Tuesday, June 18

Book Review: ‘The Raven King’

(Courtesy of Scholastic Press)

(Courtesy of Scholastic Press)

"The Raven King" Maggie Stiefvater Scholastic Press April 26

In the small magical town of Henrietta, Virginia, a girl named Blue Sargent befriends four boys: a rebel, a prince, a shadow and a ghost.

The four boys were known as the Raven Boys from the nearby private academy Blue swore to never step foot on, but throughout the course of Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Cycle” series, Blue falls in love with them.

“The Raven Cycle,” a collection of four books written by Stiefvater, ended on April 26 with the release of “The Raven King.” Characters Blue Sargent, Richard Campbell Gansey III, Adam Parrish and Ronan Lynch embark on their last search for Owen Glendower, the dead Welsh king that will grant one wish to the person who wakes him. The finale concludes the teenagers’ epic journey as they learn the fate of Blue’s curse, the cause of Ronan’s mystical family, the life or death of Gansey and the magic of Glendower.

“The Raven King” captivates readers not only with its plot, but also with its prose. Stiefvater takes excruciating care to describe every setting and character with detail. Ronan is not just a rebellious teenager, but a stringent anarchist who crashes cars for fun and has a soft spot for Blue. Adam is not just a model straight-A student, but a boy who uses smiles to hide the bruises of his father’s beatings. Gansey is not just the confident heir to a wealthy Southern lineage, but an innocent boy who falls in love with Blue, a normal girl from a family of psychics.

The book cannot be categorized into just one genre. It is a young adult romance novel, but Stiefvater also weaves suspense, horror, drama and fantasy into the story. Stiefvater is able to convey the humor in Ronan and Adam’s daily banter, the fear they experience in the face of Noah being possessed, the wonder of the Cabeswater magical forest and the adoration Blue and the boys share for each other.

The book is told through a third-person omniscient perspective like the first few, but it divides its attention amongst all of the characters, even the antagonists. It is a refreshing break from the commonly-used first person narrative and quickly acquaints readers with the characters.

The narrative also incorporates multiple perspectives into the larger story. When Blue and Adam fight, the following chapters illustrate how Blue copes with the fight, why Adam is hurt from it, and what the antagonists are planning at the same time across the country.

The format seems complicated and hard to follow, but the chapters are short, and Steifvater never trails from the core plot. Although “The Raven King” begins slow, the pace picks up as something disturbs the magic in Henrietta.

“The Raven King,” was released one year after the third book, which is problematic because readers might have forgotten what happened in the previous books. Steifvater cleverly incorporates details from the previous books into the first 100 pages. She introduces new characters like Henry Cheng, another student that knows the magical secrets of Henrietta, while reacquainting readers with the old characters. By the fifth chapter, it feels as if readers have never left “The Raven Cycle” world.

“The Raven King” concludes the series neatly, resolving all of the suspense built from the previous installments and does not leave any obvious plot holes. The ending was well-organized and clearly previously planned, as the first few books contained information and crucial plot points to pave the finale. And, readers learn whether Blue and the boys find Glendower or not.

Stiefvater’s sense of humor also adds a spark to the entire experience. When Blue almost gets her eye gouged out, Ronan only compliments her on how tough the stitches look. When Blue tries to avoid all semblance of interacting with the private academy boys, Henry Cheng first shows up to her high school in a Ferrari, followed by Gansey in a bright orange Camaro.

“The Raven Cycle” is a series worth rereading, and “The Raven King” cleanly ties up the end of Blue and the Raven Boys’ adventure.

It seems impossible that Henrietta, Blue Sargent and the Raven Boys are just a figment of Stiefvater’s imagination. She leaves her readers with an impression that somewhere in the universe, Gansey’s orange Camaro will be filled with Henry laughing, Blue smiling, and Adam yelling at Ronan for cussing every other word.

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