The trees speak Latin. It’s a quote I have seen floating around the internet many, many times, and not once did I ever think more of it. I had heard of The Raven Cycle, but not until it’s final book had made its appearance on store shelves. Even then, I hesitated. The only question I am asking myself now is, “Why did I wait so long?”
The Raven Boys has all of the angst and joy of teenage romance I’ve come to expect from YA. But it had deeper, darker elements that immediately drew my attention. The characters are forced to deal with death, abuse, and the divide between those who have – and those who have not. To me, this was a book about the characters – the main cast consists of Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Though there is a main plotline, I found myself caring more about each character and learning their individual personalities.
Blue, our heroine, is sensible. She is described as such several times throughout the book, despite her attempts to show otherwise. Her clothes are a mismatch of different fabrics, as made by herself. She is the daughter of a psychic, yet possesses no such ability herself. Instead, she has the unique ability to make things louder. She magnifies whatever ability or energy something has. At first, I thought this wouldn’t make much of an appearance. But the author finds ways to use her in scenes I never would’ve thought to. I like Blue. She is thoughtful and kind, and though she could dwell on the points of her life that could be seen as horrible, she never does. Her father isn’t in her life, yet she has a fondness for the man she’s never met. She comments on the odd quirks of her household, always observant, and I loved seeing characters through her eyes. She isn’t the quiet observer like Adam – she is always active, and I liked the sass we get from her. She’s never too much, like some YA girls are guilty of being.
Gansey is relentless in his quest to find the Welsh King, Glendower, who is said to grant a wish to whoever wakes him. When Blue first meets him, all she sees is a boy who has it all. Gansey doesn’t want the wish; he’s after the adventure. But he’s more than the rich boy, polite persona he naturally exudes. He is as loyal a friend as you could possibly get. Each of his friends are so very different that none of them should be friends. Yet it is through their friendship with Gansey that they have become a unit, like brothers – more real of a family than most of them even have.
“He never seemed able to walk away from them.” I don’t think he realizes that none of them could ever leave him either.
Gansey got to me a bit at first. Like Blue, I had to get to know him to like him. At first, he may appear rude – one of those people who know they are more intelligent than you and purposely try to use vocabulary you won’t understand. One of those people that throw their money around without ever considering how hard someone might be working to make so much less than that. Gansey is the oblivious sort – for someone so intelligent, so caring, and so obsessive when it comes to his quest, he doesn’t always understand the way others think – especially if their thinking differs from his own.
Ronan is one of my favorite characters, possibly because he is the most difficult to predict. He is temperamental, compared to a sword’s edge, and his approval is hard to win. He seems to be the most troubled of the boys. He fights with his older brother – physically and otherwise, skips school, and has a foul mouth. But there are actions that speak louder than this – he spends much of the book caring for a newborn raven, waking every 2 hours to feed her. He is gentle when you least expect it. He defends Adam through the abuse his friend suffers from, and this action is what caused me to love him more than I thought I could. Ronan is like a loose cannon. He never reveals too much of himself, but what he does show reveals enough.
Adam is…very much like myself. He’s the quiet one – the observant one. He isn’t like the other boys. He was not born into riches, and the only reason he is able to go to Aglionby (the prestigious high school the boys attend) is through his scholarship and his own hard work. He never wants to be pitied for his wealth – or lack thereof. Adam is never boastful. Though he has his own value, he never seems to look at it just right.
“Adam had once told Gansey, “Rags to riches isn’t a story anyone wants to hear until after it’s done.”
He looks at the others, seeing always what he lacks and never what he has. He longs for a day that he doesn’t have to think about money. More than that, however, is the issue of abuse. Reading the scenes about Adam’s father had me reflecting on my own past, my own weakness, and I instantly could forgive whatever Adam did towards the end of the book. Gansey, having never experienced this, could never imagine not wanting to leave behind an abusive family. When you live it, day by day, home is still home. Adam compares it to Stockholm syndrome, and it saddens me to be able to relate to this character in that way.
Noah, without revealing too much, was mysterious from the beginning. The story never focused on him too much until it mattered. He was in a scene and you’d not even realize it until he spoke. I wanted to know more about him that I ended up with.
I mentioned romance earlier, and the romance here is a slow burn. Wonderfully so, as those who know me know that I absolutely hate instalove. Blue has always been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. There are no specifics to this particular prophecy, and Blue thinks of it often throughout the book as she grows closer to the boys. Though she is not psychic, she sees the spirit of Gansey early in the story. She’s told that this means he is either her true love, or she will kill him. I don’t particularly mind love triangles if they are done right, and this didn’t feel like a true one. From the visions we see, it’s obvious that Gansey and Blue are meant to be, even if the two don’t know it yet. The innocence of her romance with Adam was heartwarming. It’s the same feeling you get when thinking about a first crush – and I loved that the romance here was so well written that you didn’t need the kissing. I think that the kiss, whenever it does happen, will be worth the wait.
The writing is amazing, and I loved the way she described each little character detail. From the way Noah pets Blue’s hair to the way Gansey rubs his lip, each detail helped the characters come alive. More so than in other books, they felt real, like they could step off the page and hold a conversation with me. I liked the magic in this book – or the feel of it. As the boys and Blue journey on their quest to find Gansey’s king, we travel through a forest with trees that speak Latin – in a rustle of whispers only some of them can hear. The forest plays with time, making you see what you think you should see – making the seasons alter, and inviting all the things that come with it. It’s interesting – the characters take one step and lose themselves in a vision only they can see – and I liked the clever use of foreshadowing. I was simultaneously fascinated and nervous while reading the scenes in that location, and I’m always, always a fan of writing that makes me feel.
So…that’s my overwhelmingly positive side of things. What about the negatives? For me, the main negative is the story’s poor villain(s). While I admit that I didn’t see it coming, I felt a little disappointed in the way it was done. Maybe it’s because the reasons didn’t make sense to me, but the villains felt weak. Bad for the sake of being bad – one more desperate than the other – who just seemed more odd than anything else. You know those bad guys in a videogame that want to rule the world and have all the power? It felt almost like that, but at that point, I didn’t care because I was too invested in the heroes to stop reading. To be honest, in a book filled with magic and the paranormal, I had little to complain about. I’m nitpicking here.
I have already ordered the rest of the series. As I sit here anxiously awaiting the shipping notification, I remind anyone reading this that I am going in blind! I know nothing of what will happen to these characters, and I don’t intend to spoil myself despite these books having been out for some time. With that being said, I am a quick reader, and I hope to finish this series soon enough. But first….my family vacation to Disneyland with my husband and three year old.