The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater, was published in 2016 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Spoilers for the series.

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 life; 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.

Let me start by saying that the cover art for The Raven King is gorgeous, probably my favorite out of all the books. I’m not quite sure how it relates, since the only deer in the novel are inconsequential to the plot, but whatever. It’s pretty.

I’m giving The Raven King the same rating as I gave Blue Lily, Lily Blue because even though I liked The Raven King better than Blue Lily, there were still some things I found dissatisfying that prevent me from giving it a 4 out of 5. But I’ll start with positives first:

As I mentioned in The Dream Thieves, I do like the male friendship in this series since I never see a lot of it in the books I read. I see girl friendships and girl/boy friendships, but very little boy friendships. Maybe I’m just not reading the right books (always most likely the reason), but still, I appreciate the camaraderie we get between Ronan, Adam, and Gansey—and Henry, towards the end.

I also liked the resolution of the novel, even if I also have some problems with it. I’m not usually a fan of authors pulling a “time to teach you that you don’t always get what you want” because it often feels like they just wasted your time, but Stiefvater manages to do it in an okay way. I’m still not particularly happy with some things relating to Glendower that were resolved, but it did make sense and the characters’ reactions to it all made sense.

Finally, Gansey is probably my favorite character, and even though more time was devoted to Ronan, I did like the glimpses at Gansey and Blue’s relationship.

Now, the negatives:

Once again, Stiefvater creates numerous characters that sound completely fake. One was the “villain,” though I hesitate to call Laumonier that because he was almost completely an unnecessary character. I don’t know why Stiefvater thinks creating quirky villains is a good idea, but it’s not—I can’t take a book seriously if I can’t take its characters seriously, and Laumonier was simply ridiculous. The other ridiculous character was Henry, who also said things that didn’t sound like things someone would actually say. I also didn’t understand why he was even in the book; he seemed a bit of a throw-away character and another attempt to instill odd humor into a book that really doesn’t need it. I liked him, but he didn’t make sense to me.

For the resolution of the book, I understand what Stiefvater was trying to do, but I wish it felt less like I had just wasted my time reading four books. There was more plot reliance on “oh, Ronan dreamed this” and “oh, Ronan dreamed that” until the whole thing felt like a “oh, Ronan dreamed it all” type of plot, which I know is not what Stiefvater was going for. Most of the plot reveals I thought were well-done, except for the “Ronan dreamed it!” ones, because that was used ad nauseam in the second and third books and it felt very old going into this fourth book.

Also, why is the book even called The Raven King? And why is there a stag on the cover? Curious minds want to know.

Overall, I think my main problem with The Raven King—and the Raven Cycle and Stiefvater in general—is a stylistic one. I just can’t jive with Stiefvater’s style for very long. There are parts where I’m all “yes, that’s perfect, give me more” and then there are parts where I just want it to be over and I’m rolling my eyes or I finish the chapter, squint my eyes and shake my head and wonder what in the world I just read.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, psychics, violence, sensual and sexual scenes.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

He was in a forest of wooden sticks, of birds. The brass instruments muttered; the flutes screamed. Wings buzzed and hummed and shivered around him. He could feel the hornets in his ears.

They aren’t there

But that big insect whirred by him again, circling.

It had been years since Malory had been forced to stop halfway through a hike to wait as Gansey fell to his knees, hands over his ears, shivering, dying.

He had worked hard to walk away from that.

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