4+ out of 5 stars
Once upon a time, I explained how I’m rarely into stories that feature magic in the “real” world. The Raven Boys, though. YES.
It’s not exactly magic… in most of the cases. The book opens on Blue Sargent, a young woman surrounded by psychics. Her mother, aunt, other “aunts,” cousin… everyone except Blue herself is clairvoyant. Blue is not powerless though – instead, her power is even more unique. She heightens the others’ powers. Blue makes them more psychic. And because of that ability, psychics can see into Blue, and all they see the same thing: she will kiss her true love, and he will die.
Weird, but good, right? It’s so good.
They live in Henrietta, VA, small town home to a high-priced all-boys private school called Aglionby Academy. The Aglionby crest bears a raven, hence the students are called “Raven Boys.” They are every 80s movie cliche about rich boys; “bastards” is the word Blue uses. But that’s before she meets Gansey. The first time she sees him, right at the start of the book, Gansey is not a boy, but a spirit. Since Blue’s not psychic, she can’t see spirits – until now. There is only one reason, she’s told, Gansey would appear to her when no other spirits have: either he’s her true love, or she killed him. In Blue’s case, probably both.
Of all things for teenage boys to be into, Gansey is obsessed with ley lines, powerful arcs of energy that cross the globe, connecting places of spiritual importance. Once runs right through Henrietta, and Gansey believes that along it lies an ancient, magically sleeping Welsh king, waiting to be found and woken. He’s convinced his best friends to join the search: Ronan, Adam and Noah. It all comes together in a tangle of psychic prediction, spiking energy and teenage angst. Mythological, paranormal, supernatural, yet so grounded in reality, it’s easy to believe it’s happening in a small town down the road. Stiefvater’s writing seamlessly blends crazy events into the fabric of these almost-normal lives.
Each of the Raven boys is gloriously different and intricately troubled. They don’t just have issues, they are issues, and those issues are completely transparent among their group. Boys who think about emotions and talk about problems? Be still my beating YA-heart! Blue is also a study in contrasts: she knows psychic powers are real, but doesn’t quite believe in magic. She doesn’t even seem to want out of her town, her life or herself. Sure there are awkward moments, but Blue is remarkably self-possessed among YA heroines, needing no real crises of self to motivate her. They’re all main characters, and I’m only on the first book.
Now, I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here.
My favorite thing about The Raven Boys is that we already know Blue and Gansey have some life-changing (ending?) interaction. Blue sees Gansey’s spirit because she either will either love or kill him. Put that together with the promise that Blue’s first kiss will kill her true love, and we all – including Blue – assume it’s both: she will kiss Gansey and kill him. But it’s not actually a foregone conclusion. Stiefvater deftly turns Blue’s place with the Raven Boys into something sideways. Blue connects with Adam, not Gansey, and Gansey seems interested only in her friendship. Blue is pretty darned sure she kiss-kills Gansey, but what if she kisses Adam first/instead? It’s either love and he dies, or it’s not and he lives. Both would be bad. Blue must fall for Gansey, right? RIGHT?! Maybe not. There are other ways Blue could kill Gansey – they might never get together. (I will die too, if that happens.) It’s a glorious tilt to the required YA love-interest storyline, and leaves even its characters guessing.
I’m already into Book II: The Dream Thieves, which gives me plenty of time to revel in this before The Raven Boys comes to TV:
In a larger font, from Tor.com: According to Publishers Marketplace, Universal Cable Productions has acquired the television rights to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, described as being “about four private school boys and a psychic’s daughter who quest for a sleeping king of Welsh legend in the mountains of Virginia, uncovering ancient magic, powerful dreams, and the devils in themselves.” Executive producers will include Michael London (Sideways, the upcoming HBO adaptation of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad) through Groundswell Productions; Andrew Miller, known for The Secret Circle, who will adapt the book series as EP and showrunner; and Catherine Hardwicke, who is also attached to direct the pilot, and who directed the first Twilight film.
Read more about the show on Hypable. I’m not far enough into the series to think casting thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours.
And just so I can find this when NaNoWriMo starts again, Maggie Stiefvater’s great inspiration: