Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Many Voices of Maggie

https://www.goodreads.com/series/73675-the-raven-cycle
The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater
The accompanying sensation as I gobbled up Maggie's Shiver series was a li'l like Twilight's read-easy-buzz, truth be told.  Then I read Maggie's The Scorpio Races with a reverence similar to the kind I hold for Elizabeth Knox.  Those are very different responses, in case you missed it.  I knew the final installment in Maggie's Raven Cycle was due for release this year, and so I waited until I knew I could read all four together before I went near Book 1 (I didn't even read synopses or reviews) -- because I knew they would be good and I wasn't going to want pause.  All that was to be established, was which kind of good they would be; which Maggie I'd find.

Having just left the world of Blue and the Raven Boys, I can tell you now, it's neither the read-easy, teen-love, guilty-pleasure-read nor the resounding, careful, historical-fiction brand; it's another Maggie again.  It's a Gaiman-worshipping, dark and beautiful Maggie.  In fact, there were a few passages I felt like I could lift and read out of context and convince someone they were written by Gaiman.  But it isn't Gaiman...it's still Maggie; passages, I say.  At times, I also thought of Naomi Novik's Uprooted -- mostly in motifs and symbolism -- but Maggie's characters are more beautiful and likable than Novik's.  I also felt I knew her characters more deeply than I know Gaiman's.  Her writing and arc isn't as tight as his, but it is gorgeous in an entirely different way.  This is not to say The Raven Cycle has sky-rocketed to the top of my Favourites List.  They have not.  They leave me a little uncomfortable, although pleasingly satiated.  Kind of like eating sweet bread dough before it's baked.  Overall: I was impressed and I enjoyed reading them.  Once.  I look back on the tale of each book and the overarching character stories and it was really quite a dark and magical journey.

The Raven Boys
  • Was not what I expected.  Going in knowing nothing except what the cover looked like proved to be a good thing.
  • For quite a while, I thought it was okay.  Then suddenly it was very good.  
  • Swearing and minor sexual references. Violence / graphic descriptions.
  • It is dark, and quite sad.  It was in Book 1 that I thought, "If she is not influenced (in a great way) by Gaiman, she is simply like Gaiman in some ways."
The Dream Thieves
  • It didn't grip me early either.
  • I missed Blue.
  • I still found it Gaimanesque.  Specifically, Anansi Boys.  More like the excellent results of a respectful student than a forger.
  • There is drug use, swearing, sexual references and a range of other choices parents of young readers may not be thrilled to find in there.
  • There were some glorious moments where characters did things that made me want to clap, or characters made home in new settings that made me sigh.  I am in awe of the way I initially felt about one character contrasted to how I later felt about him (also a very Gaimanesque stunt to pull).
  • It ends so well.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
  • I craved reading this; I liked spending time there.  But it still brought me mixed after-feelings.
  • Mature references continue.
  • There are some really punchy plot points.
  • The villains and known-quantity aspect of this ensemble made this my favourite of the first three books.
The Raven King 
  • So...the swearing is at least consistent *wink* (it's in this one too). It isn't gratuitous -- it is character stuff -- but I know not all readers are fans.
  • The imagery and authentic dynamics are so powerful in group scenes!
  • Maggie really can write so well.  I re-read sentences, impressed.
  • I realise in retrospect all of the books have been this way, but I was more struck by this in the fourth than in any other that there are truly moments of horror in these.  In Maggie's words on GR, "this book has gross parts."  True dat.  But I was already committed.
I think if you like Novik and Gaiman, you should read these for sure.  Not because you're going to be served up either, but because you'll find something that's friends with those that I'll think you'll be glad to have found.  If you like one or the other of those, base your call on whether you like one of the other facets of Maggie.  If you're not acquainted with Maggie, Novik or Gaiman....go with your gut on whether you like dark magic and old souls trapped in teenage bodies.  Good luck! 

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