Now that I’m back from vacation, I FEEL OVERWHELMED BY THE AMOUNT OF WRITING I NEED TO DO. *Hyperventilates a little*
I’ve got this.
So! Right before I left, I finished reading The Raven King, the final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle. And there’s a lot to talk about.
If you aren’t up to speed on The Raven Cycle, let me give you a sloppy crash course. Blue Sargent is a Non-Psychic in a Psychic Family. Richard Gansey the Third is on a quest to find a sleeping Welsh King, who can bestow upon his waker one favor. And he’s doomed to die within a year (I’m singing Gansey doesn’t know right now, to the tune of “Scotty Doesn’t Know.”) Ronan Lynch is a dreamer, who happens to have dreams that are after him. Noah Czerny is a punk boy who loves Blink-182 and fast cars, who also has a deadly secret. Adam Parrish is a hard-working yet jaded student at Aglionby Academy, the most prestigious school in Henrietta, Virginia. Aglionby students are known as Raven Boys, and that isn’t exactly a sweet thing: they’re known for being pretentious, rich little snots who have more money than common sense or decency. Adam, Noah, Gansey and Ronan are all Raven Boys. Blue Sargent’s one rule? Stay away from Raven Boys. Oh, and don’t kiss anyone- she just might kill them. This cycle is their messy, glorious story.
If you’ve read the series and just need some brushing up before The Raven King, I highly suggest checking out Recaptains and their awesome takeaways (which may or may not have been written by the author.)
First, I mentioned before that some possible shenanigans were afoot with the fact that the Ley Lines (the three lines under the logo of the book) were drawn upside down on some of the doodled copies of the book. WELL! I got my doodled edition, and…
Our perceptions of the world are strong, and they play a lot into how we read things. I went into The Raven King with some serious impressions on where the story was headed, and how it might end. Even after finishing the book, I’m still not sure how many of those impressions were right; when asked what she wanted readers to take away from The Raven King, Stiefvater said this:
“The Internet widely believes that all authors are fiends who delight in the suffering of readers, but I don’t want readers to be sad. At the end of the Raven Cycle, I want readers … to want.
I don’t want them to be able to say what it is they want, though — I want it to be a bigger thing than words. I hope they get to the end and don’t know what to do for the rest of the day. I hope they feel unsettled and needing of something more. I want messages that say, ‘Stiefvater, please, I just want…’ and then silence. They don’t know what they want. They just want.”
She certainly got that sentiment right. I’ve had plenty of time to mull this over, and I still don’t know what to think.
Hey, listen! Here’s where the spoilers start happening, people!
Since time is circular, and nothing is true- everything is permitted, this section’s timeline is going to be all over the place.
When we left off in Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Blue had just found her parents near the ominous door containing the sleeper that should not be awakened. Piper lived through the cave-in crash, nursed back to normal by Neeve.
Neeve hoped that Piper would help her open the door and wake the sleeper within, but Piper had other plans: she yanked the door open, smacked the sleeper to roaring AWAKE status, and got to command the demon (surprise!) all on her own.
In The Raven King, said demon is on the loose– a hornet longer than your forearm, able to mindhack people in one twitch of his antennae. And he’s semi-controlled by the most vain airhead ever. (I say semi-controlled because he often does the controlling, but lets Piper think it’s the other way around. Ya know, demon stuff.)
Giant hornet? #SaveGansey.
Henry Cheng is back in the fray, and plays a much bigger role in TRK than he did in previous books. He imparts a secret upon Gansey (in a cave, in the dark), in the form of a robotic bee that is controlled directly by Henry’s thoughts. This bee is a heated topic of chatter for all of the collectors of ancient and odd artifacts, who all want it for their own.
Holding buzzing insects in the dark? #SaveGansey.
Blue still knows she can kill her true love with a kiss. She also knows it’s Gansey. Gansey, however, still doesn’t know.
Gansey doesn’t know? #SaveGansey.
I’m telling you- all the little things in this book give me a heart attack. We all know that Gansey is doomed to die within the next year, and every step he takes is a near-meeting with fate.
Cabeswater begins to fall apart, thanks to the demonic forces now living in its dream-belly. Ronan is in for some serious grieving as the world he manifested (surprise!) is torn asunder, along with the people hidden within. I’m sorry, Aurora Lynch. Ronan does manage to save his Orphan Girl, who has been his constant dream companion since he began dreaming.
Speaking of Ronan, Adam x Ronan FIVE-EVER. Whoops, sorry, got ahead of myself. Ronan lets his feelings for Adam be known. Adam isn’t sure how to process this at first. He does finally let himself feel rather than block out, and it’s a lovely thing.
Noah… poor Noah. We learn more about his life, and watch in horror as his death is made torture at the hands of the demon.
Can we #SaveNoah? That was Gansey’s plan when he woke Glendower, the sleeping Welsh King, but things change. Except… Glendower is dead. There is no King to wake.
Our entire tale falls apart under the weight of Gansey’s sole purpose. He doesn’t seem to falter as much as I expected… but he does have other things to worry about. Like demon hornets.
Once Gansey lets it be known that he’s aware of his own fate (surprise!) and how the demon must be destroyed…
A sacrifice for a sacrifice. Death for death.
Well, there is no more #SaveGansey. The kiss is there. The end is there. Oh, Richard Gansey the Third, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I wish things were different.
“He fell quietly from her arms. He was a king.”
Noah repeats giving himself up for Gansey for the last time, and disappears into the stream of time. And my feels are all used up.
But with every end, there’s new beginnings. And this is where Cabeswater, at the cost of its own existence, refashions a Richard Gansey the Third from his friends’ thoughts and memories.
Okay, now that I’ve haphazardly laid out the story, I can get on to my thoughts. I enjoyed this book. A lot. But I also felt like I needed more.
Stiefvater said that’s what she wanted, right?
The ending of the book is pretty open, and we don’t really know exactly what happens after the great sacrifice. Well, we see a snapshot of everything being cool in the form of an Epilogue, but… the emotion is missing. The characters make no more mention of Noah- which makes me wonder if he disappeared from time altogether? Do they remember him? It made my heart hurt that his sacrifice was not mentioned, and his friends, who knew his every truth, didn’t even seem to think of him. Adam makes peace with his past. Blue, New-Gansey and Henry trio it up all around the country (and world, we assume). Ronan becomes the most badass farmer the world has ever known. But the emotion that has built up the series is gone.
And I found that frustrating.
I wasn’t mad that Glendower was dead- after all, there are too few tales where the hero must come to a hard understanding about his quest. But the scene was too bare for me. Not raw enough. Four books’ worth of hunting for a page of let down. It almost fizzled as I read it.
The demon was, as odd as this feels to say, too easy to defeat? I mean, Gansey died, and there is no ease in death, but the way it is presented… the demon was simplistic and did not offer as much of a threat as the characters made it sound like. They were more afraid than I was, and that isn’t always a good thing. Yes, the demon was unmaking Cabeswater and attempting to wreak havoc on the world. I hear ya. But Neeve seemed like more of a force to be reckoned with. Greenmantle was more intimidating. The Gray Man made me more nervous.
Even with all my conflicts, I still loved the story, and this series as a complete arc is still phenomenal. I’ve rarely felt so in love with a group of characters as I have with the women of 300 Fox Way, with Blue Sargent and her accidentally-acquired Raven Boys, with a man wearing gray who fell in love with a psychic… with Raven Kings and Greywarens and Magicians and Mirrors. With boys with smudged faces that brought wings to mere mortals.
Indeed, Maggie Stiefvater, I did want more. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I wanted at all times, but indeed, I did want.