“She recognized the strange happiness that came
from loving something without knowing why you did,
that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness.”
--Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys
I have not previously had the pleasure of reading any other work by Ms Maggie Siefvater but after finishing The Raven Boys I know I am going to have to add her Shiver series immediately. Stiefvater's most recent novel is the first in a series called The Raven Cycle which is by itself such a badass name it has immediate curb appeal...not to mention the cover. I have always loved the aesthetic look of flashes of color against a white background...I don't know its just me but I love the cover regardless.
The Raven boys follows Blue, daughter of a psychic, who lives with various aunts, cousins and mother's best friends whom are all psychics. Blue has been told since birth by every psychic and medium she comes across that by kissing her true love she inevitably seals his fate with death. Creepy, eh? Not a bad catch to start a story off right. Immediately and ultimately tragic all wrapped up in a neat box. As per tradition, Blue is sent with her aunt to a church on St. Mark's Eve so her aunt can watch the spirits of those who will be dead within a year. Blue is not blessed with this skill, she is just there to help harness energy (best and most concise way to put it, read the book for more :) ). However, on this particular night Blue does see somebody, a boy, named Gansey. And the only reason a non-seer would see a spirit boils down to two choices; either she is his true love...or she kills him. DUN DUN DUN!
Also lurking in town is Aglionby, a prestigious and private high school for boys in the town of Henrietta where they all live. The raven is the school mascot so boys that go there are thus named the Raven Boys. However the Raven Boys we are most concerned about are Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah. Gansey, the leader and most affluent young man has been on a quest to find Glendower, an ancient Welsh king who should be dead but is mystically rumored to be in a deep slumber awaiting to we woken and the person who wakes him will be granted a favor. Adam is a scholarship student who Gansey befriended and the two are very close. Ronan is a complicated mess of a kid whose father was recently brutally murdered and is still shaking from the aftershock. Noah round out the group as a very quiet and rumpled individual who gives off the impression of being wise beyond his years. As fate would have it they all eventually cross paths, in a quite hilarious first meeting might I add, and are all now on a quest for Glendower.
This book was really good. The premise of the kiss of death is so creative and different it makes you want to keep reading more. I totally thought this was going to be a love story so when the story never really full-on twisted that way it was a nice surprise. I loved that the focus was so on the quest and the magic and energy behind all these paranormal experiences. And as a historical geek I love this epic quest for a long lost king, Gansey won my heart almost right off the bat.
Speaking of the boys, each characterization was so unique and different a reader would never be able to confuse any of them when first being introduced. I loved this about Stiefvater's writing. Each boy was a distinct individual with their own complex problems. Gansey was my favorite though. He is smart, funny in his own way and completely socially inept at times that was beyond endearing to me. Adam would constantly mention how Gansey came across as condescending and didn't mean to be, but I never really got that from his dialogue. Did he use big words? Yes. Was he straight forward? Yes. But all these boys are 3 years into their elite prep school. They should know big words. Adam as well. I loved Gansey's witty dialogue and correct use of big words in every day conversations. Well done.
Adam, on the other hand, was not my favorite. I really wanted to like him...like a lot. The situation with his father broke my heart, it really did. Hurt to read actually but besides that I just really do not like self-pity and twisting people's actions that are meant to help you into something that always have to be charity or a hand out. When people care about you they want to help you and it is not out of misdirected actions, it is out of love and care. Adam never got that with Gansey. He always painted him the bad guy who only wanted to "own" all his friends. Gansey never gave me that vibe. To me, Gansey was a lovely person with a good heart and only the best intentions for those he cared about. The fact that Adam seemed to twist this and make him feel bad about it really got under my skin.
Ronan. Oh Ronan. I thoroughly enjoyed him. He is dark and twisty and wounded but not in a self-deprecating way like Adam is. He is rough around the edges, blunt, not always nice, but it is what it is. You can tell he has a good heart underneath...especially with Chainsaw... :) I am really excited to see where his story goes. There was so much left to the imagination!
Blue was a great character as well. She was feisty and talked back to Ronan and she would not let those Raven Boys intimidate her. She pretty much owned them and I loved every second of it. The romantic in me wanted SO BAD for her to fall for Gansey...but first they need to figure out this death thing. The stuff I want to gush about will ruin the plot for those who haven't read it so go read...eep!
What I loved best was the whole idea of fate vs choice and if any of us really have a say in either one. So if Gansey was seen on St. Mark's Eve as a spirit and is destined to die within the year and now Blue sees him and he might be her true love or she might kill him, does knowing that inevitably cause the outcome? Or will it happen anyways if she doesn't interfere? If you try and stop something you know will happen do those actions end up causing the initial conclusion? Oh goodness, it is too much of a mind mash to think through because you end up back tracking and going in circles. But regardless, I love it. I want Blue to fall in love, I want Gansey to live, I want a happily ever after darnit!! But alas...there are more books to come...drat...I want to know now!
The Raven Boys was a fantastic ride of paranormal occurences, an epic quest for a long lost king, a whisper of a romance, and enough magic and mystery to really keep the pages turning. I loved this story and I feel like I will love the coming books even more with more background and revelations but as it stands now this was a great beginning to a very promising series.