143 of 169 people found the following review helpful
The promise of the novel (or series) is more than the novel itself...
, September 18, 2012
This review is from: The Raven Boys (Hardcover)
I debated between 3 and 4 stars, but ultimately went with 3, for reasons I will state below. This review contains very minor spoilers (vague references to plot/character dynamics).
1) The characters: Blue and the Raven Boys are well crafted. Gansey's my favorite, the rich boy who wants to do more with his life and help the people he's closest to, little realizing that his fixing things with money caused bitterness in some of the very people he wanted to help. One of the most intriguing parts of his character is the bee subplot and how it ties to the main plot with Glendower, and the idea that Gansey technically should have been dead years ago.
Blue is also a great character, though I found her aggravating and dense sometimes. I felt she should've told Gansey everything she knew, particularly about St. Mark's and her visions, but that's a personal quibble. At least she has a personality and felt real. I'm also interested in her parents' story and what will happen with Gansey. I have a soft spot for Ronan with his tortured self; the author manages to do a bad boy without making him cliché. I guessed Noah's secret from almost the get go, so it wasn't a surprise, but he was sweet and I enjoyed him.
Adam is my least favorite Raven Boy, though he was as well as drawn as the others. I have no idea why Blue likes him (or thinks she likes him; it's apparent she actually likes Gansey more, but is being stubborn/dense about it). I felt sorry for Adam, but look at the difference between him and Ronan, who are reverse in their exterior/interior. Ronan, for all of his bad behavior, is really the boys' friend; Adam, for all his model behavior, is not a good friend. I saw Adam's actions at the end of the novel coming a mile away (as well as the vision he had). Adam is that kind of friend who hates his friends underneath it all because he's jealous and believes his misery is worse than everyone else's. I almost wish the author had left out the Blue/Adam dynamic (though I assume it's too add another dimension to Adam's jealousy when Blue falls for Gansey), because it's obvious from her interactions with both boys that she and Gansey are better suited for each other. Right now, Blue is seeing them both superficially, though she's started to glimpse the real Gansey.
Whelk could've been better developed, as could Blue's family (though I assume we're learn more about their pasts in the ensuing books, so I wasn't too bothered about that).
2) The Mysteries: I didn't care that the blurb is misleading and the main plot is Glendower and the ley lines. It was different from the usual YA fare, and I'm also interested in learning more of Ronan and Blue's fathers, Neeve, Gansey's fate, Adam's latest development, and how it all ties to Henrietta.
3)The writing: The author knows how to string words together :)
Execution: For all the great characters and interesting plot, the author's execution is mediocre. It feels like she imagined a bunch of scenes with the characters, wrote the scenes down, and threw them in a book without going back and fashioning them into a coherent narrative.
I don't mind slower paced novels. I love character development. I get that this is the first novel in a series. But any novel should be substantial on its own. Only 50-60% of The Raven Boys seems necessary. The first third of the novel in particular could have been heavily cut. While I'm glad I finished it, I was constantly questioning why I kept reading for a long time. Some scenes and dialogue are cute and clever. But every scene should move the story forward in some way and should matter. If this had been the author's debut, I would have rated it 4 stars, but considering this is her 7th, she should have a handle on execution by now. This is an indulgent novel, and the last fourth of it shouldn't justify its existence. Also, there were info-dumps galore.
I described the novel to a friend. I spent longer explaining and thinking about the characters than I did on what actually happens, because not much does. And when I was finished she said: "That's it?" The novel lacked buildup and payoff, had no tension, nor a beginning, middle, and end - just stuff divulged by/to characters at various instances. Compare this to Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, which is the first in a series too, but has its own complete narrative and exists as a novel in its own right. I was dissatisfied when I finished the last page of The Raven Boys and wondered if this novel could have been combined with the second one. There were too many instances where I kept thinking "boring, boring, can we get to the point?" I also felt like Gansey and Blue, as much as I liked them, did not really evolve as characters in any profound way either. Again, I get this is a series, but like the plot, there should be a trajectory for them in each book too.
I know I'll probably get slammed for this review, but to be honest, the promise of the novel (and what is to come in the ensuing novels) is better than the actual novel itself.
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