Book: The Raven King
Author: Maggie Steifvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: 2016, Scholastic Press
“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.”
Reading this book felt like walking very slowly down a long, dark hallway, being able to see the door at the end with a light on inside it, but not quite actually wanting to reach it, let alone open it.
This anticipation mixed with the anxiety of what might happen just about killed me.
This book is so many things. It’s magic and wonder and 1000 year old teenagers and Maggie Steifvater’s fascination with fast cars, and sarcastic friendships and oh my god it’s so good.
Because of that, this review could have been a lot of things. It could have been a rant about how much I love this series, how great a writer and storyteller Maggie Stiefvater is (yes, I count that as two talents), how much I fell in love with each of the characters, how much I laughed out loud at times and quietly sobbed at others, how much I will miss reading about this fantastical world that will always exist in a small part of my mind.
Instead, I’m going to try to be a bit more practical. While there were a lot of things that I loved about this book, and about the series in general, there were a few things that I felt disappointed in, and I’ll be writing about that today. Keep in mind though, that as you read this, these are my only complaints. There are so many reviews out there that just rave about TRK, and while I agree with many of them, I didn’t want to get sucked into avoiding any actual criticism.
And I’d like to add that as with any final instalment of a series, of course I was disappointed that not everything I wanted was included. That’s no fault of the author’s; it’s simply the curse of something ending.
With that said, let’s begin.
This book reminds us that above all else that The Raven Cycle is a coming-of -age story, for all of the teenagers involved in the hunt for Glendower, all in different ways. It’s odd for me, because when I first read The Raven Boys, it was 2012, and I had just recently graduated from high school and entered into my first year of university, was the same age as the characters (autumn baby), and now here I am, four years later, four years older, and I’m so grateful for the amount of growth the characters went through, and I can feel it mirrored in me. This book also urges us to see the magic in the unmagical moments, of friendships and adventures and falling in love and living the life you have. The entire thing bursts with a sense of contentment.
“It was this: this moment and no other moment, and for the first time that Gansey could remember, he knew what it would feel like to be present in his own life.”
One of the things I love most about this series is the forethought that Maggie Steifvater puts into the plot. I mean, Noah hanging on until the right moment so that he could save Gansey when he was 10? Gansey feeling inherently right in his friendships with Ronan and Adam and Blue because they were literally there when Cabeswater was grasping for things to recreate his soul from? Ronan dreaming Cabeswater? Blue’s curse being not only because of what she was, but what Gansey was? Gansey knowing he was going to die? I have every intention of rereading the books back-to-back when I get a chance, and I’m sure I’ll find more. That’s what I love about this series; when you’ve read the next book, the hidden clues in the last one surface.
I laughed so much reading this book. Ronan is an absolute gem and is to be protected at all costs. I cringe when I realize how much I judged his character in the first book. And that’s just more proof of how amazingly well Steifvater crafts her characters. His friendship with Blue gave me life, I swear. All of the relationships in this book reveal something about each character, and that is again good character crafting.
Another thing I loved was how Steifvater wrote the romance in this series. It’s so refreshing to read a YA novel where teenagers fall in love without having incredibly detailed scenes of them making out. Instead it’s simple, and doesn’t create an obstacle to the rest of the plot. It just is.
One of the only complaints I have about TRK is that some of the plot points fall a bit flat. On one hand, this is regarding the antagonists, Piper and Lamonier. I mean, the first half of the book feels like it’s anticipating the-magical-sale-of-the magical-item, only for the entire event to go missed by the main protagonists (they’re literally underground). We only glimpse what quickly becomes a homicidal hell-scape through three pages from the perspective of Seondeok, and hear no more on the matter.
There were also some things that felt set up to be symbolic and then went nowhere. None of the squad even ever saw that the demon manifested as a hornet. Blue being half tir e e’lintes aligns nicely with her nature-loving personality but is otherwise underdeveloped, and feels slightly like it serves as a last-ditch effort to make her into a magical being like the boys. I also missed Maura’s chapters more than I thought I might, and mourned a little when I realized that Jimi and Orla and Calla had been swept to the side in the din of the ending. That said, the book is already 438 pages long, so this is more of a me-wanting-more *grabby hands* complaint than an actual credible moving-the-plot-forward complaint.
In that regard though, I’ll call Glendower to the stand. Glendower, the reason behind the essential search that brought these characters together in the first place, is just…dead? And after all the winding drives across Virginia, the expensive supernatural gadgets, the calls to Malory, the traveling Gansey did before coming to Henrietta, his intricate map of the town and his intense journal, and in the end he just says ‘take me to Glendower’ and the ravens just take him? I don’t know if it’s just been too long since I read Blue Lily, Lily Blue, or if this is actually genuine disappointment in the plot. I guess it’s the difference of a week book-time and over a year me-time. Ah well, another excuse to reread.
The important thing to note here is that these things never took away from my enjoyment of the book, rather there were so many compelling directions it could have gone in that I was undoubtably going to have some questions left over. But that’s what imagination is for, after all.
“He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn’t want it to be over. He kept walking.”
I’m giving this one a 4.5, but let’s round up, shall we? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Venezuela.