Although I didn’t read as much as I expected I would on vacation (between my awesome family that I never get to see and the cold I caught, it was inevitable), I’ve been working on the books I wanted to read this last week. Slower than vacation, but still charging ahead.
Which is to say, I have fallen headlong into the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and I don’t think I’m ever coming out. I am so in love with these books that I don’t want to read the end. Because then it will be over and Gansey will be dead (maybe), and I can’t hang out at Monmouth Manufacturing or with Blue in her crazy house, or long to protect Ronan from his dreams, or see if Adam actually makes it out of Henrietta. I’m as in love with them all as Blue is. It’s amazing how that can happen in just a week.
I’m using quite a few of them in the reading challenge, so I thought I’d do a full review of the series. All the things I mentioned above are stuff you learn within the first few chapters of the first book, so I don’t think they REALLY count as spoilers. Certainly no more than Synopsys do. I’ve tried to keep them out of the following as well.
The premise of all the books is that a group of 4 prep school boys, headed by the dynamic Richard Gansey III, are looking for the body of a Welsh king who is buried on a ley line in Virginia. Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic, has foreseen that Gansey will die this year. They, of course, get enmeshed and start unleashing all sorts of supernatural stuff over the countryside. And then there’s Blue’s curse that she will kill her true love, but only if she kisses him…
The Raven Boys: I originally decided to pick up the series because Tumblr seemed to love it. They love stuff I sometimes don’t, though, so I was still skeptical (I really didn’t like Hunger Games, for instance). It was a solid book, well written and interesting. I felt at the end of it as though I would certainly pick up the next book, but that it probably didn’t deserve all the endless hype.
That impression may not be entirely accurate to others’ experiences, though. Tumblr spoiled one of the major secrets of the novel for me, which left me unsurprised when it was revealed. Sometimes I can enjoy the build-up even if I know what’s happening, but in this case I mostly just felt like the novel was… I don’t know. Not fully flat, but flatter than I’d like. Solid, but existing within many tropes of the genre. Good fun but not a life-changer. I would pick up other Stiefvater works, but she probably wouldn’t make the auto-read list of authors who I will buy their work no matter what.
I’m glad I kept reading, because it only got better.
The Dream Thieves: I do not know how to say enough of this book. Things get weird and creepy super-fast. Where Raven Boys felt likely and somewhat predictable to those who know the genre, Dream Thieves did not at all. It’s rare for a sequel to be better than the original, but this one was better in spades. Bonus points for a strangely loveable hit man, some car racing, and some seriously scary dreams.
It was like now that Stiefvater had done all the foundation work, she could really let loose. This book makes you love and fear Ronan, makes you ache for his family, and introduces a higher magic into the Raven Boys world all at the same time.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue: It is in this book that things really start to open up. It’s no longer a small group of boys and Blue looking for a king. It’s a world of dangerous people out for dangerous things. It fulfils the promise of its atmosphere that people will die. It’s a book of caves, forests, bees, and blood. The boys cling to their prep school antics, but it starts to feel like they are clinging to a semblance of sameness and not actually jolly.
The thing I appreciated most about this book was that it focuses more on the women of Fox Way than other books have. It’s the most female-centric of the series, though the boys are still main players. The ladies at Fox Way are just such interesting characters that it adds an additional dimension to the series that wasn’t there before. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it all, but I’ll just say “HOLY CRAP!” and let you read it for yourself.
The Raven King: I didn’t want to start this book, because it meant the end. And the end is a scary thing when it likely contains the death of Gansey. It was prophesied within the first few pages of the series, which means it has to happen somehow. I’m just crossing my fingers that the way it happens isn’t somehow permanent. Or that they can stop it. By now, I’m as in love with Gansey as the rest of them are. I’d follow him into an underground tomb in a heartbeat too.
I thought Lily Blue was tense and deadly, but Raven King as proven to be more so, by spades. The things they had managed to sort of tie together haphazardly before, or ignore, all come unraveled in disorderly and frightening ways. I didn’t exactly have nightmares, but I dreamed that I could dream the way Ronan does. Which shows how much this has gotten into my psyche. The book has fulfilled all my longings for the series and then some, too, which is nice. It’s a good wrap up. Even though I don’t want it to be wrapped up…
The long and short of it is that I now feel like the book not only deserves all the hype, but that I never want the series to end EVER. I’ll even wait a year for the next book. Please, Maggie? I don’t care if it’s all done, I can’t give them up. My only regret is that I’m visiting my sister in law (who lives in Virginia) at Christmas time. It would have been lovely to read a series I’m obsessed with in the location it’s set. If only I had waited… (I’m also glad I didn’t wait).
Oh well, I’ve bought all the pretty hardback copies and they’re winging their way to me via Amazon right now. I’ll just have to reread them 6 months from now at Christmas time.
And in the meantime, I have plenty of other things to console me. I’m in too much of a book hangover to contemplate what, exactly, but I’m sure I’ll start something else soon.