The Raven Boys

Maggie Stiefvater is the master of bringing the magical and supernatural into the real world. Her books often feature some mythical element set in a contemporary time. The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy features werewolves living in modern day Minnesota. Lament and Ballad are about fairies getting involved in the lives of musical teenagers. The Scorpio Races tells the story of an island that is home to wild and dangerous sea horses. Stiefvater’s latest series The Raven Cycle is no exception.

ImageThe Raven Boys (book 1 of The Raven Cycle) follows the story of a girl named Blue who grows up in a family of psychics who constantly remind her that she if she kisses her true love he will die. As if a high school girl doesn’t have enough drama to deal with. The solution to this problem seems simple enough—avoid boys so she doesn’t fall in love and kiss/kill one. Blue thinks this is a solid plan considering that most boys in her hometown of Henrietta, Virginia are the entitled rich boys at Aglionby Academy. But if Blue was successful at avoiding boys and love, there wouldn’t be a book, so…

Into Blue’s life walks Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, four “Raven boys” from Aglionby Academy, but they don’t turn out to be the stereotypical boys Blue expected. Adam is a scholarship student. Ronan has secrets of his own, as does Noah. And Gansey is out to find a long-dead Welsh king. Each of these boys is an interesting character with a unique personality. The boys and Blue all draw the reader’s interest and sympathy, but it is Gansey’s quest for the dead Welsh king that has the magical pull over readers.

ImageMaggie Stievfater uses Gansey’s quest for his Welsh king to bring in magical and mythical elements into her novel. Much like her other books, this mythical element is one of the most charming elements of the novel. She expertly weaves old Welsh and British mythology in the modern day, giving readers both a taste for the magical and a contemporary reality they can relate to. Even more than purely mythical or magical books, I think that books like Maggie Stiefvater’s offer something special to readers. When mythical stories are set in mythical times and in mythical settings, they are often enjoyable and relatable. But when mythical stories are set in contemporary times and modern settings, the magical seems even more possible. This is the appeal of books like The Raven Boys, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other books like these. They promise that the magical can happen to contemporary people—i.e. the reader.

Book of all genres are a form of escape. Readers escape into the stories and the characters and the adventures. You can imagine you’re traveling with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit or going down the rabbit whole with Alice in Alice In Wonderland. These stories are vivid and real in many ways to a reader. But Maggie Stiefvater books are special because her readers find magical adventures in the real world. In The Raven Boys Blue, Gansey, Adam, and Ronan get caught up in the supernatural. And Maggie Stiefvater, in the vein of C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling, promises readers that magic is out there in the real world, and just maybe you will find it.

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Gansey and Blue Kiss, artwork by Maggie Stiefvater

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