The Raven Cycle Series, by Maggie Stiefvater, is undeniably my favorite book series in the universe (and beyond). I read it for the first time maybe five or six years ago on the beach in South Carolina (my favorite place in the world) and I instantly fell in love with it. I’ve re-read it each time a new book comes out and each time I feel like there is something new — another layer to peel away. Likewise, every revisit feels like putting on my favorite old sweater, familiar and warm and comforting. It’s something I like to read when I’m in dire need of comfort. It just feels good.
So, the The Raven King paperback was released at the end of February and I ordered mine from Fountain Books so it would be signed. Steifvater also released a short which was included in the paperback and was also available digitally, which was an additional chapter post-epilogue from the perspective of everyone’s favorite Dream Thing, Opal (aka Orphan Girl). To celebrate and prepare for the release, I decided to re-read the series. I had recently picked up paperback editions of the first three books, which were ridiculously reduced on Amazon, so I was ready to go.
The first two books I finished in a weekend. I absolutely zoomed through them. Once the weekend ended, my momentum totally crashed and it was another week or two before I finished BLLB, and then almost a month later I finished TRK. It didn’t go quite as planned, but I finished so — yay.
So I’m going to shift into a little short review of each book, so if you haven’t read, skip down to the next break to avoid spoilers!
The Raven Boys
This one will always be my favorite because it set the scene. We meet our cast: Blue (who will kill her true love if she kisses him), Gansey (who is in search of a dead Welsh king in the Virginia mountains), Adam (who is desperate to rise above his family), Ronan (who is sharp, so very, very sharp), and Noah (who is dead). We also have the women of 300 Fox Way (Maura, Calla, and Persephone), and we have a villain, Barrington Whelk, because with a name like that you must be up to no good. Blue, an outsider to the elite Aglionby boys school and to psychics ability, joins Gansey on his mission and befriends the other boys over time. My absolute favorite bit is watching these relationships flourish until they each have a friendship with everyone else, instead of merely in the friend group. Gansey is far and away my favorite character. I have such a crush on this imaginary boy it’s embarrassing, but I also have a deep fondness for Noah. I remember reading the Noah reveal scene and being absolutely stunned, and then when I re-read for the first time, I realized that the first thing Noah said in the series was that he had been dead for seven years. That’s the appeal of this series to me — Stiefvater is such a master storyteller the way she can hide things in plain sight. For instance, we’re told from the very first chapter that Gansey and Blue will be soulmates, and yet Stiefvater keeps trying to throw us off the scent with Adam and Blue, but the tension between Gansey and Blue is so palpable that we can’t help but root for them. My OTP for real! Stiefvater manages to wrap up bits of this story and plant seeds for the next installment, specifically with Adam’s choice to sacrifice himself to Cabeswater. I usually don’t care for series because the first book is always amazing, the middle books are dull and drawn out, and the end is always too late, but Stiefvater keeps me on my toes and keeps me coming back to these characters and their struggles. I just love each of them so much that I have to pick up the next one to see how they’ll surprise me next.
The Dream Thieves
The second installment has always been, and remains, my least favorite of the series. I think a lot of it has to do with the tension between Adam and Gansey, and Ronan and Gansey, and Blue and Adam and Gansey. There’s so much volatility in this novel that it chafes me sometimes — everyone is in a terrible mood the whole time (alà The Order of the Phoenix). No small part of that dislike comes from the character of Kavinsky who I absolutely cannot stand. He’s so greasy and horrible. I can’t stomach Ronan spending time with Kavinsky when the perfect and charming Gansey exists… It’s just wrong! However, my dislike of that new character is nearly balanced out with my adoration of the Gray Man. Another new character on the scene, the Gray Man, a literal hit man, is so charming and quirky and interesting. He’s a perfect addition to the cast of characters and I’m so glad that Stiefvater keeps him around. I won’t say much else about this one, other than it was a hard set for my least favorite Raven Boy, Adam. He’s such a mess here, which is understandable, but I just have little patience for anyone who hurts Gansey — I’m telling y’all, my love for this boy is serious! I will say, however, that despite its faults, my second favorite scene in the entire series takes place here in this novel, when Ronan and Gansey appear in the courtroom to support Adam against his father and abuser. It’s so touching and I cry every time.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
The third novel is where we actually seem to get our hands into the Glendower business. Gansey’s been talking it up for two books, but we’ve not managed to actually make much progress with that particular storyline. More time has been spent in Cabeswater and with the Greywaren business, which of course is interesting, but both feel apart from what we were promised at the start. On the way to a de-tombing, we meet Jesse Dittley and can I just say, Stiefvater really has a way with supporting characters. In general, she’s a master of characters, but her ability to make even the most secondary or tertiary of characters feel fully formed is truly amazing — I honest to god want her to write a book about every secondary character in this series from Dittley to Seondeok to Helen Gansey. From Jesse Dittley we shift into Gwenllian who is an entire novel in and of herself, and we also are introduced to a new villain with Greenmantle and his wife Piper. It starts to get a little crowded. But, as I said, the action of the series, finally getting closer to Glendower, starts to boil. We have relationships growing and evolving, we have characters growing and changing, and we have the magic of the series reaching a fever pitch. One of my favorite scenes in the series is in the cave when Gansey commands the animal skeletons into motion. The magic in that scene is so amazing. Admittedly, this novel is where my feelings towards Adam begin to shift, and where (upon my umpteenth re-read) I decided that I do, in fact, like Adam.
