See my review of this book, and many more, at Tales from the Great East Road.
On a cold winter night, Blue stands with her mother and watches as the ghosts of the soon-to-be dead cross the graveyard. Not that she expects to see anything – unlike her mother, Blue is not a clairvoyant. But this year she sees a boy, which can only mean two things: “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
His name is Gansey, and he and his friends have already gained a reputation in Aglionby, their private school. Known as The Raven Boys, Blue is sure they are nothing but trouble. Obsessed with finding the burial ground of the Welsh King Glendower, Gansey is following lay lines that could lead to his fortune and convinces Blue to help. As the daughter of a family of psychics, who is Blue to think him crazy? Despite herself Blue is drawn to the Raven Boys, even though she knows it can’t end well: all her life she has been told she will cause her true love to die.
Despite the synopsis, The Raven Boys is not the story of a romance between Blue and Gansey. Though romance is featured in this book, this arc seems to be for the whole series rather than just this story. What The Raven Boys actually is is so much bigger and better: this is no typical YA paranormal romance. It’s been called a cross between Edgar Allan Poe and The Dead Poet’s Society, and is in fact a tale of magic and quests, and the bonds of friendship between a group of young men. The Raven Boys themselves and their relationship plays a major role, and each of the boys work so great together, as well as standing on their own. Though each is noteworthy in their own right – Gansey with his passion for the supernatural, Ronan who hides behind his anger, and Noah who is more than meets the eye – the best character has to be Adam. The boy from a poor family who gained a scholarship to an expensive private school, Adam struggles with both feeling that he is not good enough and resentment towards his other friends who never have to worry about money. The flashback scene where he can’t afford to buy food is just heart-wrenching. Blue is also an awesome character, the only non-seer in a family of clairvoyants, she doesn’t let this bring her down and doesn’t hold this against her family. Her relationship with her mother was encouragingly positive, and her caution and tentative friendship with the boys is a refreshing change in YA books – she is so much more interesting than the stereotypical ‘too-stupid-to-live’ heroine, and her budding romance with Adam was charming. It’s just a disappointment that this romance can’t fully develop, as the synopsis clearly states that the romance will be between Blue and Gansey.
The magic featured in this book was just brilliant. A great mix of ghosts, psychics, tarot cards, lay lines, and more (there really is a bit of everything). The Welsh folktale this is loosely based on (Doomed to Die on St. Marks Eve) and the use of King Glendower is very original, a nice change from the over abundance of Greek and European folklore used in fantasy today. As a huge fan of magic, I found the ideas used to be fascinating and endlessly entertaining, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. The writing itself was also beautiful, especially one description of an abandoned car in the middle of a woods, and it speaks to Maggie Stiefvater’s skill that she can make something so beautiful out of a simple image.
This was a truly great book, and I cannot to read the sequel.