I’m afraid I may be knifed for this opinion: I am confused by The Raven Boys’ success, and utterly bored by its content.
When something’s bad, there’s a sense of superiority to be gained, a few moments to laugh. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater was flat, slowly paced, and simply monotonous. This is a book I have heard so much about- Everyone appears dazzled by it.
Problem, though: There was nothing I could find to love in this slag of a novel. Everything felt like set up, like part one of a two part movie: perhaps it would all have come together in book two, or perhaps book four, but on its own merit it simply didn’t work.
Blue is the only non-psychic in her family, and lives a fairly average life until she crosses path with the titular raven boys- prep school teens whose blazers bare a certain corvid. The rest of the book essentially follows them becoming friends. Sure, there’s something about a long lost tomb, a magical forest, and a decades old murder, but all these plot threads are slow to be addressed, and somehow uninteresting when they are.
To give props, this novel was not a garbage fire: the writing was generally decent, and there is something lovely about a simple story about subtle magic. I don’t necessarily agree (I said decent, not noteworthy), but I can’t find fault in the existence of praise, or even fans of the series. Sometimes the prose stood out to me as, well, not my cup of tea, we’ll say- but I acknowledge even the purplest of prose has its fans.
The problem was that there was little magic compared to unresolved subplots and the two days that make up half the book. The first major event of the plot- one of the raven boys going to Blue’s home to get a psychic reading from her aunt- takes over 100 pages to reach. That’s one fourth of the book where simply nothing happens.
The emphasis is surely meant to be on the characters, the realness of a messy world where people do have aunts and brothers and little problems. However, it’s hard to tolerate all these little details when you know none of the major ones. Sure, we can see how these people chat, but if we’ve yet to see them do anything, how well can we truly know them? Actions speak louder than words, they say, and this book is the opposite of action packed.
I fear I may be getting repetitive, as is my frustration with the book. There was dialogue, and certainly, you know, four characters. They talked about things, and became friends, and vanished from my mind quite quickly afterwards. For a story to have emphasis on its characters, they should be interesting, dynamic from the start- instead, I’d forgotten their personalities the moment I closed the book. Bland rich kid, sad poor kid, a punk, a ghost who barely does/says anything until plot relevant, and a main character whose primary trait is ‘sensibility’.
The plot, when it really gets started, is remarkably forgettable. 100 pages to a tarot card reading, it’s spooky, something something, magic trees and solving an old murder. Some elements stick: the good stuff, one might say. A forest on the boundaries of reality. A boy saved from death. A raven taken out of someone’s dream. If only the twists were as wonderful as the magic- if only the plot was as tight!
I cannot grasp how there are four books in this series. It feels like, is they all are as loosely written as this, they could just be condensed into two well paced, although thick, tomes.
Sometimes it’s easy to see why something is loved- Twilight plays into tween fantasies easily, and even the trashiest of YA has a certain explainable mark that keeps it profitable. The Raven Boys has taunted me for years- that lovely cover! That wonderful name! But the inside flap made it sound like not my thing. Cut to about six years later and it begins to taunt me again. Authors I love recommend it. Friends. My sister. The fan art is lovely. The praise is sky high. I did not go in this expecting to wind up bitter, but my heart is calloused and my tolerance for bad pacing is hair thin.
Perhaps this is simply a novel not for me. Something for people who like to linger.
One of the worst parts of this is that, again, there were some nice things in there. Stiefvater is clearly a writer. The mysteries of the novel are fun, I simply wish they’d have shown up less than halfway through. There were moments where I had fun, where I wanted to read. I still want to know what happens next, but I can’t imagine slogging through another 400+ page book to get half the answers yet again.