I think I finally understand the true meaning of the phrase “one step forward, two steps back.”
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a bad book – even worse, it is disappointing. Stiefvater showed me in The Dream Thieves that she can create something exciting and thoughtful, but where this previous installment in the Raven Cycle series was focused and coherent, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is all over the place and flies right past a few crucial loose ends without looking back. The two-star rating is harsh, but it comes from a place of love, because I know that this could have been so much more.
As expected, the focus is back on Blue, for better or worse. The character certainly has her moments, like when her college dreams are crushed and she suddenly feels frustrated and trapped. She has neither the grades nor the funds to go to the university of her choice and when the reality dawns on her that her best bet is a local community college, she breaks down and finds herself lashing out at Gansey, the boy who seems glide through life effortlessly and never has to worry about money or his future. I have never been able to relate to Blue more than when she is angry and insecure, acting irrationally and then kicking herself for it afterwards.
I also appreciate Adam getting a grip on his powers and how they work. The chapters where he and Ronan bond over being different, over having changed somehow, are some of the best in the book – but sadly thin on the ground and all too short. I wanted more of the two of them solving the mystery of Ronan’s childhood home, more pages devoted to the two of them having to get to know each other (and themselves) all over again. Sadly, Ronan has been kicked back down to secondary-character status and much of his journey takes place off-screen.
What bothers me the most about Blue Lily, Lily Blue is how it leaves a lot of questions unanswered and skips some plot threads that need tying up. When it is revealed that Ronan took his beloved little brother Matthew from his dreams when he was little, my brain exploded and I couldn’t wait to learn more. What do you do when you find out that one of your favourite people in the world only exists because you imagined them and that when you die, they will fall into a coma and never wake up? But these issues are never explored. The news about Matthew is tossed at us when we’re not looking, smacks us in the face, and then drops to the floor, never to be mentioned again. Ronan is a teenage boy who has discovered that he has the power to create life and has to watch himself die over and over again to pay the price – how are we not talking about this? Why isn’t there a single chapter from his point of view?
And finally, there is the matter of the villains. Greenmantle and Piper are funny and make for an entertaining team, but they are not the kind of dark force the story had been building up to. In the previous book, Greenmantle was the mysterious puppet master who controls the Gray Man, the one he fears and cannot risk disobeying. In Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the Gray Man uses the same imagery to describe him as Arthur Conan Doyle uses to describe Professor Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes novels:
“Colin Greenmantle is untouchable,” the Gray Man said. He spread his fingers wide, hand hanging in the air. “He is a spider clinging in a web. Every leg touches a thread, and if anything happens to the spider, hell rains down.” (Blue Lily, Lily Blue)
“[Moriarty] sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans.” (The Final Problem)
And then he is revealed to be a wimpy dork who cracks jokes about organic granola – not so much a diabolical genius as a massive letdown.
So here is my wishlist for The Raven King:
1. For God’s sake, get it together and focus.
2. See #1.