Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Raven Boys


Book Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Quartet #1
Date Started: April 11th 2015
Date Completed: April 14th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Mystery
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Stars
Final Rating: Four stars

I was caught off guard by how much I enjoyed this book. While I had my expectations set to the stereotypical YA level (sorry), I was surprised that my expectations of feels and an over-dramatic climax were missed, and in fact a not-quite-conventional story emerged. The main thing that made it stand out for me was the clarity that Stiefvater wasn't obsessed with giving her audience exactly what they wanted: she let the story naturally develop, and every now and then nudged it in the right direction.

I can't say that I completely agree with other readers that describe Stiefvater's as beautifully poetic, but you can definitely see that this book has been written with love and skill. You really get the sense that she's confidently taken her time making sure everything feels right and natural, rather than just writing, seeing how it goes and making sure it'll tick all the boxes for the 'typical' YA audience.
I absolutely adored the fantastical portrayal of the supernatural themes. Paranormal stories have never really been my thing, but Stiefvater's opened a way for me to really invest in it through the beautifully magical atmosphere in this book. Not only did this make everything so much more interesting for me, but the consistency throughout the whole story impressed me because it made everything seem so much more believable. (The balance between the supernatural plot and the more serious 'human' issues faced by the characters should also be noted.)

When I started this book, I wished I could just read about the boys: they were infinitely more interesting to me, and their friendships could make up a whole story itself. But actually, I do appreciate Blue's later involvement, even though I wouldn't call her the main protagonist.
Something I loved about the plot was how it didn't follow the easy routes that it hinted at: Stiefvater deliberately implied things would go a certain way (something quite easy to do with a house of psychics), but sometimes the story just didn't turn out that way. It actually made it feel more believable, as events naturally turned in different directions, rather than being forced to reach somewhere and then attempt to explain why. This was personally impressive to me because when I write it down, it sounds like a cop out for bad planning, but it seemed so honest that it just didn't come across as badly written. (The only thing that sometimes felt like a cheat was the money available for the boys to do whatever they wanted, but there are enough factors stacked to justify this that I didn't really mind.)
The climax still hasn't completely settled as good or bad in my head yet. Inside my mind, it looked spectacular and I could almost feel the chaos happening around me, but towards the end it just fell a bit flat and started to read jerkily and I lost sense of a lot of what was happening. Having said that, it left enough open to show that this was only really the beginning. For once, something that's very clearly a single instalment in a much bigger story worked very well on its own. I can't possibly not go on and see how everything ends.

The Raven Boys has a good variety of solid characters, and a reasonable balance for featuring all of them.
Blue didn't always feel like a protagonist to me, as it felt a lot of the time the more important parts of the story were led by other characters. However, I liked her quirky presence in the story: you often get female heroines who are 'unusual' and 'different', but Blue really felt like she was separated from normality (maybe because we never see her in school or at her jobs) and that enhanced not only the fantastical aspect of this book, but also just made her more appealing for being something unique.
If I would pick anyone out as the ringleader of the book, it would be Gansey. I'm not sure I feel the attraction a lot of readers do to him, but he's certainly a big part of the book and I like his position. I'm not sure I quite understand him yet, but I'm confident with Stiefvater's pacing.
I like Adam, but I can't say I was entirely invested in him. I really liked his differences financially and emotionally from the other boys, and I'm glad it's there otherwise I'd worry about him fading into the background.
Some of the 'smaller' characters were actually was I grew to love the most. Ronan stood out to me from the start as being the most interesting of the boys, albeit the most violent - I don't know, maybe that's why he was interesting to me; he was very clearly made out to be the most volatile. Noah was a character who I didn't like at the start, but who Stiefvater very cleverly turned upside down, so of course by the end I adored him. I wish Calla and Persephone had been more involved in the story because I really really liked them: I felt the whole psychic house of women was going to be brilliant, but it was only these two that amounted to much for me.

Like I've mentioned, I really felt that Stiefvater took her time planning, writing and editing this book, because everything seems very naturally but confidently constructed. The story does start off slow, but it makes sense that things gradually build up, and even by the end you can tell there's so much more left to say - it's one of the best planned series' I've read in a while.

I would recommend The Raven Boys to all YA readers for its enjoyment and hints of the common attraction of romance, supernatural elements and sarky characters. But I think readers that sometimes shy away from Young Adult fiction would also like this because it really feels like a fully-fledged instalment in an exciting series that has been lovingly written.

Image Source https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15995747-the-raven-boys

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