Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What We're Reading: The Raven Boys ARC

When I saw the title The Raven Boys on my Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of Maggie Stiefvater's new novel, my imagination immediately went to author Charles de Lint's raven girls, who were girl-to-bird shapeshifters, so I was initially a little disappointed when I found out the raven boys in Maggie's book were called that because their private school, Aglionby Academy, has a raven insignia on its uniform. (I guess after Mercy Falls, I was expecting more shapeshifting!) But once I started reading, my disappointment quickly subsided!

First of all, the opening chapters in particular reminded me of Alice Hoffman's early writing. This is a good thing--I'm not saying Stiefvater is being derivative or mimicking Hoffman in any way, I'm just saying that in this book she has that tightrope balance of magical realism DOWN, like in Hoffman's early books in particular (Practical Magic, Turtle Moon, Seventh Heaven). If you don't know quite what I mean by magical realism, here's Merriam-Webster:
A literary genre or style...that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.
I don't know what it is about this particular book of Stiefvater's that makes me invoke this label--certainly you could say it about her other books, too. Grace and Sam in the Mercy Falls books attend school and interact with regular folks when they are in human form; Sean and Puck live in a very real (and difficult) world that also happens to be inhabited by the capaill uisce (water horses); but for some reason I have thought of them as fantasy/sci fi while this one feels different. Maybe it is the utterly prosaic tone taken by her narrator, Blue, when she explains her life as a psychic's daughter in small-town Henrietta, Virginia. Maybe it is the style--the previous books went back and forth between two narrators, while this one has such a rich cast of characters--the raven boys (with their teachers, families, friends), the psychic cohorts of Blue's mother, the weird aunt--and so many stories that lead back to the central one, with both factual and fantastical elements incorporated everywhere. Maybe it's that Maggie is getting better with every book?

Whatever it is...when the book arrives in your library, CHECK IT OUT! (Published September 18, available shortly thereafter. Not shortly as in the day after, shortly as in a couple of weeks. Sorry, we're a library, not a bookstore, we have to process and catalog and cover and label before we lend. But...FREE!) You won't be sorry...

(And there will be more to enjoy--according to Stiefvater, this is the first book in a four-book series.)

Check out Maggie Stiefvater's hand-drawn animated
book trailer for the book! 

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