Review of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Petting Ravens and Holding Ghost Hands
Maggie Stiefvater is a master of POV (point of view) writing. She is a badass lady who drives a camaro, not to mention her drawing skills; in short, she's my 'writer goals'.
The Raven Boys is the first novel in her series entitled The Raven Cycle. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but damn! I love how artistic it is, and yet it shows a clear simplicity. The raven is one of my favourite metaphors and symbolism used in poetry and literature. From Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven to The Chimes by Anna Smaill, ravens are used as a symbol for memory or secret keeping. They tend to be dark, mysterious creatures, which perfectly describes the atmosphere of The Raven Boys.
At the beginning of the book we meet Blue, the protagonist of the novel. All of her family is psychic, except her. She is surrounded by women with extraordinary powers, and here is where she is not excluded. Apparently, Blue has a lot of energy which attracts the supernatural, or enhances it. Her life sounds pretty well and fine, that is apart from the prophecy, or perhaps more appropriately, a curse that defines the course of her life; if she kisses her true love, he will die.
One night, Blue finds herself at a church-site, near the corpse road, with her half aunt Neeve. They are collecting the names of all people who will day in the next year. For the first time, Blue sees an apparition, a spirit. It is a boy with a raven crest on his chest named Gansey. The ladies of the house tell her that the only way she could see someone's spirit like that would be either if she killed him, or if it was her one true love.
So, of course, in the next chapter we meet Gansey. He is one of the rich, snobbish boys who go to a private school nearby. Later on, Blue's and Gansey's paths cross, however Blue feels no romantic connection to him, if anything, she feels butterflies when his friend Adam is around.
She finds out that the boys (mainly Gansey) are searching for the sleeping Welsh king Glendower. The one who is mostly infatuated by the sleeping king is Gansey, although I don't quite understand his desire to wake him (will he grant him a wish or something?) - it is said that Gansey was supposed to die a few years back, but he didn't because another took his place who was supposed to live, and this sort of happened because of the king Glendower. I feel like his motivation is lacking something, perhaps it should be a bit more developed.
Adam is a lot like Blue, he comes from a poor family, but like a lot of us he is infatuated by the wealth and the extra life of the rich, which is why he worked really hard to get to this private school. Since they both feel like outsiders among the other boys, he and Blue form a connection with an occasional thump of the heart.
Noah Czerny is a boy that I've had a hard time catching between the lines because he was there, and at the same time he wasn't. Later on we find out that (SPOILER) he is a ghost, which explains his always eluding presence. In Slavic languages Czerny means 'the black one' or 'the dark one', which only adds to the lovely atmosphere and symbolism in the book.
And last but not least, the creepy Ronan Lynch. For some reason he keeps a small (injured?) raven by his side, feeding him like a parent would. He has some weird history with his father's death, not to mention the symbolism of his last name, Lynch. Apparently, the last name Lynch originates in Ireland. There were a father and a son. The son was accused of a crime, and the father acted as a judge, the jury, and the executioner - which is where the term 'lynching' comes from. I can't help but to wonder, is there some correlation with Ronan Lynch and this legend?
Speaking of the symbolism of last names, let's take a look at one other name - Blue Sargent. Blue doesn't know who her father is. Later he mom tells her he appeared after a ritual she did, and disappeared after Blue was born. Is it then safe to say that Blue's father is something supernatural? Like a leader of a supernatural army, thus 'Sargent'?
Let's take a look at the sleeping king Glendower. A lot of nations have myths and legends of sleeping kings, mine is no exception. In Slovenia we have a legend about the sleeping king Matjaž and his black army. It is said he sleeps below the mountains and he will wake again when his people will be in danger. Perhaps the Welsh legend is similar to ours, perhaps not only Glendower but also someone else is asleep beneath the mountains.
The resolution of the novel is quite simple; the bad guy gets hurt, the good guys steal their friendsbones from his grave. Actually, not a lot was resolved in this book. We didn't find out if Gansey is Blue's true love, if he was going to die, if Adam is Blue's true love, what the hell is up with Blue's father, what are Neeve's true motives, and can we stop here for just a second? My favourite moment in the book is when Blue confronts Neeve in the backyard, only it is not Neeve, but some terrifying voice speaking through Neeve. This scene is packed with emotions, it has the right amount of secrecy, and it is so damn interesting - who is that voice? Is it a demon? Is it Glendower? Is Glendower secretly evil? Is he Blue's father?
Anyway, a lot is left unresolved. Plus, the ending brings more things under a question. For example, what is up with the last sentence said by Ronan:
"I guess now would be a good time to tell you," he said. "I took Chainsaw out of my dreams."
What? In the context of The Raven Boys I don't understand what he meant by saying he took the raven out of his dreams, however, when I saw the title of the next book The Dream Thieves, I think it's just a way to bait the readers to the next instalment.
In the writer's world they say - the first sentence sucks the reader in, and the last sentence sells the next book. So, my hat off to you Mrs Stiefvater.
I've read Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater, and I absolutely loved it. The way the POV is written - it makes it so easy to see which character is speaking just by reading the writing style. Because of that my expectations were probably too big for The Raven Cycle. I must admit, this novel failed to pull me in as much as Wolves of Mercy Falls. I feel like there was too much left to be resolved, also it had some great moments, but they were ended too quickly. I was sucked into the story after the first half of the book, however some motives of certain characters remained a mystery, and it's quite frustrating, but not in a good way.
Beside that, the book was a lovely September read, and I'm reading the rest of The Raven Cycle, which I will also do reviews on.
PLOT LINE: 7,5/10
PLOT TWISTS: 8/10
"She recognised 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. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars."