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The Raven King

May 5, 2016

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater, is the culmination of her four-book series that begins with The Raven Boys. I eagerly awaited its publication, enjoyed reading it, and was disappointed by the ending.

Spoiler to follow:
A main character comes back from the dead. He is changed, but he is still essentially himself and there is no real penalty for bringing him back. His death is couched as a sacrifice, but he’s only dead for a couple of minutes (so in Princess Bride terms, I guess he’s only “mostly dead”). For the other characters, those couple of minutes are significant; I love Blue’s reaction, which is to think that she “was already tired of a timeline without Gansey in it.” But for the reader, it’s a cheap “everybody lives” ending to a story that seemed to be setting up bigger stakes.

Maura says she wants Blue to “look at your future as a world where anything is possible,” and I do like the way Blue’s role as one of Glendower’s magicians helps her find a way to do that. What I don’t like is that even though Neeve survives to tell Piper “I don’t think it’s wise to pair yourself with a demon. They are inherently subtractive rather than additive. They take more than they give,” there’s no illustration of that. After all the buildup about the hornet demon and the boy allergic to stings, no one gets to ask Death where is thy sting.

Gansey’s death is supposed to be a sacrifice, a “willing death to pay for unwilling death.” It cheapens it to see that the mystical spirits can be satisfied by the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it: “you’d fulfill the requirements of the sacrifice to die. Nothing says you have to stay dead.” And yet, the life that is fashioned to replace Gansey’s is made out of pieces of others, so there is, at least, a sort of conservation of magical matter, or hylomorphism.

It made me happy that Blue, Gansey, Adam and Ronan stay alive to possibility, enough to create more possibilities for themselves. It made me sad that, in the end, Maura’s role is to stay in Henrietta with the father of her daughter in a tree in the backyard and her daughter traveling the world.

My disappointment in the ending of this book is partly a reaction to how much possibility the series offers, and perhaps the impossibility of any mortal being able to realize it all in the last novel of the series.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2016 8:39 pm

    I so agree about Gansey. It wasn’t that I wanted him to stay dead, and I knew he wouldn’t really, but I wanted the characters to have to experience that grief a little longer than, like, two minutes. It would have felt more earned if they’d probably had to think about it, if Ronan and Adam and Blue had all had a chance to grieve him and be without him.

    I didn’t mind about Maura though. She was never the one who wanted escape. Her world inside Henrietta was always bigger than Henrietta, you know? Blue’s problem, not being psychic, was that being in Henrietta was for her just Henrietta and nothing else.

    • May 9, 2016 11:11 am

      Maybe that’s it–that the “death” really had no consequences. It wasn’t like Ronan could have done anything else with the trees. I guess I will just have to amuse myself by thinking of Gansey having Lorax moments for the rest of his life.
      Maura didn’t want escape, it’s true. I was feeling irritable and stuck when I read the book. So many adults end up in places they don’t particularly want to be because a job is there. That’s not really true of Maura’s job! Although it may now be true of her yard.

  2. May 6, 2016 6:12 pm

    I had assumed for quite a while that Gansey would be brought back to life. It was either that or he’d “die” in a way that wasn’t really death. Like maybe Ronan would bring another Gansey back from a dream and that Gansey would die. And I think, dramatically if not technically, Noah was meant to be part of the sacrifice, but no one ever acknowledges his being gone. Even though I liked the ending overall, it was rushed and a little space in the action would have made it better.

    • May 9, 2016 11:14 am

      The ending was a little rushed; you’re right.
      After all that build-up with Noah, it seemed a shame that none of the characters–even Neeve or Persephone–didn’t see the connection. But I am in general a fan of dramatic irony, so I didn’t mind too much that it didn’t end up affecting anything.

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