The Raven King (The Raven Cycle Book Four)


Samantha Joslin

The Raven King is the last book in The Raven Cycle series. The pacing of all Stiefvater’s novels is gripping, however this book in particular will leave the reader staying up all night, stumbling towards the vague destination hinted at throughout the book. From the very beginning, a seed of dark foreboding is planted in the reader with the harrowing last lines of the prologue: The hounds of the Aglionby Hunt Club howled it that fall: away, away, away.

was a king.

This was the year he was going to die.”

The dread only continues to grow as frightening events with lasting damage occur to these normal, relatable high school teens. The lightheartedness with which the characters usually meet every challenge is faltering, and there’s a sense of hopeless dread as the novel drones on.

This is a book that’s difficult to review for two reasons: one, The Raven Cycle has grown so complex that it’s hard to decide where to start; and two, I am forced to give a terrible review for a book in a series that I’ve grown to adore. The beautiful writing style of Stiefvater made it easy to fall in love with her first three books, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the disappointment this novel induced.

While books one and two served to develop the characters and plot and book three emphasized the characters’ emotions and mental states, book four only seems to spotlight Stiefvater’s tendency to be unfulfilling. While the anticlimactic endings of her other books were excused by the promise of another novel, the last book in the series ironically delivers even less than its predecessors. The hunger of the readers for more is utterly unsatiated until the last hundred pages, where Stiefvater begins to redeem herself.

The terrible things that have been swirling around the characters for three books finally dart in and cause pain and heartache for both the characters and the readers. The intensity of the tail end of The Raven King made me feel (guiltily) captivated, but Stiefvater ends up rushing to reconcile the damage. The overwhelming destruction in the final chapters of The Raven King sloppily repairs itself until the epilogue, where Stiefvater rushes to resolve the characters and their storylines instead of properly evolving them into resolution.

I can’t fathom why Stiefvater thought this ending was appropriate. The publication of the fourth novel, while originally set for October of 2015, was pushed to August 2016 due to writing block on Stiefvater’s part. After reading that novel, I’m not surprised and wished she would have pushed off the publication longer so as to write a good ending that made sense instead of the rushed, confusing let-down of an ending that she delivered. My love for the central five teens guarantees these books a special place in my heart, but Stiefvater’s writing ended up being disappointing.

The draw-your-own-conclusions ending isn’t something I’m a fan of, although there is something to be said for leaving readers with a sense of possibility. The ending leaves room to imagine new adventures and experiences for the five teens. Even though they’ve separated, their bond is clearly unshakeable. As Blue’s family says early on in the story, “there’s nothing wrong with leaving because it doesn’t mean never coming back.”