Review: The Raven Boys

In honor of Call Down the Hawk releasing this past Tuesday, I decided to reread the entire Raven Cycle in one week. Yup. It’s happening. It’s going to be a journey. I’m going to be exhausted by the end, and highkey very emotional, and I promise I’m going to forget, somehow, for the eighth time, how much I love these books. Is that how many times I’ve read them? Hold, please.

JUST KIDDING, this will be my fifth time rereading The Raven Boys, and the rest are all one less each time since I reread them all right before the next one came out. Because y’all, I remember these books from the original release. Don’t believe me? Well, I’m a nut, and I like to take weird pictures with Maggie’s books, so there’s all sorts of goodies below.

I first found Maggie’s books when Shiver was released in 2009 (dear lord, I think I’m old), and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’m constantly jealous of people who just get to read TRC right in a row instead of waiting a year in between each, so I guess I decided to make up for that by reading them in one week? Sure? I’m already so tired.

Anyway, I was originally going to post these all together, but my TRB review was already very long before I even hit the 100 page mark, so I decided to split them up. The reason they’re coming so close to CDTH’s release is because I preorder from Maggie’s local bookstore in order to get the doodle, so my copy always arrives later than release day, so I’ll probably actually have a full week to read these! I could have totally started sooner, but I got the idea on All Hallow’s Eve (Eve) and was like YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE FUN. So, here we are. Enjoy this rambling stream of consciousness trip into madness.

Also, obviously, this is going to contain major spoilers. So don’t read if you haven’t read.

hahanken: „die gangsey, die blue beibringt, wie man ein selfie macht? Idk wollte nur ...,  #beibringt #Blue #die #ein #gangsey #hahanken #Idk #macht #man #nur #Selfie #wie #wollte
Art by hahanken

Okay, stop, this is the cutest picture of the Gangsey I’ve ever seen. Probably going to litter this with fanart, too, because that’s the key to real joy, guys.

Alright, let’s get started with easily one of my top 10 favorite books of all times. The Raven Boys is just so good. It’s such an excellent opening book to a series. It’s masterfully crafted, and instead of just saying that vague explanation of why I love this, we’re really going to dive into why. But first?

Aglionby Academy was the number one reason Blue had developed her two rules: One, stay away from boys, because they were trouble. And two, stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.

pg 10

Oh, Blue, how I missed you.

okay okay okay I’m getting ahead of myself, I forgot to talk about Blue, and we just met Gansey and Ronan

SO. Blue is just an excellent character. The first we see of her is so much. We’re not just given, oh hey here’s this funky non-seer teenage girl. Instead, we’re given that and expected to just take that at face value. “Vestigial ponytail” and fingerless gloves she knitted herself that are fraying because she’s “vain” and self-proclaimed “sensible teen.” But beneath all of the words that Maggie’s giving us, there’s so much more to Blue’s character. She wants to feel useful rather than needed. She feels horrified and hollow at finally seeing a spirit because he’s so young and rain-spattered and sad. And despite Blue claiming she’s never going to fall in love, we’re given so much of her that when Neeve says she can see Gansey either because she’s going to kill him or he’s her true love, we know how that’s going to hit Blue. Because those are one and the same for her.

If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die.

pg 2

Like, damn. Before we’ve even really started the story, we know so much, and we’re already invested in Gansey and Blue’s story, despite only having met one half of them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million times more, the relationships in TRC are what make it so phenomenal. The way Maggie’s setup Blue & Gansey, from that very first introduction, that they’re going to fall in love and Gansey’s going to die–it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Which, of course, means now we need to see Gansey alive. And what an intro we get. Because it’s not just Gansey, but it’s Gansey & Ronan, which is, arguably, one of the most important relationships in the book, and which is also our first slow introduction to the Gangsey. We need to see this world that revolves around Gansey. We need to be given immediate proof of why we should care about the fact that he’s going to die in a year. We need to love him, almost right away.

So, how do you do that?

Well, you give us an expensive-looking boy. A true Aglionby boy. He’s wearing chinos that he thoughtlessly ruins, a nice sweater, probably boat shoes because he’s Gansey. You kind of want to hate him a little. And yet. He’s carrying a recorder that contains that same interaction Blue just had with ghost him. He spent all night hunched over in the cold being attacked by bugs at the church hoping for something, anything.

