by Brittney Reed-Saltz
I have, in the past, had a complicated relationship with series. I blame over-saturation. Every time I heard about a new book, thought it sounded intriguing, and looked into it, I discovered that it was the first of a proposed trilogy. And then I would groan and cast aside the thought of reading that previously-irresistible-sounding book. I knew that I was setting myself up for years of reading commitment, or else a book with more filler material than a chicken nugget, only less delicious.
However. (There is almost always a however.) I love diving into a good series. And I have even been known to love the anticipation of new installments, despite always feeling like I’ve forgotten everything that happened between release dates.
This is where completed series and I get along swimmingly. I get to wonder what’s going to happen, but not long enough to have to Wikipedia plot summaries before starting the next book. Because the next book is already released and it’s checked out and sitting on my TBR stack waiting for me, muahaha.
Which brings us to today’s series recommendation: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I checked all four books out recently because I was going on a trip, and I’m not one to under-prepare when it comes to in-flight reading material. It came to me recommended by a patron: I noticed her checking the books out and commented that I heard that they were good. She replied that she had read them three times already. It was all the endorsement I needed to finally give them a try.
The series starts with The Raven Boys, and I will warn you that when you read it, you will dread the moment when someone asks you what it’s about. Because it’s an excellent book of the kind that does not hold up well when you try to distill it into a concise, appealing synopsis. You end up sounding a bit unstable. In a nutshell, there’s
- A boy (Gansey) who’s on a quest to locate the tomb of a medieval Welsh king whom he thinks is buried under the Virginia mountains on a ley line
- Which is an invisible but powerful line of energy
- That runs through the town of Henrietta
- Where Gansey goes to school at Aglionby Academy, a prestigious prep school
- Along with Ronan, who is a jerk but for reasons you learn later
- And Adam, a scholarship student with a bad home life
- And Noah, who never has the notes from class for some reason. (Foreshadowing.)
- Meanwhile, in the same town, lives Blue Sargent
- Whose mother is a psychic
- Who has told Blue that if Blue kisses her true love, he will die.
- Oh, and Blue has the power to amplify other people’s psychic abilities
- So she finds out at a ritual at a ruined church that Gansey is going to die.
- Before she has even met him.
- And then things get interesting.
And that’s just the setup for the first book. It gets progressively weirder and more complicated over the course of the next three installments (The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; and The Raven King, respectively).
And I didn’t even mention the magical forest where the trees speak Latin. Or all of the dreams. (There are so many dreams.)
The Raven Cycle lends itself to enjoyment on multiple levels. There’s a complex plot brimming with tension and peppered with cliffhangers that keep you racing through the short chapters. There are beautifully-wrought characters, who reveal more about themselves with each successive book, until you feel like you know them and are deeply invested in what happens to them. And there are even a couple of romances that you will hope for and worry about, without wondering when Stiefvater is going to get back to the main plot, already.
I highly recommend this series for fans of contemporary and urban fantasy. Readers seeking pure escapism should be warned, however, that this series contains darker elements that gain prominence toward the end, so it might not suit your reading purposes right now.