I went to watch Maggie Stiefvater talk at the Young Adult Literature Convention and it was the best author talk I’ve sat in yet. It might not have much competition as I think I’ve only attended three, but don’t let that detract from my praise – Maggie Stiefvater’s talk was great.
In the talk she was funny, passionate and engaging. A good combination which translates well into her work. Following this conference – bizarrely I hadn’t read or heard of her books before this – I bought a signed copy of The Raven Boys. Having just finished it’s sequel, The Dream Thieves, I can confirm that she is as good a writer as she is a speaker.
There’s a mix of characters in series, each adding their own elements to the novel. Gansey, being the obvious favourite, has charm coupled with money and intelligence making him liked by not only the characters in the book but the reader as well. He is contrasted to Ronan, his odd choice in best friend, who is mean, selfish and dangerous. The two seem separate, but work well together. Blue, a girl who is a strange even for a character in fantasy YA, is supposed to be a down-to-earth female lead who accompanies the boys in their quest for magic. Personally, I don’t like how the author insists how sensible she is with words but never in actions. However, she is vital to the plot and tolerable.
Then there’s Adam, an unpredictable character who’s always got his own agenda. The last member of the Raven Boys is Noah, but he rarely features and doesn’t have many distinctive character traits. It also took the boys far too long to work out he was a ghost; he never eats or sleeps, always wore the same clothing and makes a room cold when he enters. They lived with him for years before they are told that he’s not quite human.
One of my favourite aspects of her writing is the language. It’s so pretty, with descriptions like “longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition” you can’t go wrong. I like it when authors take time to describe a scene or the odd unimportant character. It draws me in, embellishes the story and is also a bit of a break from what the main character is thinking or feeling.
I was slightly disappointing, after having laughed my whole way through her talk, that her novels are not funnier. There is the odd laugh, when Blue summarises an event or Ronan adds a snarky comment to a conversation, but overall, I would not say her books sit in or anywhere near humorous. Disappointing yet not vital.
Overall, though, the series is good. The plot is ok, but it’s best feature is the writing style. The casual descriptions of Gansey’s expensive world combine with the intricate details of Blue’s mysterious life make it an easy read. And, despite the blurb’s insistence on true love, that’s not the main focus of this series, it’s more fantasy than romance.