His heart hurt with the wanting of it, the hurt no less painful for being difficult to explain.

pg 20

He’s an Aglionby boy, yes, but he’s so much more, and it’s that Something More that makes me want to know him, want to fall in love with him, want to cry over his eventual death.

fizzmouth: “ i keep putting off drawing noah to draw the others and it makes me feel so guilty because noah’s my favorite. ”
Art by stinkbrat

Oh man, one of my favorite things is how Maggie straight up tells us so many things right from the beginning. The first thing we learn about Gansey is that he’s going to die in a year. We know right away that he’s going to be Blue’s true love. And Noah.

“I’ve been dead for seven years,” Noah said. “That’s as warm as they get.”

pg 47

Can we all take a moment to return to our first read of TRB and quietly admonish our past selves for laughing at this line and thinking it was odd, but funny? WHEN IT WAS THE TRUTH. WHEN SHE LITERALLY TOLD US RIGHT AWAY. Man, I still remember getting to the end and being absolutely shell-shocked that Noah had been dead this whole time, but what was even worse was rereading TRB the second time, getting to this line, and just shutting the book in fury. She told us, and no one believed her.

I remember so distinctly that, right before The Raven King‘s release, Maggie kept saying, “Nah, Gansey dies. I told you guys this three books ago.” But no one believed her, and it was such a shock to so many people that he actually did. I remember reading it and thinking, well, you warned us, we just didn’t listen. Like, I know everyone toots JK Rowling’s horn for knowing the ending of the series as she first began it, but this is some next level insanity that Maggie pulls over and over again. It’s just so well crafted.

And now it’s page 60, which means THE GANGSEY IS ABOUT TO MEET.

I love this meeting so much. I’m really, really going to struggle with not making this ENTIRE post about the upcoming chapter where they’re all in the reading room together for the first time because it’s my absolute favorite scene in the entire series, but before we get there, we have to have their first unofficial introduction.

(Part of me loves the reading room scene so much because it’s Blue realizing she’s already met these bastard raven boys and decided to hate them, so she has such a hard time reconciling ghost Gansey with President Cell Phone.)

PRESIDENT

CELL

PHONE

IS IN THE HOUSE

This unofficial meeting at Nino’s is so good, though, because we literally go from Point A, Blue finding out that Gansey has a reading scheduled, and her heart is racing, and nothing else matters in that moment, and “It was all true and terribly, terribly specific” and it’s just UGH; to Point B:

Before her stood the multitasking cell phone Aglionby boy, looking tidy and presidential. His watch looked as if it cost more than her mother’s car, and every area of exposed skin was a flattering shade of tan. Blue had never figured out how Aglionby boys managed to tan earlier than locals. It probably had something to do with things like spring break and places like Costa Rica and the Spanish coast. President Cell PHone had probably been closer to a pygmy tyrant than she would ever be.

pg 60-61

Adam was literally just talking about how he has trouble seeing both Gansey’s at once, the Gansey that he wears in front of people and the Gansey he is inside, and here’s Blue, unknowingly struggling with that same exact thing. But what really gets me about this scene, particularly this time around, is seeing these two at their earliest. Gansey still hasn’t quite figured out that it’s okay to be wholly himself all the time, to be vulnerable and uncertain and so full of excitement. And Blue hasn’t figured out how to accept the world, how to let down her barriers and maybe give people the benefit of the doubt. They’re so far away from being in love, and it just makes me dance. Goddamn it, Maggie. HOW.

Holy shit (I want it to be noted that I made it this long before swearing, 62 whole pages), I forgot what an absolute TURD BURGLAR Gansey is at the beginning. I just–I’m dying. When he basically calls her a prostitute, and by the end of the conversation, he’s so flabbergasted that he says, “Dear God. I don’t know what else to say.” But the best part about this scene?

In the background, she caught a glimpse of Soldier Boy making a plane of his hand. It was crashing and weaving toward the table surface while Smudgy Boy gulped laughter down. The elegant boy held his palm over his face in exaggerated horror, fingers spread just enough that she could see his wince.

pg 63

They’re such boys. They’re such human, ordinary boys, and it makes me unbearably sad. I don’t want to watch what they’re all going to go through. I want to stay in this scene, in this moment, when they’re okay, when they’re happy, when they haven’t been beaten to shreds yet.

Also, eventually I’m going to devolve into a mess of sobbing emotion over Gansey and Blue, but we’re not quite there yet, so enjoy this coherency while it lasts! But before that happens, can we take a moment to appreciate Maggie’s genius again?

