In September of last year, Nicola recommended Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle to you. At the time, we were in the long wait for the last book in the series, The Raven King. One of the things that Nicola touched on in her recommendation was how these books are complicated in that they are in many ways what folks would consider “typically” YA, but in the tradition of what we talk about a lot around here, they’re much more than that stereotype.
While I was reading The Raven King, I was reminded of how odd these books truly are. Stiefvater’s style of writing is slower paced than a lot of YA, but is also lyrical and mysterious, which draws the reader in. She rarely out and out tells you something, but instead shows it to you from a variety of angles. The Raven King is constructed in such as way that even though the plots points of the nearly 600 page book are fairly straightforward, the telling of them is not. The understanding of them is not. It’s good writing and I love good writing.
When I look at the way the events in The Raven King played out, I have to admit they were fairly predictable. Things I thought would happen did. Things I figured were true were. But none of this reduced my enjoyment of the novel a bit. In fact, it was the understanding of how they were true that was enjoyable. The trick is that Stiefvater told you what was going to happen in the first book, The Raven Boys. You’ve known from the beginning how things will end, and they do end that way, but they don’t end the way you knew they would the way you thought they might. The whys and the hows are different from what you might expect.
Some things about the book are disappointing, as all endings are, and others are so satisfying that I’ll think about them for weeks. One of the things I adore about these books and have from the very beginning is the way friendship and family are portrayed as nebulous, ambiguous and ultimately so complicated we often don’t know what’s happening right in front of our eyes. I’m afraid to say much more, because I’d like those of you who’ve been reading The Raven Cycle all along to have your moments with these characters.
What I’ll say is that I love the ways in which the four teenagers expand into adults in this book. I love the way that Stiefvater shows that they were children before these things happened and now they are not quite grown-ups, but that they are most definitely adults. Of course, Gansey has always been the most adult of the four, but even this is complicated in that his enormous sense of responsibility breaks down to the fact that he is a scared child who doesn’t want to die, no matter how kingly it makes him.
Ronan is still Ronan, stubborn and full of bravado, but he is also openly tender and loving. Adam confronts his past with his parents and his desire for love and belonging and is able to grow into a man who believes he is worthy of such things. And our dear Blue Sargent comes face to face with her own self and the ways in which knowing and loving all three of these men has changed her, as well as the ways her roots run deep and she is more the same than ever.
I think if you’ve been enjoying the series you’ll be happy with the way things turn out. It’s the kind of ending that makes you satisfied you read the whole series. If you haven’t read the series yet, I encourage you to go back and read Nicola’s rec again and decide if these books are for you.
Allison Carr Waechter will be in her hammock reading until June. Send messenger crows if you need her.