Book Review: The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

OH. MY. GOD. This book destroyed me! It was the perfect ending to one of my favorite series EVER.

5/5 stars

cover the raven king

Goodreads Description

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 lie; 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.

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My Review

This is a really hard book to review for me, because half of what I want to say is spoilers, and the other half is basically “oh my god” over and over. But I’ll try 😉

Reading The Raven King (TRK for brevity) is like voluntarily handing your heart over to a butcher while simultaneously having all of your wishes granted at once. Lots of pain and suffering and tears. Lots of happiness and YES YES YES moments.

It’s…a lot.

By the end of TRK, all of the characters are leaps and bounds away from who they were at the beginning of the series (at the beginning of the book, for that matter). Each character’s growth and transformation is palpable and powerful. They grow into deeper, stronger, realer versions of themselves—and do it at a realistic pace.

The relationships between the Raven Boys (and Blue) grow in the same way, knitting them together, becoming the epitome of friendship. Every character transforms on their own, yes, but their transformations also tie them closer and closer to the group as a whole.

Even the new characters got folded into the plot without a hitch. Introducing new characters in the last book of a series seems crazy, but it just worked in TKR. I’m particularly in love with Henry Cheng, who brought so many layers to the plot while also providing some of the happiest (and funniest) scenes in the book.

By the end of TRK, I loved every character so much that I couldn’t stand it. They were all so real and alive—how could you not fall in love with them?

Speaking of love, the romance in TRK was PERFECT. All of it. I don’t want to say more and give anything away, but no matter your ship, you’ll get some happiness 😉

I could not stop reading TRK. The book throws you from happy scenes to terrifying scenes to horrifically sad scenes to hilarious scenes, with no stopping points, ever.

I loved how a series of chapters would fit together (like the 6:21 chapters), as well as the “depending on where you began the story” motif. The whole book had this feeling of putting the final pieces of a puzzle together—everything worked together perfectly, and you could suddenly start to see the entire picture at once. And of course, the writing was drop-dead, how-can-anyone-write-this-magically gorgeous.

If there was a sense of impending doom in BLLB, there was even more of one in TRK. Every time Gansey wore his Aglionby sweater, I freaked out. I just knew that the plot was going somewhere it could never come back from, and I both really wanted and never wanted it to get there. The entire book was surprising and tear-jerking and just really freaking emotional.

I’ll just say it: I SOBBED at the ending. And then I finished the book and just sat there in emotional shock for a little while longer, tears dripping down my face.

But it was the perfect ending for the series. It wrapped up the story, left no loose ends to wonder about, and got in a few last surprises on the way out. It was beautiful and painful. It was everything I needed it to be.

Book Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Part three of the Raven Cycle does not disappoint. Actually, it rips your heart out and slowly tortures it with magic, realism, and impending doom.

5/5 stars

cover blue lily lily blue

Goodreads Description

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

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.

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My Review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (hereafter BLLB because that is such a long title) continues the magic of The Raven Cycle, with a side of heartbreak.

In BLLB, shit starts to get real. You can tell that the series is building up to the climax. Gansey’s death stops being a far-off possibility and takes on an imminent feeling. Magic starts to go off the rails, trampling into the real world. There is a nervous excitement on every page that makes you want to read faster to rip the bandaid off. The plot is no longer messing around and is now playing for keeps.

And it’s really, really painful to read. But also gorgeous. GAH Maggie Stiefvater will destroy me.

At this point, it feels redundant to say that the characters are still living, breathing, and growing. All of the Raven Boys (and Blue) are well in the middle of fighting their demons, finding themselves, and rearranging their lives around the truths they keep uncovering. Once again, it feels more like a collection of simultaneous stories woven together than one dominant plot—which I love. It wouldn’t do the characters justice to leave out their individual plot lines for the sake of a more unified story line.

There are a lot of new characters in BLLB, but somehow it works. Some of them are minor characters and just add some humor to the story (I LOVE JESSE—see what I did there?), but others are key players in the plot. Gwenllian, Greenmantle, and Piper all helped move the plot in new directions (even if I wanted to scream at all of them).

The main plot of BLLB surrounds Marua’s disappearance and the presence of three “sleepers.” The sleepers plot was really freaking creepy, because you never knew if the characters were taking the right steps or if they were going to destroy themselves. Coupled with the vague sense of impending doom, BLLB had me on edge of my seat.

But BLLB still has strong “real world” subplots. I loved learning more about Aglionby, both about the students and the classes. Seeing Gansey’s cohorts interact with the rest of their school made me see them in a new light (even three books into the series).

And FINALLY, we get to see Blue and Gansey’s relationship develop. I loved (and hated) how tentative and guilt-ridden they were as they carefully left friendship behind and moved onto something more. There are moments of complete happiness, but they are always tempered by lingering fears and worries. They are the perfect couple, but they don’t get the perfect relationship, and though it broke my heart, it also made the story that much more real.

It’s impossible to describe how powerful the writing is. No longer is it just beautiful; now there is an energy to it that promises more secrets, more pain, more everything. Try to reread one scene and you’ll want to reread the entire book. (I know, it happened to me while writing this review.)

