Review by Caroline Hodges
Pages - 408
Published by Scholastic on the 18th September 2012
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
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’ve found Maggie Steifvater’s novels a bit hit and miss. It’s a personal thing; I loved the Wolves of Mercy Falls books but have yet to properly get into Lament, despite a couple of attempts. So although I was looking forward to trying The Raven Boys, it was with a little trepidation.
Fortunately The Raven Boys grabbed me from the off and is one of my top books of this year. The characters are well-crafted and appealing in their flaws and the storyline is imaginative and utterly unpredictable.
I’m not a fan of insta-romance in young adult novels and I was a little afraid from the synopsis that this book was going to centre around such a thing. We’re told from the first page that main character Blue has been told for as long as she can remember that she will cause her true love to die, and this kind of gave me some pre-conceptions the book was going to be about an instant attraction and then the angst of not being able to fulfil that love. Having finished The Raven Boys, I think their might be some scope for that in future books, but this novel at least is not what I’d call a romance in the traditional sense. Rather it is a novel about friendship and the love it can inspire, obsession, pride and ambition.
The Raven Boys has more than its fair share of tortured souls, but the way the author has her characters interact with each other is beautiful. Confident, wealthy Gansey; reluctant leader of the pack takes care of his brood with the protectiveness of a father. Kind-hearted Adam is so desperate to prove himself to himself, he sees accepting aid, even when he most needs it as a weakness. Then there is Ronan, in so much pain from the death of his father, he seems intent on self destruction. And finally dear Noah... I can’t say much about Noah for fear of spoilers, but oh how I wanted to give him a big hug.
The novel is not all angst and sorrow however, far from it. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments; Maggie and her Raven Boys never seem to take themselves too seriously.
For me the most surprising aspect of the book was the intertwining of ancient Welsh history, the spiritual world and divination. I like historical novels and these themes added extra for me which I wasn’t expecting at all. I really just can’t wait for the next book; and that doesn’t happen very often!
Finally a note on heroine Blue. For me this novel, as the name suggests, is all about the boys. However just as the quartet find themselves completed by Blue, I found she does complete the book. It’s subtle but by the end, you can’t imagine the book without her. Like so many of the more introverted amongst us, though perhaps not immediately as appealing as those that ‘shout the loudest’, she’s spunky and smart, at times shy but capable of standing her ground. I look forward to her character developing even more in the books to come.