The Raven King

Raven Kingby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 4 in The Raven Cycle

This was my most-anticipated book of the year! I even pre-ordered it (which I never do). Then I found a copy in the wild a week early (hence why I never pre-order!) and of course bought it immediately and read it before my pre-ordered copy showed up! Of course, the downside of reading a book before everyone else is that you must handle your book hangover alone (gah!). Maybe I’m getting more emotional in my old age, but this book made me tear up at least twice, and ordinarily that’s a 5-star story for me since I am half-robot and books don’t make me cry. Especially not since I moved to Denver and am now perpetually dehydrated. Anyway, not a perfect score in this case because, (for reasons I won’t discuss here but which I’m positive are all over Tumblr at this point), it wasn’t quite what I expected.

That doesn’t mean this book wasn’t insanely awesome! It just means the roller-coaster looked like it was going one way but that was just an optical illusion.

All my reviews have highlighted the amazing friendships in these books. Now that we are in the fourth installment, we get the best dynamic between Blue and the boys. In book one, we’re told they’ve been friends for a while (the boys at least), and we get the sense that there is history we weren’t around for. But in book four, we’ve been a part of the last year of history, and you get the solidity of intimacy that you’ve witnessed and shared, not just moments that were implied or technically must exist in the non-canon past. The closest thing I can think of are books 6 and 7 of Harry Potter, where now you have years of experiences and knowledge of these characters and you don’t have the getting-to-know-you moments, you have the finishing-each-other’s-thoughts moments. This is my favorite book-feeling out there—when the characters feel real enough that you could bump into them on the street. All that to say, welcome to the best versions of these characters: best dialogue, best inside jokes, best fights, best everything. SAVOR IT.

This series is hard to review without spoilers because it’s so weird, so in summary: yes, the creepy Cabeswater magic gets creepier; yes, the opponents hunting the ley line get stronger; yes, Gansey’s time is running out; yes, the sense of running toward a very uncertain ending haunts you for 400 pages. Yes, the relationships that came to the foreground in book 3 get more screen time here (because sometimes Stiefvater is merciful!). Yes, the entire book is spent teetering between wanting to know what happens and never wanting it to end.

My favorite moments were the in-between scenes though. The scenes revolving around families giving advice, romantic tension in the most unlikely ways, character arcs approaching resolution as loose ends are tied up to make way for them to find the Raven King. This wasn’t the ending I was expecting but it’s a good one, and I’m sure once I read the series again I’ll love it even more. Go forth and read this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Raven King is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – This story told from three points of view is dark and different. Midnight broke up with Poppy for the summer after years of an on-again off-again relationship where Poppy held all the power. His new next-door neighbor is Wink, a girl from a strange family who isn’t like anyone he’s ever met. But when something terrible happens, it’s unclear who is telling the truth and how intertwined these three characters really are. A short, spooky read with gorgeous prose! See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – Chloe moves in with her sister Ruby after a terrible accident befalls a classmate. It soon becomes clear that Ruby’s manipulative nature is growing, and stranger things are happening in their small town. Chloe has to decide what’s real and what’s true, and her perfect older sister might not be the best person to ask. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – Hazel and Ben are used to Fairfold’s mischievous fairies and magical forest. Their town depends on tourists coming through to see the strange and unexplainable. But when Hazel senses that forest’s magic might be turning on the townfolk too, she knows it’s time to pick up her sword and save her beloved home. See my review here.
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue

BLLBby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 3 in The Raven Cycle

I’ve read this twice now and both times I think it took me only 24 hours. The previous book is centered around dreams, but this one feels more like a dream when you read it, possibly because it’s far weirder.

Much of the first two books, despite containing weird supernatural events, take place in and are grounded in the real world of small-town Virginia. This book returns us to a different Henrietta—one that is reeling from a revived ley line. Power outages, strange creatures, Noah’s changing presence and personality, and a growing sense of urgency envelope the women of 300 Fox Way and the raven boys.

Adam’s connection to Cabeswater is becoming less alarming as the scope of the ley line becomes broader. Ronan is still working out how to control his dreams, hoping to save Gansey with something he creates. Blue is worried sick (and pissed) that her mother Maura has been missing for a month after leaving nothing but a cryptic note saying, “Glendower is underground. So am I.” Gansey feels like they’re running out of time and road for their quest. (Persephone and Calla agree).

This series features repetition as a theme (and a style), but it’s never been more pronounced than here, probably because the magic in this story is confusing at times and repetition gives you something hold on to as you puzzle it out. Mirrors, using time more than once, secrets—all of these are brought to the forefront as the gang begins exploring a cursed cave that houses a mysterious sleeper—of some kind.

