The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book One)


Samantha Joslin

The Raven Cycle is a book series containing four novels which follow five main characters and their intertwining lives. The first novel is called The Raven Boys, and although it focuses primarily on protagonist Blue Sargent, different chapters shift into different focuses of omniscient third person narration. The novel takes place in Henrietta, Virginia, and gives an inside look at both the lower-class and upper-class sides of the area, however this series is predominantly about the magical side of the town. Blue is the only non-psychic in a family of clairvoyants, and as such she’s the only person in her household that can’t see the strange curse that’s been hovering over her since she was born: if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Due to this strange, inexplicable curse, Blue has invented two rules to live by: “One, stay away from boys, because they are trouble, and two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they are bastards.” These rules are inevitably broken throughout the book as, through a series of both magical and coincidental events, Blue befriends four boys who go to the elite, expensive Aglionby boys’ private school.  She then joins them on their search for a sleeping Welsh king that lived over six centuries ago and is supposedly resting in Henrietta. The king’s name is Glendower, and Richard Gansey III (called just “Gansey”), Adam Parrish and Ronan Lynch have been searching for him for several years; this search is what drives the plot of the novel. Blue works as a guide into the Aglionby/Glendower world while managing to exhibit her unique, quirky personality. It’s rare to find a main character in Young Adult (YA) Fiction that has a personality at all, rather than just being a portal through which the reader sees the story.

Although all of the characters live in unusual circumstances, whether it’s suffering abuse at home or turning out to be a ghost, the book remains relevant to all high school students due to the relatable feelings and relationships described by author Maggie Stiefvater. The high-schoolers experience faltering friendships, jealousy and crushes throughout the otherwise otherworldly novel and the dialogue and interactions between the high-school boys is utterly believable. The core themes of magic and divination are cushioned by thorough, if not factual, explanations that make the reader feel as if these impossible things are actually possible. Amazingly, Stiefvater writes so persuasively so as to make the reader believe in the magic her characters experience. A single character from the book would be interesting and deep enough to carry the whole series, but five equally complicated, damaged and entirely believable characters populate the novel, making it intriguing even when there’s no action.

Stiefvater writes with whimsical, imaginative language, so much so that it sounds like poetry more than prose most of the time. She expertly uses gorgeous turns of phrase without being overly dramatic or straying from the story-line and her metaphors and rich imagery provide insight into character and plot development rather than acting as a distraction.

It is difficult to find a flaw among Stiefvater’s beautiful language and intense character development, but there is one thing that stands out. There are startling plot twists toward the end of the novel, however other than that, the first book in a series of four promises more than it gives. Early on a few of the characters experience premonitions of events that will happen later; by the end of the novel, none of those premonitions have come true. No matter how well-written the novel is, unfulfilled expectations leave the reader with a sense of disappointment. However, the lack of action is easily made up for by the beautiful writing style of this Printz Award winning author, by the intricate and intriguing characters and by the expertly illustrative imagery used by Stiefvater.