Like many of Maggie Stiefvater’s previous novels, The Raven Boys takes existing paranormal myths and legends and weaves them into something new and creative.
Blue Sargent was raised in an unconventional home, living with not only her clairvoyant mother, but also with numerous relatives and friends who were similarly gifted with the Sight. Blue, unfortunately, does not have the same abilities. Instead, she has a rather grim prophecy hanging over her head that has been repeated to her many times throughout her life: her true love is destined to die. As a result, her mother warns her never to kiss anyone, and Blue—ever practical—complies.
Every year on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue accompanies her mother to the ruin of an old church in their hometown of Henrietta, Virginia to transcribe the names of the spirits walking the “corpse road.” These spirits belong to the people who will die within the coming year. But this year, things were different. Not only does Blue’s mother send her half-sister Neeve in her stead, but more importantly, for the first time, Blue sees the spirit of a young man. She recognizes, by the raven emblem on his uniform, that he attends a local private school. Shaken by this turn of events, she scrambles to get his name before he disappears with the other spirits. She hopes there might be some way she can help him, but unfortunately, there is another pressing issue at play. Seeing a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve when you’re a non-Seer means that you’re either going to fall in love with that person or kill that person. Either way it means the young man Blue sees, Gansey, is marked for an early death.
Inevitably Blue and Gansey cross paths, and she befriends him and his group of troubled friends from the prestigious Aglionby Academy. Blue finds herself breaking her two cardinal rules, to stay away from boys because they are trouble and to steer clear of Aglionby boys in particular because they are known to be jerks. Together, Blue and her “raven boys” embark on an adventure that is as dangerous as it is exciting.
As someone who enjoys folklore and history, I found the discussion of ley lines and sleeping Welsh kings intriguing. I also enjoyed that the characters had many layers. Blue was practical, but when Gansey’s friend Adam starts to show romantic interest in her, that practicality starts to show cracks. Even Gansey, who is the epitome of confidence, has moments when he is uncertain of his position among his friends. Even though these characters deal with some pretty heavy situations, they still have the compulsion, as many teenagers do, to test the limits of their impending adulthood. Blue not only defies her mother’s wishes for her to stay away from the Aglionby boys, but she also strains against the boundaries of the prophecy. The boys also push the limits not only when it comes to their quest, but also when it comes to school and their personal relationships. These characters have real depth and experience real development as the story goes on.
The Raven Boys Cycle will include four novels with the second novel tentatively set to release in Fall 2013. For me, the wait is going to be excruciating. In the meantime, I can highly recommend The Raven Boys as a great paranormal mystery with a fantastic cast of characters and an engaging and exciting plot.