UK Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy
I will be honest – I would not have picked up these books on my own. My partner-in-crime, Emily, had recommended them to me repeatedly, but a mixture of disinterest and poor memory had prevented me from seeking them out myself.
Then Emily turned up at my house with all four books, and a thinly-veiled threat of bodily harm if I didn’t actually read them.
I know what’s what. I read them.
There are four books in The Raven Cycle:
- The Raven Boys
- The Dream Thieves
- Blue Lily, Lily Blue
- The Raven King
They span the period of a year, and the growing friendship between Blue – a psychic’s daughter who has no powers of her own, but acts as an amplifier for the psychic abilities of others – and four boys from the prestigious private school, Aglionby. The students of Aglionby are known as ‘raven boys’, and it’s known throughout town that they are Trouble, and best avoided.
Blue has always been told that when she kisses her true love, he will die. So falling in with a group of boys seems like a bad idea all around, but there are questions she wants answered and mysteries she wants to solve. Gansey – presidential, brilliant and utterly committed to polo shirts as a way of life – is seeking the body of the Raven King, Owen Glendower. It’s his obsession, his life’s purpose. Rowan – angry, aggressive and incapable of saying nice things to anyone – is committed to Gansey, to pissing off his brother, and to doing what he wants, when he wants. Adam – distant, considering and driven to better himself – is the scholarship student, helping to find Glendower because he’s heard that he will get a wish. And Noah – fuzzy, genial and difficult to pin down – no-one is quite sure why he’s there to begin with, but they accept him as he is.
These books are long, involved and wonderfully crafted. It took me until about half way through the first book to really bed into the narrative, but once I did I finished the series within a matter of weeks. That is the way it gripped me.
- A plot which deals with a different mythology from the usual retrodden ideas – Welsh mythology, unusual and refreshing for it.
- Characters who are all individual and distinct, not necessarily pleasant, but all the better and more satisfying for it. Even the background characters become delightfully fleshed out.
- Slow-burn romance (my FAVOURITE), not just one, but two! And LGBT representation, handled with all the same tenderness as the heterosexual romance.
- Despite this, the romance does not impinge on the plot – at no point are reading the books did I find myself thinking “Is this really the time?”
- A lovely narrative style, with humour and delicacy interwoven, which keeps the pace up and pulls you along.
The world of the Raven Cycle utterly delighted me, with the ideas and mythologies Stiefvater has created. Certain characters (okay, Rowan mainly) just got under my skin and tugged at me whenever they were on the page. There are also wonderful flashes of domesticity within the plot, and these are absolutely my kryptonite. I love people saving the world, but show me how they are friends in between, being dorks together. The friendship which is built up like this is absolutely wonderful, warts and all, and that friendship makes you root even harder for the plot to work out. Stiefvater understands that the key to an ensemble piece like this is the team, both individually and as a group, and she absolutely nails it.
Rating: 5/5 – The quality of a book is defined by my ability to get swept up in it, and with these I did.