The Raven Boys | Thoughts
The Raven Cycle is one of those series that I have been ignoring for the last several years. I read the blurb, which basically gives only the impression that this will be another urban fantasy romance, and gave it a hard pass. But when the last book came out in 2016, the cover haunted my life...I am such a sucker for a gorgeous cover, and something about the title The Raven King, the blue silhouetted stag with ravens...I finally gave in after it kept popping up in my face all year.
While this is one of the cases where judging by the cover got me to read the series at all, I'm glad that the stereotype of pretty cover = poor book did not apply. The Raven Boys turned out to not be at all what I was thinking, and I've realized that it was poor marketing strategy that had me pushing it off for so long. The publisher pushed this as a romance first and foremost (and, to be fair, maybe the series turns that way) but on a scale of 1 to 10 on the teenage googly-eye factor I'd give this a 2. What The Raven Boys actually is, is a story about the daughter of a psychic who has no clairvoyance of her own but rather acts as an amplifier for anyone with abilities. She's been warned her whole life that she'll kill the boy she loves when she kisses him, and that this is the year she'll meet him. While she takes the warning into account, Blue has no intention of letting it stop her become friends with the group of rich boys who turn out to be more than she first judged. This is not because of insta-love, where she stops listening to any premonition merely for the sake of being with a boy. It's because for the first time in her life she connected with a spirit as it walked before her on a night that tells the deaths to come in the following year. And the spirit belonged to the rich boy she just met, who does a lot more than throw around his money (though he throws around money too, to be fair).
Gansey and his three closest friends have been hunting ley lines - paths of energy to which spirits are drawn - in the hopes of finding a slumbering king of old. And while Blue is at once more interested in the softer, more relatable Adam, she is drawn to Gansey simply for the connection they shared the night she saw the foretelling of his death.
"'So you don't do anything quiet, do you?'
The way he said it, she could tell that he was impressed with her in the way that men were usually impressed with Orla. Blue very much liked that, especially since she hadn't had to do anything other than be herself to earn it.
'Nothing worth doing.'
'Well,' he said, 'I think you'll find I do pretty much everything quiet. If you can be all right with that, I guess we'll be fine.'"
The Raven Boys combines modern reality with old magic in a way that does not feel unnatural, which is no easy feat in my mind, especially because I do not usually enjoy urban fantasy. Maggie Stiefvater has a way with storytelling that is at once mystical and practical, and I love the idea of meeting people in today's time that still look at the world with hopeful eyes, still search for the magic that can be found if only you pay attention. Gansey is an old soul, at odds with the wealthy aristocratic figure his exterior presents, and his search for a sleeping king at night while attending Latin classes and dinner parties during the day make him all the more a fascinating study in character. I feel how badly he wants to find Glendower - while I don't know yet what favor he'll ask when he does - because of how badly he wants his life to be more than just the money and living up to being Richard Gansey III.
Of the main characters, so far we've only seen the POV of Blue, Gansey, and Adam, though I expect that to change in the next book as it seems to be focused on Ronan's character. I look forward to getting to know all of them better, especially Ronan, and the secrets he keeps close. Each of the friends is so different, and their depth and dynamic with one another is both complicated and simple in the way friendship often is. No matter how they act outwardly most of the time, they're connected by Gansey and in their search for Glendower, and the mutual understanding that they all believe in the same magic. And if at anytime we start to forget that these aren't knights and witches from medieval tales, Stiefvater will remind us:
"They didn't even have the authority to choose an alcoholic beverage. They couldn't be deciding who deserved to live or die."
This book gets only three stars from me, however, because it was rather hastily laid out. The pacing was off for much of the story, going from slow build up to suddenly blurting everything out in a matter of sentences. There are several areas lacking proper explanation, but since they are technically covered even in the barest sense, I can't really call them plot holes. I said in a recent post that I was going on a first date with The Raven Boys via Kindle, and if it goes well the lovely printed series will gain a spot on my shelves. It was the covers, after all, that drew me in. I'm not quite sure if we're meant to be yet, but I have decided on a second date with The Dream Thieves, so the courtship continues!