ARC Review: “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

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“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.

5 stars

Thank you to Scholastics and NetGalley for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself on September 18th, 2012.

*Note from Gretchen: Before this review gets started, I would like to take a moment to welcome my first guest reviewer! As this blog gets bigger and bigger, I’ve found I can’t handle to review load on my own. Therefore, I turned to a longtime friend to help with the load, and this is her first review! So give a warm welcome to Marina, who also happens to be a HUGE DIEHARD Maggie Stiefvater fan.

I have a confession to make: I did not agree to guest-post here because I was doing a favor for Gretchen.  I agreed because she said “Raven Boys!” and I said “GIMME.”  Because I am very fond of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.   I am not Gretchen, but I assure you I’m usually very picky, so all the gushing I’m about to do is completely out of character for me.

But with that out of the way, READ THIS BOOK.

There are complicated, damaged characters who behave like real people.  There’s magic just inaccessible and strange enough to be believed, and there are trees that speak Latin.  There are guns and helicopters and fancy cars that break down.  There’s even a raven named Chainsaw.  What’s not to love?

Read this book because it will surprise you.  I’m used to knowing vaguely what’s going to happen, because I read way too much and after a while there are patterns, but this one surprised me no less than three times (and possibly more, I wasn’t counting.)   It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely astonished, and it was immensely satisfying, even though I was left staring in horror at the words and saying “MAGGIE WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.”

Read this book because Blue is not a boring only-there-for-the-romance female protagonist.  She’s an actual, interesting character who is unusual and awesome in her own right.  When Gansey gets condescending, she doesn’t just get offended; she shames him and then shames him again and again until he behaves.   Love at first sight is not on Blue’s agenda.  Actually, relationships as a whole are not on Blue’s agenda, and when she does get into one it’s sweet and quiet and cautious—just like first relationships should be, particularly with the addition of Blue’s “If you kiss your true love he will die” curse.  Unlike a lot of the insta-love relationships that Gretchen’s always complaining about, this one felt real.  Because the characters are shy and careful, the relationship was too, and to me, at least, that made it all the sweeter.

Speaking of relationships, the relationship between the raven boys—Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey—was brilliant.  They’re all damaged, they’re all struggling, and the group quietly makes adjustments for whoever needs it at the time.   When Ronan, who is definitely the most outwardly damaged, is discovered to be missing, the seamless way his friends come together to search for him is heartbreaking, because it’s so clear they’ve done this before.  They know where to look and how to look.   They’re not demonstrative; sometimes—often—they’re not even that much alike.  But they’re unflaggingly, ferociously loyal to each other, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

My only objection: this is the first book in a four-book series.  While it is a self-contained story, there are plot threads that I am dying to have resolved that just really aren’t.  The part of me that is a writer (I write stuff, by the way) accepts this and understands why it works.  The part of me that is a reader is dying to read more.  The last line is…not a cliffhanger, since cliffhangers imply unresolved action, but suffice to say that several of the raven boys are hiding things, and not all of them explain those things before the book is through.   Now I have to wait another year to find out and it’s KILLING ME.

This is a book about people who desperately want something—not always the same things—and the reasons why they want it, and what they’re willing to do to get it.  It’s a book about people who are trying very hard, despite a number of different things making life difficult, from abusive parents to prophecies to awesome sad things I can’t say due to spoilers (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, NOAH AND RONAN).  The characters are gorgeous, the relationships are delightfully, painfully real, and the plot…will definitely keep you on your toes.  I’m giving this four and a half stars because as a guest reviewer I don’t feel right giving five.  I assure you I’m normally quite picky, and if this was my blog it would be five, so don’t let the missing half star fool you; read this book! [Note from Gretchen: Don’t be silly, Marina. I finally got around to reading this, and we’re totally going with five stars. And that is my endorsement of this review.]

* P.S.   Gretchen has given me permission to translate the untranslated Latin in Chapter 12 (as a Classics major, I can do useless things like Latin but not useful things like cooking), so here goes: Ostendes tuum et ostendam meus means I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.  That seems out of the blue now, but it will all make sense when you meet Ronan Lynch.  And his Latin teacher.  You’re welcome.

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7 thoughts on “ARC Review: “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Oooooh, now I wanna read this! You had me sold at Latin, which I studied when I was in high school. At one point I was the only person in the class, and when a guidance counselor told me I couldn’t fit it in my schedule, I asked the teacher to give me Latin lessons during homeroom… So yeah. Trees speaking Latin = frickin awesome! 😀

    • Marina G says:

      And it’s not even grammatically terrible Latin! Usually the Latin in novels is awful… 😛 I basically switched my major to Classics because of my honors Latin teachers. I was pretty psyched about it.

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