Blue Lily, Lily Blue: The Raven Cycle, Book 3

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Blue Lily, Lily Blue: The Raven Cycle, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Brilliant installment in lyrical fantasy is unputdownable.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn about the myth of the sleeping king -- the last Welshman to be titled Prince of Wales, Owen Glendower -- and the belief that his remains will endow someone with supernatural abilities. Teens also will learn about Virginia geography, particularly the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the caverns under parts of the state.

Positive Messages

As with the previous Raven Cycle books, this installment is about friendship, loyalty, and the way love can grow out of friendship. The power of friendship is so important that Blue and Gansey are still worried that Adam will be upset if they act on their feelings for each other. As she says, they're all in love with one another in different ways and go to remarkable lengths to help one another no matter the physical or emotional cost. Stiefvater explores how you can be poor by society's standards but rich in friendship and potential. The story also encourages intellectual curiosity, gender equality, and understanding and opening your heart to love, even if it's not from someone you expect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adam finally realizes that there's no shame or guilt in accepting help from friends who love him. He also realizes that one of his friendships has the potential of love, even if he doesn't know what to about it. He finally stops obsessing about status and realizes his favor needs to be to save a friend. Ronan and Gansey are millionaires, but they're more interested in their friendships and their passions than in conspicuous consumption or status flaunting. Ronan sees the potential and the greatness in Adam, even if Adam often doubts himself. Blue deals with a lot of conflicting feelings about Gansey and her contribution to the Raven Boys' mission. All the Raven Boys and Blue are fiercely loyal to one another and love one another other unconditionally. Calla, Persephone, and Maura all help and protect one another as well as Blue and the boys.

Violence

A couple of characters die -- one in a paranormal fashion, the other in an execution-style shooting -- and other characters are beaten and held at gunpoint.

Sex

There are a lot of lingering looks, charged but brief touches of hands, arms, legs, and one "everything but" kiss but no actual making out or revelation of feelings. The only mentions of actual sex are innuendos from an adult perspective about his long-term girlfriend. For example, in his inner monologue, the character makes jokes about needing to take his pants off to be ready in case his girlfriend's in a lusty mood. A guy is pretty sure his male friend has feelings for him because he shoots him "hungry looks."

Language

Strong language includes the occasional "f--k," "d--k," "s--t," and "a--hole."

Consumerism

Stiefvater is known for her love of cars, and this installment is no exception: Audi, BMW, Camaro, Fisker, Pontiac, GMC Suburban, and so on.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink, mostly wine, on occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in author Maggie Stiefvater's best-selling four-part series, The Raven Cycle. Although there are a couple of fight scenes (two involving people held at gunpoint) and deaths, there's actually less violence in this installment than in its two predecessors. And, although the romantic feelings and flirtatious banter ramp up in this story, the sexual chemistry is still more emotional than physical (with the exception of touching hands, embracing, or standing very close and looking longingly at one another with "hungry eyes"). Stiefvater is a famous gearhead, so expect many references to Gansey's Camaro and Suburban, Ronan's BMW, and a few other cars. The language is in keeping with the other novels ("f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "a--hole"). As with all of Stiefvater's stories, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is about friendship, love, and family.

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What's the story?

In BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE, the boys are headed back to Anglioby, Blue's mother is still missing, and the crew's still doing what they can to come to terms with their powers (Adam and Ronan) and look for the mysterious sleeping king, Glendower. Gansey gets help from an old (literally) friend with academic expertise in ley lines, and Mr. Gray's angry former employer Greencastle heads to Henrietta to teach Latin to the boys, force Gray to turn over the Greywaren (aka Ronan, who can conjure things out of his dreams), and pose a threat to basically everyone. Meanwhile, Adam works closely with Calla to hone his scrying skills and grows closer to Ronan, while Blue figures out she has more to offer the group than her ability to amplify their gifts. As the four friends (and Noah the not-always-friendly ghost) venture from Henrietta to deadly caverns to D.C. and back on their supernatural errands, they come closer than ever to Glendower himself.

Is it any good?

Maggie Stiefvater continues to outdo herself with each installment of The Raven Cycle. Usually by the middle of a multi-book series, an author either phones it in, throws in an unnecessary love triangle, or bogs the plot down with so much detail it's unclear if he or she knows how everything will end. Not so with Stiefvater, who's known for meticulously tying up loose threads and intricately adding in subtext in passages obsessive readers can pore over again and again for clues about characters' feelings, desires, and outcomes. For a lyrical writer with a gift for original metaphors and evocative language, she's managed to make this third book feel simultaneously fast-paced and leisurely. You won't want it to end, even as you're racing to the final page and counting the hours until the final installment in this riveting, layered tetralogy.

Somehow, against all odds, these books keep getting better and better. The character development, particularly for Adam and Ronan, is amazing -- as in, readers will be amazed at how perfectly these two fit together. Their scenes are so obvious they're reminiscent of Ron and Hermione's in the last two Harry Potter volumes, when you're waiting and waiting for them to stop all the hormonal bantering and bickering and just kiss already. Of course, kissing is the one thing Blue and Gansey can't do, so they make up for it with electrifying hand-holding and knee touching and basically staring at each other longingly. But the romances take a back seat to all the action, which involves new discoveries, secrets, and heartbreak -- all of which is so involved and engaging you'll just have to read it yourself. Just make sure to clear your calendar before you start.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this installment reverts to an equal distribution of points of view, whereas The Dream Thieves focused primarily on Ronan. Do you prefer the multiple perspectives or Stiefvater giving one character more page time?

  • Discuss the ways in which this book is less about a central romance and more about a four-way friendship among Blue and "her" Raven Boys? Are you surprised at the way the romantic possibilities have lined up? Do you think there will be more romance in the final book?

  • Maggie Stiefvater is known for being able to combine lyrical prose and whip-smart dialogue. What other young-adult authors are known for their poetic writing styles?

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