At Last; The Raven King Review

The long awaited finale to the Raven Cycle is finally out! One last run with our favourite prep school boys and Blue. One more dreamscaped story. One more trip into magical Henrietta. One chance to say goodbye.

The Raven King opens with things more or less as we left them. The Raven Boys and Blue are regrouping to make their last push for Glendower where ever he happens to be.

Piper is causing shit, by way of the demon that she woke in the caves under Cabeswater. That’s right, someone gave psycho-blonde-yoga lady a demon. And you just know that she is going to destroy everything, because she is selfish and bored and nuts.

The demon-thing does her bidding but it also begins to unmake Cabeswater. It starts slowly, reducing trees to black goo but gains momentum quickly. The snakes start eating their own tails, animals puke up their own guts… Maggie Stiefvater has a career writing horror ahead of her if she gets tired of YA.

The demon also starts to effect the Raven Boys. It begins taking control of Adam’s hand and eyes, it possesses Noah, Ronan can’t dream properly – it even manages to disturb life at Fox Way. Even worse, the community of magical collectors that used to buy dream things from Niall Lynch are descended upon Henrietta at Piper’s request.

The plot of The Raven King is thin. Things happen, but it is hard to pinpoint what order they happening in. Like the rest of the series, the book is mostly character driven. Adam is dealing with the possible downside of his bargain with Cabeswater. Ronan is coming into his own as the Greywarren and noticing some new romantic feelings that have popped up. Blue and Gansey are finally acknowledging their relationship, both to themselves and to everyone else, but they cannot shake the fact that Gansey is destined to die this year.

While the other books in the series were also character driven The Raven King feels slower than its predecessors. Everyone is just sitting around waiting to find Glendower and get their quest over with. They’ve done most of their growing in the first 3 books and so to compensate it was time for the plot to pick up the pace. Unfortunate, that doesn’t happen. But if you love the writing style and you love the characters, it’s enough.

As with the previous books there are no end of memorable Raven-boyisms like:

“I stopped asking how. I just did it. The head is too wise. The heart is all fire.”

And characters never stop find new ways to remind you why you’re so in love them by saying things like:

“No homework. I got suspended,” Blue replied.

“Get the fuck out,” Ronan said, but with admiration. “Sargent, you asshole.”

Blue reluctantly allowed him to bump fists with her as Gansey eyed her meaningfully in the rearview mirror.

“For what?”

“Emptying another student’s backpack over his car. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“I do,” Ronan said.

“Well, I don’t. I’m not proud of it.”

Ronan patted her leg. “I’ll be proud for you.”

Also, there appears to be a new Raven Boy in the group in the form of Henry Cheng. He blends in with the usual crowd well but it feels like he’s taking the place of Noah, who is barely in this book at all. And while all the characters you love do get screen time, it doesn’t always feel like you get to know enough about some of the minor characters, like Gwenllian and Artemus. It always felt like they would have a bigger part in the story than they ended up getting. Gwenllian is reduced to a couple of words of wisdom and Artemus is about as much use as a non-magical tree.

Some events feel like they were breezed by, too. Like Pynch. Aka. Adam Parrish and Ronan Lynch, getting together all romantical and the like.

Somehow those two together are even better than Blue and Gansey’s not-relationship relationship. Ronan and Adam have barely been conscious of the fact they they’re circling each other. And they’re both so stubborn and prickly. It’s the sweetest. thing. ever.

But the bottom line is that The Raven King was supposed to wrap up loose ends and I felt like it didn’t do that. The driving force of the story was always finding Glendower but at the climax it felt like Glendower was a footnote. For all the time the four spend obsessing about him in the other three books, I felt like he deserved better than what he got. Also, the solutions to problems seemed pretty vague. Like it’s magic, it works all magically. Don’t ask questions.

It is an ending, though, and one that doesn’t completely drop you on your ass. You get enough answers that you can debate about the what happened. The epilogues are quite adorable and you feel content, if not exactly satisfied with the end.

But it looks like this is the end of the Raven Cycle. Despite my thoughts about the ending, this is one of my favourite series of all time. It’s a work of art. It’s one of the series that you can come back to every few years and discover something new. And if anyone ever tries to tell you that YA cannot be capital L literature. Feel free to shove this series down their throat. Ronan Lynch style.

Chelsey and Alexandra have been posting book reviews by text or video for over 5 years now. When they're not reading and writing reviews they usually have a fantasy project in queue that they're working on. You can also catch them around town at cons and expos once or twice a year.

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