Off the Shelf: A Review of The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodbye beautiful Cabeswater.
Goodbye impossible dreams.
Goodbye to my ravens and lily, the ones who let me be a part of this magical adventure, and the ones I laughed, cried, and loved with.

It’s over… It’s really over. The Raven Cycle has come to an end, and in a way, I’m having a hard time dealing with the loss. There’s still so much more left that could be explored. So many questions I have that are going unanswered. So much potential for MORE. And yet, no. I’m comfortable with the way we, the readers, left Henrietta, and I want to celebrate the magic that is this series coming full circle.

“Depending on where you began the story, it was about this place: the long stretch of mountain that straddled a particularly potent segment of the ley line.”

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Caution: As this is the last book in the series, to talk about it fully and do it justice, there may be spoilers ahead….

Description (via Goodreads)

Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

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.

I was one of those several thousand fans who was severely let down by the Amazon Pre-Order Fiasco of 2016. I’d preordered The Raven King a couple of months ago after finishing the first book and knowing I absolutely must read the rest of the series. Release date came, and I, as well as several others received an e-mail from Amazon saying that orders would be delayed (possibly until JUNE or JULY). They’d run out. Excuse me?! Isn’t that the whole point of pre-ordering, so that you have enough copies in supply that you don’t RUN OUT?! I was fuming, and I spent the better part of the day huffing and puffing as friends who had opted for the e-book instead were racing through the story that had been automatically delivered to their devices at midnight while I was left with useless Sorry Not Sorry tweets from Amazon’s Customer Support account. I’ve NEVER had an issue with Amazon before. I’m a happy Prime subscriber. But this was devastating. Lucky for me, I have one heck of a boyfriend who started going around to area bookstores after work in search of a copy. I actually got behind him on my drive home, and at a red light, he started waving this beautiful volume around so that I could see it through the rear window. That man is a keeper, for sure.

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Things I Liked:

There were so many times that I said aloud, “How does she DO this?” and all of the animals in the house would just stare blankly at me. I meant, of course, Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. How does she craft such intricate, intertwining storylines? I need her to teach me her ways. If I could write something even half as good as her, I would be more than satisfied with myself. I always know that the writing in a book is something to take note of when it can bring about a physical reaction in me, not just an emotional reaction. For instance, one scene in this book nearly triggered a panic attack for me. Gansey and I have something in common, our fear of bees. I’ve somehow never been stung in my life, and I have no idea if I’m allergic or not, but my father (who had been stung several times in his young life and never had an issue) was stung when I was a child and nearly died. I could say that bees turn me into a ugly-crying statue just by buzzing near me, but instead, let’s just say I don’t do well around them. I’m also no stranger to panic attacks, so in the previous book when Gansey begins having a panic attack in the cave, the way that Maggie described it just truly nailed it for me. But THIS book…When you’re reading it, you’ll come across a scene where Henry and Gansey are discussing the day that Gansey nearly died because of a bee attack, and Henry asks Gansey to trust him, and then… No, just read it for yourself. I literally had to set the book down, take deep breaths to calm my racing heart, and wait for my throat to stop tightening. Yes, I cried. Yes, I felt his fear. And no, there were no bees anywhere around me. Maggie Stiefvater is just THAT GOOD.

Let’s talk about the moment we’ve all been dreading since we started this series – Gansey’s death. We knew from page one of The Raven Boys that this was going to happen. Maggie Stiefvater told us she was a woman of her word and that “that boy is going DOWN”. And she did it. She killed Gansey. For awhile, I thought maybe it would be something like Harry Potter’s death in the final book, where he dies but not really since he’s saved by the power of love and whatnot, but the moment Adam started talking about a “what if” plan involving Cabeswater that somewhat resembled that idea, I knew there was no way it was going to go down like that. There is an unexpected resolution to Gansey’s end, but his death itself was agonizing as a reader. I was very thankful that I happened to read it on a weekend, at the crack of dawn, sobbing on my couch before anyone was awake to see me.

The other moment we’ve all been waiting for – the kiss. I don’t just mean Blue and Gansey. I’m also talking Ronan and Adam finally realizing what that ridiculous amount of tension between them is all about. Blue and Gansey’s kiss was sort of anti-climactic for me, truth be told. “Blue, kiss me.”…and then it finally happens. It just wasn’t as BIG as I needed it to be. He’s about to sacrifice himself, and they both know that her kissing her true love means he’s going to die. She kisses him, and then it’s just…done. I don’t know. It just wasn’t enough for me. Adam and Ronan, on the other hand, were everything I needed and more. It played out perfectly from Adam’s surprise, the realization, and the return of feelings. ALL THE FEELINGS. I really liked that he went to Gansey for advice afterwards to try to comprehend what he was feeling, and I ADORED that Gansey warned him, “Don’t break him, Adam.” Gansey knows that Ronan isn’t as strong as the facade he puts on, and he knows that Adam is still trying to understand what he feels and how to proceed. It’s just perfection.  “Love was privilege. Adam was privileged; he did not want to give it up.”

Things I Didn’t Like:

Like I said before, I have a lot of unanswered questions, some I’m okay with never knowing the answer to, and some are just incessantly bugging me. For example, what’s the connection between Blue and Gwenllian besides the fact that they are both mirrors? Why did Artemis suddenly return? How is Glendower dead and Gwenllian fit as a fiddle? Wasn’t Gansey brought back to wake Glendower? And did anyone else think that the way Blue’s knife kept getting highlighted meant that it was foreshadowing for something to happen with it? Also, what about those tapestry chicks that have Blue’s face?

While things get wrapped up neatly in the end for the main crew…I’m still left here wondering what about Noah? Gray Man? Maura? Gwenllian? Did I miss something?  It just seemed rushed here, and I feel like some important people were forgotten.

Overall Rating:

Maggie has said that at the end of the series, all she hopes is that readers just WANT.

“The Raven Cycle has always been a series about what makes a hero and about wanting something more, and while I can’t expect anything and be sure of it, that’s what I hope gets stuck in people’s minds.”

I do still want. I do still turn the events of these four books over in my head, still amazed by the intricacies of the stories entwined with the development of each and every character. I WANT.

While The Raven King didn’t exactly end on quite the note I was expecting, and I wanted it to slow down and drag out the final details, it was an ending that left me with not so much closure but the “want” that Maggie described. Overall, I’ll give this book 4/5, but know that overall, this series is perfection. It is something to be digested slowly, because now that it’s over, I’m more than a little saddened that I don’t know when I will find another that quite lives up to this glory. To the dreams and the dreamers, goodbye for now. I hope we meet again one day.


Add The Raven King to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads

Order The Raven King via Amazon

Order The Raven King via Barnes & Noble

My Review for Book 1: The Raven Boys
My Review for Book 2: The Dream Thieves
My Review for Book 3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

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