Friday, September 14, 2012
Me on The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. She never sees them herself, not until this year when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue discovers he's one of the rich students at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from the Raven Boys, she knows that coming across them can only mean trouble, but she's drawn to Gansey in a way she can't entirely explain. He's on a quest that includes three other Raven Boys, intelligent Adam, fierce Ronan, and watchful Noah. Now, for as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought it would be a problem. But now, as she gets caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys and the dangerous journey Gansey pulled them into, she's not so sure anymore.
The Raven Boys is ghostly and eerie, steeped in psychics and ley lines, filled with whispers of a time past and forgotten and visions of a time still to come. It was what I've come to expect from a novel written by Maggie Stiefvater, a novel with a wary and mysterious girl at odds with a compelling, eye-catching, and equally mysterious boy, but I was unprepared for the journey and could only follow the path set out before me on the page.
The inevitability of death and the nature of love. We are all meant to die, that much is clear, but are we meant to love, meant to have it in our lives? Where does love come from? Why is it there? What happens when we don't want it, when we know the consequences it will bring? Do we stand strong, let it pass, or are we brave enough to give in knowing it's not meant to last? I imagine these will be questions I'll be asking throughout the series.
Stiefvater never makes it easy for her characters, and Blue certainly has it rough, being told constantly as she grew up that if she ever kissed her true love he would die. Then she sees a non-spirit on St. Mark's Eve, which means he's her true love or she killed him. She's already spent her life, her precious teenage years that should be full of crushes and boys and kisses, avoiding boys as much as possible. And she knows to steer clear of the rich and privileged students of Aglionby, the Raven Boys of Henrietta, Virginia. But she can't help getting caught up in them and part of their world when she meets Gansey. Her non-spirit from the church on St. Mark's eve.
Gansey is all about the things all over the world that can't be seen, and how those things that do exists that aren't seen by all are meant to be found. So he searches for the ley lines in hopes of discovering their secrets, researches ancient kings and long forgotten stories and legends and promises. He's working to prove himself worthy to the secrets and the mysteries to learn what's kept hidden.
At first, with what the reader knows of Blue's fate regarding romantic entanglements, more romance is expected between her and Gansey, and while sparks do fly between them, the story shifts towards its core, a darkly dangerous and mysterious tale of ley lines, ancient kings, and the quest to find what he's been looking for.
The other three Raven Boys have their own challenges and issues, it's not just Gansey that Blue has to deal with. There's Adam with his sadness and almost frailty, his intelligence and not wanting things to change if they're going to hurt, his desire to find his own place in the world that won't be tucked back into Gansey's shadow. There's Ronan with his wild eyes, his wild fists, his own secrets about his father's death and himself and a particular raven, his strength and his scaldingly hot temper. There's Noah with a smaller role but no less important than the others, his quiet ways and quiet steps, his icy cold hands, his eyes always watching what's happening.
On the other side of the book, away from the characters and their complications and motives, is the dark mystery at the heart of the story, the one that's born from ley lines and spirits and psychics, the world we can't see, the world of energy where ancient kings live on, the world that contains things that are beyond the comprehension of most. It's elusive like mist, like a memory just out of reach, this spirit world lost in history that Blue and her Raven Boys, because no matter how much she knows to avoid them they are her boys, are trying to discover.
The story turns Stiefvater's prose lyrical, makes the novel as a whole even more magical and so visual. There's so much packed in, but it all just makes the novel a story rich in details that, odds are, will be important in the future, certain character habits and items and places that will come into play in the rest of the series.
Written in third person, the book moves around, circling the characters on their journeys, from Blue to Gansey to Adam to others. It's all pieces of a story, the pieces we're meant to read not, the moments we're meant to see, Blue and her aunt in the churchyard in the middle of the night, Gansey on the side of the road next to his car as Ronan and Adam drive up. In the future, in the books to come, there will be different moments and different secrets, and the readers will get to see more of what happens along the ley lines. But will everything, and I mean everything, be revealed and solved and discovered at the end of the series? That's up to the author.
A book has power over a reader, even more so when the reader, after turning the last page and reaching the end, wants to dive right back into the world they just left, and that's what happened to me and The Raven Boys. I felt bereft once I turned the final page, felt lost and hollow, and it took nothing for me to turn back to the first page and start over again. I adore this world, this darkly magical world, this world along an unseen path where seasons change in an instant, where the trees talk to you, where the raven cries out, where a dead king waits far from the place of his birth. It's unfortunate that I can't live in this world, but I will relish every moment I can spent between the pages with Blue and her Raven Boys as my guides.
(I borrowed an advance copy of this book from a friend.)