In closing, this is the kind of book that sucks you and and doesn’t let you go until the last page (and then only so that you can go pick up the next book). 

Reread Review: The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

This is my second favorite book in the series (behind The Raven King). I love the darkness of this book and the way that all of the characters continue to grow and weave together.

First reviewed: November 2014

Initial Rating: 5/5 stars

Reread Rating: 5/5 stars

First review here.

cover dream thieves

Goodreads Description

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.

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My Review

I LOVE this book! I’ve now read it three times and it only gets more intense, more real, more captivating.

As always, the characters are the defining magic of The Dream Thieves. Even more than in the first book, the characters feel like living, breathing people who could walk off the page and into real life. And where The Raven Boys (TRB) sought to establish an overview of the relationships between the characters, The Dream Thieves (TDT) delves into the specifics of their friendships and rivalries.

None of the characters are static. Every character is at some point focused on in the narration, giving the reader a strong sense of who that character is and how they are developing. Because of that, this book is not so much one story, but half a dozen stories woven together. While shifting POV narration can break the flow of some stories, it actually enhances the power of this book.

As you can tell from the description, Ronan plays a much bigger role in this story than in the first book. I loved this. Ronan isn’t a cheery character, but he is a painfully real character. Stiefvater captures his anger and frustrations and joys beautifully, giving Ronan depth and life that few other characters achieve (in any book).

Ronan’s dreams also come to the forefront of the story. If the sparsity of paranormal elements in TRB frustrated you, don’t worry, because TDT is undeniably magical. I loved the dream world (and dream logic) that Stiefvater created. It seems like such an obvious concept—he can bring objects he dreams to the real world—but Stiefvater takes it to a new level, adding darkness and horror to the magic. 

Adam’s character also gets more layers in this book as the deal he made with Cabeswater starts encroaching on his life. Things start to unravel, and Adam’s previously stoic character starts to fray at the edges.

I’ll admit, I don’t love Adam’s character in this book, but I really appreciate that Stiefvater let her characters fall apart instead of only giving them positive growth. Adam’s actions always feel “in character” for him, even when they send him on a negative path—and break the reader’s heart in the process.

New characters are introduced, adding to the story without overpowering the original cast. I especially love The Gray Man, who could have been an incredibly one-dimensional character but who is instead given a dry sense of humor and a love of poetry. (I also love that this YA book still has autonomous adult characters who have their own scenes and plot lines, separate of the teens.) I also love hate Kavinsky, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

As always, Gansey and Blue are amazing characters. They face trials and frustrations both in the real world and the paranormal one, and the attraction between them grows (*helpless fangirl squealing*).

TDT is addictive; I always wanted to turn the page, discover the next secret, see the next wonder (or horror). The writing that was so gorgeous in book one is still just as poetic and masterful. But where TRB had only a few creepy moments, TDT is full of darkness.

This is probably what makes this my (second) favorite book in the cycle. The darkness doesn’t come just from the magical elements, or Ronan’s nightmares, or Adam’s deal, or Cabeswater itself. There is also real world darkness—fist fights, grief, drugs, enemies. It is both a contemporary and a fantasy/paranormal novel—realism is not sacrificed so that magic can occur, it enhances the magic.

Basically, I’m in love with this novel, these characters, this series, this author. I LOVE EVERYTHING. If you read The Raven Boys and weren’t convinced, you should definitely still pick up The Dream Thieves. The series only gets more gripping and more fascinating.

Reread Review: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh my God I love this series so much!!! This is the perfect first book in one of the most emotional series ever.

First reviewed: November 2014

Initial Rating: 5/5 stars

Reread Rating: 5/5 stars

First review here.

cover the raven boys

Goodreads Description

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. 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.

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My Review

The Raven Cycle has always been a favorite of mine. I most recently reread The Raven Boys when Blue Lily, Lily Blue came out, but I had already read it twice before I started this blog. So though this is my first reread review for this book, it was actually my fourth time reading it. Needless to say, I’m in love with this book, but I’m trying to put my fangirling into words so that you can understand where I’m coming from.

The first part of this book that ensnared me is the characters. Each character—not just Blue and the Raven Boys, but also Blue’s relatives and other players in the plot—is given complex emotions and a tangible personality. The entire story comes alive, no matter who the narration is focusing on at a specific moment, because of how realistic each character feels.

Blue is my favorite character, of course. She’s spunky and brave and I love her for it, but I also connected with her frustrations about her future and her present. She has a wonderful home life, but she is also inherently set apart from her family because she isn’t psychic. Getting swept up in Gansey’s quest gives Blue a chance to find magic herself; watching her character transform as her world opens up before her is gorgeous and touching.

Gansey’s character is a force of nature. He’s the kind of character who you instantly know has a million layers and nuances, and you just want to read about him until you’ve discovered and understood all of them.

Adam, Ronan, and Noah complete Gansey’s Raven Boys, each adding their own complexities to the group’s dynamic. I’ll admit that I find Adam’s character frustrating in this book (I’ve shipped Bluesey since page one), but I can’t deny that the way his character deals with pride and poverty is fascinatingly real.

