antediluvian: (i know there's something more out there)
Antediluvian ([personal profile] antediluvian) wrote2016-10-20 10:10 pm

Books: The Raven King

Every year I tell myself to use this journal for more than just Yuletide, but I am a) lazy and b) really busy, so my good intentions always seem to crumble. But! I really wanted to write a post about The Raven King, even though I read it so long ago now and thus this post is terribly belated. This post is really going to be my distilled thoughts about it, as my reading was so long ago.

The Raven Cycle has been very important to me. When The Raven Boys came out, I had decided to stay in the UK after two years of living abroad. I had just got a job in a very new company and there were already little warning flags going up about how toxic that office was going to become. When The Dream Thieves came out, that job had deteriorated to the point that I was excruciatingly anxious, unable to sleep and constantly nauseous, but reading The Dream Thieves was the thing that motivated me to get up in the morning. When Blue Lily, Lily Blue came out I wasn't at that job anymore. I had started a new job, in my dream company, and I was seeing a counsellor for the anxiety left behind by the old job. It took time, so much longer than I had expected, but it felt like slowly returning to myself. The Raven Cycle was the first thing I had felt fannish about in ages. I was reading fic regularly. I was writing - though most of it is still sitting entrenched in my laptop. I made friends though it and met some of my absolute favourite people.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that The Raven King had a lot hanging on it when it came out. It simultaneously benefited and suffered from that - the series has been so important to me that I was prepared immediately to love it and to overlook flaws. But I was also hoping for so, so, so much, with years worth of hope.

So here are my thoughts, which I am bulletpointing for ease of reading:

  • I was totally satisfied by the emotional beats and the character arcs in The Raven King. Having read everything by Stiefvater, I really feel like The Raven Cycle has been where she hit her stride in terms of those things. There were so many bits that I loved - Blue crying to her family in the bathroom and then pulling herself together, Adam facing down his family, Ronan confessing to Adam, Gansey's revelations all of Gansey's revelations. Adam's growth as a character meant so, so, so much to me.
  • Speaking of relationship arcs, that was another thing I was delighted by. I loved the way Adam and Ronan came together and I was satisfied with Adam's representation as bisexual (even though Stief never used the word, even though I recognise that's a problem in bisexual representation*) and I liked the way Blue and Gansey came together and that Blue and Adam finally FINALLY talked about it. I loved the acknowledged awkwardness between Adam and Blue and that they worked through it. Ronan and Declan finally starting to heal their wounds, yes please. I am here for all of the rift-fixing and family building.
  • Segueing from above, Henry Cheng. Now, I liked Henry Cheng a great deal, but when I first finished TRK I felt as though he belonged in a different novel. His increased presence in TRK seemed to belong to a very different kind of story, as did everything about his family and the business of magical artefacts and shady criminal types. But then I had a long talk in Twitter DM with a friend and she pointed out that she liked Henry's increased importance and his friendship with Blue and Gansey because it showed how the Gangsey OT5 had grown and matured - they were no longer closed off and only friends with each other, they were able to open their group a little and split off from each other. Once she pointed that out, I could see what she meant - this was another part of the growth and development of all of them.
  • There were a satisfying number of scenes that felt as though they could have come straight from fanfiction - the toga party, for example!!! All of the kissing!!! And I no longer remember all of the others because I stupidly didn't make notes as I read, but I do remember repeatedly messaging [personal profile] blindmadness shouting "IT'S JUST LIKE FANFIC MAJA IT'S JUST LIKE FANFIC" so I have those very useful and insightful notes even if I don't know which scenes brought the all-caps out of me.
  • But. While I will never look a toga party gifthorse in the mouth, some parts didn't sit quite right with me because I felt they belonged more to the joyful and utterly id-satisfying world of fanfic than they did, necessarily, to the published conclusion of a four part series. I feel like I might not be expressing this very well - I am not trying to express any kind of value judgment about either kind of writing, but I know when I'm reading fanfic vs published origific I am reading them with different expectations and wants.
  • Following on from the idea of expectations - I mentioned above that one of the reasons I was initially dissatisfied with Henry Cheng's increased role was that I felt as though he and Seondeok and the whole world of magical artefact businesspeople seemed to belong to a different novel. I felt this a bit with the Greenmantles in BLLB as well and this feeling of two novels being smushed together increased when I was reading TRK. I liked both novels - the lazy adolescent friendship adventure steeped in Arthuriana and myth, and the slick underground magical business world - but it was a bit jarring for me sometimes.
  • And speaking of Arthuriana... I really enjoyed all of the theories going around in the run up to TRK coming out and I felt pretty disappointed that actually all of the Arthuriana and Glendower stuff ended up being a total red herring. I mean, not as disappointed as Gansey, but. I was so convinced that there would be something like Gansey being the reincarnation of Glendower, or Glendower sleeping inside Gansey, and it still feels to me as though there so many hints about this sown through the first three books. Clearly what I need to do is a big re-read and see how I feel about it now.

Overall, though, I loved it. I was so happy with all of the character arcs. I was so satisfied with so much of it. And even though there were some disappointments, they don't seem to be a very big deal in the face of the overall emotional payoff. And even though the series has concluded, I feel as though there is still a huge amount of potential for fic, which is exciting for me. I currently don't want to write anything that isn't my Yuletide assignment or my original project, but once both of those are done I fully intend to finish my WIP TRC fic and then see if I want to dust off any of my other ideas for it.

* While I do totally understand why people criticise texts which don't use the word bisexual to describe a bisexual character, Adam's representation of bisexuality meant a lot to me. I thought Stief did a bang up job of showing, not telling, and I loved that he was clearly and explicitly shown as still being attracted to Blue even as he started having feelings for Ronan. A lot of it rang very true to my own experiences of being bisexual and it felt really good to find that resonance in a book series that I love a lot.

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