We love to binge watch shows, but as we deal in books we’ll binge read a whole bunch of series for you and write about them. Be aware though, we’ll discuss the entire series, so expect there to be spoilers. Skip the books-section if you don’t want to know what happens.
What is the series about?
Set in a small Virginia town called Henrietta we follow Blue and her family of clairvoyants. She lives with her mother in an all-female household and every psychic she’s ever met has predicted that Blue will kiss her true love and that he will then die. Blue is the only non-clairvoyant in her family, but somehow she amplifies the psychic powers of everyone around her. This means Blue has to come every year to a soon-to-be-dead-night where the ghosts of all the people who will die in the coming year will walk through a church. Here she sees an attractive ghost of a boy in an Aglionby uniform who calls himself Gansey. Of course, not much later Blue meets Gansey and his gang of Aglionby boys called Ronan, Adam and Noah. She finds herself in an unlikely friendship with a destiny none of them can escape.
So who wrote this?
Maggie Stiefvater is the author of several successful YA series. Besides writing, she makes art of all kinds and loves to race cars. So she’s a total bad ass who writes series that are addictive as hell. Besides The Raven Cycle, you might have heard of The Wolves of Mercy Fall, The Scorpio Races and The Books of Faerie.
Tell me about the books!
The Raven Boys: In an great and tense opening chapter we meet Blue and her wacky family of clairvoyants during which the death of our beloved Gansey is foretold. At this point you don’t yet know how attached you will become to Gansey and how terrifying it is that he is supposed to die. Book 1 introduces the general mystery of the story – Gansey’s search for Glendower who’s a dead king that will grant a wish once he’s awakened – and it’s main players. The Raven Boys really makes you fall in love with all of them. Blue as the strange girl who lives with even stranger women. Gansey as boy who’s always happy on the outside but so thoughtful on the inside. Adam who has to deal with being a white trash stereotype who’s poor and gets beaten by his dad. Then we have my favorite, Ronan who’s loud and angry but so funny, and finally Noah who isn’t actually alive at all. It’s a great introduction to the series that has a lot of heart, a lot of fun and a lot of action near the end. Although there are hints of the love stories to come, the first installment is all about friendship and the characters are just so lovable and sweet to each other that I wanted to crawl inside the book and hug them all.
The Dream Thieves: Usually I love the second book in a series, but The Dream Thieves turned out to be my least favorite. While Blue and Gansey were the main characters of book 1, Adam and Ronan get their time to shine in book 2. At the end of book 1 we find out that Ronan can pull things from his dream, hence the title. This is where – among other things – his pet raven Chainsaw comes from (come on, you got to love that). We learn more about his family, how his dad was a dreamer just like him, how his mother was plucked from a dream and that there are people after his powers. Stephen (whose voice on the audiobook is amazing) is another Aglionby boy who can also dream up things and he takes to Ronan and together they almost ruin the dream space. On the other hand we follow Adam who is sort of dating Blue, but has too many anger issues to really get it off the ground. There’s a lot of brooding, a lot of angst and terrible things with his dad. This whole part wasn’t my cup of tea, but Stiefvater also introduced the Gray Man, an assassin send to find the greywarren, which turns out to be Ronan. Lucky for us the Gray Man falls in love with Moira (Blue’s mother) and becomes lovable while falling for Blue’s family and friends. The book ends with a fight that involves dragons and then a cliffhanger when Moira has disappeared. While I got more Ronan in this novel, I also got too much angst and everyone feeling bad.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue: With a title like that, you know Blue will feature heavily and we’re all for that. She realized that she’s in love with Gansey, having ‘broken’ up with Adam, but she’s also sad because her mother has disappeared and no one has been able to find her. This book introduces a bunch of new characters again, among which is Greenmantel and his girlfriend Piper. Greenmantel was the Gray Man’s boss and he has come to find the graywarren himself and kill whoever comes in his way. He’s crazy, but Piper is even crazier and I loved them both. Then Stiefvater tears your heart out by killing off on of the characters that you love and you’ll think you’ll never be OK again.
The Raven King: The final installment! Gansey’s quest is coming to an end and we know that he’s still supposed to die. Although Stiefvater delivers on this promise, she kind of also doesn’t as Gansey dies and comes back again. I didn’t care that we didn’t have a sad ending though, I love these characters too much to see them cry. Also, Ronan and Adam get together, Henry Chang is my favorite person and we’re all going to take a trip to Venezuela. Although the book isn’t perfect, it is everything I wanted. We get amazing Blue/Ronan banter, all the kisses we’ve been waiting for, heart-wrenching moments and happy endings. When Gansey asks Blue to kiss him, knowing it would mean his death… that just killed me. Stiefvater is the slayer of hearts, the queen of characters and mother of raven boys.
So, why should I read this series?
In the above written reviews there’s so much greatness I haven’t mentioned yet. My all-time favorite thing about The Raven Cycle are the characters. And this is not just the main cast, but maybe even more all of the side characters around them. The clairvoyants from 300 Fox Way (Blue’s home address) all have a special place in my heart, but Calla is my personal favorite. She’s crass and harsh, but cares so damned much about everyone and doesn’t know how to show it. Then we have Henry Chang who just says the craziest things and wants nothing more than to become friends with Gansey and Blue. I think I’ve gushed enough about Ronan, but then we still have insane Piper, the lovely Gray Man, Orphan Girl, Artemus, Persephone, Neeve and so many more. This rich cast of fully formed characters is to me what makes this series. You can feel that Stiefvater really cares about the world she created, that she poured her heart into all of these characters she wrote and that this love seeps out to all the fans of the series.
Are there any special features/extras, because I need more?!
Yes! Two short Christmas themed stories called 300 Fox Way Holiday Piece and A Minor Raven Boys Holiday Drabble. Both are set during the Christmas before Blue meets the boys. Lucky for you both stories are available for free online.
Is there a box/gift set?
Unfortunately not. Let’s hope its a not yet and the publisher will pay this amazing artist for her work and we get to have these beauties in our closets.
How do I fill the Raven Cycle void?
Maggie Stiefvater has written many more books we can gorge ourselves on, but if you’re looking for a book that is similar to The Raven Cycle, you can go with a book the author recommends herself. The Secret History by Donna Tart is according to Stiefvater similar in atmosphere and mystery. If you want to stick with YA however, I’d also recommend The Diviners series by Libba Bray. The same lovable characters with a dash of mystery and the supernatural.