This is it. The final book of The Raven Cycle. The Raven King finishes what was started in The Raven Boys. Finally on the last legs of their quest, Gansey hurtles toward Glendower as Blue tries desperately to think of a way to free him from the future that she knows is coming sooner rather than later. Darker things have come to Henrietta and the raven boys and Blue struggle to find a way to stop them before it’s too late. Everything they’ve known–about themselves, about Glendower and Cabeswater–will be tested.
As a conclusion to the series, The Raven King satisfied most of what I wanted from it. But not all. What I appreciated about the first three novels–namely the family dynamic, the psychics of Fox Way, the enigma of Cabeswater–was overshadowed in The Raven King by the growing relationship between Gansey and Blue, Adam learning how to best be a conduit for Cabeswater, and Ronan’s growing prowess as a dreamer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all of those parts. But I missed all of the other parts that made the novel whole. I thought they were brushed aside in this novel to make way for the bigger parts, and I could really sense their loss. There was something missing from The Raven King because these pieces were lighter than they were in the first three novels. Some of these things were completely dropped from the narration, as if they had served their purpose and didn’t need to be mentioned ever again. What happened to the psychics? What happened to Noah? What happened to Gwenllian? These are just a few things that felt forgotten. There were so many loose ends.
My favorite characters in this were Ronan and Adam. Their arcs were really fascinating. Adam’s growth in particular was really well done. From being afraid of his father to being able to extend a hand to his family even after they had basically disowned him (although he should have disowned them ages ago in the first place because of how horrible they were to him), he became so much stronger. Out of all of the characters, I think he changed the most. But only marginally more than Ronan. Ronan’s growth was different than Adam’s. As he became more adept with his dreaming, I think that he also became more happy with himself. He found the things that he loved and that came out in how he interacted with the other characters. He was still surly at times, but there were more moments where I was able to see why he fit in with the other raven boys and with Blue. Blue and Ronan were able to come to an understanding and their growing Sis/Bro-mance made me laugh a lot. They’re so similar, even though I think they’d both hate being compared to one another. I loved that both Adam and Ronan were connected to Cabeswater in unique ways.
Blue and Gansey, however, seemed kind of stuck. They didn’t change as much as I expected them to. The changes they went through were less exciting and slightly predictable. Blue was (understandably) obsessed with changing or stopping the combination of her curse and what she had seen at the church back in book one. It was too bad that her character was mostly slimmed down to that. Gansey too, was slimmed down to his obsession, although I couldn’t tell you if that was Glendower or Blue; at this point one only won over the other by a margin. There needed to be more done with them in this book because my interest in them waned. I sometimes preferred the secondary characters over them.
Even so, this book is very much about Gansey. The revelation about him in the previous book was something that seemed a little deus ex machina-ish–a way for Stiefvater to give us the lesson that your powers come from inside–and they came out in full-force in The Raven King. For someone who cares so much about his family and friends, Gansey’s actions in The Raven King read as a little selfish. It seemed out of character for him.
The writing, which I loved in the first three novels, was something that caused the ending to be more ambiguous (even though there was a clear enough ending) than I would have liked. The poetic nature of Stiefvater’s writing really made Cabeswater and Henrietta seem real and surreal. At the end, however, it just seemed half-worked. I wanted a little more clarity on the final events of the novel. It was a little too open-ended, particularly on the things that were brushed aside after they’d been useful à la Noah. As a result, while I’m happy with the ending of The Raven Cycle as a whole, there are things that faded away and were not addressed. It didn’t really seem like this was an ending ending.
Overall, I would recommend this series for readers who like that blend of fantastical in a contemporary setting. I normally don’t like novels with paranormal features in them because I’ve been burned, but what Stiefvater does with The Raven Cycle is subtle and mysterious enough that it really seems like it could be happening down the street from my house. There’s no obvious, outward indications that we’re not in reality, it’s just four boys and a girl on the trail of something more. They all want so much, but sometimes what they want isn’t always what they expect it to be.