The Raven King: The Raven Cycle, Book 4

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Raven King:  The Raven Cycle, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Gorgeously written multilayered finale is simply magical.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers continue to 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 a magical favor/ability. Teens also will learn about Virginia geography, various supernatural topics such as tarot cards, ley lines, conjuring, and amplification. Adam and Ronan zing Latin one-liners and famous quotes to each other on a regular basis, so any reader who doesn't know the language will want to look up the meanings.

Positive Messages

This entire series is about friendship, loyalty, self-awareness, and the way romantic love can grow out of friendship. The power of friendship is so important that Gansey finally admits the truth about his relationship with Blue, and Adam finally figures out how he feels about Ronan, who obviously is in love with him. As Blue said in the previous book, they're all in love with one another in different ways. These teens go to extraordinary lengths to help one another no matter the physical or emotional cost. Author 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

All the main characters are courageous, kind, selfless, and amazing friends to one another. Adam finally understands the differences between friendship love and romantic love. Ronan finally feels truly known and understood. Ronan and Adam stop succumbing to self-doubt and encourage each other. Gainsay is willing to sacrifice himself if he must to protect his family of friends, and his family of friends is equally as committed to saving him from death. All the Raven Boys and Blue are fiercely loyal to one another and love one another other unconditionally. The psychic ladies all try to help Blue and her boys.

Violence

Several characters die or otherwise are killed in various ways, some magical, some with weapons. A couple of deaths are particularly upsetting and cause others to grieve. Characters seriously injure and must subdue other characters. A possessed character lashes out not only at others but hurts himself as well.

Sex

More descriptions of longing, "hungry" looks, embraces, caresses, and, yes, some memorably passionate kissing. Characters have sexual thoughts about each other, but it's nothing graphic. One character wants to  have "carnal knowledge" of another; a character feels basically indecent with every touch he shares with his beloved; another character repeatedly thinks about wanting to put the object of his affection's fingers in his mouth; and a character thinks of sex when he listens to another character's music.

Language

Mostly courtesy of Ronan, occasional "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and so on.

Consumerism

It's not a Maggie Stiefvater book without the mention of cars: Camaro, Suburban, BMW, Volvo, "Hondayota," Bugatti, Fisker, Ferrari. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink or get high at a boarding-school toga party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Raven King is the fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater's best-selling Raven Cycle fantasy quartet. As in the other installments in the series, there are wonderful messages about unconditional friendship, teamwork, self-identity, courage, and love. There's some disturbing violence that leads to character deaths, but the intensity is on par with the previous novels, with some additional reader tension built in because it's the last book.The slow-burning romances ramp up with a few memorable kisses and lots of caressing and heated looks. These teens do curse ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole") -- Ronan in particular -- but mainly in life-and-death circumstances. With its many references to Latin, mythology, folklore, and magic, this book also teaches teen readers about imagery, symbolism, and the various literary elements of the hero's journey. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMoonlaceee May 4, 2016

Wonderful conclusion

This book was the 4th book in the series. It was honestly everything I had looked forward to. I liked how everything really came "full circle". Maggie... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byAlex Glass May 7, 2016

What's the story?

THE RAVEN KING picks up after the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue. An awakened evil force begins corrupting the magic of Cabeswater, which has direct consequences for the story's two magicians: Adam, who pledged himself to be Cabeswater's eyes and hands, and dreamer Ronan. As the creature continues to "unmake" the magical forest, Gansey, Blue, Adam, and Ronan continue to search for Glendower along Virginia's ley line in hopes of claiming a magical favor: to stop the evil threatening everything they love. But as the body count mounts, the four teens, who are also dealing with their not-so-secret coupling off, begin to wonder if Gansey's foretold death is the only way to save one another from certain doom. Along the way, they befriend charismatic Anglionby classmate Henry Cheng, who knows more about their supernatural scavenger hunt than he should.

Is it any good?

This magical finale is so good readers will laugh; cry; scream, "Finally!"; and want to reread the entire four books again. Even skeptical young adult readers should take a chance on Maggie Stiefvater's four-part masterwork, the culmination of more than 10 years of dreaming and writing that resulted in a series that gets better and better with each installment. This final volume is even more firmly rooted in the magic, the dreams, the relationships that Stiefvater has cultivated. While the twisting plot may at times feel slightly anticlimactic, it's purposeful, because this story isn't about the plot but about the characters, and the characters once again shine so brightly your heart will ache with the power of their love for one another. Yes, Blue's curse and Gansey's foretold death that Stiefvater introduces in the very first chapter of the very first book are on everyone's minds, but ultimately there's so much more to this book than whether that is true or not.

What's certainly true is that each of the boys becomes a King in his own way. Blue finds out more about her past, especially her father, but it's the boys' character arcs that breathtakingly come full circle. After teasing at the Ronan-Adam connection for two books, these two at last come to terms with the obvious attraction. Early on Adam remarks that "making Ronan Lynch smile felt as heated as making a bargain with Cabeswater," and in one of the book's most evocative lines Ronan says that "his feelings for Adam were an oil spill; he'd let them overflow and now there wasn't a damn place in the ocean that wouldn't catch fire if he dropped a match." Of course, there are a few aspects of the book some readers will undoubtedly take issue with, such as the reintroduction of charming, rich Gansey-like Henry Cheng as a much more prominent ally and fast friend to Gansey and Blue (and eventually Ronan and Adam, since to befriend one is to befriend all). But in this case, a new (and overtly diverse) perspective helps them all and reminds them that they can indeed care about other (new) people, such as Mr. Gray or Jesse Dittley. Overall, there's so much to love about The Raven King that, despite it being unputdownable, you won't want it to end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how books with multiple points of view affect readers differently from books with one perspective. How does reading various characters' perspectives make them more sympathetic?

  • What do you think about the romantic relationships that develop throughout this series? How do they affect the plot? 

  • Do you think the main characters are all role models? What makes them courageous and compassionate?

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