Not only does each character come alive, but the friendships that they form are nuanced and realistic. Within the Raven Boys—especially once Blue joins them—their are smaller, tighter bonds between some of the characters. Some characters understand each other better than others, some characters don’t really know what to do with each other. Instead of creating one big happy family from page one, Maggie Stiefvater chose to put natural roadblocks in the way of this goal, intensifying the already emotionally charged atmosphere of the book.

The second part of this series that I fell in love with is the writing. Maggie Stiefvater is a freaking poet. The writing of this series is magical and fascinating. Somehow, she always finds a new (but impossibly perfect) way to describe her characters and her world. I know some people have found the writing to be over-done and frustrating, but especially having read the story so many times already, I was really able to get caught up in the beauty of the prose this time around.

Finally, there is the actual plot of The Raven Boys. On the surface, the plot is simple: Blue gets caught up in Gansey’s quest to find an ancient Welsh king, so that they can wake him up and be granted a magical favor. But the beauty of this series is that the plot is so much more complex than that, and where you expect the story to go on page one is not where the story ends up by the end.

I love the way that Maggie Stiefvater weaves fantasy and contemporary worlds together. Normally, I am frustrated by cross-genre stories, finding it impossible to balance real and fantasy elements in a story. Of course, this book proves me wrong, and if you are a fan of subtle but intricate fantasy worlds, you should absolutely read this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who admires subtlety in storytelling. This isn’t a fast-paced book that will grab you and never let you go. You’ll get caught up in characters instead, and gorgeous turns of phrase, and hours later, you’ll realize you’ve been entranced by the story all day. The Raven Boys is clearly the foundation of a series that will (and does) go to even more amazing places.

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I am so in love with Maggie Steifvater there aren’t words. This book just keeps getting better every time I reread it.

5/5 stars

Book one of the Raven Cycle

*This book is on my Top Shelf*

Amazon description of The Raven Boys:

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. 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 Raven Cycle is magical and whimsical. I love it. At first, Maggie Stiefvater’s world building seems like nothing more than infusing a few old myths with a modern town setting.

It is so much more, and I can’t even begin to describe it. READ THE BOOK.

The writing is incredible. Steifvater has an incredible talent for putting words together in a way that you never would have imagined but that works perfectly. Her writing style matches the subtly magical tone of the series. She effortlessly lets you see into her characters’ minds, foreshadows the plot and yet keeps you guessing. The plot is subtle and admittedly slow the first time you read it (but every time you reread it you know what’s coming it is soooo intense), but it builds to a complex climax.

The book has deep societal themes woven into the story. I like the way that Stiefvater doesn’t overpower her series with social messages, but lets them shine through on their own. Specifically, I felt like the messages about poverty and teenagers’ identities were done well.

It is the characters that make this book for me. Blue is just absolutely wonderful. She’s eccentric and proud, aware of her roots, and willing to stick to her beliefs. Blue is the only non-psychic in a house bursting with them, gifted with the unique ability to make other people’s psychic gifts stronger. This obviously leaves her with a bit of an identity crisis as to what she wants to do with her life–and she finds the answer with a mysterious quartet of Raven Boys.

Blue has always avoided Raven Boys, the elite preppy students of Agloinby Academy  that dominate her small town of Heneritta. Gansey and his three loyal friends break the mold, allowing Blue to join their ranks in their quest for a long-lost Welsh king and magical things called ley lines.

The friendship between the Raven Boys (and eventually Blue) is amazing. I love books that capture the feeling of being in a indestructible friend group, and this book epitomizes this. Each of the boys individually has a complex, troubled character, full of quirks and nuances without being cheesy or overdone. The dynamic between the four boys is complicated and real. Stiefvater lets it slowly unfold over the course of the book, starting with a random group of schoolboys and deepening their relationship until they are basically brothers.

And then there’s Gansey. If I could date one boy I’ve ever read about, I’d date Gansey. Basically hands down. He’s hot, and literate, and addictive. He is an enigma and he is sooo much fun to read about.

The romance. All that I’ll say is that it is not what you would expect. From the synopsis, it seems like this is going to be a series dominated by the cheesy and annoying trope of I-love-you-but-I-can’t-have-you. It isn’t. The romance does not play out the way it seems like it should (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it), and it never takes over the plot, which is focused around the ley lines search. I really respect Stiefvater for writing an interesting romantic plot point (Blue will kill her true love if she kisses him), but still creating a plot autonomous from it.

The last line of the book. All I can say is that it redefines cliffhanger, but in a good way (I usually hate endings like that). Anyone who has read the book can attest to the wait–what?-ness of the ending. I could not wait for the second book to answer my questions.

I’ll admit the book is a little slow the first time you read it. However. The writing and the way Stiefvater crafted the tale is still amazing and can still be appreciated. Also, it’s better if you reread it. Also, the second book is SOOOOO GOOD that you will forgive the first book for ever making you doubt the amazingness of the series.

I’m rereading the second book, The Dream Thieves, right now, and loving it, of course. To anyone who read book one and wasn’t convinced: please read the second one. Seriously.

The third book in the cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, just came out and I’m dying to read it. Reviews for books two and three coming!