This is a series I’m genuinely surprised I hadn’t heard about sooner. It’s right up my alley – young adult, vaguely supernatural, lots of mystery, everything about this series has me written all over it. It’s even been out for a couple of years! Still not sure where the ball dropped for me on this one.
A broad overview: our main character is Blue Sargent, a teenage non-psychic living in the Shenandoah Valley near a prep boarding school (Aglionby) full of boys she broadly cannot stand. It’s a real town/gown situation, but for high schoolers. Blue lives with her mother and assorted aunts and cousins, all psychics except her. The town exists on a ley line, which helps power the psychics, and Blue herself acts as an amplifier for her family’s abilities. She’s brought along with an aunt to an annual death watch (I dunno what else to call it) – a night when the spirits of everyone who will die in the town in the upcoming year appear along the ley line. She spots a boy in an Aglionby uniform and that sets off her relationship with a group of four boys from this school she hates: Richard Gansey III, Ronan Lynch, Adam Parrish, and Noah. The boys are on a supernatural hunt of their own, with Ganesy leading the charge in the search for the sleeping Welsh king Glendower. Everyone has secrets (some cooler than others), there’s a lot of magic, love triangles, drama, near-death escapes, and I honestly adored it.
I’ve broadly compared these books to my watch of Sy Fy’s The Magicians in that the first season (book) is a bit of a slog and hasn’t quite figured out its tone or its content or how all its various elements work together but that bit of a mess turns into something kind of beautiful. For the first book and a bit, I was a little eye-rolly with some of the prose. It felt very overwraught and reminded me of nothing so much as when I used to write fan fiction as a teenager and would compose a line or two in my head and then develop a whole chapter or scene for the sole purpose of using that line. After a while, though, Stiefvater lowers the melodrama and lightens up a bit and the books just get fun. Yes there is still total bananas madness going on but they start to feel like the teen books they are, instead of like they’ve been drenched in a baroque interpretation of Victorian gothic. A little more punk, a little less weepy black lace.
The books work so well because the characters are great (and Stiefvater manages to introduce one of my favorites well into book 3, so, well done). There are more iterations of “prep school boy” than I fully realized existed, and I went to prep school. They’re precocious as all get-out and literally nobody talks like that but also I didn’t care because I was having so much fun. The characters are very lovingly drawn – this is an author who genuinely enjoys what’s she’s doing and pours that love back into her work.
The love triangle I could do without. What’s meant to be our kickoff and through-line drama (all her life Blue has been told by her fortune-telling family that she will kill her true love when she kisses him) does not work for me. That’s why I meant by overwraught. It doesn’t go anywhere but it is superseded in importantly (mostly) by other drama, which was a smart decision. There’s another love story in the fourth book that worked much much better for me and I was glad to see that love triangle die
Overall, these are worth your time. I’ll post this and then go scrolling through the archives to see what any of the rest of y’all thought.