I read a lot of books–one to two per week. Some are boring, some are entertaining, and there’s some I love. Yet it is still rare to discover one so captivating, so engrossing, that I’m immediately pulled into the world and can’t make myself stop reading, even at two in the morning when I have work at six. That shelf is usually reserved for the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, two series from a small group of my favorites. It’s a very exclusive shelf, and for having read hundreds of books, it contains only a select few: The re-readables. While there can be many books on my “I loved it” shelf, I’m very particular on what makes the “Favorites.”
Maggie Stiefvater presents a new contender in her Raven Cycle series, the first three, entitled The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. The books are about friendship, bravery, adventure, and the overwhelming need to uncover something more in life. Blue, a hard-working public school girl who possesses some psychic ability, finds unlikely friends in four rich, prep school Raven Boys who team up in search of a dead Welsh King whom they believe will grant them one wish.
However, this story is more about the chase than the capture of the prize, favoring the journey over the destination. The characters investigate clue after clue, growing in their own development as well as in their relationships with one another. One particularly interesting character connection, among many, exists between Blue, and one of the Raven Boys, Gansey. Book one begins with a vision Blue has of Gansey’s ghost, learning that the only reason for this vision means Gansey is either her true love or that she killed him. Turns out it’s both. Gansey will die if Blue kisses him. The reader worries for him constantly throughout the course of the series, fretting over his supposedly imminent death, his fatal bee allergy, and the constant precarious predicaments the characters place themselves in. While Blue tries to develop feelings for and date another character, Adam, it’s obvious that she and Gansey are meant to be, which only heightens the drama of the series. Should she tell him about the vision? Should she let their relationship progress? It also dramatizes the romantic tension in the story because the more Blue and Gansey interact, the more we want them to kiss, and of course they can’t.
But the romance subplot is just that, albeit an interesting one. There are three other main characters to consider (one of whom has the power to extract physical objects from dreams) as well as many compelling secondary ones. The heart of this story is in the friends’ quest to find The Raven King–the title of book four to be released 9-29-15 . Like I said, it’s more about the puzzle than the prize, and I fear that if the team actually does earn a wish, by the time this perilous journey ends, they’ll need to use it to save one of their lives.
There have been romantic moments in this book where I’ve anguished that Blue and Gansey can’t be together. There have been times where I’ve marveled at the creative and fantastical world building. There have been times where Stiefvater has evoked terror in me, a chilling scene creeping toward a scary moment I know is coming. Don’t all the best stories elicit an emotional reaction? I will gladly trudge, and suffer, and dream, and explore with the characters all for the promise of a wish. It’s that age-old yen for wanting, something, anything, more.
This series mixes suspense, mythology, fantasy, horror, and romance in a way that is unputdownable. I eagerly await Stiefvater’s fourth and final edition to this addictive series, and encourage book-lovers everywhere to catch up on the first three installments before then.