The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Series: The Raven Cycle
Format: Hardcover (from Library)
WHY?: The Raven Cycle is an awesome series so I was excited to read the conclusion!
"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to go to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over."ALERT! It probably goes without saying but there will be spoilers for books 1-3 and I may have to (have to) include some spoilers for this book but I will try to keep them bunched at the end after a break.
- Richard Gansy, III
If I'm being honest this book is a little bit of a mess. If you are looking for tight plotting and a really dramatic action sequence leading up to the conclusion of Gansy's great quest, you are likely to be disappointed. If you've stayed glued to these books because you love these characters and how they interact? You may, like me, have to stop periodically while reading and happy sigh. Because in the end, that is what these books do best - interesting characters doing and saying interesting things together - and in providing that The Raven King does not disappoint.
SYNOPSIS: At the end of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the friends had made some progress. They found some interesting and magical things in a cave, including Blue's mother and father. Gansy had discovered that he has the power to order things about (his magical power is bossiness - Hee!), magically speaking - not in the same way Adam can but more in a "if they're not listening to anybody else they may listen to Gansy" way. They'd found A sleeping ancient person if not THE sleeping ancient person they were looking for. People who helped them had died. Despite all this, there is not a lot of particular impetus going into The Raven King except the ticking clock of Gansy's imminent demise.
And of course that is the big question going into the book. Is Gansy going to die for real? How is he going to die? Maybe a distant third question is will the gang find Glendower and what will the implications of that be? If I have a major complaint about the book it is that our main players seems to be pretty ineffectual and passive through most of the book - things just keep happening to them rather than them making things happen. The search for Glendower ends up only taking up about 20 pages of the book which is...okay I guess. The point is that while I noticed this, I wasn't really upset about it so how big of a complaint could it be?
The other complaint, or maybe puzzled observation, would be that Stiefvater injects a few new characters into this book and they mostly just seem like distractions. Henry Cheng is a fellow Aglionby student who becomes somewhat inexplicably obsessed with Gansy. He's an okay character I guess but I never really understood why Stiefvater made this last minute addition to the gang and what Henry's role was supposed to be? There is also some kerfuffle involving all these creepily nefarious dealers in magic objects that get whipped into a frenzy by Piper Greenmantle. That whole plotline seemed out of place and extraneous.
With these numerous complaints, why did I still love the book? Two words. Ronan. Adam. Interestingly the series has shifted as it has gone along. Gansy and Blue initially seemed to be the central characters but slowly the story has become more about Ronan, with Adam coming in second. It is an ensemble piece but it is Ronan and Adam who take on much of the action here, trying to figure out why Cabeswater is sick and revealing even deeper hidden depths within themselves. At the end of the book, they are the two most troubled souls who have, at least partially, been redeemed or made whole. A little more about them later below the spoiler break.
Gansy and Blue also work through some things. For one, they come clean about their feelings for one another and explore acting like a true couple. They even go out on a date all normal like and just have a good time. More importantly perhaps, they face the future and decide what they are going to do about it.
That is really the moral of this story - growing up. These kids are not typical but like all of us they have to grow up and face life and Maggie Stiefvater has made it just so damn enjoyable to read about. There is an epilogue that kind of hints at the future and it at first made me a little sad but as I sat with it a bit I realized that it's kind of perfect. Bittersweet perhaps but mostly happy. And ain't that how it always is?
FINAL VERDICT: I love this series and this was a fitting and great conclusion despite it's narrative problems. It's really all about the characters and the characters rock! 4 out of 5 stars
So I just really needed to mention a couple things. First a few more thoughts on the epilogue. I was put off at first by the fact that the friends were mostly separate - that we didn't get to see them one last time together perhaps at 300 Fox Way so we could say good bye to Maura and Calla as well. As I thought about it though, it does work especially since this is the launching of these characters into the next part of their life. Adam and Ronan still connected but also moving forward in their own individual and necessary ways and no longer needing Gansy so much. Blue and Gansy exploring together....with Henry... Okay so I don't get Henry's inclusion but it's fine and I am just so glad that Blue is getting to scratch her itch of exploration and I realized that this is something that was likely at the heart of drawing her to Gansy who also has an adventurous spirit. Anyway, it's a nice representation of where they are at and where they are going after the conclusion of things.
And then of course. Ronan and Adam. Adam and Ronan. I don't think I've shipped anything so hard in my life. Okay I probably have but DAMN, Maggie Stiefvater that was perfect. They are definitely the two best characters in the series. Stiefvater had me lightly 'shipping them in Blue Lily, Lily Blue ...
“As they moved through the old barn, Adam felt Ronan’s eyes glance off him and away, his disinterest practiced but incomplete. Adam wondered if anyone else noticed. Part of him wished they did and immediately felt bad, because it was vanity, really:
See, Adam Parrish is wantable, worthy of a crush, not just by anyone, someone like Ronan, who could want Gansey or anyone else and chose Adam for his hungry eyes.”
so I was so ready when she ramped things up here. So. Ready. I wanted to read and re-read every scene they have together a hundred times. And though it isn't immediately obvious, I realized how well-suited they are for each other - the two magicians who know more about violence and heartbreak and being alone than anybody else. Ronan's worship is what Adam deserves. Sigh..... Stiefvater's language has always been amazing particularly when talking about or from Ronan and she honestly reached new heights here in my opinion:
"Adam lived in an apartment located above the office of St. Agnes Catholic Church, a fortuitous combination that focused most of the objects of Ronan's worship into one downtown block."
"Ronan crossed his arms to wait, just looking. At Adam's fine cheekbones, his furrowed fair eyebrows, his beautiful hands, everything washed out by the furious light. He had memorized the shape of Adam's hands in particular: the way his thumb jutted awkwardly, boyishly; the roads of the prominent veins; the large knuckles that punctuated his long fingers. In dreams, Ronan put them in his mouth."
"His feelings for Adam were an oil spill; he'd let them overflow and now there wasn't a damn place in the ocean that wouldn't catch fire if he dropped a match."
"Asshole," Ronan said. Adam smiled cheerily. Ronan would start wars and burn cities for that true smile, elastic and amiable."
"They kissed again. Adam felt it in more than his lips."
"When Adam kissed him, it was every mile per hour Ronan had ever gone over the speed limit."Okay, I'll stop now but seriously, maybe one of my favorite couples ever. And to think I was sad when Blue broke up with Adam. Silly me.