The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book 1) by Maggie Stiefvater
I'm constantly amazed by the new, exciting, imaginative things writers are bringing to their pages these days. Reading as much as I do makes me think someday, things will all slowly become the same. But in books like The Raven Boys, I see they never will. As unique as snowflakes, each of our imaginations are wholly and completely different and I'm pleased that so many creative people choose to share their ideas with us.

The Raven Boys begins with a girl named Blue Sargent and her family of psychics - her mom, her aunts, and other hangers-on who are constantly at their shared communal house. All of them possessing some level of supernatural power. Blue has not developed any psychic ability of her own yet, but she's still quite special. Her mere presence is an amplifier, super-charging the energies of any nearby mystical items or places and also increasing the abilities of any psychics around her. Despite not having powers of her own, Blue shockingly hears the voice of a ghost one night in a dark cemetery. The ghost is a boy, her own age, and he communicates directly to her. The events that follow make it clear to Blue that she is inextricably tied up in the fates of many others. And she has no choice but to mix it up with a group of unpredictable prep school kids called the Raven Boys to see where things lead. As it turns out, life with them is quite fun and definitely filled with adventure. Plus she might have even found first love...if she can pick between the two boys to whom she feels drawn. Above all, she still has to hope that her first kiss doesn't kill her true love, as it's been prophesied to do. But what do psychics know anyways?

The Raven Boys is full of excellent writing, creative concepts, clever twists, and surreal surprises. In the beginning, I thought this would be a one-sided affair where we see things only from Blue's vantage point. I figured I could probably guess where things were basically headed. However, the novel quickly surprised me when Miss Stiefvater unexpectedly jumped to the Raven Boys’ perspectives. It turns out they are determinedly working on some supernatural research of their own. They even recorded the same conversation that Blue had with the ghost! And that ghost is a boy named Gansey, the de facto leader of this group of friends. The others are shy, came from nothing Adam; dangerous, carefree Ronan; and quiet, not at all who you thought he was Noah. They are called Raven Boys since that's the mascot of the rich, elitist prep school they all attend. But these guys are not your typical group of rich snobs. They are on a quest for a legendary ancient Welsh king who they believe is buried somewhere in the nearby Virginia hills. And a girl like Blue who amplifies the energies of supernatural things and places? She's most welcome on their quest!

I fully expect the romance angle to increase and take center stage throughout the rest of this series. A difficult and most likely tragic love triangle is materializing between Blue, Gansey and Adam. I wonder how steamy the romance scenes will get. Will they push this from a high school book to an adult book? The Raven Boys doesn’t have any inappropriate action in it so it’s safe for boys and girls in high school. But again, I expect things to get a lot more intense during books 2, 3 and 4.

There are a couple of specific things about the fantastic writing which I’d like to point out. Miss Stiefvater’s descriptions are lush and they immerse all the senses. There is a certain supernatural area of the woods in the Virginia hills which the crew visits a couple of times and the writer skillfully drops you right there amongst the trees with Blue and the four boys. There’s one particular tree which proves to be incredibly important in their search and it’s clear to me that Miss Stiefvater must have actually walked some woods somewhere and come across such a tree in order to describe it so well. I really dig this kind of focused attention to detail and I think it shows a lot of respect to the reader when the author is willing to - and has the ability to - execute such richly descriptive passages.

Also she creates a cast of wonderful characters for us to cheer for, cringe at, worry about and fear. Blue’s mother and her aunts are all fascinating with their diverse personalities and peculiar habits as psychics. Each Raven Boy brings something unique to the table so different readers will be drawn to a different one based on their own backgrounds and experiences. The bad guy is a once was rich but know has nothing, unstable Latin teacher at the boys’ prep school named Barrington Whelk. He’s also searching for the mysterious Welsh king for his own selfish reasons. And he has a ghostly connection to the foursome of students he's pitted against, which provides an excellent twist to the story. Then, of course, there is Blue - a smart, witty, wily, brave girl who makes an admirable lead character for the series.

Here are two passages I highlighted while reading:

(Neeve is Blue’s enigmatic aunt who’s the strongest psychic of the whole family, but also the most unpredictable and possibly dangerous.)

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love,” Neeve said, “or you killed him.”


(This quote is by a British character named Malory who occasionally helps Gansey with his paranormal searchings.)

“Oh no, Mr. Gansey, that’s where you’re mistaken. The spirit roads are underground. Even if they weren’t always, they’re now covered by meters of dirt accumulated over the centuries,” Malory said. “No one’s really touched them for hundreds of years. You and I, we don’t walk the lines. We just follow the echoes.”

Wonderful wordsmanship!

So, obviously I highly recommend The Raven Boys, for high schoolers and anyone else who likes paranormal, psychic adventure books. With a bit of magic dashed in for good effect. Now, I will say that there are some rituals performed in the book and some stuff that could be viewed as “occult” in a negative way. Pentagrams and maybe some kind of demonic presence being inadvertently raised. But the dark stuff is not the focus of the story, more a side plot, and I honestly was not offended or concerned by any of it. For me, the book is simply new, intriguing, exciting, and written extremely well. As I said before, I’ll absolutely be tackling the next 3 books soon, so I’ll keep you posted on how things develop.

Happy Reading!