Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Inc)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-0-545– 42492-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Maggie Stiefvater is a well known and popular YA author. She has written many books for teens with a gothic flavour, packed with paranormal activity and fantasy. The Raven Boys is the first of a new trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and is engrossing and addictive. The author’s writing is mesmerising at times, creating an uneasy atmosphere in places, drifting into events in sly tendrils, creeping around people and place with increasing intensity until you suddenly realise the storyline is being choked by it. It is easy to sink into this book and just let the enchantment of the words carry you away.

Blue Sargent is the daughter of a psychic. Although she has not inherited any of her family’s psychic abilities, her gift is to amplify the energy and magic of those near her.  And she believes wholeheartedly in her fate, that if she kisses her true love he will die. Partly because of this, Blue avoids boys in general, but she takes special care to also avoid the Raven Boys, students from the local private school Aglionby. However, after her mother specifically forbids her from becoming involved with Gansey, Ronan, Noah and Adam and their quest, she is drawn towards the foursome and their search for ley lines and Glendower, the Sleeping King.

The characters in this book are well rounded with depth and complexity. The dialogue is natural and convincing. Even some of the more elusive characters such as Persephone and Calla are tangible and intriguing.

Nothing is straight forward and simple, but the subplots add to the twists rather than distract the reader from the main storyline. There are so many delicious moments when something unexpected happens, but with hindsight all seems obvious and makes perfect sense. The relationships and bonds the teens have, both healthy and destructive, are skilfully painted as is the relationship they each have to the woods, where the seasons change as they walk through and the trees whisper in Latin.

It is easy to see why this author is a favourite with teens and young adults. The Raven Boys has all the elements of an entertaining story. It is wonderfully gothic, with the drama of adolescence, forbidden romance, mystery, psychic predictions, ghosts, obsession, compulsion, a quest and an ending that promises more to come. But with all this magic and drama, it doesn’t lose sight of the importance of family. Much of the characters motivations come from these bonds, and the family ties, or lack of, that reach out to affect their lives, decisions and fate.

The end does not resolve the story but it is satisfying.  Although not exactly a cliff hanger, it leaves many questions unanswered with the last sentence creating much anticipation for the next book in the series. It is a long book for YA reading, over 400 pages, but I found it easy and quick to read as I became so involved with the people and story.

Maggie Stiefvater is an author I have heard much about but had never read. From my first glimpse of the fabulous cover- a bold raven with wings outspread, painted in feathery brush strokes - I was intrigued, and happily followed Stiefvater’s words to see where love and death would lead the characters and me. I will definitely be reading more.

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