Here I am again, reviewing the third instalment in this wonderful series. I’m struggling to write a review that isn’t just yet another read-this-book!-type of thing, but I’ll do my best to provide some new information as well. This year, I’ve headed in a new direction of life by way of doing a different course in university, which will take me another three years to complete at least. This means that I’m meeting a lot of new people, I have to change my studying strategies because I’ll have to study a lot and it means I’m expected to figure out who I am on my own. A part of me keeps hoping I’ll meet a Ronan or Gansey among these new people, or that I might find a character trait within myself that will bring me closer to their kind of quest. So, long story short, I find it hard letting go of these amazing characters.
This review will, once again, contain some spoilers, so if you’re not familiar with this series, I’d like to refer you to my review of the first book, which can be found here and contains no spoilers at all. My review on the second book, which can be found here, is mostly centred on Ronan, as did the second book. This one is all about Blue and her strange little family at 300 Fox Way. If I were to summarize this book, I’d say it’s about a strange, but safe young girl, who finds out the world can be cruel, unfair, misleading and, most of all, uncertain. The tone of this book is so much darker and while comedy still plays a part in this one, it’s getting hard to ignore the tragedies unfolding in our gang’s life. Luckily, they have each other and they seem to be closer than ever: they no longer deal with individual problems, but one man’s problem is the group’s problem. Keep all of this in mind when reading the following summary of this novel.
As mentioned, this book is not only darker in atmosphere, but it’s also more mystical. The novel starts off with Persephone teaching Adam about how he can tap into the ley line’s power. At the same time, Maura, Blue’s mother, is missing. When Calla, another housemate at 300 Fox Way, and Blue search her room, they find that she has gone underground, literally, to find her former lover. Blue feels orphaned in every sense, but still goes along with the gang when they explore Cabeswater: the magical forest. Whether Cabeswater is made of dreams or lives off dreams isn’t quite clear, but the situation becomes extremely perilous when Gansey falls in a cave and suddenly fears there will be bees. Remember, he is deadly allergic to them and remember also, the forest can make whatever you think into reality, and so Gansey’s fear is what could kill him in that moment. To make matters worse, Noah has started to act strangely and when I say strangely, I mean he appears to be possessed by some malevolent demon.
Whichever way you look at it, this story begins with Blue. When an old British professor comes over from England to advise Gansey on the lay lines, he shows them a picture of a tapestry that belonged to Glendower. On the tapestry three women are depicted, all with Blue’s face. The Gray Man’s employer, Colin Greenmantle, shows up at her house, threatening the Gray Man to deliver Ronan to him, or he’ll kill Blue’s mother. Colin’s creepy wife, Piper, also makes her preparations to go after Maura underground. Not knowing what to do, Blue decides to return to the cave, although she has been warned about a curse. By far the most scary thing happening in this book is the scene that then plays out: Noah appears to be possessed once again, turns to Blue and says emotionless ‘Blue Lily, Lily Blue.’ They eventually find a tomb in the cave, open it up, but instead of finding the king Glendower, they find Gwenllian Glendower, his daughter. The book ends with yet another mysterious cave and a strange journey inside of it, Blue bearing the brunt of it all and Adam having far too many responsibilities. So you could say: whichever way you look at it, the story ends with Adam.
I realise that this summary makes very little sense, but neither does the book. When you’re reading, you’re part of the action and everything is happening all at once. At first, I didn’t like this and I put it down to sloppy writing. But it’s not. As a reader you’re feeling everything the characters are feeling. You feel Gansey’s mortal fear, you feel Blue’s loss and absolutely helplessness, you feel Adam’s power as well as his inexperience, you feel Ronan’s raw anger and you can even feel Maura moving underground. The series is coming to an end and everything is happening now, all at once. I’ve already mentioned how much I love the characters and how much I want them to be real, but they are real now. Because Stiefvater has added another very important dimension to all characters in this book: their vulnerability. Interestingly enough, this is their strength in this book. Gansey turns into The Knight: he is as delicate as ever, but honour seems to be above all things now. Blue is the Page of Cups: she is the only non-psychic one at her home, which means she is a mirror and incredibly powerful in her sense of helplessness. Ronan is the Greywaren: my hooligan who seems to know nothing but loss, but still has the ability to dream and is perfecting that ability as we speak. Adam is the Magician: abused, hurt, but definitely coming into his own. My prediction is that this series will end with Adam.
One of the great things in this novel is that we’re finally moving on when it comes to the story. The second book and the first part of this book were for a large part establishing characters and their relationships. We know this now and there is no more time for reflection. Action! Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the exploring of people’s hearts and souls, but I still really do want to know what happens with and to Glendower! Finding his sleeping daughter and waking her up was such a plot twist to me. I was prepared for one ancient Welsh king, but his ancient sleeping daughter? Did not see that coming, and I’m not even talking about her personality yet. I love how the gang is finally asking the right questions, like: where is Cabeswater coming from? Why are we looking for this king? What do we want from him? Interestingly enough, the most important teenage question is now taking a backseat, being: Who am I? But through their search they’re getting closer and closer to an answer to that question especially, even when all the other things still remain mysteries.
I am beginning to think that this is a series you’ll either love or hate. It is, however, the series I would recommend to anyone sceptical about Young Adult literature, because I was one of you, and I’ve changed my mind completely. I’ve told you about the great characters, Stiefvater’s talent for creating atmosphere and now there’s the action: it’s fast-paced, clever, unexpected and never-ending. If they were to make a film out of this series, deciding on a genre would be a challenge, but this book especially would make a wonderful film. It feels like a cinematic experience when you read it, with images flashing past and plot twists around every corner. I think this is where I’ll end my review and pick up the fourth book, with the hope that I have sold this book on all fronts now. Action-lovers, romantics, great readers of old literature, scholars, freaks and admirers of psychology and anthropology: this book is the one for you.
Hitchcock Award: For scaring the shit out of me when I didn’t need it
Maggie Stiefvater, Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) (New York, 2014)