It’s January, it’s cold and it’s the season of the doldrums. The excitement of the holidays is over. Amid the return to work or school and the renewed stress of a new year, most of us need a good strategy for decompression. And if you’re anything like me, the best way to do that is to curl up with a hot drink and a quick, exciting read you can tear through like a bag of leftover Christmas candy. Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Boys” might be just the perfect book for the job.
What do prep school boys, ley-lines, a family of psychics and a dead Welsh king have in common? A lot, according to the first book in Stiefvater’s latest trilogy. “The Raven Boys” brings together an appealing cast of characters in the small town of Henrietta, Va. Blue Sargent, daughter of a powerful psychic, has no psychic ability of her own, but she acts as an amplifier for powers of others. Her mother and aunts have seen a dire fate for her: If she kisses her true love, he will die.
This prophecy leads her, indirectly, to a meeting with three boys from the exclusive Aglionby Academy. Their ringleader, Gansey, has money, brains and all-American good looks but feels his life will be empty until he completes a quest of epic proportions: to find and wake the ancient Welsh king Glendower, whom he believes is buried somewhere in Virginia.
His best friend, Ronan, is an angry, violent mess who lives in constant danger of being kicked out of school. The third member of their group, Adam, is a scholarship student whose unwillingness to compromise his ideals keeps him living in poverty with his abusive father.
Blue is inexorably drawn into this close-knit circle and becomes an integral part of their quest. With her help, they begin to uncover answers about the powerful ley-line that runs through their town, a source of mystical energy that might lead them to Glendower. However, they aren’t the only ones searching for the ancient king. There are others who would draw from his power, and they might be willing to go to greater lengths than Gansey to do it.
Stiefvater is rapidly becoming one of my favorite young-adult authors, and “The Raven Boys” showcases all of her talents. Her characters are vividly and realistically drawn, even those who only play small roles in the story. Places are described in painstaking and loving detail. And the magic that weaves its way through the story is drawn straight from European mythology, portrayed in a way that is both believable and mysterious.
All told, “The Raven Boys” is a satisfying read that will leave you hungry for the next installment in the trilogy, which will hopefully arrive in time for next year’s January reading binge.
• “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater was published by Scholastic Press in September. It retails for $18.99.
• Emily Ring works at Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space each week.