The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 2012, 408 pages
Blue Sargent grew up around psychics and, for a while, it seemed like nothing could shock her. But then she gets involved with the Aglionby Boys — the boys with the ravens on their school badges and a mission involving a dead king and mysterious lines of energy that get stronger when Blue nears them. With a prophecy hanging over her head, Blue can’t stay away from the adventure of it all, even while she watches the self-destructive behavior of her new friends — Gansey, Noah, Ronan, and Adam.
I purposely waited getting started on The Raven Boys series because I already knew I liked Stiefvater’s work and figured I’d enjoy this series as well. I’m glad I waited because September (when the last book comes out) doesn’t seem nearly as bad a wait as it could have been! Stiefvater does an incredible job in manipulating the reader’s perspective in order to produce well-rounded characters. I really admire her ability to make the most of the setting and objects relative to characters to build the story and its inhabitants in subtle ways. Her language is rarely ever overbearing or too little, but works as a constant hum as you read. Stiefvater’s abilities have only grown since her earlier books (I read and enjoyed both Lament and Shiver years ago), and it’s exciting to see how she improves even when you think it can’t get any better.
The beauty of Stiefvater’s writing style does have a consequence — almost (almost!) to the point of overstimulation, the writing sometimes obscures the plot. While this can help contribute to the mystery of things in some cases, in other instances (when the mysteries are being unveiled, for example) it doesn’t work as well and having to reread passages to get through the sensory mire (and what a beautiful mire it is!) makes the book slow-going. It’s an enjoyable process nonetheless, but requires a bit more attention from the reader than most other YA novels I’ve read. I still have some questions about The Raven Boys but opted not to read and reread and reread until I understood because (a) I’m a busy individual and can only reread a sentence so many times and (b) it was entirely possible the reality of the story was meant to be obscured and not truly revealed until a later book. Either way, I figured things would clear up with future books regardless of when the actual reveal was, just based on context. If not then, there’s always the internet!
As I mentioned, Stiefvater’s characters and phenomenally sculpted with very well-placed and thought-out details which you don’t even realize are teaching you about the characters until much later on. Surprisingly, I found Blue, at times, to be less-developed than the surrounding characters. I think, however, that is a result of Blue being a character who doesn’t really know who she is yet rather than a manifestation of poor writing or planning. I guess we’ll see with the next book (which I’ve started after reading the next two reviews-to-come: Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles).