Gin Jenny Becomes a Cog in the Maggie Stiefvater Propaganda Machine (a review of The Raven Boys)

One time a while ago, Anastasia tweeted at me “OMG THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA IS SO GOOD SEND HELP” (The Queen of Attolia is indeed so good you will definitely need help to be sent). While I was reading The Raven Boys, I wanted to take that whole tweet, substitute The Raven Boys for the title, and tweet it approximately every twenty pages. After a rocky start in which I engaged in some cranky grumbling about all the times Ana and Memory and Anastasia and Jill had been simultaneously wrong about a book (NB this has never happened), around page 60 I fell crazy in love with The Raven Boys and could not figure out an appropriate outlet to express the strength of my feelings. That situation is ongoing.

It’s this part, when Gansey, a rich-kid protagonist searching for a Welsh mythological hero, is a prat to Blue, the only non-psychic daughter in a family of psychics, that got me. (He’s just offered to pay her manager back if she takes time out from waitressing to come talk to them, and she’s gotten mad about it. As you would.)

To his credit, the Aglionby boy didn’t speak right away. Instead, he thought for a moment and then he said, without heat, “You said you were working for a living. I thought it’d be rude to not take that into account. I’m sorry you’re insulted. I see where you’re coming from, but I feel it’s a little unfair that you’re not doing the same for me.”

“I feel you’re being condescending,” Blue said.

In the background, she caught a glimpse of Soldier Boy [Ronan] making a plane of his hand. It was crashing and weaving toward the table surface while Smudgy Boy [Noah] gulped laughter down. The elegant boy [Adam] held his palm over his face in exaggerated horror, fingers spread just enough that she could see his wince. . . . Neeve had to be wrong. She’d never fall in love with one of them.

Then Gansey, having attained the peak of unpleasantness of which Gansey is capable, goes away to think about what he has done and try to be better in the future. What can I say, y’all? I am a sucker for characters being successfully schooled on how to be a better person. And also for characters who really want to be a better person.

So the story is this: Blue has been told her whole life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. And this year, she knows from her psychic mother and aunt, the boy who calls himself Gansey is going to die. As much as Blue knows that she should stay away from Gansey and his three prep-school friends, she finds herself drawn into their quest to track down and awaken the sleeping Welsh hero Owen Glendower. But the five of them aren’t the only ones who are looking.

Basically, this story is a conglomeration of things that I hate. When I described it to my sister with the crazed eyes of an evangelist, she said, “Wait, why did you even read this book?” I hate Welsh mythology. I hate doomed prophecy romances, or indeed any doomy prophecies whatsoever. And I hate rich privileged kids who spend their days basking in their privilege and taking helicopters to remote locations. Absolutely nothing about this book appealed to me, yet here I am with the evangelist crazy eyes, trying to formulate words to describe its wonderfulness.

“How do you feel about helicopters?”

There was a long pause. “How do you mean? Ethically?”

“As a mode of transportation.”

“Faster than camels, but less sustainable.”

The heart of it is the characters, Blue and Gansey, and Gansey’s friends: Noah, painfully shy and introverted; Ronan, perpetually angry since the brutal murder of his father a year ago; and Adam, poor and ferociously proud and trying to get away from his abusive father. Put any two of those characters together (well, maybe not Noah so much, but any of the others), and the scene absolutely sings. Particularly if one of them is Gansey, whose friends love him in approximately equal measure to how much they resent him. These are friendships complicated by class, by money, by accents and damage and helicopters, and when these friends have an argument, you are simultaneously on everyone’s side at the same time. It is the BEST.

I accept that by writing this post, I have contributed to raising your expectations about The Raven Boys to levels that may not be reasonable, like that time Aarti finally read the Chaos Walking books but by then we had all raved about them way too much for her to enjoy them. (Still super sorry about that, Aarti!) I’m sorry if because of me you read The Raven Boys and don’t like it. I accept responsibility for that if it happens. But you should still read The Raven Boys, because I bet you will like it a lot.

More than anything, the journal wanted. It wanted more than it could hold, more than words could describe, more than diagrams could illustrate. Longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition. There was something pained and melancholy about it.

Coming soon: I rave about The Dream Thieves and bewail the long days that stand between me and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and the even longer days that stand between me and the fourth-and-final book.

  • 🙂 Love The Raven Boys and all of the Attolia books. Eagerly awaiting the next book in both series.

    • Gin Jenny

      God, me too. Especially the Attolia books, because I have been anticipating the next book in that series for a really long time now.

  • I love that you said we together are never wrong about a book but I wish you had said that we are never WRONG, period, because then I could have printed this out and posted it on my refrigerator. And webpage. And Facebook page. And everywhere…. (Maybe I can do photoshop…..)

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahahaha. You are together never wrong about BOOKS. Confirmed, BOOKS. :p

  • Okay. Never been interested in this one before. But I do know how it is when a book is great and you can’t exactly explain why, maybe because some of its greatness is surprise.

    • Gin Jenny

      I wasn’t either until Ana said it was a book about a bunch of Logan Echollses dealing with their privilege. And then I was like, okay, fine, I will get on it.

  • aliceburton

    *continues to side-eye Maggie Steifvater*

    • IS THAT BECAUSE OF THE WEREWOLF ONE? Because I READ that one, and it was Not The Worst (I know that’s damning with faint praise, but Not The Worst is pretty good for a werewolf book. Also, The Scorpio Races was excellent).

      • Gin Jenny

        I would also like to know the answer to Raych’s question. The werewolf books were not the worst, but they were for sure not the best. I’m not necessarily saying you need to read The Raven Thieves, Alice, because sometimes we like opposite things, but I am just curious what put you off Maggie Stiefvater. Is it cause she’s German?

