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  • ★★★★★-5

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Spoiler Alert)

Re-read 2023:

It’s honestly a blessing that I wasn’t born in The Raven Cycle universe because I would be so hopelessly and pathetically in love with Richard Campbell Gansey III.

It’s not the crisply pressed polo shirts or air of wealth that draws me in. It’s what makes him magnetic to everyone in his presence: the blind tenacity that beats through his chest. The anguish laced through every page of his tattered journal. The infatuation that borders on delusion. It pulls you to him. He cares so much. It’s dangerous.

Gansey was just a guy with a lot of stuff and a hole inside him that chewed away more of his heart every year.

They were always walking away from him. But he never seemed able to walk away from them.

There is so much that makes this series inimitable. The ingenious plot, the haunting atmosphere, but perhaps most notably, the characters. And perhaps even more importantly, the relationships between them.

There are five main characters in this story—Blue Sargent and her Raven Boys, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey. Of course, as this is only the first book in the series, there is much more depth to come, but what we get glimpses of is already so potent.

If I wanted to discuss every single detail I loved, we'd be here forever, so I've decided to highlight only what I found to be the most significant character work. Obviously that means we're starting with Gansey.

I've already detailed a bit of what makes me so attached to him, but I have yet to touch on his relationship with Adam.

Some days Gansey wished that he could be him, because Adam was so very real and true in a way that Gansey couldn't ever seem to be.

I think friendship in media is so important. Especially when it's complicated. When it's messy, but unflinching. And I think depictions of this type of friendship is especially important between men.

Adam was very good at watching without being watched. Only Gansey ever seemed to catch him at it.

The dynamic between Adam and Gansey is beautiful, yet heartbreaking. Adam is the only student at their boarding school on scholarship. He lives in a trailer park and has learned to hide his bruises. All Gansey wants is to get him out of there. All Adam wants is to not need saving.

'So, do you live here too?'

'Gansey would like me to. He likes all of his things in one place.'

Adam can't see himself as anything other than pitied and Gansey can't see himself as anything other than obnoxious. It's a deadly combination.

'God, I'm sick of your condescension, Gansey,' Adam said. 'Don't try to make me feel stupid. Who whips out repugnant? Don't pretend you're not trying to make me feel stupid.'

'This is the way I talk. I'm sorry your father never taught you the meaning of repugnant. He was too busy smashing your head against the wall of your trailer while you apologized for being alive.'

Both of them stopped breathing.

So did I.

The love between these boys is so special, it's able to overcome atrocities. It perseveres through trauma and sorrow and death. When the world shakes, and the dust settles, in the rubble will lie Richard Campbell Gansey III and Adam Parrish.

Oh, Adam Parrish. Gansey is perhaps the most complicated aspect of his life, but when the book begins it starts with something not much more simple: Blue Sargent.

Blue is the only person Adam's ever met who didn't grow up in luxury. She has the same farmer's accent as him, at least, when they let it slip.

I have yet to finish this series, so I'm not sure where the romance leads—to Adam or Gansey, neither, or someone else—but no matter what, the bond between Adam and Blue is special. It's sweet.

Wordlessly, he sat beside her and then laid his head on her lap, his face in his arms.

Startled, Blue didn't immediately react, other than to glance over her shoulder to make certain that the tree hid them from the house. She felt a little like she'd been approached by a wild animal, and she was at once flattered by its trust and worried that she'd scare it away.

While there are about a million more things I could rave about, I'm going to end this review with the most illusive character in this novel: Ronan Lynch.

Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn't know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.

Having read the second book in this series, I already know there is so much buried within Ronan. He's violent, but only to protect. He's avoidant, but only because he's been abandoned. He's intimidating, but he nurtures a baby raven. Maybe it's just the name, but I see a lot of parallels between him and Roman Roy from Succession.

Alright, I think I've exhausted about all my fingers can bear to type. But just know this is barely scraping the surface of my thoughts about this story. Maggie Stiefvater is a genius and she knows exactly how to write a line that will break you. Again and again.

She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness.

My original review from 2018 can be found here.


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