Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading: The Raven Boys

Okay, I must admit, I didn’t love this book as much as THE SCORPIO RACES.

But I still loved it.

And I’m very pleased that the ending is not a cliffhanger, which I was afraid it might be. Sure, there’re important unresolved questions, but this book does come to what I think is a satisfying ending point.

The characters are just wonderful — not just the main characters, but definitely the secondary characters as well. Blue is a truly excellent protagonist, but she wouldn’t be so appealing if she didn’t have her whole weird family to play off. I love her mother and Persephone and Calla. I didn’t quite see that whole thing coming with Neeve, but on the other hand I wasn’t very surprised by it, either. It was very satisfying to see Neeve outmaneuvered by the rest of them!

I loved the raven boys, too. Especially Adam. And Gansey, and the way they really, really don’t understand each other, and the way that clash of principals plays out. I love Ronin, too, poor guy; so angry and damaged. And despite the tricky consequences, I’m glad he stepped in for Adam there toward the end. I hope things work out for him, and I am dying to know what in the world the truth is about his father’s death.

Noah was always more of a cipher, but of course Maggie Stiefvater handled him that was on purpose, and it worked beautifully.

Of course the viewpoint was much more scattered in THE RAVEN BOYS than in THE SCORPIO RACES. In this book we get not only Blue as a pov protagonist, but also Adam and Gansey and Barrington, though thankfully not very often for that last, since Barrington is not a very appealing guy.

The plot flows beautifully, from an excellent prologue that begins: Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love and ends “You’re Maura’s daughter,” Neeve said, and before Blue could answer, she added, “This is the year you’ll fall in love.”

How about that for establishing tension right from the beginnings?

Everyone in Blue’s family (except Blue herself) is a psychic, you see. I love the way Stiefvater handles this, by the way; she makes it seem crazy-weird and yet almost normal at the same time. And the we get this strange situation where we can’t tell how the heck this true-love stuff is supposed to work out: Should we be worried most about Gansey? Or about Adam? Or both, even? And yet there isn’t exactly a love triangle, either, and avoiding triangleness must have taken some adroit handling because the potential for major trianglehood is all over this situation. I’m glad Stiefvater avoided it, because I do find triangles tiresome, though continuing to sidestep the potential for triangleness (if she does continue to avoid it in the next book) looks it may take even fancier footwork.

So, anyway, I’m definitely right there for the next book. Surely it’s due out this year sometime? And I think I will go back and look for Stiefvater’s paranormal series now, because she is just an amazing writer and at this point I am ready to grab up anything she writes.

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11 Comments Recent Reading: The Raven Boys

  1. Mary Beth

    Oh yay, I’m glad you enjoyed! I actually went on a major Stiefvater binge last week. I’d been avoiding the werewolf series and the Fairie Queen series because I was convinced they couldn’t be as good as THE SCORPIO RACES or even RAVEN BOYS, and while they weren’t (and I’m glad I got them from the library instead of buying), they were still fun.

    My sister and I went on a roadtrip to Idaho this weekend, I brought THE SCORPIO RACES for my sister to read aloud while I drove. While I am mostly impressed at her stamina — reading aloud for 300 miles is no joke! — I also learned that it’s an excellent book for reading aloud (and discussing in between chapters). We spent quite a while debating exactly when, in this alternate universe, the story was meant to take place; I think we settled on a vague alternate 1970s, with Thisby itself being much more backward, as isolated rural places often are. (I argued passionately for 1930s or 40s, based on both Puck and her younger brother wearing hats when they went out, but she wasn’t convinced.)

    Back to the THE RAVEN BOYS — I think I’ve seldom read a book where I liked the whole main cast so much, in such very different ways. As soon as I think that one character is my favorite, I remember another, and how much I liked that one, too. Which is great. I never got bored with anyone’s point of view (well, except Barrington Whelk, but his were thankfully short and few) and I really loved the different relationships that played out among them: I agree with you that Stiefvater did a great job avoiding triangle-ness, mostly I think by having the characters have other and more important concerns than teenage crushes.

    THE DREAM THIEVES is out in September this year, and it’s got Ronan on the cover, which I am VERY excited about. He was so nasty and vicious at times, and then a damaged teenage boy still trying to be a really good friend at others, and I might actually have cheered when he came through for Adam at the end. I think we’re going to learn a lot more about his father, and also about his raven — that was an excellent last line, wasn’t it?

  2. Maureen E

    I’m not sure I’ll be able to love any Stiefvater book as much as The Scorpio Races, but The Raven Boys does come pretty darn close. I loved it!

    And the we get this strange situation where we can’t tell how the heck this true-love stuff is supposed to work out: Should we be worried most about Gansey? Or about Adam? Or both, even? And yet there isn’t exactly a love triangle, either, and avoiding triangleness must have taken some adroit handling because the potential for major trianglehood is all over this situation.

    Yes! Yes! Everything still feels so fluid and purposefully so, which is a really interesting counterpoint to the idea of visions and foretelling that’s also present. Liz Burns’ review has a really interesting comment thread on that subject.

    I also really liked that Blue is comfortable and happy being weird with her weird family. She has some family issues, but wanting to be ‘normal’ is not one of them. I feel like this is a pov we rarely see in YA at the moment and it made me happy.

