“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.”
Blue Sargent is the only non-psychic in a family of seers living in the small town of Henrietta, Virginia. Though not a psychic herself, Blue has a peculiar power of her own; she amplifies the psychic abilities of those around her. Every year on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue accompanies her mother to an abandoned church, to record the names of the spirits who appear to Maura on the Corpse Road, an omen of death in the coming year. This year, for the first time, Blue sees a spirit on the Corpse Road. His name is Gansey, a student at the prestigious Aglionby Academy, an enclave of wealth and privilege in the midst of blue collar Henrietta. Gansey is no older than Blue herself, but somehow, he will die in the coming year. There has long been a prophecy in Blue’s family that if she kisses her true love, he will die, and the arrival of Blue’s mysterious half-aunt Neeve comes with two revelations. First, this is the year she will meet her true love. Second, the only reason a non-psychic would see a ghost on St. Mark’s Eve is if she is his true love, or if she killed him. Against her mother’s advice and her own rule about avoiding Aglionby boys, Blue becomes fascinated with Gansey, and his peculiar quest to find the lost Welsh King, Owain Glendower. But could rich, privileged Gansey really be Blue’s true love? She’s much more interested in his friend Adam, a Henrietta native, even if he’s a scholarship student at Aglionby.
A distinct tension runs through The Raven Boys that is rarely explored in YA; Adam and Blue are constantly contending with Gansey’s wealth, and the way his upbringing has schooled him to try to control everyone and everything around him. Ronan and Noah, like Adam and Blue, are drawn to Gansey by his quest, but their dependence upon him creates a web of uneasy relationships. Maggie Stiefvater has set up a complex character dynamic, and it is the characters more than the plot that carry the story. Despite differences of social class and upbringing, Gansey’s gang is more like a chosen family than a group of friends, and like any family, it is not without tensions.
The Raven Boys leaves many, if not most, of the key plot points open, which is not unexpected in the first of a planned series of four books. But if the pacing is a little bit slow, Stiefvater’s distinctive writing style more than makes up for it with perfect tone and atmosphere, and well-developed characters. Book two, The Dream Thieves, is already available, with the third book expected in the fall of 2014. Book two seems poised to delve deeper in Ronan’s character, and I think this is a series throughout which I will really enjoy getting to know the cast. From Blue’s unusual family, to the Aglionby boys, to Blue herself, this book is bursting at the seams with distinctive characters.