The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy.
Format: Audio (narrated by Will Patton).
Publisher: Scholastic Audio Books.
Pub. Date: September 18, 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.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●●
Writing Quality: ●●●●●
Maggie Stiefvater and I go way back. Or I should say, her books and I go way back, like, the pub. date of Shiver, her debut. That far back. After a whirlwind love affair with the first book, my disappointment when I didn’t enjoy Linger was epic enough that I swore off Stiefvater seemingly forever.
I wasn’t impressed by the hype surrounding The Raven Boys, even when it was recommended to me multiple times. I checked out the audiobook through my library, along with several others that I was equally unenthused about. I just needed something to get me through my workday after catching up on my YouTube feed. I didn’t expect this book to be at all compelling, I just wanted to sample it so I could tell people I had tried it and didn’t like it.
Obviously I was wrong.
I’m tired of being wrong about things!
The narrator had a wonderful voice– even listening to the audiobook at 1.4x speed, as I often do, his narration made this audiobook a wonderful listening experience. Combined with the very atmospheric, beautiful writing style, this book practically begged to be read aloud. I would definitely recommend this audiobook.
One downside I always find with audiobooks is I have a hard time keeping track of the multiple points of view. The Raven Boys also has quite a large cast, so I often had to stop and Google characters (which ultimately led to me being spoiled. Let’s face it, Googling anything about a book is a bad idea). Fortunately, the narrator did rather well at creating very distinct voices for different points of view and each character, even if the voices were rather silly sometimes. It did take quite a large chunk of the book for me to keep everyone straight, but ultimately it didn’t make much of a difference in how much I enjoyed the story.
This is a particularly difficult book to review because most of my notes are unreadable messes of random letters because I was too emotional to make real words. The other half are random quotes that stood out to me when I was reading.
The characters were all incredibly developed. They felt like real people, teenagers and adults alike. I was really impressed with how Stiefvater crafted these spectacular teenagers without making them overdramatic or their “romance” over-sexualized. Sometimes reading YA romance/sex scenes feels more akin to erotic literature than my own cringeworthy teenage relationships. But Blue and her love interest felt like two kids who each thought the other was attractive and wanted to get to know one another. For a book whose synopsis focuses so heavily on “true love,” there was no insta-love, or really any “love” at all, besides friend-love.
At one point, Blue receives a particularly pathetic sprig of flowers, and the card just says something along the lines of “I hope you don’t mind if I still call you later.” It was so much sweeter and more satisfying than a first kiss.
I loved the friendships between the Raven Boys and how they absorbed Blue into their group. Though each character was flawed in their own way, all were willing to take a bullet for their friends. Gansey and Blue’s developing friendship was so much fun to read about– I just wanted to hang out with them all the time.
One of my favorite scenes, probably in the history of anything I have ever read, was when Gansey believes his expectations are re-shaping the world around them, and Blue says sarcastically, “Okay, God.” Not exactly groundbreaking, but it was perfect in its simplicity.
What really captivated me about The Raven Boys was the mystical, magical quality that permeated everything from the storytelling and descriptions to the atmosphere to the unfathomable, unknowable nature of the paranormal elements. In a lot of urban fantasy I’ve read, the author takes the magic and makes it gritty with a realistic-enough explanation. In The Raven Boys, I was totally content believing in magic that defied explanation or understanding.
Within the first two hours of this audiobook, I was already planning a re-read, and I had ordered the first three books in hardcover online. I’ve seen so many reviews that say this book is difficult to get into, or confusing, or too strange, but I honestly never felt that way. I was in love with this book from the first chapter.