Psychics, true love, and a sleeping king make for an exciting quest even Arthur Pendragon would envy.
In The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater’s poetic prose woos us into a world where magic lurks in abandoned churches and Welsh kings sleep under Virginian mountains. The juxtaposition of a magical quest narrative with the ordinary and extraordinary of modern life—trailer parks, unreliable cars, pizza joints, and helicopters—gives the book a delicious and unique flavor something like Skellig meets White Collar.
Blue’s future is in the cards: She will kiss her true love, and he will die. It was easy to avoid boys—and especially boys from local pompous private school Aglionby Academy (dubbed “raven boys” for their mascot)—until St. Mark’s Eve, when Blue encounters Gansey, the soul of a raven boy who will be dead in a year. Unlike the rest of her family, Blue does not possess the Sight, and there are only two explanations for how she can see him: Either he’s her true love, or she’s going to kill him.
Meanwhile, Gansey and his band of misfit friends—a sort of modern-day Knights of the Round Table—are oblivious to the danger. In fact, they’re knee-deep in a treasure hunt centuries in the making. Legend has it that an old king was brought to America, and whoever wakes him will be granted a wish. Blue hopes that if she helps them find the king, she can claim the wish and save Gansey’s life.
Whether it’s “President Mobile Phone” Gansey or “Study in Survival” Adam, The Raven Boys’ cast is vibrant and varied in a way that would appeal to fans of Lost. The characters themselves are consumed in a search for the mystic, but the real magic is in watching them interact.
Though Raven Boys seems to be marketed toward the plotline about Blue and the fate of her true love, it’s the quest and characters that carry the story. This is the first in The Raven Cycle, and I hope in future installments to see more of a Blue whose main source of conflict isn’t a boy she doesn’t love (yet) and a future she hasn’t realized. However, the promise of further character development—and the ongoing quest for the king—had me searching for the sequel before I’d even put this book down.