Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater: Indiana Jones and the lost Tarot Cards

The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 2012.
ARC Digital Copy via NetGalley

Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychic women, who have told her for years that she will kill her first love with a kiss.  Consequently, she has avoided the wealthly Raven boys of nearby Aglionby Academy, so called for the raven patch on their school uniforms.   Naturally, Blue is none too thrilled when a group of Raven boys begin to appear everywhere in her life.  These Raven boys are held together by their irresistible poised ringleader, Gansey but they are as different as they can be, ranging from the quiet Noah, the brash and angry Ronan, and the hardworking local scholarship student Adam.  Gansey is on a quest for the lost Glendower, a vanished ancient Welsh king.  Legend tells that whomever finds him will have the power of one wish.  Blue is wrapped into their friendship and the adventure, assisting the group in following the magical ley lines that may lead them to Glendower.  The quest is not without adversity, foes, secrets, and danger for each member of the group, though their friendship is strong and the adventure gripping.  The first in a series, this book is as exciting as it is mysterious.  Though child abuse, murder, and violence occur, the strong themes of friendship and family outweigh them.  This title is a strongly recommended purchase for all school and public libraries, particularly those housing other Stiefvater titles; it has appeal for all readers aged 12 and up (including adventure seeking adults!). 

By now, everyone and their brother's girlfriends cousins friends dog appears to have reviewed and/or read this one - I totally dragged my feet in writing this - but I'm going to tell all two of my dedicated readers about this new fiesty, paranormal, fun Stiefvater book-child.  Although, frankly, I'm torn about calling this title paranormal, or even's both and none of these thing, and neither of them do it justice.  The closest thing I've seen to summing up the appeal of is came in a tweet I read and cannot now find, which basically called this book a pseudo-literary Indiana Jones for teens.  Touche.  Damn straight too - Gansey is a total Indy, replete with an Achilles heel (ie. bees instead of snakes).  All he lacks is an awesome hat.  Though we get much of the story told from Blue's pov (it alternates between Blue, Gansey, Adam, and the villainous Latin teacher whose name I forget), it truly is Gansey who is the ringleader in this motley crew of prepsters. 
And what a fabulous group of friends they are!  They bicker, beat each other up, and snark at each other, but they always have each others backs, and fiercely so.  Don't we all have memories of having friendship group crushes, or the feeling of being included in such a group?  Through Blue, we get to have this experience with these Raven boys.  But like Blue, don't your feelings about the crush-worthiness of the boys shift like the ever-changing sands of time?  I mean, how can you choose between serious, hardworking, hard life, scholarship student with a complex about it Adam?  Or bad tempered bad boy with a soft spot for his baby raven and friends Ronan?  Or MAJOR SPOILER (in white, so highlight if you want to read it): sweet and quiet but oh so ghostly Noah?  Or Gansey.  Seriously, who, even you straight men and non-straight women amongst us, doesn't have a crush on Indiana Jones? 
I also love that the story is a few tea leaves short of a full Tarot deck, if you know what I mean.  No?  Me either.  It is permeated with magic, yet not in the same way other books are, perhaps because it is not as understood and therefore kind of undefinable.  But I really love that it takes stuff (psychic stuff) that is normally seen (even in Harry Potter) as kind of off-beat, and validates it, magically speaking.  But I'm totally calling Blue's kissing problem as being used to test a theory in a subsequent book.  She's going to kiss all the boys!  Kidding. 
This brings me to my final point in this ramble:  I wish I could unread this right now, but reread it in the future.  Frankly, I am tired of waiting around for sequels, devouring my desserts in small bites, one at a time, spread out across years!  If you feel the same way, wait!  You will not be disappointed, even if you don't wait, but methinks this series (if the crazy, teasing cliffhanger is any indication) will be best enjoyed all at once, on a cold fall day, with a steaming mug of hot cider! 

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