Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Book Review: The Raven Boys (Raven Boys I)

Blue has spent the majority of her sixteen years being told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When Blue meets Gansey's spirit on the corpse road she knows there is only one reason why - either he is her true love or she has killed him. Determined to find out the truth, Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys, four boys from the local private school (lead by Gansey) who are on a quest to discover Glendower - a lost ancient Welsh King who is buried somewhere along the Virginia ley line. Whoever finds him will be granted a supernatural favour. Never before has Blue felt such magic around her. But is Gansey her true love? She can't imagine a time she would feel like that, and she is adamant not to be the reason for his death. Where will fate lead them?
(source: Amazon)

 A friend of mine recommended this book and after her praise I had high hopes for it. Supernatural elements, a mysterious death, a curse... what's not to like?

Blue is the daughter of a psychic and lives in a house full of women connected to a higher level of existence. She has no abilities of her own, though she seems to amplify the psychic powers of those around her. One night, she accompanies her aunt to the corpse road because the spirits of those that die within the next year will come along that path. With no psychic abilities, Blue sees none of these spirits, except for Gansey. Having been told all her life that if she kisses her true love he will die, she assumes she might be to blame for his death, but because he is a Raven Boy, a rich kid going to an elite school in town, she also thinks this very unlikely. And yet, more by chance than choice, Blue gets involved with the Raven Boys and the mystery unfolds.

I found this book surprisingly difficult to read. For one, while I liked all the characters and rooted for them, I had no deeper connection to any of them.

Gansey is the leader of the Raven Boys. Outwardly he appears like a typical born rich teenager, but he has a deep love for his friends and often struggles to say the things he wants to say because of the way he was raised, which results in him insulting people when he doesn't mean to. He is the glue that holds the group together.

Ronan is coming to terms with his father's death by acting out - drinking, skipping classes, and just generally being a jerk. Yet he is not unlikable and comes with a mystery of his own - which is not answered in this book.

Adam is from a poor background and only goes to the private school because of a partial scholarship. He is very ambitious and determined to make it by himself, without Gansey's pity/charity money (he refuses to let Gansey pay for anything and instead works many hours a week to be able to afford the school) or the help of his family, who are anything but supportive of his choice. In a way, he is the most sensitive and sensible of the Raven Boy quartet and was the character I related with the most.

Noah is the quiet one of the group. He hovers in the background and rarely talks, yet when he says something it's always on point - and he's definitely not as forgettable as he appears at first.

Together the four form a unit determined to uncover the secrets of the ley line and find Glendower, even though Glendower is Gansey's obsession and the others didn't know about him until they met Gansey - and though Gansey is described as having this "drawing in" effect on people, I sometimes found their dedication to this cause a bit questionable. Then again, a strong friendship and the chance to solve a mystery are their own pull.

Blue is our female lead and though she was not badly written I considered her a pretty average character. She is mostly driven by her curiosity about the ley line and Gansey's involvement in it - and her own potential involvement in Gansey's death. As a female lead she is not bad: she is kind, independent, won't be told what to do and doesn't take any nonsense from the boys, but somehow I felt there was more potential in that character than Maggie Stiefvater used. In fact, all of the characters felt like they had more in them than what we got to see, which was a real shame.

Plotwise it is a straight up mystery with a couple of subplots, some of them further the mystery, others serve as character development, particularly for the boys. Plus there's the almost obligatory romance aspect, though that stays firmly in the background which is refreshing in this type of YA book.

Unfortunately, I found the writing to be inconsistent. Some scenes are beautifully crafted and tightly written, with a clear POV character that allows a certain insight into their psyche. At others, it took me a couple of sentence if not paragraphs to figure out whose head I was supposed to be in, which made the whole scene fall flat.

All in all, it made for an interesting read with an appealing premise that peeked my curiosity. Unfortunately, it did not grab me enough, so I am not sure if I will continue reading the series, even though it ended rather abruptly and instead of tying up loose ends it created another. But it was not a bad book as such. 3 out of 5 stars, a solid average.

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