Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult, LGBTQ+
Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.
As I’m writing this, I am actually physically trembling. I don’t think I’ve ever been this emotional about any book ever (not even the last Harry Potter book). That is how much I loved The Raven King.
“At the end of the Raven Cycle, I want readers … to want. I don’t want them to be able to say what it is they want, though — I want it to be a bigger thing than words. I hope they get to the end and don’t know what to do for the rest of the day. I hope they feel unsettled and needing of something more. I want messages that say, “Stiefvater, please, I just want … ” and then silence. They don’t know what they want. They just want.” — Maggie Stiefvater
Really, it can no longer be surprising that Maggie Stiefvater, the queen of words, would be better able to describe my feelings about the Raven Cycle than I can. Because this description is literally me right now. I cannot even try to express my feelings on this book or the series as a whole. Where would I start? What would I say? What if I say something wrong because I missed a detail or interpreted a message differently? I know I’m a reviewer and I love writing reviews so much but sometimes words fail me. This is one of those times.
This is not a review. It is a gathering of different thoughts, a Pinterest board of random contents of my brain, a playlist of feelings. If you do not want to read my inner ramblings, I completely understand. Just know this: The Raven Cycle is exceptional. It’s beautiful and thoughtful and will give you SO MANY FEELINGS. Admittedly, it is not a series for everyone. If you’re a reader who reads for the thrill of a fast-paced plot with twists around every corner and have trouble enjoying books that are more meandering and character driven, maybe this series isn’t the best choice. But if you read to fall in love with characters, to experience wonder, to flip to the last page and have the story continue in your mind, then this is exactly what you’re looking for.
I read The Raven Boys when it was first published in 2012. That was way before I started writing reviews, before I discovered Goodreads. Having finished it now I can officially say that it is my number one favourite series. That’s extreme, I know, but there just hasn’t been another that could evoke in me the same emotional response. These books aren’t just stories; they are literary masterpieces. And they are personal to me in a way that I don’t feel about any other book. I know that with every reread I will discover something new, that pieces will click into place I didn’t even know were askew. The messages and characters will stay with me for a very long time, perhaps forever.
In short: I love these characters and their never-ending complexity, I love Maggie’s writing style that is simultaneously odd and familiar (also, her freaking dialogues are ON POINT), I love the setting that came to life in my mind, I love the intricacy of the plot with its foreshadowing and miniscule pieces falling into place, I love the character development that is some of the best I’ve ever seen, I love that this series is so unique and not afraid to be different. Oh, and it goes without saying that: ULTIMATE SQUADGOALS.
The Raven King contains many of my favourite scenes of both the series and all books in general (these are just a few):
View Spoiler »– The scene with Ronan and Adam in Ronan’s bedroom. I couldn’t breathe.
– Blue and the women of 300 Fox Way when they’re asking Blue what she wants to do with her future (sitting in the bathtub). One of the most heartfelt things I’ve ever read.
– Ronan and Declan on the roof. This is what true family looks like.
– The hilarity that was the scene when Blue is waiting for her school bus. Because Maggie knows exactly what her characters’ flaws are and has no problem showing it. And because WE ARE ALL HYPOCRITES IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
– When all of them are at the hospital and Gansey finally tells Adam about him and Blue, and Ronan, that sweet little cinnamon roll, says all the right things at the right time. « Hide Spoiler
I feel like going into more detail would just end nowhere, so instead I’ve decided to address some of the issues my GR friends (who are all phenomenal reviewers) had with the series. Just a disclaimer: this is by NO MEANS a criticism of them. Every issue they brought up is 100% justified.View Spoiler »1. Not enough Noah
Yes, I get it, I love Noah too, and I wish we would have seen more of him in this book. Having said that, the lack of Noah wasn’t an issue for me, especially with how the series ended. For me, Noah was a symbol. A symbol for new beginnings and letting go of the past. Our characters are growing up and moving away from Henrietta, and Noah cannot leave with them. He’s dead. Ultimately, the gang has to let go of him, the way we all need to let go of things when we grow up. Also, in the end, he played such an important part in the book. I mean, he is the reason Gansey is still alive! His death is what saved Gansey twice! (At least that was my interpretation.)
