Title: The Raven King
Series Title: The Raven Cycle
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Date Added: April 4, 2017
Date Started: April 8, 2017
Date Finished: May 24, 2017
Reading Duration: 46 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Young Adult (YA), Romance
The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
The finale of Maggie Stiefvater’s illustrious YA series (which I didn’t even realize was YA until I realized it was YA) has both the love and loss that’s expected of the genre without the cliche. The reason for Noah’s existence and draw to Gansey’s court is made abundantly clear, and more than one relationship therein is resolved. Ms. Stiefvater not only manages to introduce another member this late in the game, though he was mentioned/seen briefly before so not entirely novel, but she also gave us more unexpected relationships. So unexpected I had to leave a potential genre out of my list as just the mention of such would be too much of a clue, and it is so uncontrived, perfect, and pure that giving it away would be a sin. If you’ve read the final book or are curious, I’ll talk about it in the spoiler markers below. It doesn’t give away the main plot, but it does give away one of the major relationships.
*spoiler* So Ronan and Adam. Can I tell you how fucking happy I am that Maggie Stiefvater included a gay relationship and IT WASN’T A BIG DEAL? Like no one in Gansey’s court gave a shit about it. The only thing Gansey said to Adam was “Don’t hurt him.” He didn’t care that they were together; he only cared about Ronan’s well-being because he understood that Ronan’s acerbic attitude was a veneer.
Now I know some people might think Maggie S. made him like that in order to imply he was an “angry gay,” but Ronan has so many more valid reasons to be angry than that, and I think Ms. Stiefvater is a good enough author that she’d never offer that as an excuse. I also loved that Adam was totally okay with it. He’d initially liked Blue and was pretty damn upset when he found out her and Gansey had been hiding their relationship from him, and the move onto Ronan was natural without being over the top.
The author doesn’t make Adam’s bisexuality a big deal, and there’s a definite hint to Ronan’s homosexuality in the second book where he doesn’t react at all to Kavinsky’s cruel mockery that he’s having a relationship with Gansey. He doesn’t react, because he doesn’t see it out of the realm of possibility, and even if he wasn’t gay, he wouldn’t be ashamed of having those feelings.
I obviously can’t speak for gay/lesbian teens, but I’d like to say that Adam and Ronan’s relationship is a positive if subtle point in YA LGBT literature, and it’s that subtle, seamless nature of it that ironically makes it stick. *end spoiler*
The author gets so many nuances of teenage emotion right without being over the top or overbearing with it. They don’t act like stereotypical teens; they act naturally even in the face of supernatural events. And even with this as a backdrop, emotions still exist. Relationships still exist. Parties still exist. College planning and all of the tribulations around that still exist, but they’re part of two worlds: the tangible one that everyone else who’s not a Fox Way psychic or a member of Gansey’s court sees and the other.
Perhaps because I just finished reading and reviewing The Mabinogion Tetralogy not long ago, but even without the Welsh King Glendower, I picked up quite a few more references to the mythology.
The Gray Man is another name for Arawn, the god of death in that pantheon. It is more than a fitting title for Maura’s beloved assassin/Hitman With a Heart. Ronan’s mother Aurora has shades of Bloddeuwedd to her, though she is *spoiler* a woman not crafted from flowers, but of dreams. *end spoiler* Then there’s Aretemus whom I want to say is like “the wizard in the tree,” but that’s apparently only the title of a Lloyd Alexander book and not a known paradigm. However, Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles are based on Welsh Mythology, and “the wizard in the tree” paradigm is seen elsewhere in literature: ASOIAF has Bloodraven, and if we want to look at it from a mythological/theological standpoint then the “god hung on a tree” might be relevant and includes the likes of Odin from Norse Mythology and of course Jesus Christ, the latter of course tying nicely into the idea of the sleeping king to be awakened.
As for Glendower himself, there is a conclusion to Gansey’s quest, though the author doesn’t make it easy for either him nor the reader, and, to be honest, I had to reread the climax quite a few times and look at some reviews before I “got” it, though I’m still not entirely sure, and might need to look up some other interpretations so I can make sure I have it right.
I’m a bit torn between whether or not this is me being obtuse or if the author made it too subtle. She has a gift for ending a chapter or even book on a gut-wrenching cliffhanger, and while the implications may need to matriculate, it was still obvious what occurred. She may have wanted to really let this final punch resonate though, and I’d be quite the hypocrite for lowering the rating on something for being ambiguous or confusing. The one critique I do have is about a warning presenting in the prior novel about what would happen if a particular character were removed from the picture. That occurred, but the foretold disaster never did (or maybe it did, but they were able to handle it without much fuss; now I’m not sure).
I truly hope the rumblings about a TV series are true, and I hope whomever casts, writes, and directs such does it right by taking the author’s counsel. There are some awesome artist depictions of what the characters look like. I discovered this while perusing reviews on Goodreads and seeing a beautiful portrait of exactly how I pictured Ronan (the flower crown is just a bonus).
He looks so grumpy and adorable and I love it.
I’d also recommend having a Bilingual Bonus in Latin or Google Translate handy as you’re going to need it throughout every book.
Are there love triangles in this series? Yes, it mimics most YA in that, but I’ll tell you true: I didn’t even notice it. Since Blue is destined to kiss and kill her true love, and since she goes from Adam to Gansey, the former has some bitter emotions about that, but it doesn’t override the main narrative, which is ironic since the catalyst for the series is Blue’s poisonous lips. The Raven Cycle is much more than that. What starts and ends with a kiss is the entrance to a cycle where the past and future blend and psychics don’t really predict the future; they just know time always comes back around.