The Raven Boys

With the arrival of Maggie Steifvater’s new novel, Call Down the Hawk, coming out in November The Raven Boys has been circulating across social media for the last few weeks. I last read the book a handful of years ago, mere hours after listening to a hilarious, anecdotal rendetion of Steifvater writing process, diving into my personalised copy straight after the event. Having loved it while in university I was more than eager to stumble into a reread when I found the Audiobook, free, on Spotify last month.

Rich, affluent, well bred Gansey wants the one thing his genes never afforded him: magic. Travelling the world in search of a power he can never own, attempting a quest centuries old, spurred only by small methodical breakthroughs, he drags his three idiosyncratic friends into a strange world they are only on the cusp of believing in. But when a fifth joins their group: a psychic’s daughter with no power of her own, answers start to unearth themselves and leads begin to appear. Suddenly, their collective quest pitches from the improbable to the dangerous. As events start to repeat themselves the group begin to wonder if they’re the first to search for the magic Henrietta kept secret. What lengths did the last quester go to and where are they now?

“She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.”

Characters remain at the heart of this novel. From angry and abrasive Ronan to quiet and mysterious Noah, a multitude of clashing personalities are shown throughout The Raven Boys. Gansey, as the group’s leader, is confident and likeable. His wealth makes him popular while his infectious love for the supernatural and unwavering loyalty to his friends keep him as an interesting and dynamic personality. Blue, meanwhile, is always described as sensible and restrained, although in reality her character appeared more spontaneous and rash than practical. Apart and desperate to enter the supernatural world her family love Blue never could belong, making it clear why she is drawn so heavily to four boys desperate to find magic themselves. The shared enthusiasm for their plot and ever changing relationships with one another as they gradually accept Blue into their male dominated lives creates an amiable undertone to an otherwise dark novel.

Ronan, meanwhile, was guarded and complex. His fiesty character and alluded asides to forbidden secrets make him captivating and mysterious, the reader desperate to discover what’s behind his difficult exterior. The dark and twisted past he presents, accompanied by difficult family and lack of care for his studies, intrigues readers as it is an oxymoron to the close friendship he has with his hard working, kind and almost kingly roommate, Gansey. Adam is simple and honest. Dreaming of escaping his run down trailer and abusive family he is filled with desperation and hope, the only member of their group who needs the favour Glendower promises. The final member of the group, Noah, is difficult to gauge. Illusive and quiet he feels less developed than the other protagonists, almost like a character added for plot purposes rather than creating a unique personality of his own. The dynamic between these five characters throws an unusual light on this peculiar tale, revealing five questers who are almost as nonsensical as the quest itself.

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”

While most fantasy novels favour the enchanted backdrop accompanied by a whimsical senses of magic and discovery The Raven Boys is all grit and blood. With dangerous, unexplained and aberrant occurrences that almost allude to a Shakespearean sense of perturbing the novel plays on a twisted use of nature. These darker aspects present an unnerving, yet somehow beautiful, prose that unsettles and captivates the reader equally. The setting of Henrietta, a small almost rural town in Virginia, America, nursing an uncharacteristically posh private boys school, in unique. The elegant school and it’s expensive cohort make a stark comparison to the natural mysteries that Henrietta offers, the incongruities between the two creating a compelling and well written backdrop to such a sinister tale. The environs are reflected throughout the characters as parallels are drawn between the wealthy Ronan and Gansey and Blue and Adam, who are both local to Henrietta. These stark contrasts adds a further dynamic to both the world building and the character development presented throughout the novel.

In a similar Shakespearean style the plot stems from a dangerous greed for the unnatural, promising sweet rewards at a great price, led by ambitious and selfish young men. With a sinister story and a foreboding sense of danger, amplified by ominous visions of the future, the plot is dark and twisted, nervously guiding the reader to its conclusion. The pacing is well balanced, the events spaced evenly and the tale never dull. The confusing and anomalous events of The Raven Boys make the plot unclear at times, with plot points alluding to future events that do not currently make sense in this novel’s context. This only adds to the already sinister undertone Steifvater has created. These unexplained mysteries and dark offerings of potential futures create an eerie atmosphere and foreboding sense of danger as the reader is unknowingly dragged from their comfort zone, desperate but fearful to see where this dark tale is heading.

Class is a prominent theme throughout the novel. With Ganseys wealth giving him a status he doesn’t deserve, rarely humbled as he glides through his expensive life it is often used in contrast to Adam. Adam’s worn out, second hand school uniform, struggling income and outstanding grades that pay for his place at private school creates a struggling yet determined character. Of all the Raven Boys in this novel Ronan is most oblivious to the money his father has bestowed. Ignoring the expensive education and indulging in the exclusive life he is accustomed to his care free attitude is of great envy to Adam, his education so taken for granted he rarely tries. This theme is often explored throughout the novel as Steifvater examines the various characters at their school and the desperate need money can have on individuals as the plot progresses.

The changing dynamic and relationship between the five protagonists in The Raven Boys are constantly explored in the prose. As a budding and almost awkward romance develops between Blue and Adam, awkwardly appearing around their friends, the group slowly begins to shift to accept this new presence. With Blue’s influence her new friends become more aware and embarrassed by the wealth they’ve come to expect, as a deep routed friendship starts developing between the four from a mutual curiosity with magic. The individual percularities of each character combines together to form an unusual dynamic that remains a basis for the rest of the plot. Throughout the novel Gansey’s unusual choice of friends is often discussed, his relationship with Adam and Ronan being almost fatherly. This complex friendship is unusual and suggests further development as the series inspects the extent of each of their loyalty and the lengths they’ll go for one another.

“They were always walking away from him. But he never seemed able to walk away from them.”

