The Raven Cycle is a YA paranormal fantasy book series by Maggie Stiefvater. There are four primary works in the series: The Raven Boys, Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King. My copy of The Raven King also came with the short 38pg novella Opal, which takes places after the events of the series and I recommend. There is also a spin-off series (YAS!), Dreamer Trilogy, coming out this November with Call the Hawk Down.
Okay so a huge part of this review is going to be about how the description for the first book DOES NOT DO IT JUSTICE. It did not entice me to read it the handful of times I came across it and after reading it, and LOVING IT, I’m so mad at how misleading it was! So shout out to my blogger friends, you know who you are!!, for encouraging me to read this series, Raven Boys 4everrrrr!!
Here’s the dumb description off Goodreads:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
SO reading that, I thought it sounded like another cheesy YA fantasy romance. The description really seemed to play up the true love curse drama and idk I just hardcore judged it okay?! I’m not totally sure what they could have done specifically to improve this description because quite frankly the series is unlike anything I’ve read before. And I did not find it to be cheesy AT ALL.
First and foremost – the setting and tone is so atmospheric. It’s cozy and creepy and way more magical realism than out right fantasy. It has great small town vibes, local accents, a full house of working real life psychics, and a creepy magical wood! This series is such a mood that I was all about.
The characters are amazing. They’re so dynamic and troubled and full. Blue is spunky and feminist as hell and I was here for it. I would love to pop by her home and hang out with all the psychics and get a reading. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah are not what I expected going in at all either. I feel like I would almost do a disservice trying to describe them. Stiefvater describes them so artfully herself in the series and lets each character unfold, develop, and bloom through action and reveals and in the ways the characters’ think about each other. But I will say that hands down I am in love with Ronan.
You guys know I’m a big romance junkie, so typically for me to love something there has got to be some good romance going on. And while there is romance in this book, it’s slow and then surprising, and quite honestly the rest of the story was just so fantastic that I found myself being incredibly patient about the romance and enjoyed it as a cherry on top to an amazing plot.
So the description of this book basically just says that Gansey is “on a quest” really downplaying that part and focusing on the weird true love curse element. But the quest is everything with this series. He’s looking for an ancient Welsh king, through extensive and artful research, that is rumored to have been buried on a ley line in their town, who can supposedly be awoken and grant the waker a favor. It’s so outlandish and yet it’s not, with the magical realism holding the plot together and the characters being serendipitously persuaded into the quest, everything begins to feel like fate and deja vu.
I really connected to this story in so many ways but most especially because I had a whole year in high school where it was me and three boys hanging out all summer together driving around in fast cars and Camaros. It felt almost nostalgic to put myself in Blue’s shoes when she befriends the raven boys.
This series has easily made it into my favorites. The writing was beautiful, the story was so creative, the characters were top, and THE MOOD was everything. The biggest complaint I have is that I felt like the ending was too abrupt and I had some lingering questions about some loose ends, however with this spin-off series coming out we may well get some answers!
HIGHLY recommend! This would be a perfect fall read.