The Raven King is the fourth book in the Raven Cycle series. This review may contain mild spoilers for all the books that came before this installment.
The Raven King picks up a little after the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue. An evil has been awoken and seems to be eating Cabeswater alive; the impending end of Gansey’s life is nearing with our characters being no closer to stopping it. Ronan is brooding more than usual; he’s completely stopped going to classes, instead spending his time in the dream world, body motionless in the Barns. Blue and Gansey’s feelings for each other are just getting deeper, but they’re trying to figure out how to tell Adam without completely crushing his feelings. Adam, on the other hand, has his attentions elsewhere *nudge, nudge.* Noah is dead, but he just seems to be getting dead-er, and nobody knows what to do about it.
Anybody who has read Maggie Stiefvater’s work, whether it be this series or her Wolves of Mercy Falls series knows that she writes like a dream. She weaves intricate plots that demand the attention of her readers, pairing her storylines with well-developed characters that feel more like friends than people you’re reading about. Her language, her expression and the general atmosphere she sets up in her books is enough to get people to go completely nuts over her books.
“His feelings for Adam were an oil spill; he’d let them overflow and now there wasn’t a damn place in the ocean that wouldn’t catch fire if he dropped a match.”
But what captures me the most about Stiefvater is her ability to construct these characters, each of them with distinct qualities and vices, with personalities that are both fascinating and frustrating. I found myself constantly thinking ahead with regards to these people, not even wondering what they would do but knowing- not because the plot was predictable, but because I have come to know them so well. This is what fantastic characterization looks like; you should be able to understand why characters are doing what they are doing, and what they might do next, without the author spoon-feeding you all the details. At the turn of the last page, I wish I had a magic lamp. Because I’d ask the genie to bring these characters to life so I could be best friends with them- I felt like I was losing old pals.
The characters are what make this series a good one for me. And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it was one of the only things working for this book. The plot felt rather haphazard- I was losing concentration trying to keep up with the several things that Stiefvater was throwing at me. I also felt like some plot-lines weren’t resolved as completely as they should have been. The climax and the end were mushed together, feeling rather rushed and didn’t give me the concrete resolution I had hoped for. There were some character arcs that were left unexplored in the end- almost like Stiefvater wanted us to fill in the blanks.
But I’ve always been a person who has emphasized characterization with regards to reading taste, and it seems that I’m not going to be changing that about myself any time soon. Because despite the plot problems I had with this book, I was utterly transfixed by the people and by the writing. Ultimately, it warrants a 3.5 stars, but a fair warning: if you read this series for the story and didn’t much care for the characters (I don’t understand how that’s possible), I don’t think you would necessarily enjoy this finale. Lower your expectations- go into it to enjoy it for what it is, rather than what you are hoping it will be. It is still a worthy read.