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Literature / The Raven Cycle

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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a student at Aglionby, the local private school for wealthy boys. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as raven boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other raven boys: Adam, the Scholarship Student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love if she ever kisses him. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

The series is written by Maggie Stiefvater and is four books long. The first book in the series, The Raven Boys, was released September 18, 2012. The second book, The Dream Thieves, was released September 17, 2013. The third, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, was released October 21, 2014. The fourth, The Raven King, was originally scheduled to be released on September 29, 2015, but was pushed back to April 26, 2016 in order to give Maggie Stiefvater more time to edit. The Dreamer Trilogy, is a sequel series focused primarily on Ronan, his family, and another dreamer named Hennessy. The first book in the series, Call Down the Hawk, was released on November 5, 2019. The second, Mister Impossible, was released May 18, 2021, and the third book, Greywaren was released on October 18, 2022.

The Raven Cycle contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Adam's dad. His mother is also complicit, although she doesn't physically hurt him.
  • Aerith and Bob: 300 Fox Way is filled with women named Blue, Orla, and Neeve, but also Maura and Persephone.
  • The Alleged Car: The "Hondayota" that Gansey's family buys for Adam in The Dream Thieves. It's apparently made up of parts from at least three different cars, all of them different colors and, judging by the name, probably different makers too.
    • The Pig, Gansey's Camaro, weirdly crosses this with Cool Car. On the one hand, it's a classic, sporty muscle car with an insanely powerful engine. On the other hand, it rattles, breaks down constantly, is super cramped on the inside, smells like gasoline, is so loud the characters have to yell to be heard whenever they drive places in it, and the radio and air conditioner are almost always weak or broken.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Ancient dead Welsh king in Henrietta, Virginia.
  • Anyone Can Die: In Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Persephone.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Played straight with Gansey, but averted with Ronan. Gansey's family is so absurdly rich that his bank account is functionally limitless, but Ronan, while also rich, can't spend his money quite as arbitrarily because the family finances are all tightly controlled by Declan and the terms of his father's will.
  • Arc Number: 6:21 appears a lot in The Raven King.
  • Astral Projection: Scrying is explicitly portrayed as this, and the soul wandering too far from the body is what ultimately kills Persephone. Something similar seems to happen to Ronan when he dreams, given that he's able to interact with the real-world Cabeswater while sleeping miles away.
  • Auction of Evil: In The Raven King, Piper attempts to auction off the demon to other artifact collectors.
  • Author Appeal: Cars and car-related things (gasoline, drag racing, driving, mechanic shops, etc.) feature very heavily as plot points and symbols. Maggie Stiefvater really likes cars and even owns two of the cars that appear in the series (a 1973 Camaro and a Mitsubishi Evo).
  • Badass Normal: So far, all of the main characters except for Gansey have some kind of supernatural affinity. Gansey's superpower is (basically) being a Kennedy.
    • Although, in The Raven King Gansey figures out he can magically command certain things to happen.
  • Barefoot Sage/Magical Barefooter: Maura Sargent is noted to not wear shoes very often, and her sagacity comes with the territory of being psychic.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Blue's actual first meeting with Gansey is pretty disastrous, and she goes on to regard him as a condescending (although she discovers early on that he's genuinely unaware of his own condescension) asshole. She can't deny how enormously attractive Gansey is (if at first, only physically), however; and unlike many iterations of this trope, they become solid, good friends on the path to their Foregone Conclusion fate as Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: While all of the kissing in the series is pretty significant and dramatic, the outstanding example is unquestionably from The Raven King, when Adam kisses Ronan after everyone else leaves the Barns. It's the absolute confirmation that Adam loves Ronan back, and Ronan's internal narration burns with joy.
    • Then of course there's the one the entire series has been leading up to.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Latin is used frequently in the story and it's considered the one area where Ronan excels.
  • Bittersweet 17: All four of the main teens are seventeen at the start of the series.
  • Black Market: There's a thriving criminal underground dedicated to the acquisition and sale of magical artifacts. It's how Niall Lynch made his money, and what eventually got him killed.
  • Boarding School: Aglionby, though none of the main characters live on campus.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Blue gives the appearance of this through an assortment of hair clips. She actually has a bob cut.
  • Broken Treasure: A good chunk of The Dream Thieves revolves around Ronan crashing Gansey's car and trying to replace it.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Gansey, although he's pretty good at hiding it when he's in high society.
  • Call to Agriculture: Although Ronan's money and Reality Warper powers would enable him to do anything he wants with his life, he's more interested in living peacefully on his family's farm.
  • Cassandra Truth: The others don't believe Noah's claims that he's dead. That is until the second half of The Raven Boys when they find his body. When they discover this, he is quick to point out that he did flat out tell them several times, they just never listened.
