The Maggie Steifvater series, Raven Cycle, has to be my most favourite feel-good read. As one of my all-time favourite authors, I’ve never disliked a book she has published, this series is possibly her best offering. The series has four books, which are: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King.
A hidden Welsh king that can grant you one wish if you wake him, a group of boys from the prestigious Aglionby Academy (perhaps that attended at different times depending on how you look at it), and a girl from a house full of psychics who has the misfortune of knowing that if she kisses her true love, he will die. How can you go wrong really?
Blue has no psychic abilities herself, but can amplify other people’s psychic energies. She hates the boys from Aglionby Academy, until she meets a group that she doesn’t. Well, almost doesn’t. My favourite character, and written so that you couldn’t help but visualise her quirkiness and strength.
Gansey is our hero (depending on how you look at it) – and his quest is to find Glendower, a Welsh king who is fabled to grant you one wish if you wake him. Gansey is obsessive about the hunt for him and along the way has found a group of friends that will stand by him no matter how strange the going gets. He is also my favourite character, and one that I can see with such vividness, I could almost think of him as a friend I had in high school.
Ronan is a dreamer, a snake, a weapon, and a live personality that brings a violent edge to their strange friendship group. He also has a full heart, hidden away after he found his father beaten to death. His character is so visceral in description, and his actions always show his real side compared to that he shows. I love this about the writing, because you get both without it being pointed out blatantly.
Adam comes from Henrietta, but gained a scholarship to Aglionby. He struggles with many aspects of his life, and must make a deal with strange forces for their adventure to continue. I love Adam on a different level to Blue and Gansey, because I understand his struggles, and he is the element of realism in the series that is so full of magic and otherness – a hard place to hold in any case.
Noah rounds them off, holding them together despite the secret he holds. Noah is special, and I will leave it at that.
We do have another character that I wish had been introduced earlier in the series, Henry. Henry is a fabulous character that has brilliant dialogue, but we only meet him in the final book, The Raven King. It’s a shame because his presence throughout the ending is real, yet I don’t include him in the core set of characters. It was an interesting choice to place him where he was.
Our group of kings and magicians, are based in Henrietta, a town on a ley line that is full of possibilities and futures. We meet a lot of other characters along the way, and the author brings them in and tells each story in a way that doesn’t overcrowd in the least.
The author has a beautiful writing style that captures the ambience, the setting, and the telling, in one motion. It’s a style that resonates with how I enjoy reading and imagining the story play out, and I’ve really only ever found one or two authors whose style gets me like that.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story as it’s such a joy to read! I will say that the quest for their King takes them through magical forests, different times, various dreams, caves, and has many delightful enemies that are fun and outrageously horrible too.
The Greenmantle’s and the Gray Man are examples of fantastic baddies, their dialogue and perspectives are captured with brilliant writing that makes them so terrible that you can’t help hoping they keep appearing, yet also get taken out.
It’s also difficult to describe how such a simple tale, becomes a complex twist of storylines that continue to come back to that one simple thread without being confusing. Yet it does manage this so well. Each instalment bringing with it different elements that create such a rich story, the ending feels so deserved when we get there.
Yet, the ending I’m a bit ambivalent about, and I’d love to know if that was the author’s plan all along, or whether the cult following and followers changed that up a little. I don’t know if it’s possible to love the ending of any series that you love – as that’s exactly what it brings with it, an ending of something you love. So, there’s that that might be playing on my feelings too.
I can’t recommend this series enough. It certainly has a cult following in the older YA, New Adult audiences – and for good reason. If you’ve liked books within that type of area before, then you definitely need to read these.