Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published: 2013 by Scholastic
Add the book: (Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

You know those authors that you see on social media or may meet at events where you think, that person is fantastic and I love their personality so I bet I would love their books! For me that person was Maggie Steifvater. I have never read any of her books but I attended an event here in Pittsburgh because almost no one ever comes here and I found her delightful. So at the event I picked up copies of the first two books in the Raven Cycle series with plans to read them in October in anticipation of Blue Lily, Lily Blue coming out.

I thought I was the last person in the blogosphere to read them but then I was glad to find some fellow bloggers who hadn't read the books (Marly at Flyleaf Review, Danielle at Love at First Page, and Fry at Romancing the Laser Pistol) and we decided to do a readalong. Thanks ladies, I'm so glad I got to share the reading of this book with you because it blew my mind and I definitely needed someone to chat with while reading! The the characters and world Maggie created, the mood and atmosphere of the book, and the plot were all brilliant and engaging.

What first struck me about this book was the characters. Upon first inspection you may think that this is a book about Blue and her interaction with the titular Raven Boys but it is not. It is a book about Blue and the Raven Boys. It's hard to say who I would call the main character in this book. Throughout most of the book I would say one or two possibilities but when it finished, that opinion changed as well. Each character really got even attention both in terms of the plot and in terms of my heart! I very quickly liked Blue, she is quirky and independent. She thinks for herself and is easy to root for. But then I met The Raven Boys. Gansey who is determined and kind. He is sort of the ringleader of his group of friends that he cares so much for that he would do anything for them. Adam who is hard-working, sweet, and independent, wanting to do everything on his terms. Noah who is quiet and supportive. And Ronan who is aggressive and tough but with a great sense of humor and is surprisingly generous and helpful when it comes to the people (and birds) he cares about. Together the Raven Boys make up this amazing group of friends that Blue quickly and easily blend in with. They are all a group of misfits who shouldn't really be friends but they are. Their interactions and relationships are so realistic, it reminded me so much of my group of friends. They were also all well-rounded characters with interesting back-stories and secrets that this book only barely toughed on.

And these interesting and secretive characters were perfectly placed in the world of mystery and mythology that Maggie created. Seriously guys, the synopsis is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this world. As we find out at the very beginning, Blue's mother is a psychic who has predicted that if she kisses her true love her will die, but that isn't all that she predicts throughout the story. We are immersed in the world of the psychics. We attend a few readings and other rituals, and even get to see Blue's mother and some of the other characters predict the future. The supernatural elements of the book, like psychics and ghosts among other things, are perfectly combined with elements and history to create a complex and compelling world for this series. Even the town of Henrietta, Virginia, where all this takes place, has just as many secrets as the characters. Throughout the book we get to explore more about what has happened there in the past and why it is the perfect place for psychics. We get to explore a lot of the town with the Raven Boys who are searching for its secrets. And let me tell you, there are some crazy and mysterious things happening in Henrietta!

And these mysterious happenings led to an engaging and compelling plot despite some pacing issues. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I got to about the halfway point, I couldn't put the book down. I was expecting the book to be a bit of the cliche supernatural romance but this was much more of a mysterious thriller than anything else. I usually pride myself on being able to predict the twists in these kinds of books but many of what happened in this book caught me completely off guard and left me desperately wanting to keep reading. But on the whole this was a typical exposition kind of book that set everything up for the series to continue. It didn't quite have a specific and individual plot despite reaching a resolution in the story. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It definitely did its job of getting me engaged for this series.

But perhaps the best thing about this book was the mood and atmosphere created by Maggie's writing. With the secretive characters, a creative world that effortlessly combined supernatural elements, and a mysterious and compelling plot, it all worked together to create an ominous and interesting book, Being that this is my first Stiefvater novel, I loved the way that her writing walks that line between poetic and creepy but is full of humor and lighthearted moments to balance it all out. But the mood was far from lighthearted. it gives you as a reader a sense of unease. It was all ominous and mysterious, the perfect book for my pseudo-Halloween theme.

I give The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater a 9 out of 10

It is a fantastic start to a series that I'm really excited to keep reading. From the characters, to the world, to the mysterious plot I am so engaged to keep exploring Blue and the Raven Boys and to see where the story leads me. Plus the way that this book ended made me really want to read The Dream Theives!

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