“and that his corpse woke now only because Gansey had commanded it to.”

pg 93

This is just as incredible as Noah’s first line. Like. This is in Raven Boys, guys, a full four books prior to Gansey waking corpses. The amount of foreshadowing she litters throughout these is just fantastic. Even Gansey thinking about going down into caves with Malory happens only a few pages earlier, but he’s not going to do that until at least book three. It’s just phenomenal.

WAIT

I AM NOT READY

I HAVE ARRIVED AT THE READING ROOM SCENE

“ “Fate,“ Blue replied, glowering at her mother, "is a very weighty word to throw around before breakfast.”
― Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys
”
Art by Nyssa

I’m pretty sure I’ve already said it somewhere in this very long post, but this is my favorite scene of the entire series. I don’t even really know how to put into words why I love it so much, but I’m going to try.

Okay, one. The raven boys are so clearly a foil for the Fox Way women. Though Noah’s not in this scene, he’s Persephone, who is also mostly just in the background of this scene. Maura is Adam through and through. Calla, duh, is Ronan. And well, Blue is Gansey. They each reflect each other, which is such an interesting dynamic, and such a fun way to express that dynamic in friend vs familial, showing that both are, essentially, the same in this case.

Two. Blue & Ronan have their first interaction. I haven’t said it yet, I don’t think, but outside of romantic relationships–or, hell, just in general, the Ronan/Blue friendship is my absolute favorite. Their friendship was one of those ones that took me by surprise and just had me screaming a lot. So, to see their first interaction is so freaking exciting for me because it’s so good and I love seeing how it all began.

Three, GANSEY. I’m never going to stop shouting about Gansey. He’s the boy who died. The boy who Blue falls in love with. The boy she essentially kills. He’s also President Cell Phone, and the two are so difficult to reconcile. For Blue, first and foremost, because she has such a clear image in her head of Gansey, rain-spattered, slouching through the church, and such a vivid dislike of President Cell Phone, and now being forced to bring the two ideas together is troubling for her because they don’t fit together because, secondly, for Gansey, he struggles so much with making his outside look like his inside, but he can never quite figure out how to express that. He keeps feeling like he has to fit into a certain mold, which is what Blue sees in him initially, but there’s so much more lingering beneath the surface that he’s terrified to let out, which is what she first met of him. And to have both of them struggling with this very same thing in such vastly different ways is so interesting to me.

Blue saw him shift back into President Cell Phone; she hadn’t been aware, before, that he’d been anything else. Now she wished she’d been paying better attention, so she could’ve seen what was different about him.

pg 147-8

It’s also the beginning of Blue & Gansey, and that alone is enough to get my heart racing.

Also, also, it’s the first time (most of) the Gangsey is together, and I just have a lot of emotions.

I’ve stopped after this chapter several times before if the creased corner is any indication, and I’m doing that now because this chapter takes so much out of me, and it’s late, and there is a cat sleeping on my foot.

Art by Dri Gomez

Shielding his eyes, Adam lifted his eyes to the sky. He thought he could hear Gansey coming. “Mountains. How do you feel about helicopters?”

pg 189

Ah yes, here he comes, Richard Campbell Gansey III, swooping in on a helicopter as one does, ready for adventure.

I LOVE HIM SO MUCH I COULD DIE FROM OVEREXPOSURE

He was still wearing those idiotic Top-Siders she’d noticed at the reading, this time paired with cargo shorts and a yellow polo shirt that made it look as if he were prepared for any sort of emergency, so long as the emergency involved him falling onto a yacht. In his hand he held a container of organic apple juice.

pg 194

LOOK. OKAY. I recognize that Gansey is a complete douche canoe, but I have a thing for these kinds of characters, I have one in literally all of my books, because you can’t help but like them, and ughhhhhhh I am now deceased.

WAIT

DO THEY GO IN CABESWATER IN THIS BOOK?

THAT’S ALREADY HAPPENING?

I feel so old when I read these books. Oh! Actually! This seems like a nice time for a break. Here, have some buried treasure.

September 21, 2012

I am old. I had red hair for eight years, and this was right in the middle of it. This was also taken with a DSLR because phones didn’t have good cameras yet. Were iPhones even really a thing back then? Oh yeah, I guess so, but I didn’t get one until toward the end of my college time, or even after that? This came out in 2012, so they were a thing, but Androids were still all the rage. WHAT I’M SAYING IS I used to take all my pictures on an actual camera, and selfies were the worst. You had to take at least 10 to get it right.