  3. Rachel

    Oh, gosh, yes, that last line was something else! And yes, it really is hard to pick my favorite character among the raven boys. I think maybe Adam? But then I don’t know. I loved them all!

    I am amazed that your sister could read anything for 300 miles! Wow. But The Scorpio Races definitely would be a good one to talk about as well as just read.

  4. Rachel

    I didn’t think of that — about Blue being happy with her weird family — but you are so right! Not a trace of the but-I-just-want-to-be-normal angst that you see so much. In fact, the angst meter reads low in general, because though everyone has problems — do they ever! — they don’t emote all over the place about everything. Stiefvater is so much more subtle than many other YA writers. Or maybe just better at characterization.

    Hi, Charlotte — well, I hope I love the werewolf ones, because I just bought ’em. I don’t think my expectations are too high, though, because I know almost everybody seems to think they’re pretty minor compared to these later novels. I had forgotten about the Faerie ones, so I guess I better look them up!

  5. Mary Beth

    Well, it was 300 miles spread out over two days — actually a 700 mile trip but we talked and played road trip games a good chunk of the way. Still, she was reading for a couple of hours straight, both days!

    I think I would like Adam best in person, but found Ronan most fascinating to read about — as well as Adam and Gansey’s reactions to him. He is not ever a restful character, but he was INTERESTING. but then I loved Gansey too, and how the others interacted with him, with this strange but very believable mix of love and admiration and resentment. Looking forward to seeing how they are reflected in different point of views in the next book.

    There were done things I really liked in the Wolves books, and some I merely tolerated; my suspension of disbelief faltered a few times, and I think some plot threads were not as adeptly handled, but I still really enjoyed them. She has more of the messed-up teens with messed-up backgrounds who are still (mostly) wonderfully functional. I like her low tolerance for angst. More emphasis on solving obe’s problems instead of wallowing! (Though we do get at least one truly damaged character, like Ronan — who was, again, one of my favorites. Oh well.)

  6. Elaine T

    Did you read it on the Kindle?

    Thanks for reminding me of all the good in RAVEN BOYS. I found the POV shifts too many, and wished writers would go back to omniscent instead of chopping things up by chapter POVs. And the object of Gansey’s quest caused my suspension of disbelief to collapse with a thud every time it came up. *

    But Blue and her family, her attitude to her family and normality and the characterizations of the boys, are all wonderful.

    As I followed the link above and read someone else’s review of it & comment thread discussing love interests, I realized I could see Blue eventually pairing up with Ronan. Even if he isn’t her ‘true love’.

    *yeah, I KNOW: King Arthur sleeping, Sir Francis Drake leading the Wild Hunt, etc., that is all British and stays in Britain. Gansey’s object is kinda like putting Patton sleeping on Atlantis as a legendary power. It just doesn’t work for me.

  7. Rachel

    No, I read THE RAVEN BOYS as a paper copy; I’ve had it down on my shelves forever. I bought the werewolf ones for my Kindle, though!

    So far I’ve read most of two books on the Kindle; I more or less like it, but for easiest use, I have to take it out of its case. Otherwise I can’t reach the left page controls with my thumb, which is annoying as I often find I want to hold it with my left hand. But the case is easy to attach and detach, and the case is also attractive, and I like having it to protect the Kindle when I’m not reading. I’m getting used to the keyboard and I like that part well enough, better than I think I would like using a touchscreen. I could indeed wish for a light like on the Paperwhite; I hadn’t realized how dim the display would be; but I think it will work great for reading outside. I’ll find out aboutthat for sure when it’s REALLY spring, which alas is not yet.

    And I can’t believe I didn’t think of trying the read-to-me function while washing that mountain of dishes last night! Oh, well.

    Also, I must admit, the books I’ve read so far are not really great, so I do need to read one that is fabulous to see if I can fall into the reading experience with the Kindle as well as I can with a book.

    Okay, yeah, I admit that I didn’t really believe in the object of Gansey’s quest either, but I was willing to believe that HE believed in it — at least mostly.

    Ronin IS fascinating — and I’m rooting for him to straighten things out in his head — and that raven is just way cool.

  8. Elaine T

    what kind of case for your Kindle do you have? I can fold mine back so the left hand controls (on the Kindle Keyboard) are reachable.

    When I first read on the Kindle I noticed it wasn’t a book. Eventually, and I don’t remember how long it took, it went as invisible as paper.

    I like the characterization of all the boys, no wallowing anywhere.

    I don’t understand people who think that last line about where Ronan got the raven is a cliffhanger, and puzzling. Seems to me to be a datapoint – extremely effective one! – and to be meant literally.

  9. Rachel

    The cover opens like a book; I don’t think it’s meant to fold all the way back behind the Kindle. But I think that the extra quarter-inch or so it gives to the bottom border is what’s stopping me from hitting the turn-the-page button with my left thumb. I just don’t have very big hands.

    Oh, it’s the raven that’s seen as a cliffhanger? I would call that a puzzle and a hook, but certainly not a cliffhanger. Note to everybody: a cliffhanger is where you leave one or more characters in imminent danger of death or dismemberment at the end of a book. Just revealing that thing about the raven doesn’t count! : )

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