!

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