Book Review: Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Cycle” Series

So, I’m going to preface this post by saying that I’m writing my capstone (basically my undergrad thesis) on this series, and it has a very special place in my heart. Basically, besides Harry Potter, it’s one of my favorite series of all time. There’s so much to love about it that I could honestly talk about it forever (which, technically, I kind of did. My capstone is 37 pages long and talks about the interactions between the characters based on their class and gender and how those interactions reinforce stereotypes. Yes, it’s a pretty riveting read.)

Image result for the raven cycle series

Today I’m here to talk about The Raven Cycle book series written by Maggie Stiefvater.

This four book series (made up of The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King) follows the adventures of Blue Sargent, who eventually meets Richard Campbell Gansey III and his group of friends. The group is searching around the fictional town of Henrietta, Virginia for a dead Welsh king. It is not just any dead Welsh king, though – it is Glendower, the most famous Welsh king of all. After a near-death experience (or, as some would say, an experience where he was definitely dead for a little) Gansey devotes his time and money to finding Glendower, whom he believes is sleeping and not dead, and will grant a wish to whoever wakes him. Along the way Gansey befriends Ronan Lynch, a fierce Irish punk who harbors a number of dangerous secrets, Adam Parrish, a poor boy from an abusive home who is more stubborn than even Gansey himself, and Noah Czerny, a mysterious and smudgy boy with a big secret of his own. Eventually they are joined by Blue, the headstrong daughter of the town’s psychic. Once the group is all together, the novels follow a series of twists and turns on their hunt to find Glendower.

There’s a lot more plot behind the books, but I’m not interested in ruining it for people who have yet to read them. Just know that the plot is great, and I haven’t read any books quite like these books.

A lot of what really makes this series for me are the characters. If you’ve read previous book reviews of mine, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for well-developed characters. Or, at least, characters who change a lot over novels. And there is no lack of well-developed characters in these novels. From the main characters like Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, all the way to the background characters like Maura, Kavinsky, and the other psychics, they’re all wonderfully written.

My favorite character started out as Ronan Lynch, who I still feel lots of love for, but it quickly became apparent to me that Adam Parrish is the best damn character in the novels and therefore my favorite. The reason I like Adam so much is because I feel a kinship with him. He struggles with a lot of things that I can relate to.

Adam comes from a poor family that lives in Henrietta. Unlike his friends at Aglionby, the rich private school that the boys attend, Adam only attends the academy due to a partial scholarship, and the little money he does pay towards the school comes from the 3 odd jobs that he works throughout the week. In order to keep the scholarship, Adam also has to stay on top of all his academic work. And to add more to that, he’s also helping Gansey search for Glendower. Not everything about Adam is relatable, like how his father beats him or how he has to work multiple jobs just to stay in school, but the other stuff he goes through is what I relate to.

What makes Adam Parrish so relatable to me is his want – no, his need – for independence. His staunch dedication to being his own person. His desire to have his own free will.

He is stubbornly self-reliant, which is something that I am as well (if you know me or my family, you’d know that I picked that up from my dad, who picked it up from his dad, and so on). He doesn’t want anyone – especially Gansey – doing anything for him, and neither do I. I like to work for everything because that proves that it’s really mine.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, if not my favorite quote ever, comes from the first book. The quote is actually about Adam, but I feel like it can really apply to me.

“Being Adam Parrish was a complicated thing, a wonder of muscles and organs, synapses and nerves. He was a miracle of moving parts, a study in survival. The most important thing to Adam Parrish, though, had always been free will, the ability to be his own master.”

I toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo with the phrase “a miracle of moving parts,” although I’m a broke college student at the moment and don’t know if I can afford it. But this quote is so important to me that I would get it put permanently on my body somewhere if I had the money. Essentially, it sums about everything that I feel.

I think Adam is one of my favorite characters because I relate to him more than I’ve ever related to any other literary character. He is complex, prideful, and hard working. He’s not perfect, but his good and bad qualities combine together to make a character that does not always make good decisions, but is a real, tangible human being.

Adam is not the only great character, but if I talked about every single character, I’d be here for forever, and I’m sure nobody wants to read that.

The riveting plot mixed with the complex and beautifully flawed characters really make this series a standout. The series is set to have a television show made based on it, and I’m both scared and excited for it. I’m scared because I don’t know if the people making the show are going to completely ruin the thing. Even if they don’t ruin it, I’m such a huge fan of the series so it’ll be easy for me to point out things that are missing, even if they’re tiny things that might not be relevant to the plot. I know that sounds awful, but seeing as it’s my second favorite book series in the world, I want to get as much as I can out of it story-wise. I want to see all the small things that make the characters who they are, or all the small things that make the plot what it is.

On the other hand, I’m excited to see it turned into a TV show – after all, like I’ve said multiple times, it’s one of my favorite book series! And who doesn’t want to see something they really love and adore turned into another form of media so you can have it both ways?

Also, if you are already a fan of the books and you aren’t aware, Stiefvater is apparently working on a spin off book series that follows Ronan. As an original Ronan lover, I’m more than hype for this series, because it will for sure show the whole gang again, but especially Ronan (and probably his wonderful boyfriend Adam).

Well, I guess while I wait for the TV show and the Ronan series, I’ll just re-read the series again. And again. And again. It’s not like I haven’t already re-read it a million times, right?

To end this post, I’ll leave a neat little fanmade trailer here that someone made for the books. Enjoy!

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