The first three books of The Raven Cycle are excellent, but it took me a lot longer to get through them than I expected. It is an amazing series, but is not a quick read. A lot happens, and while the books aren’t easy to put down, you have to pay attention.
Every year, 16 year old Blue Sargent visits the corpse road with her psychic mother. There, she learns the names of the soon-to-be dead, and passes on the information to those who wish to set their affairs in order. But she has never seen the spirits herself. Until now. She sees one. And learns its name: Gansey.
Blue is an amplifier, the only non-psychic in a house full of psychic women. Her job is to make the powers that exist louder, and easier to read. Her whole life, she has been told by the women that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she doesn’t kiss, she doesn’t date, she doesn’t even have friends. And she avoids problems, like the Raven Boys of Aglionby Academy. Until, one day, they come to her. For the first time in her life, she becomes part of a group. She has friends. That just happen to be looking for a long dead Welsh king, Glendower. Who might not really be dead, just sleeping. Whew. That’s not complicated.
Did I mention that this all takes place in Henrietta, Virginia?
Gansey, from a wealthy, established family, expects and commands attention. Obsessed with Glendower, he is the group’s defacto leader, appearing invulnerable. But he is going to die. Ronan is a Lynch brother, with so many secrets fighting for a place inside him. He is a hard teen, loyal, dangerous, with, he believes, little to lose. But he holds a power that none can imagine. Adam is an outsider. Born and bred in Henrietta, he is dragging himself out of poverty and abuse, working three jobs to afford Aglionby, and reap the benefits the prestigious school will give him. His sacrifice will change everything. Noah is on the outside. Always there, steady, but unknowable.
The character development is unparalleled. Throughout the series, each teen grows and changes and lets people get closer and shuts others out and loves and hates and has stupid tantrums and clings to the familiar. They fight with parents and siblings and talk back to teachers, they are vulnerable then strong, betray each other one day, and are brave and loyal the next. They are real teens.
Interestingly, given the whole “kiss your true love and he dies” subplot, romance is not the biggest thing in this series. It is nicely touched upon, and hinted at (please let Ronan get together with who I think he should! Please!), but it is not the main storyline.
This series is about friendship and commitment, to each other and to an ideal.
The pacing is fabulous. There is cliffhanger after cliffhanger throughout the books, as well as the expected one at the end. I started each book with certain expectations about the plot and characters, but I was constantly surprised by the bearings they took. Author Maggie Stiefvater does an incredible job of taking everything you think you know, and twisting and turning it and just outright manipulating your brain in another direction.
And, sadly, the fourth and final book isn’t due out until spring of 2016, so I have to wait. It’s painful. But it will be worth it.
Any teen can read this series, and it will appeal to boys and girls alike.
The Raven Cycle is published by Scholastic Press.