Although the overall tone is heavier thanks to the clear indications that both light and dark magic are at work, Stiefvater expertly includes hysterical moments and jokes, as well as some of the calm, in-between moments of one-on-one conversations between the characters (not just Blue and the boys) to balance it out. But along with this are Blue’s (and the boys’) constant realizations that everyone has different faces they wear and hidden sides you don’t know about—that you can be close and yet strangers. Sometimes because of secrets, sometimes because every day changes you a little until you have to relearn yourself.

I’ve said before that the true strength of this series are the character relationships. I dare you to read it and not want to be friends with them.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma – A strange story about ballerina rivalries and time slipping around them. When a girl is murdered, another girl goes to jail. But is it the right girl? See my review here.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – A young girl moves to a new house with her parents and finds all its secret nooks and crannies. And the dark spirit waiting to steal her and her parents’ souls if she doesn’t win a game of riddles.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – Three points of view, a hero, a liar, a villain–in a small mountain town. This short book is unique and creepy and hard to describe, rather like The Raven Cycle. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – A small town with an unusual forest knows how to keep the faeries happy. When Hazel notices that the agreements aren’t working anymore, she takes up a sword to save her home. See my review here.

The Dream Thieves

dream thievesby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 in The Raven Cycle

I remember when I first read this I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book, mainly because Ronan is so prickly. This time around, I loved this story! I think I just didn’t grasp Ronan’s arc and some of the events in this book the first time around. It’s very symbolic and metaphorical at times, and quite honestly Stiefvater’s summaries on Recaptains helped immensely. Dreams are rarely straightforward in real life, and that bleeds through everything in this book.

*spoilers for The Raven Boys*

At this point in the story, Blue is inextricably intertwined with the four raven boys: Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. They found out Noah’s been dead for seven years. Adam is working out what his agreement with Cabeswater entails. Ronan tells the group he can take things from his dreams (such as Chainsaw), just like his father. Blue experiments with her own power over energy. Gansey remains wistful as ever, about everything.

They’re all beginning to realize they’re part of something bigger.
They’re also learning far more people are after the ley line’s power than they first thought.

This book opens up the world even as it focuses largely on Ronan and his strange power. Through his complicated relationship with Kavinsky, we learn how the dreams work and that Ronan’s family isn’t the only one able to do it.

The same wealth of atmosphere, snappy dialogue, and amazing descriptions are present here and Gansey’s quest for Glendower is even stranger and more compelling. The true strength of this series is the friendship these characters share. I finished this and went directly to the next book!

This series is for anyone wanting to explore the fine line between magic and reality. It’s paranormal without the monsters or heavy romance. It’s very much its own (weird) thing.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Dream Thieves is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – When you think of a book about dreams, this is at the top of the list. Alice’s strange dreamland and her guide the White Rabbit are symbols of exactly how weird your mind can be when you aren’t awake and in charge. Although it’s older, it reads easily and the imagery is addictively strange.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – An adorable, emotional (if a bit inaccurate) story about Alex, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is never sure what is real and what isn’t. Beautiful language and enjoyably wry. See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – A story about two sisters, and the powerful dynamic between them. Ruby runs their small town, and Chloe adores her. But when a classmate is murdered and she goes to live with her sister, strange things start happening. See my review here.
  • Tides by Betsy Cornwell – Noah and Lo spend the summer with their grandmother on a small island and find out that selkies are known to roam the waters around it. See my review here.

What’s new this month

162218514/5 – Tell the Wind and Fire – by Sarah Rees Brennan

I received an ARC on Net Galley for this story! I was never overly fond of A Tale of Two Cities (or really any of Dickens’ work, despite reading all of it) but the title is awesome so I requested an early copy. This Dickens retelling is set in New York with magic and interpersonal drama and I’m a terrible person because I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet–mostly because it wouldn’t transfer to my Nook and I don’t read on my laptop. Yes, still a bad excuse! Don’t be like me – check this out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


collided4/5 – When We Collided – by Emery Lord

This is a strange case where I fell in love with the author on Twitter (I mean hard-core girl-crushing: she’s-my-spirit-animal if-I-met-her-I-would-flail-so-much crushing). She’s amazing. So I’m finally checking out one of her books! This one sounds fun and I’m trying to get out of my YA fantasy bubble this year and I can’t wait for this. Plus the cover is gorgeous. The plot sounds a bit like a John Green novel (super cool, crazy chick attracts a somewhat mopey guy) but I’m sure it will be better coming from Emery’s smart and savvy perspective.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


