Review of “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater


Blue Sargent is 16 and she has never kissed a boy. It’s not that she hasn’t thought about it, but there are a couple of barriers. She comes from a rather poor, eccentric, rural matriarchal Virginia family of psychics, all of whom are convinced that if Blue kisses her first love, he will die. Furthermore, most of the eligible boys are from the elite Aglionby Academy. As Blue describes it:

“‘It’s an all-boys school. For politicians’ sons and oil barons’ sons and for’ – Blue struggled to think of who else might be rich enough to send their kids to Aglionby – ‘the sons of mistresses living off hush money.’”

Blue doesn’t like these boys, who drive around town in their fancy cars wearing the Aglionby raven emblem like “an advancing army”:

“They think they’re better than us and that we’re all falling all over ourselves for them….”

The townies call them Raven Boys. Well, part of this plot arc is easy to discern. Blue gets involved with some Raven Boys and comes to see them as friends and possibly more.

But this is not just a coming of age/love story. The Raven Boys, led by Dick Gansey (called Gansey by his friends), are trying to find the remains of Owen Glendower, a medieval Welsh noble who disappeared from Wales after fighting the English for Welsh freedom.

[Owain Glyn Dwr, born in the mid 1300’s, was the last native Welshman to hold the title of Prince of Wales. As Gansey explains in the book, Glyndŵr was driven from his strongholds in 1408-9 and there was no documented sighting of him after 1412. His ultimate fate remains a mystery.]

Statue of Owain Glyndwr in Corwen, Wales

Statue of Owain Glyndwr in Corwen, Wales

Gansey has come to believe Glendower’s body was brought to this area of Henrietta, Virginia, known for being rich in “ley lines” or trackways emitting a special psychic or mystical energy.

Ley Lines converging over Virginia according to the Richmond League of Occult Research and Education

Ley Lines converging over Virginia, from the Richmond League of Occult Research and Education

Blue is well aware of the ley lines in the area, thanks to the supernatural talents of her family. Blue herself does not display their sense of “vision,” but on the other hand, her presence seems to enhance the skills of the others, so they include her in their readings and other spiritual activities. As she explains to Gansey, “I guess I make things that need energy stronger. I’m like the walking battery.” Gansey has a better analogy:

“‘You’re the table everyone wants at Starbucks, Gansey mused … Next to the wall plug.”

Blue is unable to resist joining up with Gansey and his friends in their quest to find Glendower. Legend holds that:

“The king sleeps still, under a mountain… Fortunate is the soul who finds the king and is brave enough to call him to wakefulness, for the king will grant him a favor, as wondrous as can be imagined by a mortal man.”

But Gansey and his friends aren’t the only ones drawn to this area in the hunt for Glenower. And not all of those on the quest are benevolent.

Discussion: The answer to why Maggie Stiefvater writes such cute and endearing and appealing books is because she is that way. There’s just no two ways about it! I follow her blog, and she is irresistibly charming and funny and talented, and so are her books, even if they have titles like “The Raven Boys” which makes you think you will in no way like this one even though you’ve LOVED every other one by her. What a non-surprise then for me to find that I loved this book as well!

Evaluation: I didn’t expect the magical elements in this story, although this is not a new departure for Stiefvater. Perhaps a bigger surprise was that the “villain” was a bit cardboardy. I did adore the other characters though. In conclusion, so far I didn’t love, LOVE this like I did The Scorpio Races or the “Shiver Trilogy”, but I definitely won’t be able to resist the next installment of this planned four-volume series!

Rating: 4/5

Published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 2012

The book trailer is below, for which the author did the animation, composed the music, and played it as well, in her inimitable multi-talented manner.

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14 Responses to Review of “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Bookworm1858 says:

    This is actually my favorite Stiefvater-I did have high expectations for it after reading some great reviews and though I found the beginning a bit slow, I ended up just adoring it. Can’t wait for the next installment!

  2. kristi says:

    I have this on my kindle, but didn’t realize it was a series. Now I don’t know if I want to start it yet. I’m so impatient and hate having to wait for the next installment. Glad to hear you loved it.

  3. I’m excited for this one but I think that I also want to wait until the other installments come out.

  4. sandynawrot says:

    Alrighty then! That is basically all I needed. I’m off to see if I can get this from the library on audio 🙂

  5. Ok – quit copying me…LOL would you believe I am listening to this one on audio right now? I am not reading your review yet…. but the jury on this one is still out for me – this is a much different book then the Shiver series.

  6. zibilee says:

    I have The Scorpio Races, and haven’t listened yet, but I want to, because I have heard such great things about it. I also have been curious about this book, but didn’t really know what it was about, or what made it special. Now I do, and I will be adding it to my list. I really like that there is some historical drama in the midst of all the magic!

  7. BermudaOnion says:

    I really want to try one of Stiefvater’s books – which one do you think I’d like the best?

  8. Charlie says:

    Well you’ve sold me on this; I wasn’t really interested in it before, didn’t get further than the premise. The combination of contemporary and possible fantasy sounds good from what you’ve said.

  9. bookharbinger says:

    Yay! This review gladdens my heart. This book isn’t my favorite of hers either but I still really enjoyed it, as I have all of her books. She’s auto-buy for life. LOVE her.

  10. Beth F says:

    I’ve heard such good things about this one — I really should read it soon. I usually love her work.

  11. I’ve been meaning to get a copy of this one to my son. He loved her other books and I’m sure I would like it too!

  12. This was the first Stiefvater I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. What struck me while reading it was how beautiful and elegant her language is. There were passages that I wanted to highlight, and I normally don’t read like that. I’ll have to check out her blog!

  13. Jenners says:

    I suppose I shall have to read this author at some point then.

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