In Henrietta, Virginia

Once upon a short while ago, mah gurl alerted me to a certain contest.

Raven Recap Contest

The challenge: To summarize the fantastical events of all four books in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – (aka, one of my very favorite series in the known universe) – in 200 words or a 1-minute video.

The prize for three lucky winners, chosen by Maggie herself: An exclusive boxed set of The Raven Cycle, plus the contest’s organizers will share the winning entries on their social platforms.

Raven Cycle, Paper Fury Insta
Photo credit to @paperfury on Instagram

I did not initially think to enter, because condensing the plot of even one novel into a 200-word back-o’-book-esque blurb is struggle enough. (I should know. I’ve only had to do it more than a dozen times for my own books.) How in the world to do it for four???

So I put the notion aside. …And then I got dragged out of bed bright and early by my muse, journaled for about an hour, and wound up with a lovely contender of a poem on my hands, fondly entitled “In Henrietta, Virginia”.

Though I hadn’t the patience to count out the words in my handwritten scribbles*, I could tell at a glance that it totaled past 200. That meant that if I wanted my little labor of love to have a shot in the contest, I’d have to call upon my inner bard and recite the poem at sparkling speed.

*(Having subsequently typed it all out, the exact word-count comes to 271.)

Video, recorded. Entry, entered. Winners – as of this post’s drafting – unannounced.

Certainly, I hope to be among the lucky three deemed a cut above the rest by an idolized author! But even if I’m not, it will be something to suppose that she saw art I made in response to hers, and that it gave her joy. After all, were I the author in Maggie’s place, I’d be giddy over a fandom scrambling to put my beloved story into new words.

Non-Stiefvater readers of the blog, meanwhile, are also perfectly welcome to watch my video (linked here!), and/or read the poem at a less break-neck pace below.

In Henrietta, Virginia

A daughter of seers knows two things for truth.

The first she’s been warned of since earliest youth –

To kiss her true love is to kill. Next, her rule:

Avoid the boys from Aglionby school

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

She knows no temptation until she knows them

So living, so deathly – a strange constellation:

 

A young man’s form holds an ancient soul

That yearns and journeys the world over,

Desperate to discover why

He lives this second chance at life.

He knows not the depth of his wealth, nor his power,

Only the call of the legend Glendower

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

A son of a dream dreams a world of his own,

Full of cages to rage in ‘til he reclaims home.

A boy in the dust sells his hands and his eyes.

Could this bondage help free him from family ties?

 

A mantle of green seek a waren of grey.

A poet with blood on his hands finds the way,

Along with a love and a life that he craves,

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

Their searches converse on a line o’ the ley,

The road of the corpses who walk in the day,

But too fast start to fade, become monstrous shades,

Like nightmares that out of thieves’ dreams claw their way

into Henrietta, Virginia,

 

Where you unearth a tomb, expecting one thing,

Only to find the mad light of a tree.

Where hornets are death, unlike robotic bees,

And all could soon fall to the Unmaker’s sting.

 

Ware the words of the forest, the song of the corvids,

You mirrors, magicians, and dreams:

The way you’ve made is the Raven King’s.

<<<>>>

Any other fans of The Raven Cycle (and/or other Stiefvater works) in the da house?! If yes, how well do you think my poem captured the soul of the series? If no, has this post made you at all curious to give the books a read? All thoughts welcome in the comments!

In Which I’m Seen Ravin’ About Another Stiefvater Novel

First “The Scorpio Races”, then “The Raven Boys”, now its sequel… I think it may be time I just go ahead and call myself this author’s fan.

The Book: “The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)” by Maggie Stiefvater.

Genre: Paranormal YA.

Blurb (as set down on the front flap of the book’s jacket): If you could steal things from your dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

Of The Raven Boys, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Maggie Stiefvater’s can’t-put-it-down paranormal adventure will leave you clamoring for book two.” Now the second book is here, with the same wild imagination, dark romance, and heart-stopping twists that only Maggie Stiefvater can conjure.

My Thoughts: The short version: I want the third book a week ago, please.

The long version: Apart from the characters (which I broke down for ya back in my review of book one), my favorite thing about this book was the way the author says things. She uses language in vivid, unexpected, and often startlingly humorous ways I don’t frequently see and would rarely (if ever) think up on my own. Some small percentage of the time, her choices of phrasing and/or analogy may not quite work for me, but on the whole, I ate it up. Rather than just try to describe it, though, let me give you a taste of what I mean.

The three brothers were nothing if not handsome copies of their father… Declan had the same way of taking a room and shaking its hand. Matthew’s curls were netted with Niall’s charm and humor. And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war.

A smile made for war… So much did that line please me when first I read it, I had to write it down by hand. Had I done so with more snippets from the book, this blog post would be largely ready to go, right now. But I didn’t, and I’m not the sort who easily memorizes what I read, so I’ll have to flip through the pages at random to pull out more quotes for you. Let’s see what grabs me next…

The first week of June, Gansey found a headless statue of a bird with king carved on its belly in Welsh. The second week, they wired a refrigerator in the upstairs bathroom, right next to the toilet. The third week, someone killed Niall Lynch. The fourth week, Ronan moved in.

That’s another trait. That matter-of-factness, never mind what an extraordinary thing has just been said. She makes everyday things poetry, and incredible things bluntly simplistic. There’s beauty in the balance.

