Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

When I first learned that Maggie Stiefvater was coming out with another book, I immediately marked it down on my handy dandy calendar. "Shiver", the first book of the "The Wolves of Mercy Falls" series, had me entranced by her beautiful language and her realistic and likable characters. And I fell in love with the relationship between Sam and Grace, which left me wistfully longing for a love just like theirs--mutual, respectful and enduring love, one that Ms. Stiefvater assured her readers was absolutely real in her author's note in "Forever", the final book of the trilogy. I also devoured the "Books of Faerie" series, and was a little disappointed by "The Scorpio Races", but I've long been an avid reader of Ms. Stiefvater's novels. With such expectations, I eagerly opened to the first page of "The Raven Boys", which was recently released a couple weeks ago.

Blue Sargent lives in a house full of psychics in Henrietta, Virginia, and every psychic she's met has told her one thing: if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she's given herself two rules not to kiss a boy, and stay away from the boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there--the raven boys--are stuck up and can only mean trouble. The charming Gansey and his raven boy friends have been on the search for Glendower, a vanished Welsh king. When they enlist the psychic's daughter to help them, Blue finds herself on an adventure filled with mystery, romance and the supernatural.

As always, the language of Ms. Stiefvater wove its magic around me as I read "The Raven Boys". Her ability to control the pace and the tone of words works perfectly with the actual events of the story, especially when she describes nature. It's incredibly beautiful, the way she can paint a vivid image of colours that are given life within the trees and the forest. The descriptions aren't overpowering either by distracting the reader from the plot, which is what tends to happen with books with powerful, strong language.

Having said this, I was a little disappointed by the characters. One of Ms. Stiefvater's trademarks is that she creates wonderfully realistic characters that don't fall into any classic fictional stereotypes, such as the dark, mysterious, brooding hottie or the headstrong, witty female protagonist. They're anything but stock characters. However, there wasn't much that made them particularly lovable. They were likable, but I wasn't really dying to meet any one of them. Blue was alright, really, nothing particularly outstanding about her character. And Gansey, oh, charming, rich Gansey, wasn't that charming at all. Instead, he seemed too serious and way too confident to be truly likable as a character. He didn't seem stuck-up or anything; his more humble, passionate 'other side' didn't really come through. Maybe it's too come in the sequels. Adam was quite an okay character, but his constant indignant responses about money got a little annoying after a while. One character that I did like was Ronan. He kind of did fall a little into a stock character: the troubled bad-ass who has a hidden vulnerable side to him. I really liked that about him, though--maybe that's why these stereotypes exist? But I digress.

The plot of the novel started off pretty slow in the first half of the book, but it did pick up in the second half. The twists in the mystery regarding a murder (no spoilers!) really helped to pick up things up, and the climax toward the end was pretty up there too. Overall, a pretty decent storyline in terms of tension and plot-pace.

"The Raven Boys" is an alright book--I really, really wish it'd been as beautiful and thrilling as Maggie Stiefvater's other books! I do think I'll still check out the sequel, because I feel like there's definitely a lot of potential in terms of character development and the storyline.

Rating: 3/5

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