The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Novel: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater | GoodreadsRelease Date: April 26, 2016Publisher: Scholastic AudioFormat: Audio (narrated by Will Patton)Source: BoughtLength: 11 hours, 53 minutes

The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.In a starred review for Blue Lily, Lily BlueKirkus Reviews declared: "Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close."

I will be upfront in saying that Maggie Stiefvater’s writing paired with Will Patton’s voice is possibly the greatest, most pulse-pounding combination of any two media forms I’ve ever encountered. I regularly re-listen to The Raven Cycle series on audio (as emphasized by their repetitive appearances on my Read in 2017 page, here.) Although it’s been out – and I regularly champion this series as one of my favorites -- I wanted to wait until I was at camp to properly listen to the conclusion. Partly out of fear of finishing the storyline, partly out of a desire to be surrounded by bullfrogs and rain. Camp is an atmosphere that fits well with Patton’s ragged, characteristic voice.The Raven King was stunning. A true marvel. A gorgeous, emotional, intense hell of a ride. I’m normally a person who listens to audiobooks over several weeks (or months), and I finished this one over about three days. I listened to over eight hours of it in one sitting then divided the last few hours into small segments. A minute or two here or there because I wanted to savor the feeling. It’s one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read and that feels too paltry – too small – for what it is.And yet, it’s nothing at all like the previous ones.First I’m going to talk about bits I found frustrating or that I’m conflicted about, so I can go straight into gushing about how much I loved it as a whole. This is a review that I have to organize my thoughts during, because they’re everywhere.• For a finale, it sure was tangential.There were parts of The Raven King I had to rewind, because I was sure I’d missed something. When did all these characters and plot threads appear? Why were there bits of folklore that weren’t present in previous books, emerging fully fledged in the conclusion as explanations to accept without complaint? An example: the Glendower plot line – once the touchstone of the whole series – occurred over about fifty pages. What happened to that?Although I found that exasperating towards the end when I was looking for some crystallizing meaning to all of it, I remain awed by Stiefvater’s ability to introduce new plot threads and characters with equal importance to protagonists – people we’ve known for ages.Also, as much as I loved getting to read new characters, I wish I’d gotten more time with the core group.• I’m conflicted about whether or not I wish the book had ended earlier, before it got all wild.In some ways, it was the perfect climax of all the tensions and storylines that happened over time. In other ways, it felt strange. Like Blue’s father. Like the main conflict in this one. Like one of the romances (that felt abrupt) and how it dissipated some eagerness elsewhere. Stiefvater ended some boiling tensions that I thought would have been dazzling had she let them explode.• In a completely opposite vein, I wish the ending had felt more like an ending.I didn’t totally register that the ending was an ending. There have been tense, cinematic moments over the course of the series – ones that left me on the edge of my seat, heart in my throat – and while the finale came close enough, it wasn’t quite the release I’d been expecting. It felt too quick and too quiet, partly because Stiefvater has this lovely-but-detracting ability to withdraw into everybody’s minds and convey events in different, contradictory ways that make your head race. (My favorite scene was Gansey, swimming in the Aglionby pool early in the morning.)With all that being said, I still give five stars to the book as a whole. Even though I’m critical of it, it’s out of love. It’s because I love this book so much my heart could burst.Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is distinctive. Not only is her prose breathtaking, but it paints a vivid portrait of intimate details and complex human emotion. The most specific and precise details, although the writing itself is sprawling and playful. It’s a risky style that means that these books aren’t for everyone, but I relish them.She has a phenomenal grasp on techniques like parallelism and juxtaposition. She plucks information from each person and situation that feel undeniably perfect. Her dialogue and plot twists are fabulous. I will say though that in this book, more than any other fixture in the series, some choices felt more like convenience than her usual planned genius.Characteristically, the folks in these books tangle often. She oscillates between various perspectives in a third person style that feels personable, and I don’t normally like third person. The characters build on each other and always contradict each other’s’ wants and needs, although they mean the best. I’m perpetually amazed by Stiefvater’s ability to build a whole web of a person in about three sentences flat.At the root of it, they all have this deep-seated longing for greatness and meaning that satisfies this place in my head and chest. This thirst to be something else, do more, see more. These conversations about philosophy and existence tucked into their storylines – which are compelling enough on their own. Nestled in a small town Virginia atmosphere, it’s just about perfect for where I am and where I want to be.The Raven King was infinitely darker than the previous books, but I was satisfied by the eruption of certain plot threads. It’s more overtly magical as well, but written in an absorbing, creative fashion. It’s even more dreamlike than The Dream Thieves: all feverish and tense imagery propelled by profound portraits of humanity. The plot is still fantastic, as always, and she definitely ups the intensity by a notch.I want to relive this book by picking it apart endlessly. I'm blown away. Especially with Will Patton, who has worked tirelessly over the course of the series to flesh out nuances in the characters. He's breathed an element of life into the narrative that otherwise wouldn't be there, one that's imperative to my enjoyment of it. His pauses and punctuations are flawless, and I'll miss the rustic atmosphere he lends to her words. Stunning, all over.

reviewGrace1 Comment