16 April 2014
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
In The Raven Boys, Blue Sargent unexpectedly befriends four boys who are on a quest to find a long-dead (sleeping?) Welsh king. Oddly enough their mystical quest is not what makes their friendship unexpected; that part is par for the course for the daughter of a psychic. What's strange is that these four boys are students at Aglionby Academy, an expensive boarding school at complete odds with the other residents of Henrietta like Blue.
I can honestly say that the above description does not in any way do this story justice, but I struggled with what to say. Most would probably argue that this book is about four friends foray into the mystical, and that certainly is the primary plot, but while writing the summary, I kept thinking about how much of this story focuses on the relationships between characters. Whether driven by love, class, beliefs, superstitions, or stereotypes, the interactions between Blue, Adam, Noah, Ronan, and Gansey are really at the heart of the novel for me. For a much, much better explanation of the plot, visit Jill over at Rhapsody in Books.
But back to the mystical. The supernatural elements are so artfully woven into the more mundane that the world Stiefvater has created seems perfectly plausible. While the otherworldly bits are spectacular, they aren't spectacle (if that makes sense). They are integrated into the story without the pomp and circumstance and bloody violence so typical of other popular stories. Everything in this world seems subtly dangerous, a world brimming with intent whether for good, evil, or more likely that undefined absence of good and evil.
And the writing, oh the writing. Ana from things mean a lot said it best when she described "the prose [as] incredibly accomplished in a subtle sort of way — it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, but it makes you completely unable to see the strings behind the puppets, if you know what I mean." Throughout the novel, I found myself continuously thinking about how unassuming the writing was while simultaneously being some of the best writing in YAL I've read in quite awhile.
A big thanks to Ana and Jill for turning me on to this series! I'm halfway through the second, The Dream Thieves, and I am thrilled to say that it is in no way suffering from secondbookiotis, a horrid disease where book 2 is merely a bridge between books 1 and 3. The final book in the series is much too far away for my peace of mind.