  • Clever Crows: Chainsaw the raven qualifies, and may have slightly above average intelligence given that she's a dream thing.
  • Collector of the Strange: Quite a few characters. Collecting magical artifacts is apparently a big criminal industry.
  • Coming of Age Story: Lampshaded in The Dream Thieves. Kavinsky explicitly says that Ronan's having a coming-of-age moment and mentions that it's also called a bildungsroman.
  • Coming-Out Story: The Dream Thieves is this for Ronan. Averted with Adam, whose sexuality is never a plot point and simply becomes obvious through his actions and narration, suggesting he may have already been aware of it before the series began.
  • Cool Car: Gansey's Camaro, Ronan's father's dreamed shark-nosed BMW, Henry's electric Fisker, Kavinsky's Evo with the knife decal, and some of the cars driven by members of his "dream pack". Then there's Ronan's first attempt to create a dream Camaro after crashing the Pig in The Dream Thieves. The copy is identical to the original in every way, except for the fact it runs without gas or an engine. He gifts it to Blue, Gansey, and Henry in the epilogue to The Raven King.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Dream Thieves takes place during June and July, but the cover shows Ronan in a winter coat.
  • Creepy Crows: One of the motifs in the series. Also Ronan's night horrors, though they're described as monstrous crow-men rather than just giant crows.
  • Dead All Along: Noah. Though to be fair, he did tell them several times. They just never listened.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In the third book, Adam has an entire conversation with Persephone before realizing said character is dead.
    • Happens again with the same characters in The Raven King.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Blue and Ronan get in some good lines at other characters' expenses.
  • Destructive Romance: Zig-Zagged with Ronan and Kavinsky. While definitely written like a Domestic Abuse scenario, they're not actually in a relationship, both are closeted for most of The Dream Thieves, and Ronan ultimately rejects Kavinsky. However, there's still a strong romantic/sexual undercurrent to their relationship, which is what makes Kavinsky's behavior escalate from drugging, stalking, and abuse to outright kidnapping and attempted murder.
  • Disappeared Dad: Blue's. Reappears in Blue Lily, Lily Blue.
  • Driving Stick: Downplayed in The Dream Thieves. When Adam receives the Hondayota, it's mentioned that he doesn't have much practice driving stick, but he's able to get back to Henrietta without issue.
  • Ensemble Cast: Blue, Gansey, Adam, and Ronan all receive fairly equal narrative emphasis.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Grey Man is a remorseless professional killer, but he draws the line at kidnapping a minor to be turned over for who-knows-what purposes—that could include killing or torture—as part of his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Evil Teacher: Whelk, and later Colin Greenmantle.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Arguably, Niall Lynch. While not actually evil, he has a dubious past and his fair share of secrets, but he wanted his sons to live good lives.
  • Fighting Irish: The Lynch family is very Irish, and at least three-fifths of them are or were skilled boxers.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Ronan is choleric, Adam is melancholic, Noah is phlegmatic, and Gansey is sanguine.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Adam and Ronan are the Cynics, Blue is the Realist, Gansey is the Optimist, and Noah is the Conflicted. And in The Raven King, Henry and Orphan Girl serve as the Apathetic.
  • Friendship Trinket: Adam gives his watch to Orphan Girl in The Raven King, and it reappears several times as a symbol of their trust and affection for each other.
  • The Hecate Sisters: With Persephone as the maiden, Maura as the mother, and Calla as the crone. They're all approximately the same age, but otherwise fit these roles perfectly.
  • Hero's Classic Car: Gansey drives a 1973 Camaro.
  • Human Sacrifice: Noah.
  • Iconic Item: Gansey is almost never separated from his orange Camaro.
  • Iconic Outfit: Adam gets hit with this both in and out of universe. He wears a red Coca-Cola shirt to Gansey's first reading at 300 Fox Way, and from then on all the women there call him "Coca-Cola shirt". The fans are similarly attached—the Coca-Cola logo and shirt come up only slightly less frequently than trees in fanworks. This is all despite the fact that he's never actually seen wearing that shirt again.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Inverted in The Raven King. Gansey tells Adam to be careful with Ronan because he won't be around to help if they wind up heartbroken.
  • Indirect Kiss: Gansey finishes off a pot of fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt for Blue, and thinks about her mouth being the last thing to touch the spoon.
  • Interclass Friendship: The wealthier Raven Boys share it with Adam and Blue. The awareness and issues of the trope is most focused on between Gansey and Adam.
  • In-Series Nickname: Gansey thinks "Blue" is a ridiculous name and decides to call her "Jane" instead. It ends up morphing into an Affectionate Nickname.
