Saturday, 20 October 2012

92. "The Raven Boys" by Maggie Stiefvater

Page count: 496 pages
Date begun: October 13th, 2012
Date finished: October 13th, 2012

Blue Sargent lives in a household of psychics. Her mother's one, her aunt is one, and all her mother's friends. Sometimes their predictions are vague and non-specific, sometimes they are very accurate. Blue has known for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. Until this summer, that hasn't been a problem. Blue knows boys are trouble, and the Raven Boys, the young men enrolled at the prestigious Aglionby Academy in town, are the most troublesome of all.

Every year, on St. Mark's Eve, Blue and her mother go to an abandoned graveyard at the outskirts of Henrietta to watch for all the spirits who will die in the next year. Blue normally can't see them, her power is that she enhances the psychic abilities of those around her, and it's her job to write down all the names of the ones her mother speaks to. This year, Blue goes with her aunt, and for the first time, she sees one of the spirits on the Corpse Road. Unfortunately, that means one of two things. Either the boy is her true love, or Blue is the one who killed him. The spirit said his name was Gansey, and he was dressed as one of the Raven Boys.

Richard "Dick" Cambell Gansey III, known to all his friends and acquaintances as Gansey, is completely unaware of Blue's vision, or even existence. He enrolled at Aglionby Academy in  Henrietta, Virginia because he is looking for the burial place of Glendower, a legendary Welsh king. With the help of his friends, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch and the mysterious Noah, he searches the town for evidence of ley lines and mystical artifacts.

Adam is a scholarship student at Aglionby, and only managing to keep his place there by holding down three different jobs. He's Gansey's best friend, but the difference in their backgrounds and financial situations create conflicts and complicated undercurrents in their relationship.

Ronan Lynch is one of three orphaned brothers, vicious as a wild animal and self-destructive to the extreme. Gansey and Adam do their best to keep him out of trouble, and from being expelled from the Academy. Noah lives with Ronan and Gansey, but seems strangely strangely quiet and distant from the others. He never eats anything when others are watching, and spends a lot of time on his own.

Having previously stayed far away from all Raven boys, Blue now needs to discover the truth about Gansey. Is he her true love? Did she cause his death? Is there any way she can prevent his spirit from ending up on the Ghost road? Can Blue and her family help Gansey and his friends in the search for Glendower?

Based on the blurb of the book, I was expecting something a bit different from what I actually got. First of all, for all the ominous talk about kissing and dooming boys, there is very little romance in the story. Blue is a very sensible girl, and fully aware that her family's predictions are nothing to be messed with. When befriending the Raven boys, it's not even Gansey she feels drawn to, at first, but Adam. Still, not wanting to tempt fate, Blue's not about to be kissing any boy, rich or poor.

Gansey and Blue do not get along at first, mainly because of a massive misunderstanding, and because they come from vastly different worlds. Gansey has never known a day of want in his life, and has always had huge amounts of money that he can buy whatever he wants with. He doesn't understand why Adam would rather work three jobs to go to the Academy and stay with his abusive father, rather than accept a loan from Gansey and stay with him and their other friends in the huge warehouse apartment off campus. He only wants what's best for those he loves, and is painfully aware that occasionally he insults people just because of his carelessness with money. Gansey has several reasons for wanting to find the missing tomb, Adam needs to find it because of the supernatural favour the finder is supposed to be granted. He needs to get out of his dead end existence, but he can't do it while relying on someone else - he has to know that he managed to get out while being beholden to no one.

Maggie Stiefvater has an amazing way with words, and I always have very high expectations to her books. I think that's why I was a bit disappointed with her previous book, The Scorpio Races. I want to love her books, and it's very difficult for me when I don't. This book was different from what I was expecting, but drew me in and enveloped me in the sort of magical worlds that I've come to expect from the author.

It is very clearly the first book in a series. There are story lines that are resolved, but also new ones that clearly need to be addressed in later books. The character of Ronan, who I've not really written much about in this review, but who is also a very interesting and complex character (say what you want, but Stiefvater is brilliant at creating fascinating people to read about), will clearly play a more prominent part in the next book, if the last page of the book is anything to go by.

The back of the book may suggest that this is a supernatural love story, but it's much more of a mystery, with a quest narrative thrown in. The friendships of the four Raven Boys, and the relationship of Blue to her family are central, and all really well depicted. The villain in the book could've been given better characterisation, and I never quite felt that the stakes were as high and dangerous as they were probably supposed to have been, but the book is very good indeed, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

As this is both a mystery, and to a certain extent, a story where ghosts feature, I think it qualifies well for the R.I.P VII read.

2 comments:

  1. I have this one out from the library, glad to hear that the romance isn't a large part of it because I'm getting a bit tired of the YA romance cliches :)
    I loved her Scorpio Races but haven't read anything else by her, because they seem marketed as romances.

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  2. I think you'd have to be very weary of romances to object to the level of romance in Raven Boys. As one of the main plot points is that Blue can't kiss her one true love, were she to figure out who he is, that's going to put a bit of a damper on the mood.

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