The Audiobook of this novel can be found on Spotify. The slow American drawl of the narrator was difficult to acclimatise to at first, given the accent is so different to my own, but overall it is more authentic and ties in well with the plot. The book is well read: the narrator keeps a good pace and the volume is not pitchy. The reader masterfully creates each character with their voice, from Adam’s slow and defeated drawl to Persephony’s airy and mindless tone, adding another depth to the novel and helping the reader understand which character is talking. Overall the audiobook is well read and I would highly recommend this as a way to digest the novel, the reading making it more engaging and entertaining.

The characters in this novel are at sixth form shortly to be finishing their school careers. The novels sinister backdrop and earie tone lends itself to older YA readers, as do the age of the characters and the darker events presented. There are themes of violence and murder which could upset some readers. The protagonists presented are complex and the novel should definitely be considered creepy.

“Is this thing safe?”
“Safe as life,” Gansey replied.

Overall The Raven Boys is a gripping and sinister read, with compelling characters and a eldritch storyline that plays on a Shakespearean approach to the supernatural. It’s complex plot and darker themes make it a creepy yet enthralling read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Fall tbr Update

Hello all, hope you’re having a great Tuesday! I’ve taken a break from my NaNoWriMo, which is at 926 words, not exactly on target but oh well, to write a Top Ten Tuesday! Also if you’re doing/have done NaNo, how on earth do you keep up?! And writing that much in so short a time, I’m finding it very tricky 😣

This week’s topic is backlist, but I thought I’d revisit an old list, my Fall tbr, and see how well or not well I’m doing!

1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas ✔️

I succeeded! Yep, I polished of this one last month I want to say? It was not as amazing as I was hoping, but I still enjoyed it! You can read my review here.

2. The Railway Man by Eric Lomaz ✔️

I’ve read this! It was startling, shocking and amazing. It’s message is so important and I definitely recommend this novel.

3. The Raven King by Maggie Steivfater ❌

This list was going so well. Sadly, Gansey and friends continue to be Welsh kingless in my mind.

4. A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab ❌

I still keep putting it off for its brick like tendencies 😬 hopefully I’ll pick this novel up soon.

5. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo ❌

I am so excited for this novel. It sounds so good and I am just as sad you with my failing to read it.

6. Magnus Chase and The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan ✔️

I’m currently reading this! And as I’m over half way through I think I definitely deserve a gold star for this one!

7. Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamiliton ✔️

We’re on a role with the ticks! I read it, loved it, and am completely gutted to have finished this incredible series. Definitely one of my favourite series ever.

8. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon ❌

Ok, yes, I am still failing on this account. I will get round to reading this one it’s just not my most anticipated read.

9. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz ❌

A read with a deadline. I intend to read this novel before I go see Hamilton in February. Also Hamilton 😍

10. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein ❌

It’s sitting on my shelf glaring at me. I’m sure I’ll read this exciting, plane related read soon!

Lets Compare Notes

Have you read any of these? Are they on your tbr? How are you doing with your tbr? Would love to hear from you in the comments, and feel free to drop your list by!

Fall TBR

In England fall basically means rain. Forget your romantic notions of crispy orange leaves and woolly hats, think more soggy shoes and damp, frizzy hair. It’s a horrendously wet season that holds a few very key events: my birthday, bonfire night and the date the John Lewis Christmas Add is released.

And with those key dates in your diary here’s the books I’ll be reading this fall, snuggled under a blanket, in my thickets socks, listening to the patter of rain on the windows.

1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

How have you not read this??? I hear you cry and yes, I have no idea how I’ve managed not to read one of the biggest fantasy YA series for so long, please don’t unfollow this blog out of principle. I plan to soon fix the situation. Honest.

2. The Railway Man by Eric Lomaz

What’s this? A non-YA book on my blog? And a non-fiction no less. Wow if you weren’t hovering over the unfollow button earlier then you definitely are now. This novel follow the author and protagonist through his experience of the second world war where he’s a prisoner and forced to work on one of the most deadly railway projects ever endeavoured. And yeah, it’s pretty good.

3. The Raven King by Maggie Steivfater

Time to see if everyone’s favourite private school boys find that Welsh King, and who’s getting that wish.

4. A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

Because of this novels brick like tendencies I’ve been putting it off (I know, I know, that is in no way a valid reason for avoiding a book). But I hope to make amends this fall and actually read part two! Maybe. I don’t know, that things pretty hefty.

5. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

It might just be all the pretty pictures I’ve seen of this book, surrounded by model ships, compasses, maps, sea shells and other assortments of sea related treasures, on bookstagram but I’m really excited to read it! And yes, I am fickle enough to just want the book because Instagram.

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6. Magnus Chase and The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Because a little Riordan humour always brightens up those frosty fall mornings.

7. Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamiliton

If you at all follow this blog (you wonderful wonderful bookworms) then you will know that I love Alwyn Hamiliton’s books and will shoe horn her work into any and most Top Ten Tuesday. So, of course, I am so excited to finish her trilogy this fall.

8. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Recently discovered this is a seven book series which, I’m not going to lie, is a little daunting. But if it’s seven books I really need to get cracking on book two.

9. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Have I mentioned before that I’M GOING TO SEE HAMILITON IN FEBUARY???! Yes? Oh. Well, of course to further the hype I must read the book.

10. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I really enjoyed Code Named Verity and it’s been far too long since I’ve read one of Wein’s female pilot based escapades.

Let’s Compare Notes

What books are you looking forward to reading this fall? Have you read any of the books above? Are you looking forward to the John Lewis Christmas add? (Don’t lie, you are 😉 ) If you have or haven’t done this topic then it would be great to hear from you! Let’s compare TBRs!!