… anyone who wants a YA series that is totally unique and packs a real punch, this is it!
I was going to review just The Raven Boys, the first of Ms Stiefvater’s books that I had ever read, but it was only the first instalment in the series and the story didn’t finish there so I ended up reading the other three novels as well. In other words, I was hooked.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Stiefvater briefly at a book signing in London this summer and since I’d liked her a lot – she was charming, funny and very, very patient (there was a three hour queue!) – I wanted to like her book(s) too. And I sort of did. Well, I must have done as I couldn’t stop reading, right!?
That might sound strange, but I feel a bit conflicted about it because although the writing is excellent and you’re sucked into the story right from the word go, it wasn’t really my kind of thing. I like a bit of fantasy and magic, but this was very dark – almost too dark at times. At the same time it’s a bit confusing. You want to carry on reading to find out what’s going on, but there is just so MUCH happening, so much to take in. It’s a very complex story which spans all four books. And it’s not just one character’s tale, but lots of different ones that are all woven together into a whole (but none of them finished until book four). I have to admit I was expecting the usual YA story of magic, growing up, falling in love etc but that’s only a small part of it.
The heroine, Blue, lives in a house full of psychics (including her mother), but has no such abilities herself. Instead she seems to act as some sort of amplifier for psychic activity and energy whenever she’s near. These psychics have been telling her almost from birth that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die. Not a comfortable prediction to live with, but it’s meant that she’s stayed away from boys – until she meets the ones from a local private school, known as Raven Boys, and gets sucked into a quest they’re on. And then weird things start to happen.
So far, so normal, story-wise. But one of the boys she meets, Gansey, is obsessed with finding a long-dead Welsh king, who has supposedly been asleep for the last 600 years and if woken can grant a favour to the person who finds him first. Gansey knows a lot about history, ley lines and arcane rituals. He seems to have travelled all over the world (by himself, even though he’s only seventeen?) looking for clues and has ended up in Blue’s home town because it’s on a very strong ley line. Personally, I found it very odd to have these tales of Wales and long ago battles playing out in America, in Virginia to be precise, and not somewhere in the UK (although there is an explanation for it). And with all the many sub-plots involving the other characters – Gansey’s three friends, Blue’s mother and aunts, the villain and various other people – it was a bit hard to make sense of it all at first.
After reading book one, I felt I was left with almost as many questions as when I started, and the plot point which had drawn me to the story in the first place (the romantic element – Blue’s true love) was very slow to develop so the first book’s tag line – If you kiss your true love, he will die – is misleading as it made me think I was going to read a love story.
However, I’m giving this series five piranhas for the sheer inventiveness, imagination, world-building and fantastic writing (book three especially manages to be very humorous as well as really dark!). As I said, I was completely hooked by these stories, almost against my will as they weren’t the type I would normally choose, and that takes great skill on the author’s part. (Also, I may be the only one who wished for more romance and less dark magic, being the incurable romantic that I am). I would say that anyone who wants a YA series that is totally unique and packs a real punch, this is it.
Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The fourth one in the series – New England Dreams – is out now!