I recently decided to re-read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater along with my friend before the fourth book in the series, The Raven King, comes out at the end of the month. I recently successfully completed my first ever re-read in terms of prose (it’s long story and the series was The Mediator) and I thought that it was something I could successfully complete again…and I did! I finished The Raven Boys early evening Sunday (yesterday) and it was just as good as I remembered (if not better the second time around).
I had some observations so this’ll contain some SPOILERS so please be cautious.
The Search for Glendower: I realized this while reading the book (and I think it’s safe to say it extends to the whole series): everyone is working through their anxieties in their search for Glendower.
- Gansey’s anxiety lies in having his life mean something and he believes that finding Glendower will offer him that. He thinks it’ll be something to point to as a worthwhile act that he has accomplished in his life and that it’ll somehow fill that hole inside him.
- Adam wants to be powerful because his abusive father is constantly taking that from him and his socio-economic standing makes him “weak” (according to him).
- Blue wants to be able to experience and see magic instead of being the one to amplify other people’s experience of it. As the only non-psychic in the family, she wants to be more than the tool and finally become a wielder in her search for Glendower. She wants to be more than “useful”.
- For Ronan…I think the search gives him answers and a connection to people given that he’s a hard person to have any kind of relationship with. It’s harder to talk about Ronan since he’s not given a POV in this book but he does get one in The Dream Thieves so we’ll save that for next time.
Blue, The Raven Boys, and Masculinity: I’ve talked to my friend, Chandra, about my thoughts while reading and vice versa. I mentioned to her how interesting it was that Blue who grew up in a household of women became friends with a bunch of boys. Chandra mentioned that 1) Blue is mostly friends with Adam/Noah initially and 2) Adam/Noah aren’t really hyper-masculine thus why she’s connected with them. I agree but I also thought that gradually we got to see “masculinity” chipped away when given a peek behind-the-scenes (and the more Blue sees them behind-the-scenes). We see less and less of the performed Gansey who is old money and decorum to the boy desperately trying to be MORE like the guy who is trying to wear his dad’s suit jacket and it not quite fitting. Ronan is definitely the poster boy for hyper-masculinity but he dons it like a protective shield. “So noble and so terrified someone will catch him being noble” was what Chandra said about Ronan and I agree.
Class: This book is just full of class discussions and the various ways people interact with their class standing.
- Blue is working class but it doesn’t seem to weigh her down the way it does Adam who feels so defined by it. It’s easy to see how upbringing can affect their relationship with money where one home isn’t preoccupied with it while the other home has made it toxic subject (also lack of money prevents Adam being able to escape his toxic home). I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the driving factors for Adam’s father’s behaviour is being unable to deal with his station in life and feeling “helpless” because of it.
- Ronan and Gansey also deal with their stations in life differently as the rich members of the group. Ronan doesn’t feel guilty for having it and throws it around quite easily. Gansey wants people to like him so he’s aware of the trappings of being rich and how it can be off-putting to some people (he still accidentally insults people because of his privilege blinders but he’s trying to be as conscious of it as he can). He hates being defined by his station in life in a similar yet different way to Adam’s. He didn’t get to choose what he was born into so he obsesses with NOT being that rich guy.
- What’s interesting though is Ronan’s need to not fall into the expectations of being rich (politics, a wall street job etc). He’s someone who values freedom which includes moving beyond the boundaries of social norms/expectations.
Gansey/Adam: The Gansey and Adam relationship is interesting in the context of power dynamics and world views.
“When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.”
“Why?” Gansey asked Adam. “Was I so awful?”
Adam said, “It was never about you.”
Those two quotes are very telling of the Adam and Gansey relationship.
- Adam is constantly refusing aid from Gansey because to him, it would mean he’d be giving up his power to Gansey and would be”owned” by him. In the same way his father owns him and his position in life restricts his freedom. What’s most important to Adam is the choice he has left which is being his own master. This isn’t a personal slight against Gansey but Adam’s way of being able to function in the world he’s been brought up in.
- On the flip side, Gansey wants to be able to help the people in his life and it’s something he can’t turn off. It makes sense to tell Adam to move in with him and Ronan if it means being away from the abuse and it’s baffling to him that Adam’s principles are being put ahead of his safety. Also: Gansey takes this personally. He feels that a denial/refusal is somehow a reflection on his performance as a good person when it isn’t. It explains why he’s friends with people who would otherwise be loners.
- Both need to understand that 1) not everything is about you but also 2) sometimes it IS about other people.
Barrington Whelk: Chandra and I both agree that Barrington is a great antagonist because he at one time or another represented the worse versions of the other characters. Seven years ago, he was the kind of rich guy that people rolled their eyes at and the kind that Gansey/Ronan could be but aren’t. Seven years later, he’s the very desperate version of Adam who is willing to do anything at the cost of others to get what he wants. A toxic ambition that Adam could easily slip into. Stiefvater did a great job with this guy.
Maggie Stiefvater: Man…she really knows how to structure a story. All of the information is on the page. ALL OF IT. It’s there as plain as day and your don’t realize it until all is revealed and you revisit it. It is very well done and Stiefvater also knows how to create fully realized and three dimensional characters who feel distinct from one another. Their wants, needs, internal logics etc are clear as day and it makes this series a great read in learning to write characters.
Things I failed to realize the first time or forgot since I last read it: This part is very spoilery.
- Noah had said point blank that he was dead when we first meet him
- Ronan says point blank the first time we see Chainsaw that he got her from inside his head (see! all on the page)
- Ronan is the mating for life type (not a fan of infidelity or casual dating) which was neat to pick up
- Gansey is terrified of the idea of being destined for greater things (very interesting response since most of us would love to be destined for greater things).
- Understanding Adam’s sacrifice to Cabeswater: no longer being his own master (this makes sense when you pay attention to who Adam is as a character before that moment).
- The book ending with Ronan admitting that he dreamed up Chainsaw. What a great way to end a book and very Ronan like.
That’s it. A lot of my thoughts are pretty rough and I’m still thinking them through as we head into The Dream Thieves. I’m starting that today and I’m intrigue by my response to it the second time around. I’ve reviewed The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves in the past so check that out (I’ve linked to them above).