Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: 4 Stars
A little over a month ago, I finished my first Stiefvater novel, The Scorpio Races and ever since, The Raven Boys has, quite unexpectedly really, become one of my most anticipated books of the year. While The Raven Boys most certainly did not disappoint, I found myself to be strangely disappointed. Yet, this, by no means, means that The Raven Boys is a bad book - quite the contrary in fact. It's an atmospheric tale whose crazy story will suck you in, whose characters will become your friends, and whose complex character relationships you can only marvel at. Yet, I couldn't give it the 5 Stars it most probably deserves simply because I've come to expect something more from Maggie Stiefvater. While all the necessary components of an excellent novel were present in this novel, complete with Stiefvater's signature writing style, the pure love and passion that bled through the pages of The Scorpio Races was simply...gone. Thus, while my overall feel for this novel remains to be one of awe, there is most certainly an undercurrent of severe disappointment as something was just...missing.
Every year on the night of St. Mark's Eve, Blue and her psychic mother wait in an old graveyard for the spirits of the dead to arrive. Although Blue, devoid of any psychic abilities herself, never sees any spirits, this year, she quite unexpectedly does. Gansey, the boy whose spirit Blue sees, is a raven boy, or a student of an elite private school of, in Blue's opinion, snobs. Yet, the fact that Blue can see him means one of two things - Gansey is either Blue's true love or Blue has killed him. Blue, however, has never been destined for true love - ever since she was young, she has been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Gansey, on the other hand, has made it his life's mission to uncover the resting place of the Welsh King, Glendower, for the person who wakes him will be granted any wish. As fate would have it though, their paths do unexpectedly cross and what happens then can only be described as a journey like no other.
The Raven Boys is one of those books, much like The Scorpio Races or The Lost Girl was, that you can't anticipate in the least. Although its synopsis seems to revolve around the romantic aspect of this novel, in reality, it is a very small portion of this book and is merely there to add an air of mystery to the plot, taking a well-deserved back seat to the real action in this novel. Actually, The Raven Boys is the story of, well, the raven boys. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah are the four raven boys we are introduced to in this novel and all four of them, despite their differences, make their way into your heart. More than anything else in this novel, it was their bromance, their continued support of one another, and the directions their friendship took as the story progressed that made this novel as remarkable as it really was. Once again, Stiefvater proves her writing prowess by creating such three-dimensional characters that I still cannot claim to know even one of them completely.
In addition to the raven boys themselves though, Blue was a protagonist I immediately fell in love with. She's sensible, she's spunky, she's intelligent, and even though the novel is split equally between her perspectives as well as those of Gansey and even, at times, Adam, her presence as the sole girl amongst the boys was keenly felt and only increased the beauty of this tale and realistic quality of the friendships. Nevertheless, the characters aside, what makes The Raven Boys so compelling is the journey itself. While it does take awhile for the reader to become caught up in the search for Glendower, we can feel the excitement radiating from the characters themselves and cannot help but become thoroughly invested in this unique plot line as well. Stiefvater always does her research and she couldn't have picked a more interested legend to explore - truly, the manner in which this tale unfolds is spectacular.
Yet, all that being said, I did feel as if Stiefvater's presence in this novel was strangely missing. I felt her passion, her love, and her writing fervor so vividly through the pages of The Scorpio Races, but that wasn't the case with this novel and as such, I was left feeling strangely bereft. It's a tough emotion to explain and I know that I am probably one of the few readers to experience this, but it definitely did take away from some of my experience with this story. Either than that though, I think what truly put me off from giving this novel 5 Stars was the ending. I never lower the ratings of novels because of cliffhanger endings and that still stands true. The Raven Boys didn't end on a cliffhanger, but it was an extremely confusing ending. I closed this book with a frown on my face, only to re-read the last five chapters, still have a frown on my face, and re-read the last five again, only to continue to be nonplussed. Needless to say, cliffhangers irritate me, but feeling confused at the end of a novel? It just throws me off and leaves me feeling icky and unwell.
Overall though, The Raven Boys is a novel I would heartily recommend. Its plot threads tie together beautifully, its character relationships are complex to an unexplored degree, its lore will grab you in from the beginning, and its plot twists will leave you gaping and frantically flipping back to re-read all those red herrings you missed. Stiefvater's novels really are an experience of their own, with their atmospheric setting and her beautiful writing managing to transport you practically everywhere, so really, I wouldn't miss it for the world.