257563284/12 – Love & Gelato – by Jenna Evans Welch

Tuscany, love, adventure—looking forward to a light summer read with this debut novel. Lina is sent to Italy to fulfill her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her estranged father. Through her mother’s journal (and Tuscany’s innate magic), Lina meets a boy and starts uncovering a mystery in her family’s past that could change everything she thought she knew about her parents and herself. The cover is cute and I love the idea of sleuthing through family secrets. I feel like this was a storyline more popular when I was a kid (think Parent Trap days) so just the jacket makes me nostalgic.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


252036754/26 – The Star-Touched Queen – by Roshani Choksi

I’m very excited about this standalone story because it sounds so unique (and because there’s a loose connection that one of my CP friends is CP’s with the author!). I can’t wait to read this! Maya is a princess cursed with a horoscope that declares her marriage will only bring death and destruction upon her kingdom. When she is married off to form a political alliance, she finds strange magic and mystery within her court and kingdom. The summary promises a trip to the Otherworld and plenty of dark magic as Maya tries to save herself, her loved ones, and her kingdom. This sounds like a stunning debut!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


Raven King4/26 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

THIS is one of the most-anticipated books of the year for me! I have been following this series for years now and I’m so anxious to see how it ends I can hardly stand it! After two different publication delays, it’s finally here, and I’ll be going dark online until I read it, I can assure you. Blue and the Raven Boys are finally getting close to uncovering the secret of Glendower, the buried Welsh king that will grant a wish to whoever discovers him. They aren’t the only ones looking for the dead king, of course. And Stiefvater has sworn since book 1, when Blue saw Gansey’s spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, that Gansey will die as promised. I believe her, but that doesn’t make me any less nervous about this ending. The writing is amazing and the characters are loveable, so add this to your list!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

rose and the dagger4/26 – The Rose and the Dagger – by Renee Ahdieh

Surprise! This release date was bumped up! The Wrath and the Dawn surprised me by sucking me into a world that typically makes me yawn (I never could get through The Arabian Nights for some reason). Shazi’s spunk and Khalid’s passion carry this story and I can’t wait to see more of the world and the magic. The writing is excellent and this is a fresh take on an ancient legend. Definitely check this out, it’s the fore-runner in the YA trend towards the old desert, and this one sounds even more action-packed than the first!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What’s new this month

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the February releases this year! Here are the books I’m adding to my list this month:

KR2/2 – Kings Rising – C. S. Pacat

The much-anticipated conclusion in this trilogy centered around political intrigue and the relationship between banished prince Damen, now a slave in enemy territory, and his new master, Laurent, prince of that country. So much drama and (all kinds) of tension! It’s so character-driven, which is unusual in the fantasy genre, so I can’t wait to read more. I devoured the first book and I need to find out how this ends immediately!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


 

assassin's heart

2/2 – Assassin’s Heart – by Sarah Ahiers

Pitched as The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet, this story about assassin families and intrigue caught my eye immediately. If anyone has gotten obsessed with the Throne of Glass series, here’s another assassin to keep you on the edge of your seat until September! Lea must avenge her family’s death which probably happened thanks to her secret relationship with Val, an assassin from a rival family. I expect plenty of murder and intrigue!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

stars above2/2 – Stars Above – by Marissa Meyer

For everyone who just can’t handle the end of The Lunar Chronicles, enjoy this collection of novellas set in the same world with more to love from your favorite characters. As someone who still hasn’t gotten around to the brick that is Winter, I probably won’t read this for a while, but I think it’s timed perfectly for everyone who finished the last book in November. I love that publishers are getting more comfortable with short fiction! (5 new stories are included with 4 previously published tales).

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

abyss surrounds us2/8 – The Abyss Surrounds Us – by Emily Skrutskie

Pirates! Sea monster/dragon creatures! Lesbians! Story, you have my interest – please please please don’t disappoint! The takes the adventure and kick-ass heroines I love and promises some new twists and exciting world-building. This is part one of a duology, so more points for not stringing me along for years. I’ve found this structure tends to cut down on the “middle book” syndrome of stretching out character arcs and events just to fill space. This is the first of several pirate debuts for 2016 –I’ll resist making a pirate joke of some kind.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

morning star2/9 – Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

I’ll admit, I think I’ve read enough dystopian books to get the gist and I’m kind of over the commoners uprising against the rich ruler types. I admit the Communist leaning of the cover intrigues me. Anyway, I know this has a strong following so to all the existing fans, rejoice, the conclusion is here! Darrow’s long-standing battle to bring justice to his world (no doubt at steep cost) will wrap up in this volume. His plan is to bring down the Golds from the inside, but we all know plans tend to go wrong…