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”

“I did explain it.”

“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

That’s what it’s like, sometimes. Not altogether logical, or logical in a way you can’t quite grasp, but somehow pleasing nonetheless.

I could search through for more examples, but my dislike for skimming would have me reading the whole book all over again – which I will someday happily do, but I am kind of trying to do other things, at the moment.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you’re looking for votes, you’ve got a “yes” from me. I don’t even think it’s wholly necessary for you to have read book one first (enough months had passed between my reading of each that I’d largely forgotten the details from the series opener), though obviously I liked that book, too, so there’s another “yes” vote for you; I’m just saying, it can work on its own.

My personal copies of “Dream Thieves” and “Raven Boys”.
My personal copies of “Dream Thieves” and “Raven Boys”.

Such are my thoughts on “The Dream Thieves. If you’ve got any of your own, I’d be pleased to read ‘em in the comments!

“Ravin’” or “Slightly More Organized Reactions Re: Another Book I Read”

Taking a breather, now, from talking about that book I launched the other week (*cough* “The Stone Kingdom”, buy it, it’s aweseome *cough*), so I can talk about a different book entirely.

Back in July, I had to indulge in a bit of “talking with extreme enthusiasm” about a book I picked up for no particular reason and loved. I was subsequently encouraged by friends to read a certain other of the author’s offerings and share my impressions afterward. And because I’m of the opinion that one ought to give The People what they want (within reason, if one can, and if it doesn’t appear to be more bother than it’s worth), this blog post exists.

The Book: “The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)” by Maggie Stiefvater.

Genre: Paranormal YA.

Blurb: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve. Either you’re his true love … or you killed him.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them – until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, and he’s a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

CA.0808.raven.boys.

My Thoughts: Another book for which I didn’t bother to read the blurb before I dove in. (‘Cause I’m a rebel, y’all. Or just ‘cause I didn’t feel like dealing with any expectations, this time around.) The first half or more of the book moved rather slow, for me. I had more or less figured that this novel and I just weren’t going to connect when – at no specific point that I can pin down as “the one”, so perhaps it was just a gradual thing – the story started to gain momentum, and by the end, I was sold.

Wait. I’m a liar. I think I know the point where the change took place. Alas, it is a plot point of major spoiler proportions, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it is. Let’s just say it made my brain go, “Whoa!” and “Aw, man, did I see that coming?… No, can’t say that I did, but it makes freaking sense! Ooh, bravo, Stiefvater; I approve this turn of events very much,” and demand that my hands start turning pages faster.

Since this is a pretty character-driven tale (yay for those), let’s talk about my feelings regarding all those names mentioned in the blurb.

Blue. I liked her well enough. I didn’t get the sense that she was trying too hard in the way that some characters (male and female, but predominantly female) will sometimes strike me as doing. Y’know, “look at me, I’m so XYZ, hear me roar and love me for it,” or whatever. She was just being her, and didn’t do anything that made me smack my forehead and groan over the stupidity of it all, so she stayed well away from my black list.

Gansey. I appreciate that we got to see a good quarter of the story or so from his perspective (his third person perspective, mind you; the whole novel was narrated in third, which, when done well, can be every bit as intimate as first), else it might have been easy to get the wrong idea about him. As was made starkly apparent during some of his interactions with Blue, he can frequently come off as a too-glossy version of himself that isn’t a fair representation of his self as a whole. (Along those same lines, I also felt for him when he got slammed for employing an advanced vocabulary in everyday conversation, since I’ve taken my share of hits for the same, and it’s irritating as all get-out.) Predominantly, I liked him because he cared so profoundly for his friends. True Friendship is as beautiful to me as True Love. …because, after all, it is true love, just of a different kind.

Adam. His stubborn pride made me want to wash my hands of him, sometimes. It was one of those, “no, actually, I don’t get where you’re coming from, but I guess I can semi-respect it anyway,” kind of deals. And he was a nice guy, and I like nice guys, so he got points for that.

Ronan. Not a nice guy. An inscrutable jerk, actually. Fortunately, I can like that kind of guy, too, so long as I don’t have to deal with him in real life. My fave laugh-out-loud line of the book was his, but I can’t share it, as it pertains to The Game-Changing Spoiler.

Noah. I spent some while wondering when this guy was going to contribute anything I cared about to the plot. I didn’t really get him, or get why we were bothering to include him in the gang of Raven Boys. He was on the fringes, and if I’d taken more notice of that fact (which I didn’t, precisely because it all seemed so marginal), it probably would have annoyed me.

I think I ended up loving him most of all the boys.

Why? Spoiler, that’s why.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you can’t take the suspense anymore – (what in the name of all mercy is this ever-lovin’ spoiler I keep taunting you with?! You’re about to climb up the walls and pitch a fit on the ceiling!) – then lay hands on the book and go to town. Then join me in anticipating getting hold of “The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)”, which came out September 17th. ‘Cause I want me some more Raven Boys, kids.

On the off chance you’re still on the fence, allow me to direct you to Maggie Stiefvater’s Top Ten Reasons to Read The Raven Cycle. If that doesn’t convince you to give the book a try, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Anyone else got any opinions on the book? Or opinions on my opinions of it? I pray you, share them below. It’s what The People want.