The Raven King is the final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. This series is best categorized as gothic fantasy and takes place in the magical town of Henrietta, Virginia. The characters include Blue, the only non-psychic in a family of psychics whose presence can amplify magical energies, Ronan, who can dream things into reality, Adam, the official magician for a magical forest, Noah, a ghost, and Gansey, the seemingly non-magical leader of this group of otherwise magical people.
The Raven King had a lot of mysteries to bring together and somehow have time to conclude every character’s story. I would say that Stiefvater successfully did that, and in a way that gave most fans what they wanted. Ronan and Adam got together, as did Blue and Gansey. Still, the ending of this book was rushed, and quite a few story lines were built up and brushed off at the end.
For example, the magical artifacts dealers coming into town to bid on a demon was built up to be a huge threat to Henrietta, and in the end had no actual impact on the storyline at all. The Gray Man killed one of the magical artifacts dealers to protect his newfound Henrietta family, recognizing it could start a war and he would have to leave, an issue that was never actually addressed. Neeve was brought back to life for convenience in the plot, only to be killed off again a couple of chapters later. Even Gansey’s death, which was led up to from the very first book, was predictably impermanent.
However, what was perhaps the biggest build up that reached an anticlimactic end, I actually really enjoyed. The search for the ancient King Glendower, who would awaken and grant his finders a wish, is what brought this group of friends together in the first place. It’s what introduced them to Cabeswater and set them on these magical adventures. Glendower, as it turned out, was just bones, dead for centuries. When they couldn’t wake him up, it was heartbreaking, but strangely appropriate. The group had never faced their villains with the help of an ancient King who could wish away their problems; they always did it by working together. This ending allowed each character to move on from the search and realize their own independence in the end.
The most bittersweet moment was definitely seeing Noah’s deterioration throughout the book from the perspective of everyone else around him, and his eventual choice to leave this realm for good. It’ll be sad knowing that Noah will never be there to ruffle Blue’s hair again, and that the “smudgy one” left the Raven boys for good. But, it was also touching to find out that Noah’s final act was to go back in time (which he can do because he’s a ghost) and tell young Gansey about the search for Glendower, knowing that it would lead the five of them together.
As always with Maggie Stiefvater’s books, it’s her way with words that make them truly exceptional. Each character’s distinct voice is somehow, undeniably, perfect. Here are some of the best lines from the Raven King.
- “Ronan could never remember what was legal to feed or shoot in Virginia.” (As a Virginia resident I can appreciate this).
- Gansey to Ronan: “Parrish wants to know if you killed yourself dreaming just now please advise.”
- “She hugged it. Him. Noah. She didn’t care if he wasn’t quite human anymore. She would keep calling whatever this was Noah for as long as it wanted to be called Noah.” (BLUE AND NOAH FEELS).
- “’Blue! Your boys are out front, looking like they’re fixing to bury a body.’ Again? Blue thought.”
- “Need was Adam’s baseline, his resting pulse. Love was a privilege. Adam was privileged; he did not want to give it up. He wanted to remember again and again how it felt.”
- “Adam lived in an apartment located above the office of St. Agnes Catholic Church, a fortuitous combination that focused most of the objects of Ronan’s worship into one downtown block.” (PYNCH).
- “But there was no way for [Ronan] to tell anyone else exactly how much he hated Aglionby Academy. Any unit of measurement would have to include both the volume and the weight of the hate. And it would also have to include a component of time.”
- “’God,’ [Blue] said. Henry inclined his head in humble acknowledgment.” (Because Henry Cheng is one of the best additions to this book series, second after only the Gray Man).
- “’To think you could have been dreaming the cure for cancer,’ Blue said. ‘Look, Sargent,’ Ronan retorted. ‘I was gonna dream you some eye cream last night since clearly modern medicine’s doing jack shit for you, but I nearly had my ass handed to me by a death snake from the fourth circle of dream hell, so you’re welcome.’ Blue looked appropriately touched. ‘Ah, thanks, man.’ ‘No problem, bro.’” (I will never get over Blue and Ronan’s relationship evolution).