Book review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, my God, a book review! FINALLY, I finished a book and can issue my report on it. I know at this point the Goodreads Challenge app is extremely disappointed in me for my crappy reading numbers. I’m 9 books behind schedule for Pete’s sake! But this year, reading and retaining anything hasn’t been my strong suit. It’s damned hard to read for pleasure if you don’t remember what you’ve read just a few minutes later, yanno?

The Raven King is the last book in the series that started with The Raven Boys. I actually got this on the day it came out, and I’ve read whenever I could manage to get my brain to play along. Was the ending worth the wait? Um, that’s kind of a loaded question.

In the previous books, the big bads for each book were always kind of a letdown. It’s more of a series about four private school friends and their relations to a certain public school girl named Blue. With this last book, a lot happens in the build-up that suggests that these big bads are really different. People are dying left and right. Every member of the Raven boys are being attacked by the forest they love so much. Blue gets a badass scar in a shocking fashion. So yeah, as the book reaches those final chapters, there’s a building sense that these big bads are the really real deal, y’all.

Then they fizzle and fall over like a sparkler mistaken for a bottle rocket. Piper Greenmantle in particular may be the worst villain in this series or ANY of Stiefvater’s previous books. It’s not just that she lacks any personality, a trait common among the Stiefvater villains. She’s also painfully stupid and shallow. In a series full of colorful primary, secondary, and even tertiary characters, people like Piper stand out because they exist solely to give the others something to do besides have a good time all the time. They have no interesting thoughts. They have no personal lives or dreams. They make no brilliant observations or reveal interesting facets of their past lives. They exist only for this moment. And that’s why there’s no emotion when they exit stage left never to return. They simply never earned it.

But the demon at least…the demon seemed custom made for a big final battle. It was shaped like a wasp, the thing that killed Gansey before as a child, and the thing he still feels paralyzing fear for. So surely it had this form to terrify him and make the final fight harder, right? No. Gansey never even sees it. None of the core crew ever does, fighting with it long distance before a plan is put into place and the “fight” is over. No epicnessness to be had. This war does not end with a bang but a whimper.

And maybe it’s better this way. Maybe this was always meant to be low key from start to finish. It just felt to me like this final book was building to something bigger, and the actual ending was more like a pop than the boom I had my ears plugged in anticipation for.

This is also not to say that I’m deeply disappointed after all that waiting. The series ends with closure. Some of the arcs end in surprising ways that are very pleasing to me. I am so not going to spoil any of those surprises, either. They’re worth the wait if you’re reading the series. In fact, that’s why this review is so short, because I can’t talk about a lot of what happens in the story.

So I’ll stop here and give The Raven King 4 stars. Yes, the book itself was worth the wait, but that ending…it wasn’t what I expected.