Note: This is Book Two of The Raven Cycle, so the review necessarily contains some spoilers for Book One, The Raven Boys, but no significant spoilers for this book.
We pick up in medias res, right after Ronan, one of the Raven Boys, has made a fantastic admission at the end of Book One. (For the plot background, you could see my review of The Raven Boys, here.) The author does a lot of filling in herself in the first chapter, but I still recommend reading the other book first (or re-reading it, as I chose to do).
Blue, 16-year-old daughter of a psychic and member of a matriarchal psychic family, doesn’t have any powers herself except to provide – somehow – amplification of the clairvoyant conversations the others in her family have on a regular basis. As one of the Raven Boys, or students at the local elite all-male academy Aglionby, told Blue, she is like the table everyone wants at Starbuck’s: next to the plug.
Blue is helping her Raven Boy friends look for the legendary Welsh king Owen Glendower, allegedly hidden somewhere right near Blue’s home of Henrietta, Virginia. There is Adam, increasingly bitter and obsessive; Ronan, also bitter and obsessive but with the distinctive benefit of having been loved as a child; Noah, “smudgy”; and Gansey, the leader of them all: driven – yes, but happy, caring, and nurturing (if somewhat hovering), and always rather seeming like a future senator. The boys are endlessly interesting, and in Book Two, their struggles take over the plot, pushing Blue a bit into the background. But all of them, Blue included, continue to wrestle with their “insatiable wanting.”
Two other characters take a center stage in this book: Blue’s mother Maura, alone these sixteen years, and a new man who comes to town, “Mr. Gray,” whose heart reluctantly comes alive when he sees her.
But the primary focus of this book is Ronan, whose secrets are suffocating, whose hurt is palpable, whose heart is huge, and whose magic is more than he had ever dreamed. One can’t help but be drawn to him, in spite of his rough edges, and to wish for a balm to ease all the psychic pain he has borne for so long.
Evaluation: I am a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater, because she is so good at what she does (which happens to consist of even much more than writing). Her characters are all such nuanced and rich portraits of human beings who combine, each in different ways, a welter of hopes, dreams, hurts, and love. The relationships among the characters are similarly textured, alternately heart wrenching and warm and fuzzy. Her magic never makes you feel puerile for liking it. On the contrary, you open the book, enter her world, and everything just seems natural. This is an excellent series, but should be read as a series, rather than as a set of standalones.
Rating: 3.5/5 (more a reflection of the book’s middle status than of its likability)
Published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2013