Stiefvater has really honed her storytelling skills by this book – the last in the Raven Cycle series. The writing is assured, characters highly nuanced and full of depth, the story rich. Yes, at times it can feel that she crafts the words a bit too dearly (never crossing the purple prose line but certainly dancing along it joyfully). But at the same time, this really is the antidote to the groaning horde of shallow YA tomes littering bookstore shelves these days.
Story: Blue and Gansey have been forced to recognize that the time to fulfill the prophecy has come (both Blue’s kiss of death and Gansey’s predicted death). For a demon is destroying Cabeswater – and in the process, Ronan is being unmade. At the same time, Adam is grappling with his vow to Cabeswater – and what that means now that the demon has taken over the forest. It will all lead to a showdown – and a terrible sacrifice that must be made.
The strength of Stiefvaters works is that everything is a character – from the old Camaro known as the Pig to the forest itself. Even houses and rocks can take on subtle personalities. And if she can do that with inanimate objects, then it has to be appreciated just how beautifully her characters are realized. Each felt quite real and conflicted – making decisions on instinct or intellect as was their want. Every single person is so completely defined as to be enticingly distinct. That skill draws one in completely to the story and the need to see how things pan out for the cast. And certainly, the characters have grown throughout the four books.
The story went quite a few places over four books but wasn’t as outlandish as it could have been in weaker hands. But the plot is not why one reads Stiefvater, certainly, since it’s all about the people. The Raven Cycles touch of magic (in itself fully defined and quite distinct) makes for an exciting read full of unexpected surprises. But for me, it was about the subtle romances – they were so exquisitely underwritten that little things – touches or gestures – had quite a punch.
If there is one nitpick, it’s that the bad guys ended up being fairly one-dimensional (almost to the point of being caricature). Stiefvater clearly isn’t interested in the stories of the bad guys – they are less defined than the scenery, to be honest. But that is a minor issue, really, in the larger scheme of how well-written this series ended up being and the smart conclusion at the end.
Definitely not a light Summer read. But not onerous to plod through, either. Each sentence has been carefully written; unecessaries ruthlessly excised. And it is all the better for it.
Note: I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job.