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

blackhearts2/9 – Blackhearts – by Nicole Castroman

The story of Blackbeard before his legendary status as a pirate captain! Edward Drummond is chafing against the restraints of high society. Anne Barrett loses her family fortune and must become a maid—in the Drummond household—when her true dream is to return to her mother’s island. I can’t wait to see how these characters chase their “unconventional” dreams together! I’m also intrigued by pirates used in a slightly historical sense as well.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

these vicious masks2/9 – These Vicious Masks – by Tarun Shanker

Jane Austen meets X-Men? I’m down for that. A girl searching for her missing sister, Victorian romance, family secrets, London (my favorite city!)…I think this will be a fun little adventure! I’m a bit worried about some of the tropes but if the characters are well-drawn it will be quite fun enough for me. I’m hoping this will be similar to Silver in the Blood but with smoother pacing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

girl from everywhere2/16 – The Girl from Everywhere – by Heidi Heilig

Similar to January’s Passenger, we have time-travel and high stakes relationships! Nix has followed her father through time for years and even has an out-of-time love interest on board their ship. But now her father wants to return to Honolulu, Nix’s birthplace—before her mother dies in childbirth. He wants to save her mother. Nix isn’t sure what will happen if her father tries to change time, but his dream could kill her. The relationships and conflicts in this story sound amazing, I can’t wait!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

A Gathering of Shadows Final2/23 – A Gathering of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

OK, I haven’t gotten the chance to read the first book yet (A Darker Shade of Magic) but I fell in love with her writing last year and I want to read more of her stuff! Again, set in London and promising tons of addictive mayhem, I want to explore these characters as soon as I can. Time-travel, magic, intrigue—I’m sure it’s amazing! I just need to make room on my shelf. This month has too much awesome stuff coming out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

Raven King2/23 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

Remember that this gorgeous, epic book was delayed until April 26th! I know it’s the second delay, but it stings less. I have to re-read the books – and all of these amazing February releases – so April will be here before I know it! And at least we have cover art now. 🙂

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

The final book comes out in April, so I can read one book per month to hold me over until we get the conclusion to this epic paranormal adventure!

Raven King

What if you don’t have time? There’s an amazing site out there called Recaptains: readers who recap and sum up everything in previous books so you are fully prepped for the next one. A life-saver time-saver for sure!

Here is the recap of The Raven Boys, and The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue from their site. Beware, there are spoilers on purpose!

NaNoWriMo 2015: Recap

It’s December 1st, which means National Novel Writing Month is over, and close to half a million people around the world are breathing sighs of relief that they survived 30 days and nights of intensive writing.

I first did NaNoWriMo in 2009 on a bit of a dare (and won!) and since then I’ve joined in a couple of times to meet some goals. Sometimes I was shooting for 50,000 words, other times I just used it as a way to be a part of a writing community and get some other writing done. This year I hit 21,000 words which was within my goal, but that’s not why this was the best November ever. For the first time,  I have my own group of writers and critique partners, and we got to spend several weeks together writing/brainstorming/revising in a Colorado cabin (mountain view included)!

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Not only were we able to spend hours on our novels uninterrupted, we had an inspiring setting and delicious food too! This was definitely a writing utopia and I’m so grateful we got to do this together. (Shout out to Maddy, Akshaya, Janella, Katy, and Erin! They all have lovely blogs you should check out). 🙂

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To me the best part of NaNoWriMo is that for one month writers can leave their caves and find a community with the same goals. Creating together is so rewarding, and can give you a new perspective on projects that may normally never see the light of day. For example, when I was brainstorming one morning I decided Maggie Stiefvater’s tarot deck might be a good way to look at my plot and character arcs. (You can view my guide to doing a tarot reading of your novel here). All kinds of things you might not make the time to do on a regular day of writing can take center stage when you’re on a retreat–any writer should try a retreat if they have the opportunity!  Just the action of locking yourself away from the world and focusing on your book for 3 days straight can do wonders for your productivity–I can’t wait to do this again!

For everyone who enjoyed my previous writing post about tarot and plot, this is a small follow-up I did for fun a few weeks ago. A map of the writer’s journey:

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The StarA burst of inspiration for a story

Ace of WandsThe creative energy, enthusiasm and force behind the idea that gets you to begin your project

The MoonA combination of dreaming and fear or uncertainty as your novel progresses and suddenly it’s not as easy as you hoped

Queen of SwordsThis is where some insight and clarity is needed, so get some beta readers or critique partners and see if their advice helps you

Three of CoinsNow that you’ve done some teamwork, you can feel better about your story and it should be back on track (at least until the next round of uncertainty!)

Nine of CupsThe bliss of finishing your book after months of hard work, ups and downs, and even more work

Six of WandsVictory! The final step in the process–your story is done (perhaps you’ve landed an agent or gotten it published as well) and you have about a week before the next project begins to tease you

You can purchase Maggie Stiefvater’s tarot deck here.

The holidays are here – we’ll see if I can get through my TBR in a month!

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