Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.
Blue comes from a family of bona fide psychics, and every single one of those kooky ladies has told her that if and when she kisses her true love he will die. If that isn’t a total teenage love life buzz kill, I don’t know what is, man. Every year Blue accompanies her mother to an ancient burial ground on the Corpse Road, a ley line of mystical energy where, once a year, the spirits of those who are going to die in the next year manifest. Being the only non-psychic in a family full of clairvoyants, Blue has never seen a single dang spirit, but this year she sees one: a boy named Gansey from Aglionby, the local prep school. MEANWHILE. Gansey, who is really rich and kind of oblivious as to how much richer he is than the rest of the world, is really obsessed with finding Glendower, some old magical Welsh king he believes to be buried on the ley line in Henrietta. (In other words, Gansey is kind of a crazy old crack pot mystical conspiracy theorist in a teenage body). He’s supported by a hodge podge of outcasts from Aglionby: Ronan, a surly dude who discovered his father’s dead body; Adam, hyper-intelligent and ambitious trailer trash scholarship student; and Noah, some weird smudgy kid who never eats and seems to have social anxiety. FATE means Blue is destined to get sucked into the Raven Boys quest for MAGIC. Cue: danger, romance, etc. etc. etc.
I will start by saying that when I first read the blurb of this book, I was a little backed off by the true love/destiny feel of it. It seemed like Stiefvater was maybe going to head back into purple melodrama territory, and I don’t like her writing as much when it’s in that camp. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall tone, which is one of preordained mystery, class tension, and of repression: repressed emotions, repressed energies, repressed sexuality, respressed secrets, and repressed MAGIC, all just waiting to boil over and explode. The romantic melodrama contained in the first sentence was all but absent, which was sweet, sweet relief.
The story itself was intriguing, if put together a bit clumsily. It seemed like Stiefvater was trying to do one of my favorite things in the world, which is the art of calculated withholding. I love, LOVE books where you go in not totally understanding what’s going on, and detail by carefully placed detail the author slips in sneaky bits of information to allow incremental amounts of clarity into the narrative. If done well, the author can maintain narrative tension without revealing too much too soon; Melina Marchetta and Kazuo Ishiguro are absolute masters of this. In this case, it felt like Stiefvater withheld really, really crucial information for way too long and also withheld details that didn’t add anything to the forward progression of the story but the absence of which made certain scenes totally bogus. For example, I needed, NEEDED to know why Gansey was on this mystical mission, and I did not get that crucial information until about 2/3 through the book. That’s a lot of hundreds of pages for me to totally suspend my disbelief that this uber-wealthy, seemingly normal teenage dude who is attractive and drives a muscle car also just happens to be into dousing and trying to find obscure Welsh kings who have been dead for ages. The explanation totally made sense, but it did not make sense for it to be revealed so far into the story, and I think that if that info had been given earlier the whole shebang would have had a lot more bite for being a tad more plausible.
Character wise, I’d give this one a so-so. All of the boys felt very fleshed out and real, but I didn’t have much of a grasp of Blue. She was supposed to be spunky and eccentric, but somehow her characterization felt a bit flimsier. I loved the dynamic in Blue’s household; perhaps it’s because I come from a massive clan of women, but I really felt the vibe of domineering female energy going on in the Sargent household. Even though I didn’t totally get Blue, I still liked her, and I my love-triangle sense is tingling in the very best way with regards to her/Adam/Gansey. I like both those boys, and even though there is only the slightest hint of a spark of interest between her and Gansey NOW, I like that we, the readers, know there’s going to be some scorching I LOVE YOU BUT WE CAN’T MAKE OUT OR YOU’LL DIE in future installments. And Blue knows it, too. And I like that.
So, in conclusion: this book is solid, but not great. I know that she can do better character development, and I also have enough faith in her as a writer to be able to pull the very promising storyline together a bit more in the next one. So, Maggie Stiefvater, if you are reading this (haha) please make the next installment tighter. PLEASE. Because oh hell yes will I be reading the next one, especially after that ridonk cliffhanger of a last sentence.
For music, I chose Church’s “Under the Milky Way.”
Where I got it: The library