How does one even begin to review the Raven King? Where does one start? At the beautiful poetry of the writing? At the utter enchantment that it casts on the reader, wrapping us in its wondrous tale? Do we talk about the characters, their depth and the quiet awe they inspire by being utterly normal and yet so much more? Do we talk first about just how right this book is as the conclusion to this amazing series?
There is no right place to start when it comes to The Raven King, for it is not such a simple thing as a book or a story. The Raven King is so much more. It is want and desire, hope and desperation, grief and happiness, it is adventure, an end and a beginning all wrapped into one. It is not simply the sum of all the words on its pages, the culmination of The Raven Cycle series. It is an experience in that without reading it there is truly no words to express how it makes you feel, how it wraps itself around you and refuses to let go.
I will unashamedly admit that as The Raven King ended, as I read the last few sentences, I cried. Not the ugly sobbing of a terrible ending, mind you. I cried because there was no other way I could express how the book had left me feeling, so utterly fulfilled and yet so utterly wanting of more. Wanting something even if I couldn’t place what that something is. Recently Maggie Stiefvater said that she wanted this book to leave its readers wanting. And it doesn’t by half.
The Raven King closes the circle of time that begun at the with The Raven Boys. The year is almost over, Gansey’s days are counted. Now more than ever they need to find Glendower and understand the powers behind Cabbeswater if they want to be able to save Gansey. It’s a race to the end, with new and old enemies surging up with their own agendas, threatening the precarious balance in between the normal world and the supernatural elements within it that has been maintained so far.
I would say The Raven King was everything that I wanted it to be, but that would be doing it an injustice. It is more than what I could have hoped. There is more magic in this book than any of the others and I am not simply talking about the strange powers that come to a head in the last instalment of the series. There is the magic of people and relationship, of the chemistry and love and friendship. Every single one of the characters is a starker representation of themselves, grown by the past events and starting to take charge of their lives. They make hard choices and stand firm in the path of what threatens to destroy everything that they are, that they believe in.
The writing is absolutely wonderful. Stiefvater is skilled beyond words: the words are poetry written as prose. I was absolutely stunned by it in this book. Her writing has always been outstanding but there was something about it this time round that just seemed to be more as though the finale to such a wonderful series demanded more now than it ever had before. There is a musical quality to the writing that I am simply not equipped to describe. Actually my words cannot do the beauty of the writing justice, you’ll have to read the book to understand!
The characters. The characters were everything, everything and then more than what I wanted them to be. Gansey has never been so Gansey, Blue never been so Blue. Ronan and Adam are peeling away layers that had until that point hidden sides of them. Henry Cheng joins the cast as a wonderful addition, so multifaceted, so full of realness that he, like the rest of the cast, could jump off the page and be fully formed people without the need for anything to be added or changed. Henry Cheng, in many a way, is the last piece of the puzzle, the reason why things happen as they do. Without Henry Cheng there would be no ending, no wanting, no more dreaming. I loved Henry’s character and role in The Raven King. He had been a likeable background character, but in this he blooms into a main character in his own right.
Ronan remains easily my favourite of the boys (although, like Blue, I am a little in love with all of them). Ronan is the bad boy, the rebel, the trouble maker. But he is also the dreamer, the sensitive soul. Stiefvater takes the stereotype of the badass male rebel and paints him effortlessly in all the colours of a person. Yes, Ronan Lynch can be a complete asshole, but as I said before, he is our asshole. We know Ronan, we have learnt where his pain come from, where his strengths lay, and it is impossible not to want to protect him, not to want him to find a place where he can, at last, be happy.
One of the Raven Boys who drove me up the wall more than anyone before was Adam. There were times where I was too much Gansey to not be driven mad or upset by Adam’s attitude. But oh, how has Adam grown, become much more of everything that made Adam good now that he no longer lives under his parents’ rule. Adam discovers his strength as Ronan attempts to get more in touch with the softer side of himself that he has buried for so long. The resolution of their friendship into something more was a delight. I will say, I have never read a kissing scene that made me feel so damned much.
Related to this, I love that Stiefvater never makes a point of her characters’ sexuality. It is never said that Ronan is gay for the same reason it is never said that Gansey is straight. There is simply no need. Their sexuality is only relevant when it is relevant, it is a part of them but it does not define them. By not making a point of it she reinforces that this is normal and that there is nothing shocking or surprising or in need of telling when a character is gay. Because they just are and if you assumed they were straight then you fell for the trap of heteronormativity.
(On a side note I ship these two together so hard I could hardly contain my excitement when they kissed.)
Adam has another extremely powerful scene in the book later on regarding said parents that absolutely nails the topic and the confrontation. But what makes that scene so damned perfect is that we can see that the power is now in Adam’s hands. He holds his life now, they don’t anymore and I genuinely had freaking goose bumps at that.
I could pretty much gush about this book for days on end and still not be done saying everything that was so damned perfect about it. I didn’t want it to end and yet I couldn’t stop myself reading. It’s this epic last stretch that leaves you both breathless and exhilarated when you reach the end. I don’t know that I have ever read the end of a series that felt quite so perfect. If you have loved the rest of The Raven Cycle books, I’ll warrant you are going to love this book too. I didn’t want to put it down, but even though I have since turned the last page, this story, these characters are never going to leave me, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I would give this a million stars and it still wouldn’t be a high enough rating!