Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted June 11, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 10 Comments

The Raven Boys

 Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

Original Publication Date: September 2012
Length: 409 pages
Publisher: Scholastic

Obtained Via: Bought
Format Read In: Ebook
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the story morning glory

“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.

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I always approach Maggie Stiefvater’s books with a bit of hesitation. People laud her creativity and her prose and while I see it, I also get the feeling I don’t quite get it like most other people do. That’s the experience I’ve had with The Scorpio Races(which I loved), and Shiver(which I thought was painfully boring). However, I knew I couldn’t stay away from The Raven Boys, not after I learned it incorporated Latin and Welsh kings, two interest of mine(though sometimes in my past Latin hasn’t been as much of an interest as a threat to my GPA). I mean, the main character is named Blue, after all, and there’s all these preppy school boys with their bromances and legends. I knew I’d be reading The Raven Boys at some point.

The thing I’ve learned about Stiefvater’s books is that they always start slow, and The Raven Boys was no exceptions The first forty or so pages were only vaguely interesting as I waited for the story to start. But once we delved a bit more into the group of the Raven boys and as soon as Blue inserted herself into the group, I became enamored with their quest almost as much as Gansey is. There’s a very timeless and lyrical substance to Stiefvater’s writing. It’s clear it takes place in the present day, but you think you could just remove the cell phones and the cars and you could easily see the story taking place two hundred years ago or three hundred years into the future. It’s the sense that some stories just have where you can get lost in them, with their sticky words and lingering images. The Raven Boys is one of those stories you can’t quite shake off so easily.

The Raven Boys has an ensemble cast, and while I think that made it feel easier to read than some of Stiefvater’s other works, it also took me a bit to find the rhythm of the story. There’s Blue, the physic’s daughter with no powers of her own except to be an amplifier to paranormal powers, who I thought was the main character judging by the description but soon becomes just one of the group. Then there’s Gansey, the ringleader of the group and the own who wants to search for the Welsh king in the first place; Adam, the scholarship student; Ronan, the tortured soul, and Noah, the roommate who tends to fade into the background.

Over the course of The Raven Boys we spend some time with each of these characters, though The Raven Boys in particular seems to be Adam’s story. Over the course of the book, the main conflict of searching for the Welsh king is central, but each of the boys has their own lives and problems as subplots as well. I have to give props to how well Stiefvater weaves it all together–that’s a lot of threads to hold in book one of a series.

Despite my adoration thus far, I have to admit that something in The Raven Boys didn’t quite take hold in my heart like I had hoped, and I’m not sure what exactly that was. There’s just a certain quality that feels. . . missing, like this story is so thin and ethereal it could just float away from me. I mean in the end, it DID linger in my mind, but until I finished I felt I could abandon the story at any time and go along my day.  Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that this story never felt grounded, like something wasn’t quite there, which is basically the opposite of how I felt about Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to compare the two, but I loved The Scorpio Races so much that it’s impossible to help my brain from going there.

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The Raven Boys is a dreamy book with a wonderful ensemble of characters and an interesting quest at the heart. Stiefvater’s writing is as lovely as always, and I applaud this one for plot originality alone. I can easily say I’ve never read anything else like it. However, there was just a certain something that kept me from completely loving this one as much as I loved The Scorpio Races. However, that doesn’t take away the fact this is one of the most original YA novels I’ve read. It reminded me of all my favorite stories growing up, but in a completely new way. 4/5 cupcakes. 

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4 Stars

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10 responses to “Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Glad you liked it…even if there was something missing. I’ve been wanting to read this one. But it’s on such a HUGE to-be-read mountain…sigh

  2. I love your review, I totally agree about feeling not quite grounded. I am anxious to see how the series finishes thought. I haven’t read any of Stiefvater’s other books -but you’ve got me thinking I need to pick up The Scorpio Races.

  3. YESSS I’m so glad you enjoyed it! That’s how I was too. Not interested in Shiver at all and loved The Scorpio Races. This series is just so wonderful! It’s so interesting. Did start out slowly, but everything was perfectly placed to set up the book. So happy you liked it!

  4. “where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.” I love the way you said that.

    I kind of had the same experience with The Raven Boys – the first time I read it I really liked it and recognized it was well written and unique. But I didn’t love it. And then at some point I reread it and found I liked it a whole lot more. There’s something enigmatically wonderful about Stievater’s writing and very authentic about these characters that’s kind of fantastic.

    I just reread The Dream Thieves this past week. Weirdly, I liked that one better the first time. There was some magic in it the first time around that made it incredible. And the second time, it was still remarkably good, but since I’d read it before and knew what was happening more it lost a little of that magic. Which, I don’t think is a fault of the book. And now I’m rambling. sorry 🙂

    • Stormy

      Oh, that quote is from the summary from GR–though I’m not sure which blurb it’s from, since I don’t think it’s from the US one. I WISH I had said that.

      Hmm. That’s interesting about re-reads of The Raven Boys & the Dream Thieves. I’ve read The Dream Thieves too and I didn’t like it near as much–because I didn’t feel that magic either on the first read. It didn’t have the same atmosphere as the Raven Boys, at least for me. I just wasn’t as engaged. I liked it still, but not as much. Though I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

  5. Read The Dream Theives! I loved The Raven Boys, but I felt the ending was rushed and had some untied loose ends. The Dream Theives is much better paced and focuses on my favorite of the boys – Ronan.

    • Stormy

      I’ve read The Dream Thieves! I actually liked it less than The Raven Boys, though. It was the atmosphere–I do love Ronan & that focus and I agree about the pacing, but The Dream Thieves didn’t feel as magical to me.

      • Really? Man, I loved the idea of taking things out of your dreams. I can’t wait to see what direction she takes the series in Blue Lily, Lily Blue!

  6. Cait

    I agree the beginning was slow! I was a little worried…I mean, I originally read the first chapter and DNF’ed it! I KNOW RIGHT?!! That’s crazy coming from me. x) But second time round I couldn’t read it fast enough. I find her prose really addicting. I love all the boys and I can’t even choose a favourite (Noah! I even love Noah!). Are you planning on trying The Dream Thieves?

    • Stormy

      I’ve learned that Maggie Stiefvater’s books always start slow, but they’re normally worth it(well, I didn’t like Shiver, but her other books are good). I’ve read The Dream Thieves! Though I had to admit to liking it a little less. . . it just didn’t feel as magical. But I’m excited for the next installment.

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