“It was funny, the Gray Man thought, how humorous she always appeared, how that smile was always just a moment away from her lips. You really didn’t see the sadness or the longing unless you already knew it was there. But that was the trick, wasn’t it? Everyone had their disappointment and their baggage; only, some people carried it in their inside pockets and not on their backs. And here was the other trick: Maura was not faking her happiness. She was both very happy and very sad.”
I sought out Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle after reading a Reddit thread about what could provide a somewhat satisfying followup to the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. This did not disappoint. If I could sum up this series in one word, it would be ANGST. Oh my god the angst!
The books follow what I consider to be a beloved K-drama trope: poor girl falls in with a group of rich boys and, through a variety of adventures, learns that there is more than what is visible on the surface. The rich prep school boys with golden tickets are neither rich, nor without their own traumas, doubts, and secrets. Add to this a relatable heroine who is fallible, insecure, kind, angry, strong, and the necessary counterbalance to this group of angsty boys.
I did not think I was going to like this as much as I did. This is an absolutely lovely, heartbreaking, tender, and hopeful series about a group of teens dealing with normal teen stuff: crushes, breakups, stressing about their future, disappointment and self-destructive behavior. However, with a full series of books, we get to dive more deeply into the consequences of loss, abuse, abandonment, and a healthy dose of survivor’s guilt. We also get some well-formed adult characters who are written as real, fallible humans stumbling through their lives much in the same way the teens are. And we haven’t even talked about the quest for undead Welsh kings, death curses, resurrection, living dreams, and psychic abilities (or the lack thereof).
Adam’s story. Oh my god that poor boy. His character arc and his quest to be enough and to stop feeling less-than because of his horrible home situation is so compelling. His relationship with Blue and the other boys is everything. Ronan is a close second, because if you don’t fall in love with him a little by the end of the second book, I don’t know what to tell you.
This is the first series where I tore through it, was floored by the reveals, and had to immediately go back and reread the entire series to pick up all of the hints that had been dropped along the way.
I could do without so much professor Richard Malory and a particular character shoved into the last book. The third book dragged for me as, not unlike the penultimate season of a popular TV drama, it puts all of the pieces in place for the final reckoning to take place in the final book.