Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Genre: Fantasy

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, 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 is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher 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 doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

4 Stars
My first impression of The Raven Boys was that it was a book about four rich white boys who screw around with magic because they have nothing better to do with their lives. I was so terribly wrong, and I'm glad I forced myself to get past the 100-page mark, because that's approximately where things began to get better. 

The Raven Boys is a prime example of young adult fiction stereotypes done right. You have:
  • a girl who is surrounded by four boys, some of whom are bathing in money
  • a girl with "special powers"
  • four boys with "troubled pasts"

As you can tell, those points are a recipe for disaster. However, don't let the synopsis or the first few chapters fool you. First off, there's a girl named Blue, and she has not really special powers but an ability to amplify said powers. She does give off that special snowflake vibe at the beginning of the story, but I grew to like her after I learned that she neither flaunts these magical tendencies nor uses them for dumb purposes. Blue is a smart, logical girl, and I appreciated the fact that she never allowed her emotions to cloud her line of thinking. Because of her sensibility, she did not let the fact that she was surrounded by four boys to distract her from her true goals. I wasn't forced to endure 400 pages of endless thirsting, and for that I am thankful.

Speaking of that, there wasn't much romance overall. Like her Shiver trilogy, I've noticed Stiefvater knows how to add just the right amount of romance so as to not overwhelm the reader. More emphasis is placed on character development than on romantic subplots, thankfully. 

Going back to the "boys with troubled pasts" point, the novel did have a bit of a "woe-is-me" tone, but later on I realized that it was well-earned and that there was good reason for their moping, especially Ronan and Adam. Moreover, their troubled lives took a backseat for most of the novel, and weren't used to woo Blue (heh) to "heal" these struggling, "mysterious" boys. 

I've never really liked Stiefvater's writing--when I read the Shiver trilogy a few years ago, I was forced to DNF the third book because her writing was just so irritatingly try-hardish and too reliant on metaphors. Although I recognized her writing when I first began The Raven Boys, it was far more mature and much more poetic due to its newfound simplicity. Stiefvater is undoubtedly a talented writer, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.

I wasn't very crazy about the storyline itself at first; I was expecting a more fantasy-heavy novel. I'm hoping that as I read the next few books, I'll become more invested in the plot because my slight disinterest led me to set down the novel a few times. 

Can I just devote a fraction of this review to an angel named Adam. Oh my god, he is just such a gentleman and such a quietly determined individual that I'm sure I would die if anything happened to him. He's such a beautiful person and deserves the world not only for his fierce ambition but for his ability to withstand almost anything. My luck that I ended up loving the character the author seems to hate, though. He is literally always going through some struggle of sorts, and I don't think he was genuinely happy once. 

Despite not being very enthusiastic about the book at first, The Raven Boys proved to be an extremely well-written book with impeccable character development and inventive writing; and while the story didn't necessarily hook me, I will still be reading the next books if only for the characters that I've come to love.   

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