    • The women of 300 Fox Way, especially Calla, rarely refer to Blue's friends by their names. Instead, Gansey is "the pretty one", Ronan is "the snake", and Adam is "Coca-Cola shirt". Noah avoids this only because as a ghost he can't go in the house.
    • "Gansey" is itself a nickname, though not a particularly special one since all the Aglionby boys call each other by last name. "Gansey boy", the crew team's name for him, is a straighter example.
  • Insistent Appellation: Gansey just likes to call Blue "Jane", which soon turns into an Affectionate Nickname. It also becomes an Appropriated Appellation on Blue's part when she introduces herself to Roger Malory, who apparently considers "Blue" too ridiculous a name to be her name at all.
  • King in the Mountain: Owen Glendower, whom the boys are looking for.
  • Kiss of Death: Blue is constantly reminded that if she kisses her true love, he will die.
  • Last-Name Basis: Gansey. His full name—Richard Campbell Gansey III—is rather pretentious on its own, but combined with the fact that in his name is shortened to "Dick", he has a good reason to insist on his last name.
    • This is pretty standard among Aglionby students, even close ones like Gansey and his friends—they mainly reserve first names for intense, emotional, or intimate moments. Blue lampshades this on her first excursion with the boys.
    This all seemed very manly and Aglionby to Blue, this calling of one another by last names and bantering about outdoor urinary habits.
    • Part of what sets Noah apart from the rest of Gansey's friends is that they all call him by his first name rather than his last. Which is Czerny.
  • Ley Line: These play a key role in Gansey's search.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Kavinsky is attracted to Ronan. Ronan is initially unattached, but eventually realizes he likes Adam. Adam likes Blue, but also returns Ronan's feelings. Blue initially likes Adam, but in The Dream Thieves reveals herself to be more fond of Gansey. Gansey is married to the search for Glendower, but is attracted to Blue as well. Blue also kisses Noah, who no one is interested in romantically.
    • Kavinsky is also convinced Ronan/Gansey is another point of the Dodecahedron.
  • Meaningful Name: Ronan's mother is named Aurora, like the princess in Sleeping Beauty, and she became catatonic after the death of Ronan's father. And The Dream Thieves reveals that her sleep is actually a magical one, adding to the Sleeping Beauty parallel.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Kavinsky thinks that Ronan's devotion to Gansey must be romantic (or at least sexual). In reality, Gansey is like a brother to him.
  • Mood Whiplash: Usually pulled once or twice per book to lighten an especially angsty or tense scene, frequently through the use of the murder squash song.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Blue is the only non-psychic in her family.
  • Non P.O.V. Protagonist: For being part of the main crew, Noah is absent for much of the series and conspicuously lacks a POV chapter. At least until the antepenultimate chapter of The Raven King.
    • Ronan is this to a lesser degree, as he only has POV chapters in two of the four books.
  • Non-Residential Residence: Gansey makes a home for himself in an abandoned factory building.
  • One-Gender School: Aglionby is an all-boys school.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Not strictly speaking as we do learn what it is, but in Blue Sargent's family, her father is always referred to as "Butternut."
    • Played straight with The Gray Man, for the most part. Greenmantle learns his real name and reveals it to the readers, but none of the other characters know.
    • Blue is this in-universe to Malory, who only knows her as Jane, although he doesn't know that's a nickname.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Whenever Ronan is calm/quiet for longer than a few minutes, it becomes concerning. He also hates using his phone to such an extent that when he has important news in the final book and calls everyone to come meet him, they all drop what they're doing and immediately come, because Ronan would only use his phone in a real emergency.
  • Please Wake Up: Ronan has this reaction this after Gansey dies.
  • Prince Charming : Gansey.
  • Princely Young Man: Gansey, again.
  • Psychopomp: Orphan Girl calls herself this, but actually inverts the trope—she exists to save Ronan's life, not to guide him through death.
  • Red String of Fate: When Blue sees Gansey's spirit on the corpse road, she knows that he will almost certainly be her true love.
    • More accurately, her family insists this is the case. Blue rejects this idea and instead pursues her feelings for Adam, not wanting her life to be dictated by Because Destiny Says So and prophecy.
    • In-universe, it's more like Blue's family has been strangling her with the Red String her entire life.
  • Relationship Upgrade: In The Dream Thieves, Blue and Gansey have a miniature version of one when they finally admit that they like each other and start their tradition of romantic late night drives, which are basically secret, unofficial dates. Happens again in The Raven King, when they finally admit their relationship to Ronan and Adam and start openly dating.
    • Ronan and Adam also go through this in The Raven King.
  • Running Gag: Jane and Butternut are used this way sometimes. In the third book, we have the "murder squash song".