My caption for this was that I was supposed to be writing my screenplay, but this arrived in the mail, so it voided out all other responsibilities. Sounds about right. I honestly don’t even remember reading it for the first time. College was weird. All my memories feel like they belonged to another person.

A few feet away in the cavity, Gansey’s head was bowed. He looked like a statue in a church, his hands clasped in front of him. There was something very ancient about him just then, with the tree arched over him and his eyelids rendered colorless in the shadows. He was himself, but he was something else, too–that something that Blue had first seen in him at the boys’ reading, that sense of otherness of something more, seemed to radiate from that still portrait of Gansey enshrined in the dark tree.

pg 229

I mean, do you blame me for loving him?

(some time has passed, but I was too busy reading to comment on anything, I just love this book)

WAIT IS NOAH ABOUT TO DIE

I forget so much of this book.

I realize this is turning into something very similar to Maggie’s livetweet. I’ve also linked it there because it’s hilarious.

There’s a reason this is devolving, I promise. The thing I love most about The Raven Boys, primarily, and the series as a whole, is the relationships. I’m a very character-driven writer (and reader), so anytime something has strong characters, that’s going to hold my attention more. I’m at page 264 currently, and this has firmly shifted more into the plot-heavy stuff. Once Blue meets the boys and slowly forms relationships with each of them, and once we get a sense of the boys’ individual relationships with each other, respectively, we move into the finding Cabeswater, Noah being dead, I honestly forget everything that happens after this. All I can think about right now is the angry driving mountain almost kiss scene because Blue & Gansey are alone together right now, and I can’t handle it emotionally.

But Maggie’s relationships are above and beyond anything I’ve ever read before or after TRC, and it’s always going to stand out to me for that reason. They’re some of the most well-crafted characters and relationships that I’ve come across, and that, specifically, is what keeps me coming back to her books. Yeah, the magic is cool, her plots are unique and interesting, and I’m invested in what’s going on, but what I’m really here for are the people.

That said, this review is probably wrapping up soon!

Right! Yes! Gansey is going to break his thumb punching Whelk! I’m remembering now! (They just confronted Noah.) And Persephone said that thing all those chapters ago about not punching with your thumb inside your hand, which, fun story, I learned that from this book, and every time I make a fist now, I think of Persephone saying that.

Ronan Lynch by xla-hainex.deviantart.com on @DeviantArt
Art by xla-hainex

Here, have some Ronan & Chainsaw because I finished reading last night, and I’m not actually sure I’m going to reread the rest right this very second. This was, as predicted, exhausting, and I have a ton of other new books that I haven’t read four+ times that I’d really like to get to right now, sooooo not yet for The Dream Thieves, but probably soon?

This was obviously great. Five stars all around. It’s still one of my top favorites of Maggie’s, and I’m sorry this totally turned into a mess of me screaming, but like, I guess that’s an accurate representation of my relationship with this book? THE RELATIONSHIPS, don’t get me started again, I’ll be even worse when Henry is introduced.


What’d you think? If you’ve read TRB, does this make you love it even more?

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Raven Boys

  1. Omg I’m amazed that you were reading these books as they came out!! I didn’t get into them until a year after TRK came out, so I was a little late to the party, and I kinda wish I had been able to experience all the anticipation around the releases (though it just might have killed me, tbh. The wait for CDTH nearly did).

    I LOVED reading all of your thoughts from rereading this book! It brought back all the feelings I get when reading them. Just…the setup is so perfect, the characters and relationships are expertly created, and yes, I constantly cry about Gansey too (PRESIDENT CELL PHONE FAN CLUB). Even though he truly is a turd burglar at the beginning lol. (Also that art by Dri Gomez is one of my FAVORITE pieces of Gansey art – it was my phone background for a while!) (Right now my background is Ronan fanart because CDTH.)

    Looking forward to your reviews of the rest of the books, and I CAN’T WAIT for you to read Call Down the Hawk!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were the ONLY books back then that I “anticipated” or preordered. I wasn’t really a huge reader, but I loved her previous books so much that TRC was such a big deal back then.

      Ughhhhh, I could cry for approximately one thousand years about Richard Campbell Gansey III and how much I love him, it’s not okay.

      Oh my gosh, I can’t wait, either!!! Your review made me want it even more, and I am just dyinggggg waiting for my copy to come in.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

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