Even if blue hadn’t been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.
I avoided reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys despite years of amazing reviews because when I read Shiver – I was seventeen and in my first wave of Twilight-related paranormal romance burn out/feminist awakening (don’t even talk to me about Stephanie Meyer) – I was not into it. And yet the amazing reviews of The Raven Boys just kept coming.
So I caved.
And it turns out (for not the first time. At least I’m honest.) that the bloggers were right and I was wrong. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD.
Another reason I didn’t read The Raven Boys for so long is the blurb. It reduces it to nothing more than a romance (which is fine, if you’re in the mood for that. For me, right now, I need a little more), a marketing technique that woefully undersells what Maggie Stiefvater has created (in my ever-so-humble opinion).
The town of Henrietta is a complex and magical creation. It is a place with massive economic disparities. There’s a famous boy’s boarding school there, Aglionby where the richest send their sons to become the next generation of businessman, bankers and politicians. Across town, there are the native residents, most of them lower middle to working class. The Aglionby – known because of the crests on their jumpers as the ‘raven’ – boys and the townspeople rarely mix.
It’s in the poorer part of town where Blue lives, in a house full of women who all happen to be psychics (with the exception of Blue herself). If there is one thing I would have asked of this book, it would have been more time in the ‘little bright blue house at 300 Fox Way.’ I adored this community of women. There is a very specific thing that happens among some older, single, heterosexual women, which is a certain man-scepticism. It’s like there came a point when they just decided they didn’t want them around anymore. My family is 90% divorced women, so it’s an environment I grew up in (though sadly my family are not psychics) and not one I see represented in YA all that often. I especially haven’t seen it written in such a perfect, funny and loving tone.
Full points to Maggie.
The other, and probably most important aspect of Henrietta, is that it sits on criss-crossing ley lines (sometimes known as the corpse road) which makes it an intensely magical place. In addition to the psychics who live there, it is rumoured that a sleeping prince, Glendower, is hidden within the ley lines. Whoever wakes him will be granted whatever they want. However, finding him, as Gansey – a raven boy who is kind of like a teenaged Alaric from The Vampire Diaries but with less dead girlfriends – is no easy task.
All these elements are drawn together when Blue – despite not being a psychic – witnesses Gansey’s future death. With that event, she steps from her own world into that of the raven boys.
The Raven Boys is at its heart, a book concerned with the idea of freedom. I mean, could a book filled with psychics really be about anything else?
Blue has lived her entire life according to what her family have told her to do – up until she meets the raven boys. In choosing to get involved with Gansey, she disobeys her mother for the very first time. However, she disobeys her mother to run off with a guy it has been predicted she will either fall in love with or kill – so can the action really be considered free?
Freedom is also looked at from an economic, as well as a magical perspective. For some, like Gansey, freedom appears to be state he was born into. His family have a limitless budget, and that has allowed him to travel the world following his paranormal whims. On the other hand, his hunger to prove the existence of the supernatural is so great as to dominate his existence. Every decision he makes is based on finding the ley lines hidden beneath Henrietta. Gansey’s supposedly boundary-less existence is ruled by his obsession with the paranormal. It is an inextricable part of his identity, and something he believes he was fated for. Much like Blue, can he be really be free if he has a ‘fate’?
Adam, on the other hand, is a poor kid at a rich school. He lives in a financially unstable home with an abusive father, and believes the only way to be free is to get through his Aglionby scholarship and earn the sort of job that would make him a true raven boy. Adam’s friends are desperate to get him out of his abusive home, but he refuses to leave on anybody’s terms but his own. Is the freedom that Adam seeks – a freedom that can only be achieved alone – just another kind of trap?
Yeah. This book holds a lot more than romance.
The first book in The Raven Cycle has got me all kinds of intrigued. I only hope the rest of the series is as good.