The Cycle Ends
The fourth book, and conclusion to The Raven Cycle series.
The cycle is ending. Glendower is nearly found, and the evil awoken in book #3 is on the move. Not everyone is making it through this alive.
What I Liked:
The highlight, as it has been since book #2, was Ronan. Still endearingly foul-mouthed and attitudinally maladaptive. His chemistry with the other characters, as well as with the Raven Boys as a unit, is what kept me reading—even when the answers we finally received seemed less than satisfying. In this book, it finally occurred to me that the reason I love him so is because he’s basically a late-teen version of Buford from Phineas and Ferb.
(And if you’ve now joined me in this revelation and can’t help reading Ronan’s dialogue in Buford’s voice… you’re welcome. >.>)
For all his faults, Ronan is loyal, fearless, unconventionally loving, and very much his own person. With the close of this series, he’s the character I’m most sad to say goodbye to.
Stiefvater’s prose, as usual, maintains her uniquely ethereal style. Emotions are well threaded, yet subtly presented. And supernatural aspects are granted a pleasantly eerie weight.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
In a lot of ways, this book felt different from the previous three books in the series. The scene arrangement was disjointed, and the pacing lagged at several points. But the most memorable things I take issue with are entirely worldbuilding and plot-hole related:
*The addition of Henry.
I spent most of this book suspecting he was some terrible infiltrating foe—a last-minute addition to the evil badguy list. But as it turned out, it was a more straightforward case than that. He’s simply a last-minute add-on to the Gansey entourage who doubles as a plot device. A bonus Raven Boy who, unfortunately, felt tossed in as an afterthought—(perhaps to add some needed cultural diversity?) Had he been significantly threaded in through at least one or two of the previous books, I could have accepted his presence more readily. But as he also brought along some cringey moments of self-hating racism, I don’t know how much more readily.
*The Killing Kiss.
The tension that had been so skillfully maintained between Blue and Gansey in the previous three books comes to a much-anticipated head. The prophetic kiss o’ destiny. I don’t think it’s any kind of spoiler to note that it does happen, and it does what everyone’s afraid it will do.
But WHY? No attempt at an answer is given. Are Blue’s lips made of some magical cyanide that’s tailored only to Gangey? Is her spit deadly because of her unique half-breed nature? Is she doomed to never be able to kiss anyone? WE DON’T KNOW. And Blue is remarkably incurious as to these aspects as well…
*Blue’s paternal origins.
Well hinted at throughout the previous books, we finally have a reveal! And… I’m beyond disappointed. Not so much at the reveal itself, but at the lack of reflection/introspection that comes of it. Blue gets one scene for processing, and then it never seems to enter her mind again. It doesn’t really seem to matter. And the more I’ve let this sit, the more I’m let down by the lack of foreshadowing in Blue’s nature leading up to it.
Blue herself ends up being more of a backseat character in this book—her sole purpose seemingly to fulfill her… uh… destiny?... and bring about Gansey’s inexplicable death.
*Oh, and there’s a demon.
And if that sounds like its coming out of left field… that’s exactly how it felt to this reader. Don’t hope for any kind of previous allusion to it, or explanation for it.
It’s there. It’s one of the villains. Deal with it.
*Noah’s character arch/resolution was more of an inconsequential petering off.
*And I may have totally missed something, but all that 06:21 repetition (which sure seemed like foreshadowing) turned out to be… nothing. Of no particular significance.
To be clear, not everything has to tie up neatly. I don’t mind some loose threads. But when there are too many, the entire tapestry unravels. Suspension of disbelief has to be spent on more than the paranormal elements—extending also to the story structure, plot, and internal lives of the characters. That’s expecting an awful lot from the readers.
I had overall enjoyed this series and appreciated the complexity I’d thought it was leading up to. I’m very sorry to admit it just didn’t come together for me.