Hey, everyone! (It’s been forever, I knowww). I’m currently doing a re-read of The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, and I couldn’t help but think back to my experience reading The Raven Boys for the first time. To make a long story short, I was severely underwhelmed by it and honestly quite disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more. Two years later, I decided to re-read it on a whim, and ended up absolutely loving it. Now I can confidently say that this quartet is one of the most unique and intricate young adult book series that I’ve ever read. So, I’m sure you’re thinking…..what changed? Well, during my second read, I altered my expectations of what that first installment in the series was set to do. I think that I’d seen so many rave reviews of the series in its entirety that I thought this first book was going to completely blow me away. Turns out, the series is much more of slow procession, and it kind of plays by its own rules. Once I knew what to expect, I was able to adjust my standards accordingly, and subsequently become way more invested in the first book.
My hope is that by writing this review of what you can expect from The Raven Boys, I’ll save a few other people from being misled. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading/watching a good gush-filled review of a book, or a critical break down of story, but sometimes they don’t really help me decide whether I want to pick up a book or not. I know that plenty of readers love to go into books blind (and sometimes I’m up for that too), but especially with series, I think that having a few ideas of what I’m in for can help me determine whether or not I want to commit to it.
You may be reading this and already know whether or not you’d like to read The Raven Boys, but if you are even the slightest bit unsure, I hope that this post helps. We’ve already established that I love it, now it’s time to see if you will too. Excelsior.
What to Expect from the Plot
In simple terms, The Raven Boys follows a group friends made up of four boys that attend an elite private school, and a psychic’s daughter who are on a quest to find a dead Welsh king named Glendower. That description is a very surface level look at the plot that will eventually span four books. Beneath that veneer of simplicity is a story including many, many layers. Honestly, I’ve read The Raven Boys three times now and I still get confused by some of the stuff that goes down in this book. Sometimes the plot feels extremely convoluted, and other times so bare bones that I’m never able to get a good grasp on which direction its going in. Personally, this makes the story a lot more fun to read, but if you like your books a bit more clear cut and easy to figure out, The Raven Boys may not be satisfying.
Also, interpret the word “quest” very lightly. Yes, the gang are looking for a dead Welsh king, but they aren’t necessarily doing a lot of traditional, long-distance traveling. The setting of the novel, a town called Henrietta, VA, is very important, and brings with it its own ambience.
What to Expect from the “Romance”
When I read The Raven Boys for the first time, it was shelved under Teen Paranormal Romance at Barnes & Noble next to the likes of Vampire Academy and Hush, Hush. Admittedly, this series is hard to categorize into a genre, but a typical YA paranormal romance it is not. Though the synopsis of this book centers on the fact that our main character, Blue, is set to kill her true love if she ever kisses him, I wouldn’t say that this first book focuses on that particular plot line. Blue’s true love delimma is more of an overarching aspect across all four books in the series.
In this first book, there is a romance that develops, but it’s a bit unexpected. Let’s just say that you may not have seen this particular couple depicted in the likes of Raven Cycle fan art. The romances in this series are much more of a slow burn, and they progress as the group continues their search for Glendower. It’s done quite well in my current opinion, but I was pretty disappointed the first time around that this first book wasn’t heavy on the swoon.
What to Expect from the Writing
Maggie Stiefvater is a masterful writer with an expansive vocabulary and endless list of metaphors. She’s the kind of writer I wish I could be. I’ve read lots of young adult books, and typically there will be a only a handful of quotes that truly stick out to me in a YA book. Not the case with The Raven Boys. I wanted to tab nearly every description written in this book.
Don’t get me wrong, I love YA! But I have found that there are many levels to this age category of books, and The Raven Boys is what I would consider “upper YA.” Maggie Stiefvater doesn’t hold back, or mince language in any way. Her writing is heavy-handed and it’s pretty flowery, so it typically requires you to pay a bit more attention to the picture she’s painting with her words. In my Goodreads review of this first book, I wrote that Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is the kind that, “the older I get, the more I appreciate it.” This isn’t me putting an age restriction on the book (it’s still very much YA, and it’s supposed to be enjoyed by teens), but it’s something to keep in mind. I wouldn’t call The Raven Boys a “quick read” at all, despite its length and urban fantasy-esque genre. It really makes you think, so that may be a bit jarring if you aren’t expecting it.
I hope that you were able to get a little insight into The Raven Boys, and determine whether or not you want to give it a try! I’m always interested in chatting about this series, so let me know if you’ve read it already :-).