With its unique writing style and intriguing cast of characters, The Raven Boys is, hands down, one of the best books I have read all year. It has a haunting, eerie quality that I quite enjoyed, and introduced me to a wonderful world of ley lines, magic and ancient kings.As usual, Stiefvater’s writing transports us to a forgotten corner of the world, where the supernatural comes out to play in weird and vivid ways. For a lot of the book I felt I was external to the action: instead of being embroiled in the adventure I was watching it from the outside, as though glass separated the characters from me. This is in no way a criticism – I feel the author must be commended to have so clearly depicted the bubble that Blue and the Raven Boys exist in: in this world, and yet not.Every single character is this book is dimensional and real and strangely incomplete. My favourite is Adam, who has a terrible home life but won’t accept help from his high rolling friends, fearing it’s too similar to charity. He wants to be his own man, and I admired him for it even as I wanted to slap him for not letting go of his pride. I liked Gansey as well, because he can’t help being rich, and he wants to achieve something in his life that is unconnected to his legacy of wealth, expensive cars and Ivy league schooling. He genuinely cares for his friends and puts a lot of pressure on himself to ensure their well-being and happiness. I feel Blue will be hard-pressed, in future books, to choose between these two great guys! But there is surprisingly little romance in this book (given the blurb), and the story rather focusses on the relationships the Raven boys have with one another, and cultivate with Blue.The story is best described as if seen through a curtain, which the author lifts slowly, rolling it back until we can see clearly. It’s not a straight journey: there are a lot of detours and flashbacks and meanderings that seem inconsequential, and a little self-indulgent, until the very end. I love how Stiefvater elected to show us the relationships between her characters rather than just tell us, and demonstrated their unwavering loyalty and trust through small gestures rather than the grandiose. The fantastical aspect of the book, centred on ley lines and their magic, is told in tandem with the personal stories of each of the Raven Boys: Gansey’s continuing disillusionment with the way his family lives, Ronan’s struggles to accept his father’s death and get along with his elder brother, Adam’s struggles to balance school and work and an abusive home life.A literary achievement, The Raven Boys is a must read for those who already admire Maggie Stiefvater’s work. This haunting tale of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice is not for everyone, especially those who like their stories straight forward and clear, but I think it will be greatly appreciated by patient readers. I can’t wait for the next book of the series, and look forward to reading Blue’s continuing adventures with the Raven boys.A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.