Monday, October 29, 2012

5. Raven Boys (Book 1, Raven Cycle)

By Maggie Stiefvater
$18.99, ages 13 and up, 416 pages

A 16-year-old girl is drawn into a boy's quest to awaken a dead medieval king after she learns the boy is doomed to die and she may be the cause of it.

In this spellbinding first book in the Raven Cycle series, author Maggie Stiefvater tells the story of Blue Sargent, a non-seer in a family of psychics, who one night sees more than she should.

Outside the ruins of church on St. Mark's Eve, she sees the spirit of a prep school boy named Gansey walking down the corpse road, the spiritual path of the future dead. She's told by her clairvoyant half-aunt that the only reason a non-seer would see a spirit is if the boy is her true love or she's the one who kills him.

Blue has always been told by psychics that if she kisses her true love, he will die, and now that seems all too possible. But why Gansey?

Until now Blue has always avoided boys like Gansey, the "Raven Boys," the privileged rich boys of Aglionby prep. Yet she can't shake the memory of seeing his spirit and the feeling that he's too young to die.

She's also strangely drawn to him and his passion for magic. She may even be able to help him. Though Blue has never been able the see or hear the dead before, she's always been like a walking battery for spirits. Just being near them increases their energy and makes it easier for psychics to hear them.

So why not use her power to help Gansey awaken the ley lines and his king? Could this change his fate?

Blue is also intrigued by Gansey's peculiar friends, who follow Gansey like a posse and have troubles they won't talk about. Adam, whom Blue is initially attracted to, comes from a poor, abusive home, and is struggling to find his own way.  Ronan, an earnest, but antagonistic boy, seems to be guarding something about his father's death and has an odd new pet, a foundling raven. He calls the bird, "Chainsaw," and laughs that he found the bird in his head. And Noah, a grubby boy with cold hands, looks more like a suggestion of himself than himself.

Gansey too chases his own demons. His obsession with the hunt for the king, Glendower, seems to be tied to his own precarious health and is reflected in a meticulous journal that he carries with him. Glendower, a Welsh nobleman who disappeared while fighting for his people's freedom, is everything Gansey wishes he could be: "wise and brave, sure of his path, touched by the supernatural, respected by all, survived by his legacy."

Though her psychic mother forbids her from seeing the Raven Boys, Blue sneaks out to help them search for ley lines and Glendower, sleeping beneath them. According to lore, whoever wakes Glendower, will be granted any favor they wish, though Gansey seems to have other reasons for wanting to find him.

Adam, Ronan and Noah also seem to have their own stake in discovering the king, as does their sleep-deprived Latin teacher, Barrington Whelk, who was once an Alionby student and now resents the kids he teaches.

As the chase for the king's whereabout heats up, all of their lives become entwined in mysterious and sometimes dangerous ways, each of them guards a secret that shapes how far they're willing to go -- and what they're willing to sacrifice -- to get to the king.

Along the way, they'll be drawn into an ancient wood where time stands still and trees speak to them, and step into a hallucinatory tree to see eerie visions. They'll also uncover the skeleton of a familiar body, confront a killer and begin to solve chilling mysteries about the ley lines, ravens and people they know. 

Stiefvater's first installment in a haunting new series is irresistible. As readers get pulled into the web of the Raven Boys with Blue, they assume the quest too and get the sensation that strands of mystical energy are pulling at them as they read-- as Stiefvater's masterful prose encloses around them and tempts them toward the unknown.

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