The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, A Haunting Tale of Friendship, Family, Privilege, and the Supernatural

At the heart of Maggie Stiefvater’s latest work for young adults, The Raven Boys, lies a haunting tale that delivers so much more than a mere story of the supernatural, as Stiefvater’s fans have come to expect. This intricately woven novel explores the depths of friendship, the true meaning of family, the mystery of life after death, and the lengths some people will go to achieve the impossible.

Sixteen-year-old Blue Sargent’s clairvoyant mother and “Aunts” have warned her against falling in love for as long as she can remember. But these warnings come not from the the jaded wounds of the women’s own experiences, but from their reading of her future. Each has “seen” Blue’s fate: one day she will kill her “true love” with a kiss. The prophecy looms over the story like a mythical combination of the fruit just out of  Tantalus’s reach, and a precarious Sword of Damocles hanging overhead. With each page readers will find themselves alternately cheering for and worrying over the Raven Boys of the title, students at the prestigious Aglionby Academy, a private college-prep school of the rich, famous, and spoiled. The boys themselves, however, have something other than romance and mischief-making on their minds. Led by the charismatic, charming, and notably not stereotypical rich kid, Richard Gansey, III, the boys are hunting for the final resting place of the legendary Owen Glendower, a medieval Welsh noble, and “freedom fighter” who fought against the English occupation of his homeland. According to myths told about the knight, his body was brought to the Americas and buried where the mysterious powers of ancient Ley Lines have preserved him in a perpetual sleep. To the one who awakens him, Glendower will grant a wish.

But make no mistake, this is not a story of forbidden love and fairy tale quests. The boys of Aglionby, along with Blue, embark on a search for the sleeping knight that puts them all directly in the path of others searching for him, whose motives for awaking the knight involve dark secrets and revenge. Using the arts of a master storyteller, humor, imagination, and a keenly observed ear for the voices of young people, Stiefvater takes her readers deep into the individual psyches of her characters, revealing the painful truth of their longing, their losses, and the complexity of family dynamics, both the love and the hate. Along the way, Stiefvater leaves a trail of clues that point straight to the inevitable revelations about the boys’ friendships, lives, and one not so restful afterlife.

While the story hints at sexual tension, it barely moves beyond flirtatious glances between Blue and Adam, the Raven Boy who attends Aglionby on scholarship and works three jobs to pay  the hefty tuition. Mild incidents of “questionable” behavior include drinking, neglect of school work, and the practice of witchcraft. The two most violent scenes grow organically out of the story and involve the beating of Adam by his own father, and some gun play, that, while tense, spare the reader gory details.

The conclusion of this first volume of a series will leave you eager and anxious to return to the quest in the next volume.

Sex – 0

Violence – V

Questionable Behavior – ?

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