Review: The Raven Boys

November 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm (fantasy, teen)

The Raven Boys
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finishing a book with a resigned feeling of “Oh, of course, it’s a trilogy” is not a good sign. In fact, it’s a real shame in this case because I could have really liked this book, but instead I feel, well, resigned about it. The ending was clever and well done, and the climax actually succeeds at being credible by having been set up, invisibly in the background, for quite a while. But.

But what?

The book strives for mythic sweep while also containing a gleeful jumble of psychics and pseudoscience made real, among other elements that ‘twould be spoilery to discuss. (I will say, however, that the subplot about Noah was excellent.) But to my mind, the scope of the tale is too small for multiple volumes. It is set up – or at least that’s how it came across to me – to be the story of a Tragic Hero, not an Epic Quest. Think Orpheus, not Odysseus. No doubt the Tragic Hero thinks he’s the hero of an epic quest, and perhaps his author does too, but as far as I can see, all that’s at stake is the personal fate of him and several people close to him. That’s not epic.

So what I wanted was for the book to end with the tragic death foretold at the beginning. As I remarked while reading it, I like the Tragic Hero enough that his death would be tragic, but not enough that I want him to live. But it didn’t happen. The story veered off to become a the story of Sacrifice and Redemption of one of his friends, instead. And while that was a good story, certainly, well-done and well-characterized, it was not the story that the book appeared to be setting up in the first third, or even half.

So this book is quite good, but muddled in execution. Perhaps eventually the Tragic Hero will die, but I have doubts.

I also found the prose annoying in spots, because it seemed like every single character’s point of view contained deeply poetic insights and imagery. I like that just fine when it’s just one or two characters, or when the book is clearly written with an omniscient narrator, but in this case it just wound up feeling overdone and occasionally irksome.

I could probably also quibble about the character of Blue, the kooky magical-battery girl, but I actually like her too much as a person. So there’s that.

Worth reading, I’d say, but not spectacular and not something I’ll be adding to my personal library.

View all my reviews

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