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.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1XXoSGP

 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater, was published in 2014 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to The Dream Thieves.

Spoilers for the series.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost. Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

Sigh.

 Let me start with what I enjoyed about Blue Lily. I adored Blue and Gansey’s burgeoning relationship, although I’m a little confused as to why they seem against pursuing it fully. Blue and Adam are no longer a thing, so why the hesitation? But I’m enjoying the “slow burn” because most YA series throw the love interests together at the beginning, not at (presumably) the end as Stiefvater seems to be aiming for (if Gansey doesn’t die, that is).

Adam is much less annoying, and Ronan is much less of a jerk, which is good. I’m still not overly fond of them as viewpoint characters, as they do tend to make the plot drag. I’m not against filler, but when you have almost an entire book of filler as with The Dream Thieves, and then another book that’s also a lot of filler as with Blue Lily, you (or at least I) want something to push the plot along, please. I do like the slow character development thing, but Stiefvater is not striking a very good balance between character development and plot progression, and so focusing on one means that the other one is stagnant sometimes.

The filler is actually one of the main problems I had with this book. At least towards the end it started to pick up some and Gansey and Co. finally made progress in finding Glendower. I can’t help but wonder if Stiefvater is trying to stretch the plot across four books, and if three could have sufficed. Besides that, I had two other problems with the book: the portrayal of the “villains of the week” and the ending, or to be more specific, the way Stiefvater ended the book.

First, I had a problem with Colin and Piper as characters. What I loved about The Raven Boys was the mixing of the real/normal/natural with the strange/supernatural. The Dream Thieves got progressively less of that as the supernatural started to pick up, and Blue Lily goes directly to strange town with the humorous characters like Jesse and especially the “villains,” Colin and Piper. Colin and Piper were strange; their thoughts were strange; their actions were strange. They just didn’t seem like real people to me. I got increasingly more and more annoyed at the way Stiefvater was using humor in association with them since it just didn’t fit for me (Stiefvater’s humor as a whole is a little strange, incorporated in strange places, and doesn’t often work). The ending with Piper and the rest in the cave was so strange it didn’t seem real. I miss that reality that we could see in The Raven Boys.

My second problem is that Stiefvater used the same gimmick she used in the first two books to end this one, the Wham Line. In the first book, it was amusing; in the second book, it was eye-rolling; and in this one, it was just exasperating. In addition, the other Wham Line she used was stuck right in the middle of a conversation and so the impact was considerably lessened.

I sincerely hope that The Raven King, presumably the last book, is a bit better in style and execution than Blue Lily. At least I know that there won’t be any filler. Hopefully.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, psychics, violence.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

Suddenly, Noah scrambled out from under the desk. He leapt to his feet. There was something wrong about the action, something about it that meant it was too fast or too vertical or too violent for a living boy to perform. And he kept going up, even after he’d already stood. As he stretched to the celling, the card that said reach, match, and safety hurtled into the air.

“Oh?” said Ms. Shiftlet. Her voice wasn’t even surprised, yet.

The warmth sucked from Blue’s skin. The water in Ms. Shiftlet’s glass creaked.

The business card holder upended. Cards splayed across the desk. A computer speaker fell onto its face. An array of paper swirled up. Someone’s family photo shot upward.

Overall Review:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue still had too much filler for me to wholly satisfied with it, not to mention the unrealness of Colin and Piper, Stiefvater’s humor insertions that didn’t always work (especially in regards to Colin and Piper), and ending the third book with the third Wham Line. I still adore Gansey and Blue, though, and the plot progressions that were made were intriguing.

You can buy this here: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater, was published in 2013 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to The Raven Boy.

Spoilers for The Raven Boys.

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things. Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

I did not like The Dream Thieves as much as I liked The Raven Boys, although I’m far from disliking it. I really appreciate the strong male friendship that is portrayed in the book (and the series), since I feel a lot of YA is lacking that, and I also appreciate how despite the urban fantasy/paranormal aspect of it, those parts of it are nicely woven into the world and don’t seem so weird that it’s off-putting (although the part at the end with the battle above the cars almost reached that point, in my opinion).

The strongest aspect of this series, in my opinion, is the dialogue and the relationships between the characters. When there’s no dialogue, Stiefvater’s writing continuously distracts me. I feel like it’s over-written and trying a little too hard to be memorable/pretty/whatever. A lot of people love her writing, but I struggled to get through the descriptive parts to reach the more powerful dialogue, and in some parts I actually skimmed because I couldn’t take it. But the dialogue is on point, and continuously funny and very well done all around.

As for the relationships, I absolutely love Gansey’s and Blue’s, since I mentioned in my review of the first book that I loved how Stiefvater did not immediately throw them together. And they’re still not together, either, although the ending is pointing strongly in that direction.

As for plot, I don’t really have much to say about it. I thought it was mostly filler, and the whole book was mainly just character development for Ronan. There was not really any plot development, which was a little upsetting.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, psychics, violence.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

In the corner of the room, there was a sound. Not the corner where Chainsaw’s cage was. And not a sound like a young raven. It was a long, slow scrape on the wood floor. Then a rapid sound like a drinking straw in bicycle spokes. Tck-tck-tck-tck-tck.

It was a sound Ronan had heard before.

He swallowed.

He opened his eyes. Noah’s eyes were already wide.

Noah said, “What were you dreaming about?”

Overall Review:

The Dream Thieves did not have much in the way of plot development and was mostly filler, but I love the relationships between the characters and the strong dialogue. The rest of the book still feels overwritten, and I ended up skimming some of the more description-heavy portions because of it, but overall I am still impressed with these books and Stiefvater in general.

You can buy this here: The Dream Thieves