Prophetic ghosts, kings from Celtic mythology, and our favorite gothic birds…what more could you want in a paranormal romance? Oh, I know, how about the threat of death should any romance actually occur. These elements and more are what made The Raven Boys, the first book in Maggie Stiefvater’s latest young adult series, The Raven Cycle, my favorite book of 2015!
Blue Sargent has been raised by a family of psychics who have been warning her for as long as she can remember that when she kisses her true love, he will die. This prediction has turned Blue quite off the idea of romance, and she is content to never kiss anyone. But then Blue, not generally prone to psychic powers herself, sees a vision of a beautiful boy dying. He is wearing the raven-emblazoned uniform of the local pretentious prep school, and he says his name is Gansey. Could he be Blue’s true love?
As soon as Blue meets the real live Gansey, though, her fears are put aside. Insufferably privileged and oblivious, Gansey represents everything Blue hates about Aglionby prep school boys, and the idea of falling in love with him is laughable. His friend Adam, on the other hand, might just tempt her to break her no romance rule. Then there’s Ronan, Gansey’s sharp-edged and dangerous best friend, and Noah who rounds out the raven boy quartet. Against her better judgment, Blue finds herself falling in with the raven boys and joining Gansey’s quest to find magic, ley lines, and any other clues to where the burial place of a wish-granting Welsh king might be hiding.
One of my favorite things about this book is the way it turns a genre on its head—a romance with no kissing allowed! It’s also a quest-type fantasy where the main characters seem to be the only ones without special powers—a kind of reversal of the Chosen One trope. Blue is the only one in her family with no psychic talent, though she does seem to enhance the powers of others. Even Gansey, the leader of the pack, is just an ordinary boy longing for the possibility of magic.
In fact, it’s pretty hard to classify the genre of this book. The premise makes you think romance, then the characters embark on a magical quest, and about halfway through, it turns into a murder mystery. But while the book’s tone is constantly shifting, a sense of the gothic is always present—first simply heralded by repeated appearance of creepy corvids, then made manifest by the very literal way in which the past haunts the present (one of the gothic genre’s core tropes). The book takes some very dark turns, and it only gets darker as the series goes on.
Maggie Stiefvater is one of my absolute favorite authors, and I devoured this book and the next one in a matter of days. But not only is Stiefvater a brilliant wordsmith, she’s an amazing artist as well. As I mentioned in my Holiday Wish List post, I am absolutely drooling over the set of tarot cards that Stiefvater designed to accompany this book series (and my loving parents got me a set for the holidays!). You can find her tarot cards on Llewellyn’s website or on Amazon.
I know I’m late in hopping on this train. Have you already read The Raven Boys? What did you think? Who’s your favorite raven boy? (Mine is Ronan.) No spoilers in the comments, please! And be sure to tell me your favorite book that you read this year. I’m always looking for recommendations!