Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): 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.

I was very excited for this book, mostly because I've heard so many good things about Maggie Stiefvater but hadn't read any of her books yet. Maybe I should've started with The Scorpio Races, because I'm just not sure about this one. It left me feeling very conflicted.

I'll start with what I liked about this book. It was creepy and mysterious in a good Edgar Allen Poe sort of way, and I enjoyed that. Between the graveyard scenes, the psychic fortune telling, dead bodies, ghosts, magic, and ancient Welsh folklore, there was lots of creepy ambiance that would make this a fun read around Halloween. There was also plenty of mystery and suspense. I really quite enjoyed the quest aspect of the storyline, the search for the magic lay lines and the tomb of an ancient Welsh king, and that is the storyline that I kept reading for. I wanted to find out what was going to happen with all that paranormal stuff.

I will hand it to Stiefvater, she's good at developing complex characters. Each of these characters had such different personalities, such detailed personality traits and complex backgrounds, and they came together and fit so well as a group, it was quite impressive. But this is also where the book lost me, because it felt like the back story and character development came to over run the plot. It was like this book couldn't decide if it was going to be a contemporary coming-of-age novel, or a contemporary fantasy novel. Maybe she was trying to make it be both, but I kind of wanted it to just be one or the other. There was just so much of what felt like interruption where Adam had to deal with his abusive father, or Ronan had to work out his issues with his past and/or older brother (who seemed like he was going to play a big role in the book at first, but then just disappeared half-way through the book), and while all of these issues made for some really deep character conflict, I just wanted them to get back to the paranormal stuff. Not to mention that some of the issues were just really disturbing, and would make me hesitant to recommend this book to actual young adult readers (but that's a rant for another post).

Also, the construction of the novel itself was very meandering. While I was fine with the story being told from multiple points of view, the conflict development was just not tight. Parts of the book were incredibly slow with way too much descriptive detail, and other parts were almost frantic in pace with everything happening all at once and not enough explanation. It was just a strange ride through this story, and I felt like it could've been reworked to build more steadily to a more fleshed out climax, instead of jolting and hobbling along to a rushed and inconclusive end.

Also, this is a "cycle", meaning there are four books in this series. Ugh. I don't know if I have it in me to read the next one, much as I am dying to know what happens with the magic stuff. So, in conclusion, I can see how Maggie Stiefvater is a good writer, but I'm hoping one of her other books is better.

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