Friday, 30 May 2014

Review - The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Published by Scholastic Press on Sept 18 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 409
Rating: 3/5 stars
“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. 
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 had a lot of trouble getting into The Raven Boys, but once I hit 40-45% it was SO WORTH IT.

The beginning of The Raven Boys is pretty boring, to tell you the truth. As the first book in the trilogy, it has a lot of exposition to get through before it arrives at the action. I found myself longing for the chapters revolving around Gansey and Adam while I read Blue’s chapters as quickly as possible (so that they would be over quickly). I was really surprised by this because, in theory, I should love Blue’s household. She lives with an all-female pack of psychics (side note: what do you call a large group of psychics? They aren’t witches, so they wouldn’t be a coven right?). What isn’t to love? Unfortunately I found Blue’s chapters kind of confusing. I couldn’t keep all of the women straight! I still don’t know who exactly Calla and Persephone are, or what their relation to Blue is. Are they just women who work with/live with Blue’s mother, or are they blood relatives? I can’t tell. I also (mistakenly) spent a large chunk of the novel believing that Neeve (whose name I really wish was spelled Niamh) was Blue’s grandmother rather than her aunt. It was rather disorienting.

That said, these weren’t problems with the book itself. They were my personal issues. The Raven Boys does have a lot of lovely assets going for it:
  1. The boys themselves – Gansey and Adam and Ronan and Noah made this book for me. As someone who rarely likes the guys in YA books (the ones other readers swoon over), I was really pleased with this group of young men. They were all so different and interesting and well developed. They aren’t just characters – they are people who feel like they could step out of the pages and into the real world without difficulty. Adam was definitely the weak link of the bunch, but his flaws made sense, which is ever so important to me.
  2. The writing – This is my first Stiefvater book, but I can now say that I am a big fan of her writing. I heard about her way with words long before these books came out, when she was popular for her Shiver series. I was somewhat interested, but I also heard that the books were full of purple prose and I’ve never been particularly keen on werewolf books. However, I found her writing really hit the mark in The Raven Boys. It wasn’t superfluous, as I’d worried, but brought the story to life in a way that it so rare in this genre (I have encountered a lot of poor writing in paranormal stories). I’ll definitely be on the lookout for The Scorpio Races and The Dream Thieves at the library.
  3. The plot – Although the beginning dragged, once the plot got going I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I read the latter 50% in a single night (I may have been up until about 4am, but whatever. Who needs sleep when there are good books to read?). There was a great balance between plot and character, and it never felt like anyone was acting merely as a plot device. I particularly loved that Noah remained a figure in everyone’s lives even after his big reveal. It was surprising and really appreciated.

The reason I gave the book 3/5 stars is because I felt like the good and bad were equally weighted. As much as I found it difficult to plod through the first half, I loved the second half. Though I didn’t really care either way for Blue and her troupe, I was completely enamoured of the Raven boys. The writing was lovely, though it could occasionally err on the excessive side. Overall, I can definitely see what they hype was all about, though it was far from perfect.
(I'm not sure why, but this felt accurate)

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