Synopsis: “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.
I’m finally, finally, finally posting this review. A mere month after reading it! Look at me go. (I’m saying this like there aren’t reviews of stuff I read last winter backlogged in my Google Drive.)
The important thing is: THIS BOOK IS MIRACULOUS.
There are psychics and ghosts and very human characters and boys in private-school uniforms and ravens and magical places and sentient trees. There’s magic and a badass girl and my new favorite boy and Latin and a refurbished warehouse that makes for a very scholarly-chic apartment and Welsh mythology and a pizza restaurant.
In short, sososososo many things I am always thrilled to see. Every time a ghost or a psychic or a well-described setting – or, okay, yes, a pizza restaurant – shows up in anything I read it’s an absolute pleasure.
But I haven’t even gotten to the best part.
The most miraculous of all these magically miraculous miracles? THERE’S BARELY ANY ANGST OR ROMANCE.
Yes, there’s a decent amount by most standards, but amongst YA it doesn’t even rank!
(Which is why it’s just so confusing to see the top Goodreads review of this book lamenting its status as just-another-paranormal-romance. I hate paranormal romance. This isn’t that.) (Okay, Goodreads is telling me this is categorized as both “Fantasy > Paranormal” and “Romance,” so I guess it is that. But it doesn’t feel that way at all.) (Did I skip past roughly 100 collective pages of arm-brushing and gooey looks and that middle school phenomenon wherein the absolute prime flirting strategy is stealing a boy’s hat? Because I would never in a million years categorize this as a romance.)
But I will force myself to digress.
I’m going to give a teeny lil synopsis of this book for y’all who somehow managed to not know about it, but I went in blind and had a good time and I say it’s good to do that. If you feel like it.
Lil synopsis: There is Blue, who comes from a household of all women who are all psychic; she is the exception to the latter rule, but she amplifies other people’s power. (Cool, right?! You don’t know the half of it.) There is also Gansey (insert one THOUSAND heart-eyes emojis here), who is searching for a thing called the “ley line,” essentially a magical place. Gansey has friends! Good for him. There is Adam, who is on scholarship and who has a cruuuush on Blue; Ronan, who is an asshole with a dead dad; and Noah, who is small and cute. Blue, who cannot see ghosts, sees Gansey’s ghost, which means that he’s going to die soon and that she’s either his love or his killer. Oh wait also, if Blue kisses her true wuv then the kiss-ee dies. So those two scenarios are not exactly mutually exclusive.
I have a few small complaints about this book to get out of the way before we can fangirl more about it. (This is a four-star review, after all, so I really don’t know what you expected. I’m not one of those illogical psychos who rates a book anything other than five stars while screaming “ABSOLUTELY PERFECT I LOVED IT” through a megaphone.)
Complaint numéro un: I don’t like Ronan. And I don’t get why people can after just this book.
There’s nothing?? To him?? He’s just mean and tragic. Like, you know, every other YA male ever. This is quickly becoming one of my least favorite tropes. Quickly typing “total d*ck, but handsome and damaged” as a character description just does not do it for me.
I’m semi-open to the idea of appreciating Ronan in future books, because this book has done well in both conforming to and subverting other clichés, but I’m not excited about his character at all.
(GANSEY, ON THE OTHER HAND, I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT. But I have a liiiiiittle more complaining to do first.)
Complaint numéro deux: I am very worried that Maggie Stiefvater may hate other women.
I read Shiver (and maybe its sequel?) long ago, and it wasn’t exactly feminist central. And this book manages to hate on girls in a way that is both subtle and jarring. From the basic fact that Blue is the only girl worthy of entry into the exclusive club of Gansey/Ronan/Adam/Noah, to the frequent references to the interchangeability of Declan’s blonde girlfriends, it was really unsettling. Because I so badly wanted to like this!!
Also, can I just say: as a blonde teenage girl, I AM SO F*CKING SICK OF OUR YOUNG ADULT REPRESENTATION. It’s like you can’t have light hair and be under twenty and exist in a book without being utterly vapid. Can you just please be nice to girls. Guh.
So that’s a big complaint.
Some smaller issues I had: This book had to grow on me. The pacing was weird. I liked the language but sometimes the sentences were slightly wrong, which, again, subtle but jarring. Sometimes choppy or abrupt.
Except #2, these negatives could go away relatively easily in the other books, AND THEN I CAN GIVE FIVE STARS. Yay! I want to do that so badly. But goddamn I am extraordinarily worried about that second one.
BACK TO THE POSITIVES!
I’ve said this pretentious jargon before, and I will here say it again: young adult stuff is very rarely remarkable in style. Occupational hazard, I guess. This is probably a good thing, because it doesn’t distract from any plot-centric narrative and because not everyone likes metaphorical language. Just look at all the people who
wrongly didn’t care for I’ll Give You the Sun.
BUT I LOVE LYRICAL WRITING AND I LOVED THIS AND STIEFVATER’S WORDS ARE SO BEAUTIFUL. I’m pretty tempted to read everything she’s ever written now. (If the girl-hate lets up, that is. Goddamn.)
This also could have REALLY easily been dumb. Like, Blue whining about wanting to kiss a cute boy, which would have made me want to scream at her that a steamy makeout sesh with a private school kid does not exactly equate to the value of a human life. But she never questions or even laments it, really. She’s just like, Nah.
Noah was really flat for about three-quarters of this book, but then he is the cutest smallest thing and I love him.
BUT NOT AS MUCH AS I LOVE MY NEW HUSBAND. (This is Gansey.)
I love Gansey sosososo much. I don’t know if I’m not supposed to, or if he’ll turn suck-y or whatever. (I feel like it’s one of the two, because the reviews I’ve skimmed have been Adam fangirl-y or Ronan fangirl-y, but I haven’t seen any Gansey love.)
Gansey is so charming and such a great friend and he CARES ABOUT PEOPLE SO MUCH. Also he owns a renovated warehouse that is said to look like it’s occupied by a crazed scholar or a mad scientist, and he carries a massive journal detailing his journey to find magic, and in that amazing building he OWNS, there’s a cardboard recreation of the town.
And he’s rich as hell. (Even in fictional boyfriends I am practical.)
I’m in love, you guys. It’ll be an autumn wedding.
DON’T YOU DARE RUIN THIS FOR ME, STIEFVATER.
I feel like Adam is the most human of the characters. He’s flawed more realistically. I like him.
This book was just so fascinating and unique and great. Avoids a lot of the pitfalls of young adult books that make me hate them. UNFORTUNATELY, it still checked the vaguely-sexist box.
I hope the next book is even better.
(I’m already reading it.) (Note from later-later, as in, now: I haven’t even rated the sequel, let alone reviewed it. Still no clue how I felt about it.)
Bottom line: Everyone should definitely give this book a try. It totally won’t be for everyone
especially blonde girls named Ashley, but it’s sooooo-ooooooo-ooooooo outside of the YA box.
Hurray for fantasy series with potential!
P.S. I was just looking up images for this banner, and holy HELL this series has liiiiiit fan art. Why did no one tell me???? (Wait. I think someone actually did tell me.) (Sorry.)