        • Gin Jenny

          PS the German thing was a joke I don’t really think that’s why you side-eyed her.

  • I have a library copy of this on my ereader, the battery of which is dead and the charger of which I have lost. *watches library copy slowwwwly expire, weeps*

    • Gin Jenny

      NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • Based on the plot outline, this book totally didn’t appeal to me either, except for the Welsh mythology. But my sister is a big Maggie S fan, and she kept encouraging me to read them. I finally gave in because although my sister is about as big a reader as I am, she’s doesn’t recommend every book she likes to me, so I figured it must be pretty special when she mentioned it several times. And I liked it quite a lot. The second book is even better, and I’m counting the days until the third.

    • Gin Jenny

      I can’t abide Welsh mythology. I think I just didn’t read enough of it when I was a kid. :/ But it wasn’t enough to make me dislike this book! (I’m reading it to my sister now.)

  • You have a real talent for making me want to read books I never thought I’d want to read. Kudos to you! I read Shiver years ago and wasn’t impressed. As a result I wrote Stiefvater off because I assumed I wouldn’t like the rest of her books. Now I kind of want to pick up The Raven Boys. I won’t blame you if I don’t like it though.

    • Gin Jenny

      Oo, yeah, listen, Shiver is way less good. I read it recently because I was in withdrawal from The Dream Thieves, and it is just way less good. She’s improved A LOT as a writer since then, I think.

  • aartichapati

    YES, I think this series intrigues me precisely because so much of its premise is exactly what I would not go for normally. But it’s good! And I am reading The Dream Thieves now and will obviously be chatting with you about it stat. And I hope I can add the word smudgy to my vocabulary, though admittedly, it seems to have a very limited and narrow usage occasion.

    • Gin Jenny

      It’s SO GOOD. I am glad we had that serious Twitter talk about Gansey’s character. My little sister is still out on him, I think, but is very in on Adam Parrish, who just had his first (incredibly endearing) conversation with Blue. I think the arc of the books so far has been away from Adam Parrish’s endearingness (though I have not ceased to love him the best) and toward Gansey’s.

  • This book was never in my TBR because it didn’t sound much like one that I read. Now I’m not too sure. It still doesn’t sound like my book, but I trust all of your opinions so I should just make time for it.

    • Gin Jenny

      I can only say that I am REALLY REALLY GLAD that I made time for it myself. I loved it.

  • YES YES ALL OF THIS YES.

    I had sudden an intense feels re: these books roughly fifteen minutes ago, so I said to myself, “I should check Jenny’s blog and see if she’s reviewed THE RAVEN BOYS yet.” And I did, and you had, and now my feels are even intenser because I somehow managed to forget the whole Gansey’s-gonna-die thing (I’m generally okay with prophecies, depending on how they’re handled) and also RONAN.

    /incoherent happiness

    • Gin Jenny

      RONAN. RONAN. I keep rereading the parts of those books where Ronan and Adam do kind things for each other. <3 And also, oh gosh, the bit where Gansey, ahhhhhh, where Gansey knows that he won't ever get back the Ronan Lynch who existed before his father died, but Gansey doesn't want to lose the Ronan Lynch he has now AAAAAAAHHHHH FEELINGS.

  • I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING. It’s so exciting, omg.

    Here goes.

    I MET MAGGIE STIEFVATERRRRRRRRRR

    at ALA! and she signed an ARC of her newest book! And she said that I didn’t have to have read the first three Wolves books to read it, which is good because I honestly have no interest in them.

    And then I KIND of blathered about reading Raven Boys and really liking it and then my tongued withered up and I died from nerves.[1]

    Yay!

    I’m hoping she’ll come to the LA Times Festival of Books next year so I can try again (and maybe get a copy of TRB signed).

    1. other times I have died from author-related nerves[2]: freaking Jane Lindskold out by telling her I loved her book and then forgetting to hand it to her to sign it; when Lemony Snicket asked me why I had (ed) in Birdbrain(ed); when Lyndsay Faye high-fived me (and then again when she tweeted me a (friendly, character-related) joke last week, though that was easier to handle because it wasn’t face-to-face); meeting Susan Cooper in complete silence except for “hi” and big doe eyes; JUDY BLUME DOOM.
    2. times I have not died, weirdly: a ten-minute conversation about flying and being trapped in corners with Alan Gratz, author of The League of Seven; Bill Willingham, though I think that’s because the person before me in line was REALLY WEIRD; the very nice (yet somewhat annoying because of the topic) conversation with David Sedaris about my major and life path.[3]
    3. I forgot how to do footnotes by hand. I had to Google to to footnote a footnote and all the websites say you can’t but I did so THERE.

    • Gin Jenny

      Oh man, I can’t handle meeting authors. I was the worst dork when I met Neil Gaiman, and I just am not sure I can do it anymore. I’m going to maybe confine myself to writing admiring letters.

      But that is very cool!!

  • I love this one for the characters. Like, I would read a book called “Gansey, Blue & Co Run Some Errands and Clean the Garage” because it would be awesome.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahahaha, I would totally read that book. I would read it twice.

  • before this one, the only one of her books I really loved was Ballad–Ballad needs more love! Though it is not as brilliant as these ones.

    • Gin Jenny

      Does it? I read Lament and didn’t like it — is Ballad markedly better?

  • medievalbookworm

    I am a little behind the times on this review but YES, I absolutely adored these books too. I had actually read that werewolf book mentioned above and felt really “eh” about it, but so many people I trust can’t be wrong, right? So, so right. I am counting the days until Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

    • Gin Jenny

      I felt “eh” about the werewolf book AND I felt “eh” about The Scorpio Races, which a lot of people loved. But I CRAZY loved these books.

  • Pingback: Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater | Reading the End()