2. Why on earth is Henry Cheng so important? He’s a new character!
Admittedly, this didn’t strike me as that weird because I read Maggie Stiefvater’s recap of Blue Lily, Lily Blue on Recaptains, and so I knew Henry would be important (if you read the recap you know what I’m talking about). For me, his appearance is closely tied to Noah’s disappearance. His presence felt like a new opportunity, we grow older and have to let go of old things to embrace the new. Also, I freaking loved his character and he was such a great way to display more of Gansey’s development. But yes, he should have been introduced earlier, agreed.
3. Glendower is dead what WHAT?? Then who is the third sleeper??
So, I’ve seen many people hating the fact that Glendower is dead. They felt unsatisfied, betrayed, lead astray. And again, I get it. But I personally thought it was the best choice Maggie could have made. A part of me always knew they wouldn’t be able to wake Glendower, I just wasn’t sure why. So why do I think it was the best option? For me, Gansey was the third sleeper. Throughout the series, Gansey is often referred to as a king. Gansey was the king that was sleeping and woken, both literally (because he was resurrected twice) and figuratively, in the way that he was somewhat lost and didn’t know what to do with his life. Through this whole journey he finds the meaning of his life (which can be seen as a symbolic awakening) and ultimately realises that he does not have to chase down a myth in order to change his life and become what he wants to be. Gansey and the gang were chasing an impossible dream, but along the way discovered that they were the ones holding the magic all along. You are Gansey’s magicians. So who was the king who granted the favour? Ronan. Ronan was the one who dreamt up Cabeswater and asked it to give up its life to resurrect Gansey. Ultimately, they were all the kings of their own lives. We have the power to change our destinies and don’t need to wait around for a Welsh king to swoop in and change us.
4. Random characters and other bits and pieces
*sigh* Yes, I agree, some of it felt unnecessary but I just loved the new elements too much to be annoyed by them? Continually introducing new characters is such a Maggie thing to do and I can’t possibly fault her for it since I enjoyed all of it so much.
5. The plot felt too predictable
As I said earlier: this book isn’t about all the crazy plot twists. There is so much foreshadowing, Maggie doesn’t want the plot to be unpredictable. This series isn’t about what happens, it’s about how it happens.
6. The ending is a cop-out? The magic system was bent to accommodate the plot?
Well, I can see where this is coming from but I have to disagree. The ending of this book did not feel like a cop-out to me. All the characters had to make real sacrifices and the solutions came from within themselves rather than some outside magical source. None of it was easy and there was no real magic system to begin with. Everything in this series is weird and somewhat unexplainable, why would the ending be an exception to that? It’s about the journey, not the destination.
7. Nothing was clear enough! I’m confused! I want answers! GAHHHHHH
I get you so much, honestly. Part of me wants answers too. But it’s Maggie Stiefvater. Did you really expect her to give you a clear explanation for everything that happens? That’s just not her style. These remaining questions don’t exist because Maggie was lazy. They are purposeful and exist because she created something so full of wonder that does not have to and should not be explained fully. « Hide Spoiler
There is so much more to say but this review is already much too long. Please, PLEASE discuss with me in the comments (just include spoiler tags). I need to talk about this series to everyone.
Overall, I’m not giving The Raven King five stars because I think the book is flawless. I’m giving it five stars because despite its flaws, I still consider it one of my best reads of 2016 and found it too good to give it anything lower. I also acknowledge that I excuse some of the book’s flaws by saying “it’s Maggie Stiefvater!” which really isn’t a very objective or unbiased thing to do. However, I believe that when it’s the fourth book in a series, this is somewhat acceptable. There is no way for me to not be biased and I ultimately think Maggie delivered on the promises she made in the first instalment.
Depending on where you begin the story, it was about a little book called The Raven Boys.