The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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raven kingThe Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Raven Cycle, Bk. 4
Scholastic, 2016

Bringing this magnificent series to a close, The Raven King is a satisfyingly good, if not great, conclusion. There’s an elegiac feel to it, as we know it’s the conclusion of the series, and we have only one last time with our Raven Cycle friends: “king” Gansey, dreamer Ronan, magician Adam, psychic amplifier Blue, and dead Noah – all last seen in Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) – are joined by a new friend, Chinese-Korean Henry Cheng.

Magical forest Cabeswater is threatened by a demon that unmakes anything magical or dream-created, and the gang feel the only way to rescue it is to finally find centuries-long sleeper, Owain Glendower, and use the favor granted when waking him. They had always set this favor aside to save Gansey who, it has been foretold, will die this year after a true love’s kiss from Blue.

However, it takes almost 100 pages for the novel to get into its stride. There is a lot of catching up and scene setting which, while essential for readers new to the series, and useful for those of us who have forgotten, feels like frustratingly fragmented wheel-spinning. Once the story really gets going, however, it is as gripping, darkly atmospheric and imaginatively absorbing as previous books in the series.

As ever, the standout features of the novel are the characters, the world, and the writing. The central characters, who have grown so much and so organically, and yet are still recognizably themselves, are facing potentially life-changing, and possibly life-ending, challenges. There is even a twist I didn’t see coming, as Ronan and Adam begin a relationship.

I have to confess that when I read The Dream Thieves (2013) I thought it was a bit of a diversion from the main thrust of the Glendower plot, but I can now see how essential it was to the world building. Ronan’s dream creations are now shown to be much more integral than was apparent (at least to me).

Ms Stiefvater writes so beautifully and her use of words is beyond anything I can describe with my meager and closed thinking vocabulary. She uses repetition – “Depending on where you began the story, it was about… – as a device to reveal the multiple facets of the crystal-like story, and which gives a fairytale like feel.

As for plotting, well, I found the resolution a bit of a let down, but it works within the parameters of the novel, and only a churl would be unhappy about the ending.

All in all, this has been a superb series and, while it is definitely for more sophisticated readers who are prepared to immerse themselves in a language and world that doesn’t always make coherent sense, I feel it is one that will stand the test of time. For myself, I’ll take a break and then re-read the whole series now the arc is complete.

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