The Raven Boys Book Review

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book 1)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Release Date: September 18, 2012 (US)

Format: ebook

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy

Synopsis: For anyone else Saint Mark’s Eve would pass by just like any other night, but not if you’re related to a family of seers. Every year Blue would spend April 24 out in a graveyard with her family surrounded by the soon to be dead, but Blue never saw anything. Blue’s no seer and when a non-seer sees a spirit on Saint Mark’s Eve it can mean only two things: he could be her true love, or she could be the one who kills him.

His name is Gansey and he’s a Raven Boy: AKA a rich Aglionby snob, but is it possible that there’s more to Gansey and his friends than meets the eye?  Blue learns that the Raven Boys (Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah)  are on a mysterious quest involving dangerous magic that could quite possibly get them all killed. Blue has always been told that she would kill her true love with a kiss, but she’d never believed it might become an issue . . . until now.

Book Trailer: *Note: I did not make this trailer. Credits are played at the end.*

Review: Unlike Ms. Stiefvater’s writing style in The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio RacesThe Raven Boys is told in a third person omniscient point of view. The author did a great job switching between characters and it seemed to add to the plot and develop the many major characters in a way that would not otherwise be possible. However, not all of the characters motives are revealed at the beginning, leaving the reader to wonder what motivates them resulting in a mysterious undertone. I will admit that the pacing at the beginning was a bit slow and that I struggled to remain interested, but the book picked up in the last several chapters. As usual, Ms. Stiefvater’s writing was very descriptive and I could see why some people might find that distracting. I for one found it to be slightly overdone at times but overall enjoyable.

This book felt like a much needed introduction to the strange world of Henrietta, Virginia and the characters who lived there. There was Blue, the daughter of seers who is not a seer herself, Gansey, on a quest to find the mysterious King Glendower and the ley lines for reasons not relieved until late in the book, and his three friends Adam (the scholarship student) , Noah (the reserved one), and Ronan (who hasn’t been the same since his father’s passing).

It has come to my attention that in Ms. Stiefvater’s later books she seems to have developed a gradual trend towards more unusual names. Names like “Sam” and “Grace” in Shiver did seem too common but I think that the author might be trying a little to hard for originality as the names like “Gansey” and “Blue” can take the focus away from the storyline. I also enjoyed that like most of Ms. Stiefvater’s work The Raven Boys remains untainted by the traditional YA love triangle cliche (although I wouldn’t be surprised if a love triangle develops later on in the series). Romance is there, but it remains on the periphery as opposed to the focus.

Perhaps the most confusing part of this book was the ending. It came abruptly and left the story with an incomplete feel. Makes me wonder if Ms. Stiefvater was lagging behind on her deadline for this book . . . or maybe there was simply no good way to wrap the story up. Regardless, I expect great things from the sequel The Dream Thieves.

Quotes: “My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.”

“Adam had once told Gansey, “Rags to riches isn’t a story anyone wants to hear until after it’s done.”

Rating/Recommendations: I recommend this book for fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s previous books or anyone who reads YA and wants to read something mildly creepy and unusual. I give this book 4/5 for originality, but some minor flaws and pacing issues that were easy to overlook.

4 blue jays

 

The Spindlers Book Review

Title: The Spindlers

Author: Lauren Oliver

Release Date: October 2nd 2012

Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy

Format: Audio Book

Synopsis: When Liza wakes up one morning to discover that her brother’s soul has been taken by the spider-like spindlers she knows that the only way to save him will be to descend Below. The only problem is that in a land so strange and vast as Below how can Liza possibly hope to rescue her brother’s soul in time?

Review: Before reading The Spindlers the only books I’d read by Lauren Oliver were the Delirium Trilogy. I was nervous about having expectations that might be too high for this book as it was middle grade and I had feared aspects from the author’s YA writing would not transfer, but thankfully Lauren Oliver did not disappoint. Another concern of mine was that the whole concept of “Below” sounded too much like the underland from Suzanne Collin’s The Underland Chronicles. Thankfully, the characters and the overall feel of Below differed enough that the two settings ended up feeling separate and not at all like copies of one another. This book was reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland with the whole concept of a young girl finding her way to a somewhat creepy and complex world she previously knew nothing about.

I enjoyed the whole concept of Below. The world Lauren Oliver crafted with all of the creatures living underground felt extremely complex and well thought out. There were  nids, troglods, scawgs, and of course spindlers. Additionally, there was also a talking, makeup wearing rat named Mirabella who was Liza’s constant companion on her quest for her brother Patrick.The relationship between siblings was portrayed extremely well through Liza and Patrick in Liza’s flashbacks of their interaction. Liza’s determination to save her brother was admirable and brought out her character.

As usual, Lauren Oliver’s prose was beautiful as illustrated by my favorite quotes from this story which I plan to share below. Unfortunatly, I found the overall story line to be predictable, but that’s not an unusual characteristic where the story lines of most middle grade novels are concerned. Overall though, this was a very fun read.

I listened to this in audio book form with my younger brothers who normally hate reading. They both found the story intriguing and to my surprise the youngest of the two (who falls into the recommended age range for this book) was soon asking for the audio book to play more and more. Listening to the book with them was very appropriate considering that this is a book about a girl on a quest to save her younger brother and I think that aspect made me have a greater appreciation for the story as a whole. Experiencing the book this way also supported the notion that this book would be found enjoyable by the intended audience.

Quotes: “Liza made a sudden decision. “I’ll be your friend,” she announced. she had trouble speaking the words but was glad once she had spoken them. She did not really want to be friends with an enormous rat of questionable sanity, but it seemed the right thing to say.”

“That was what her parents did not understand—and had never understood—about stories. Liza told herself stories as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories.”

Rating/Recommendation: I recommend this book to children between the ages of eight and twelve or anyone who simply cannot get enough of Lauren Oliver’s beautiful writing style. I give this a 4/5 rating for good prose, and creativity, but a predictable story line.

4 blue jays