I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books of this quartet, but I have to admit that I went into this last installment with some hesitation. I had heard such mixed reviews of this last book that I almost didn’t want to read it. Part of me just wanted to leave Blue and Gansey and Adam and Ronan in stasis, never learning how their story ended. But I’ve done that with far too many series in the past, and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, so I decided that I would finish The Raven Cycle for better or for worse. And while I didn’t love every single aspect of this finale, I wasn’t disappointed.
“He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over.”
Maggie has got to be one of the most talented authors I’ve ever read. Her writing is impeccable, her voice is vibrant and unique and unchanging throughout the series, and every plot point feels intentional and is addressed well by the end of the series. There were a few things that I would’ve appreciated a bit more clarification on, but for the most part I was very impressed by her deft handling of what seemed like a convoluted plot. In this last book, Maggie made some writing choices that I thought were interesting, such as echoing herself at the beginning at certain chapters as she gave us back stories on side characters (“Depending on where you began the story, it was about —“). I also appreciated how the epilogue of The Raven King echoed the prologue of The Raven Boys, bringing the tale full circle. And as always, I appreciated how she mixed humor into the dramatic.
I didn’t realize until this last book just how thematic her titles were for each installment of the series. The Raven Boys is pretty obvious, yes; ravens are mentioned frequently. But until I noticed how often the them of kingship popped up in this last book, I kind of glanced over the prevalence of thievery in The Dream Thieves and the color blue in Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I knew those themes were there in each book, but I didn’t realize quite how often and how tightly Maggie wove those themes into the story until The Raven King. At some points the theme of kingship was almost overpowering, though; on more than one occasion I felt like I was being force-fed the metaphor, and I just wanted to scream “I get it! And I can feed myself, dang it!” But for the most part, I really appreciated the craftsmanship that went into the series, and was a fan about 95% of the time.
Character-wise, there was lots of development to be enjoyed here. Our four main characters grew, as did some favored side characters. One of my favorite chapters told the story of Maura meeting Calla and Persephone, and I thought it was a lovely little break in the main plot. We were also introduced to a few new characters. The most notable of these new characters, Henry, has had a polarizing effect on fans of the series, with many people not caring for him and wishing he wouldn’t have been introduced. I personally enjoyed Henry, and found him to be a worthy addition to the cast. He actually brought something to the table instead of just taking up space on the page, so I appreciated him. That being said, I can understand why others weren’t thrilled with his presence; adding a new prevalent character in the last book of a series can throw off the chemistry of characters to whom readers are already attached. There was also a fairly hefty dose of the romance that YA novels are known for, but I feel like that aspect has been more than adequately covered by other readers. To me, the best aspect of the series will always be the deep and abiding friendship that grew between the core group of characters.
This book differed from its three predecessors in tone. Maggie really upped the creep factor in this last installment. There have been a few creepy scenes scattered throughout the series, but they were far more frequent and grotesque here. This wasn’t a drawback for me, but I think readers who shy away from horror should be aware that things get a bit disturbing in places.
Overall, this was a fantastic series. I usually feel let down in some way at the end of a series, even if only by the fact that the journey is over. So for me to give a final book in a series a four star rating speaks pretty highly for the series as a whole and for this last installment in particular. I feel like this is a series that just about any reader could enjoy, where you prefer your books adult or young adult, fantastic or realistic, humorous or horrifying. Whether you’re just getting into reading or it’s been your main hobby for decades, this is a fun series for any and all dreamers.