This is going to be another one of those times when I completely gush about a new book and say just about nothing negative in regard to it, because it is PERFECTION. Five stars, again. And trust me, it's really hard to get 5 stars from me. Yes, this is going to end up being one of those books that I put on a pedestal and turn all red in the face if ever I see or hear a negative word about it.
So this is a little backward, but The Raven Boys was my first Maggie Stiefvater book. I've never read the Shiver series, and I own The Scorpio Races but haven't read that yet either. So I went into this book completely blind and not really knowing what to expect. But HOLY CRAP is my mind blown. I'm writing this review two days after finishing the book because I've been having trouble even forming the right words.
Let me just organize my thoughts into categories here. Of course, I must start with my most important category:
The characters in this book are some of the best I've ever encountered. Like, they're so flawed and real but also still characters in the sense that they're exciting and new, and can't really be compared to anyone in real life. Of course these are just vague descriptions of a bunch of characters, so I'll go character-by-character.
First, there's the main character, Blue. I just love her. She doesn't take crap from anyone. She has a pretty leash-free relationship with her mother, and doesn't really listen even when her mother does tell her what to do. She stands up to the macho raven boys with a quick wit and no fear, which would be impressive even if she weren't a mere five feet tall. She isn't too keen on doing what's expected of her, but she always does the sensible thing. It's almost like she thinks about her feelings even more than she actually feels them, because she likes to be in control of them.
Then there's Gatsb-- I mean Gansey (sorry, my brain has involuntarily made connections between Gatsby and Gansey). I hardly even know how to explain what a perfect character he is, because he's so complicated and unexpected. Imagine meeting a guy who's been filthy rich his whole life. He goes to an all-boys' private school, uses his money to get what he wants, and condescends to people who aren't as rich as him. But the thing is, the condescension is completely unintentional. He doesn't realize he's doing it. And his relationship with money isn't quiet so simple either-- it's not just that he has so much of it that he doesn't think twice about throwing it at anyone who can do something for him; it's that he's never known any different. He's jealous of the people who haven't had money their whole lives, because he secretly wants to be normal. Sure, he's in-control, suave, confident Gansey. But he's also just Gansey, the boy who wants to carve his own path. The boy who gets excited about things, who wishes he hadn't been raised to use three- and four-syllable words that nobody else knows, or cherish ridiculous things like fancy cars and glass plates, or ride in private helicopters without realizing that it's a little excessive. And he cares so much about his motley little group of friends, because of the feeling he got when he met each of them-- that it was just right. He may seem like the type whose head guides his every move, but Gansey's heart is what really does it.
Then we've got Nic-- I mean Adam. The level-headed, "elegant"-looking kid from the not-a-trailer park, whose private school sweater has a pull on the shoulder because he can't afford a new one. The most trustworthy one for Blue, it seems, but oh, did I mention these characters are complicated? Yes, Adam has a dark side. I won't tell you what it is, but he's both the most innocent and down-to-earth raven boy of the bunch and possibly the most off-his-rocker. Gansey is the leader of the group, but Adam is the only one to whom Gansey ever defers. He respects Adam's opinions on all things, and Adam forces himself to see the best in Gansey, reminding himself that he doesn't mean to be condescending. His devotion is tested and tested again, and the beautiful thing is that I can't tell you it's never broken. Adam is not flawless, he has his weak moments, and he's all the more perfect because of it.
Then there's Ronan. The brute who nurses a baby raven back to health. The raven named Chainsaw who has also made appearances in his dreams, because his head is only a safe place for a chainsaw. He's got a secret and we don't know what it is. He seems tough and heartless, but he's also the person who tried to teach Gansey how to fight to protect himself, and the person who defended Adam in a situation when nobody else would dare get involved. Mostly in the first book Ronan is a mystery, but I have a feeling we'll be learning a lot more about him in the next one.
Then you've got a bunch of eccentric supporting characters, and I'll just say that you hardly even have to look to see who's talking because you can tell just by what they're saying. Which is a feat in itself.
The plot in this book is extremely twisty and confusing and I wouldn't have it any other way. It was impossible to guess what was going to happen, because half the time you're still trying to figure out what just happened. You're waiting for Blue's prophecy (that her kiss will kill her true love) to come true, but at the same time it's possible that you've already seen it. You're wondering if she's really going to fall in love with Gansey (sure seems like it), or if that was a misdirect. You're wondering what's going on in the magical world and what it has to do with the real world. My favorite thing is looking for connections in stories, and this book gives me a whole crapload of that. So I'm happy.
IT IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Do not go into this book thinking it will be a romance novel, because you will be doing yourself a serious disservice. Yes, the main hook is the whole thing about Blue being destined to kill her true love, but it is not about the romance. At least not in the first book. In this one, Blue starts seeing Adam, and it's completely innocent and adorable but it also has dark undertones because Adam's got some issues that Blue doesn't know about, and Blue knows that she's either going to kill Gansey or fall in love with him. Her relationship with Adam, believe it or not, allows her relationship with Gansey to develop, because she gets to spend time with him as friends. She gets to learn about who he really is before simply assuming that she's going to fall in love with him. It gets to be her choice (no insta-love!!!!!!!!). Gansey becomes the only person she tells about the prophecy, because at this point, to her, he seems so detached from it. I felt like this was the perfect way to start their relationship without really starting it-- and without really confirming that there will even be a relationship.
Unique, interesting, transporting, clear, and kind of a character in itself.
Beautiful. Flawless. More, please.
I think I'm going to stop myself before this becomes ridiculously long and gushy. I just had to say something because I can't stop thinking about this book and these characters and their relationships and okay bye.