Ronan Lynch, one of the four Aglionby Academy students introduced in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, has secrets—lots of secrets. In the first Raven Cycle book, we got a few hints about his secrets, particularly the secret surrounding Ronan finding his father beaten to death with a tire iron. In this book, we learn of his secret ability to bring objects back from dreams. That secret has put him in danger. How will he escape? And how do his activities tie in with the magic surrounding the ley line recently awoken by his friend Adam?
Although Ronan was not one of my favorite characters in The Raven Boys, I was intrigued by him and wondered when and what would be revealed about his father’s death and the will that bars Ronan and his brothers from the family property. The answers offered here are satisfying. Ronan is still not my favorite Raven Boy (like Blue Sargent, the non-psychic daughter of a psychic family, I’m torn between Adam and Gansey), but I have a lot of affection for this “keeper of secrets, fighter of men, devil of a boy.”
As for Blue Sargent, her budding romance with Adam is complicated by Adam’s behavior since the awakening of the ley line and her own feelings for Gansey, the boy who she knows is doomed to die that year—perhaps from Blue’s own kiss. One of my hesitations about this series was a premise that seemed built on a love triangle, but I’ve been pleased at the limited amount of attention—and the nature of the attention—that this plot receives. Blue’s feelings are complicated, as are the characters. Adam in particular is dealing with his own history and the consequences of his actions in the last book, and the way he deals is to build barriers. As Gansey observes, Adam did not grow up surrounded by love, as Blue and Gansey both did, and this lack has wounded him. Adam has in the past attributed his pain and resentment with his poverty, but his disadvantages run deeper than that. With all her characters, Stiefvater thoughtfully reveals how personal history, temperament, choices, and chance all come together to make people what they are.
I love Stiefvater’s characters, and I’m enjoying the story, although my feelings about the story overall will depend largely on how the many plot developments play out over the next two books. The story feels a trifle overstuffed right now, but I don’t mind if the threads all lead to something. I’m finding myself a little torn about the writing. At times, I love it—she takes risks with her metaphors and paints vivid pictures of places and people. Taking risks means the occasional wince-inducing clunker of a phrase—language that draws attention to itself rather than adding to the atmosphere. On the whole, however, I’d rather a writer take a few risks than consign a good story to bland prose, and Steifvater’s choices are usually successful. I can’t complain too much when the risks produce passages like this:
They set off on the perfectly straight ley line, Ronan’s gaze still directed up to his plane and to Chainsaw, a white bird and a black bird against the azure ceiling of the world. As they walked, a sudden wind hurled low across the grass, bringing with it the scent of moving water and rocks hidden in shadows, and Blue thrilled again and again with the knowledge that magic was real, magic was real, magic was real.