Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle One)  – Maggie Stiefvater

Can you imagine anything suckier than being told if you kiss your true love, he will die? Such is the supposed fate of sixteen-year-old Blue Sargant. Blue is born into a clairvoyant family, and for nearly as long as she can remember in reading after reading, this is her destiny – to kill her true love. Obviously, with this heavy anvil hanging over her head, Blue doesn’t date much...like at all. Since she’s not busy dating, Blue has lots of time to assist with the family business. Blue herself doesn’t have the ability to see into the future, but she does have a special energy that helps heighten future visions seen by her mom and extended family of aunts and cousins, who all do readings out of their shared home on 300 Fox Way in Henrietta, Virginia.

On St. Mark’s Eve, Blue’s asked to join her mother’s half-sister, Neeve, in the naming of the dead, an annual occasion in April where psychics witness a ghostly parade of local people who will be dying over the course of the next year. Cheery! Feeding off Blue’s energy, Neeve plans to ask the names of the ghosts as they’re passing by while Blue jots their names down. Blue’s done this depressing job before, so no biggie, except this year goes a little differently than ever before – for the first time, Blue actually sees one of the ghosts…a boy her age who identifies himself only as ‘Gansey.’ Blue can’t resist following him to see if she can communicate further with him, but all she gets is, “Gansey. That’s all there is.” Ugh, don’t you hate when you’re trying to pump a guy for info…and you get NOTHING! His clothes alert her to one other thing, though – he’s an Aglionby boy. Aglionby boys are the moneyed boys who attend Aglionby Academy, a ritzy prep school in town. With the raven as its mascot, the locals refer to them as Raven Boys. Since the Raven Boys are known for bratty, entitled behavior, Blue and the other townspeople aren’t their biggest fans.
After her ghostly close encounter, though, Blue becomes slightly obsessed with finding this Raven Boy named Gansey; meanwhile, the reader learns Gansey has an obsession of his own. Richard “Dick” Gansey isn’t just an Aglionby boy – he’s one of the richest of the Aglionby boys. He lives with two of his close friends off-campus in a loft located in an old manufacturing building; there, he’s crafted a miniature model of the entire town of Henrietta and amassed books and notes detailing his life’s obsession – following the ley line (an energy field) that runs through the town of Henrietta to locate a long-buried but still very powerful Welsh king, Glendower. Legend has it the person who discovers the burial site of Glendower and helps wake him from death will be granted a wish of his/her choosing. Gansey recruits his two roommates and another Aglionby friend to assist in his quest: Ronan, the hulking, short-tempered and menacing roommate; Noah, the quiet, weird roommate; and Adam, a poor boy from a trailer park attending Aglionby on scholarship and too prideful to accept any monetary assistance from his wealthy classmates. As different as these Raven boys are, they share a loyalty to Gansey and determination to find Glendower.
After a chance meeting between the boys and Blue at a café, Adam takes a liking to Blue who in turn ignores her mother’s warnings and becomes friends with all the boys. She can’t help herself! It’s not so much that she likes Adam – which she definitely does, only there’s that whole kiss-of-death thing - but it’s their quest to find Glendower, and Gansey’s involvement in particular, that draws her to the Raven Boys. Her ability to affect supernatural energies might help them, and in finding Glendower, she might help Gansey avoid his fate.
After I finished reading The Raven Boys, my one criticism was going to be that while Stiefvater took such great pains to set up the story (Blue’s interactions with her clairvoyant family, how the Raven boys came to be friends, the mystery behind Glendower, the great search for the burial site), the ending seemed too abrupt, and I was left with lots of unanswered questions. Since I read a galley, I missed the whole Raven Cycle One part, so when I saw on Stiefvater’s website that this is book one of a four-part series, I did a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” Okay, I’m cool with the ending now. ;-) Like her recent book, The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys is an ambitious Y.A. novel. It’s got everything - fantasy, romance, bromance, supernatural beings, a murder mystery, humor – but also like The Scorpio Races, it takes some time to get into the story. Readers who stick with it, though, will be rewarded with some powerful storytelling.
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle One) is set for release on September 18. To learn more about Stiefvater, The Raven Boys, and her other fab-o works, visit her website at http://maggiestiefvater.com/ .

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