The Raven King
A conclusion to end all conclusions! With the fever of the series rising and “unspooling,” as Gansey says, everything becomes so incredibly charged. The relationships reach peak levels, with Adam and Ronan admitting their feelings for each other (I cry every time!) and Gansey and Blue staring down their ugly fate. We get introduced to a few more villains and again, the story feels terribly crowded (poor Mr. Gray! He doesn’t get enough screen time). Things also become a little discombobulated as the magic stops playing by the rules and everything becomes vulnerable. We see a lot of heart wrenching stuff, and worse, we see that heart wrenching performed upon our favorite characters. The blows never stop coming. Still, the story’s most powerful moments come in the personal relationships, my favorite being the rescue of Gansey by his gang when he thinks that he will die all alone in the tunnel to Glendower’s cave. And I’m still not over the Glendower reveal. My heart shatters upon the rocks. I remember dreading Gansey’s death scene before I read the book, but now that I have read it, it is my top scene in the entire series. It’s so moving to read, and I get real run-down-your-face tears every time I read it. I’m pleased with how it ends, overall, but as always, I want more.
Included in the back of the paperbacks and digitally, this short is a perfect example of Stiefvater’s writing capabilities. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s thrilling, and it’s comforting. I like how it ties up some ends and sets up the next trilogy, but I will admit that I felt that it was just okay. Since it was told from Opal’s point of view, a view that we never got in the series, it felt a tiny bit detached from the rest of the series. It definitely got me excited for what’s to come though, so I guess it did its job!
So what’s next?
The Dreamer Trilogy is slated to be released soon, as far as I can tell it’s next release on the Stiefvater docket. While I am a touch disappointed we aren’t getting entirely new content from Stiefvater, I am excited for this continuation. Stiefvater is so excellent at building worlds, and each of her stories manages to be entirely new, so I’m a little bummed that it will be a while before we get something completely new out of her, and a touch apprehensive about what a continuation will look like. Still, I haven’t been disappointed by her yet. She’s been relatively closed lipped about this series, as she usually is with her works in progress, but we did get a little information regarding the focus of the series:
I’m a little bummed that Gansey won’t be the center of the universe again, *sigh*, but there is no Ronan without Gansey so I know he will be around a little, which is incentive enough for me.
We also got this small glimmer of intel regarding the series and the rumored Girl Racer series that was in the works for a while:
I for one am excited about the prospect of Ronan butting heads with women with horns.
Finally, the last large bit of information on the series came from the Opal short story. Opal witnesses a woman whom she recognizes as being like Ronan (i.e. part dream, part animal — or “real”) sneaking around the Barns when Adam and Ronan are gone. It is unclear whether this woman is to be our next hero or next villain, as we cannot judge on criminal activity alone — this is, after all, a Stiefvater novel.
We also received news just one year ago that the series was picked up by Syfy to be turned into a TV series. News has been sparse since then. To be perfectly honest, I am really nervous about this. I try to be a “books and movies are different art forms and thus can’t be compared” advocate but I also have never had something so dear to me turned into TV. I hate every Frankenstein adaptation ever made, try as might to keep them separate, so I’m not hopeful that I’ll be able to be fair minded. I haven’t made up my mind about if I even want to bother watching. What do you think? Will you tune in or tune out?
I recommend chasing out Maggie’s Tumblr and Twitter for more updates! She responds to a fair amount of fan questions both about her series and writing, so there is a lot of wisdom and trickery to be gleaned from following her on either of those platforms.
One final note: Since we’re talking about Maggie Stiefvater, I think we also have to talk about this: piracy. Maggie herself has addressed it and I think she did a world class job of talking about it fairly, which she almost always does. I hope you will consider checking your local library for a copy of her work, sharing a friend’s, or purchasing your own before you resort to stealing it on the internet. There are so many ways to get her stuff for free that doesn’t hurt her and her work. Please be mindful!
I hope everyone enjoys this series as much as I do, though I know that’s not often the case. Have you read the series? What do you think?