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: Gansey was stung to death by a swarm of hornets as a child.
    • Subverted a few times, most notably in the raven cave scene in Blue Lily, Lily Blue—Gansey's PTSD causes him to fear that rustling noises or crawling sensations on his skin are insect swarms, but they always turn out to be something else.
  • Scholarship Student: Adam.
  • Screw Destiny: Blue tries to take this approach with her love life. Key word here being tries.
    • Adam pulls this off at the end of The Dream Thieves.
      No. Maybe this is the future. But it's not the end. ...I'm—I'm pulling another card.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Gansey uses his dad's authority to help Ronan stay at school.
  • Seers: Everyone at 300 Fox Lane, except Blue.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: After four books of searching for Glendower in the hopes of waking him and obtaining a magical favor, the gang finally finds him... and he's been dead for centuries.
  • Ship Tease: Ronan and Adam are heavily teased in Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Adam's chapters almost all make a point of mentioning how handsome and incredible Ronan is, and we find out that not only does he know about Ronan's feelings for him, but he's pleased and actually thinks he's unworthy of Ronan liking him. While Ronan doesn't have any POV chapters, he does give Adam several gifts (including a freaking mix tape), and the two of them spend tons of time together apart from the other characters. Even when they are around other people, they spend most of that time paired with each other in some way (thinking about each other, standing close together, talking mainly to each other, smirking at each other's jokes, excluding other people, etc.). Adam also mentions how similar Ronan is to Blue, his ex-girlfriend.
    • Blue/Noah is also teased in The Dream Thieves when they make out, after which Noah says he'd ask Blue out if he was alive and she says she would say yes.
  • Shout-Out: Besides the obvious raven motif, Ronan's dream of Adam wearing the mask in The Dream Thieves is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death".
    • More blatantly, the author has said that (Dick) Gansey calls Blue "Jane" as a reference to Dick and Jane.
    • "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" by Billy Ocean is referenced in The Raven King.
  • Signature Item Clue: The ancient Camaro wheels found in The Dream Thieves and the epilogue of The Raven King are seen as proof that the gang is destined for some sort of time travel shenanigans simply because any Camaro wheels must specifically be from the Pig, and by extension Gansey.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Ronan. Adam compares his swearing to poetry and says he actually sounds much harsher when he's not swearing.
  • Straight Gay: In the second book we find out Ronan is gay.
  • Switching P.O.V.: While written in third-person, each chapter centers around a specific character's thoughts and experiences. The first three books alternate between Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan and the antagonist-of-the-book, while The Raven King contains no fewer than eighteen different POVs.
  • Take a Third Option: In The Raven Boys, Adam is told that he's avoiding a hard choice, but that there may be a third option he's not seeing. While that was specifically referring to his housing situation (staying with his parents, moving in with Gansey, or getting his own place), coming up with clever alternative solutions to problems is pretty much Adam's specialty throughout the series.
  • Tarot Troubles: Unsurprising, since Blue's relatives are professional psychics.
  • Team Pet: Chainsaw, Ronan's pet raven.
  • The Team Benefactor: Gansey, whose absurd wealth and historical expertise allows the gang's quest for Glendower to run as smoothly as it does.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In The Raven King, Blue dreams of being a tree with Gansey stepping into her trunk. She almost tells him, "You're inside me," but realizes that would be filthy.
    • The infamous "I am not a prostitute" exchange is this for Gansey.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Adam in The Dream Thieves, as a result of the trauma from his father's abuse and his deal with Cabeswater at the end of The Raven Boys. He gets nicer again by the end of the book.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ronan in The Dream Thieves. He was already a Jerk with a Heart of Gold in the first book, but the second one shows just how much he actually loves his friends and family, even though his emotional trauma makes him bad at expressing it.
    • Declan in The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by way of protecting his brothers even while being threatened by a hitman and driving 4 hours from DC to Henrietta every Sunday to go to church with them. Though since it's Declan, it's implied he may have motives besides just looking out for his family. Happens again in The Raven King, when he and Ronan finally reconcile and he proves that he ultimately does love his family.
    • Adam in Blue Lily, Lily Blue, where he's much nicer to and more understanding of other characters, and consciously tries to control his temper.
  • True Love's Kiss: One of the main premises of the series inverts this: if Blue kisses her true love, he'll die.
  • The Unfavorite: In the Lynch family, Ronan explains that he was Niall Lynch's favorite and youngest brother Matthew was Aurora Lynch's favorite, which leaves eldest brother Declan to be no one's favorite.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Gansey is very precious about the Pig despite it being The Alleged Car to everyone else.
  • Wham Line: Maggie likes to end each book with one, though there are a few in the middle as well:
    • In Blue Lily, Lily Blue: "Matthew's mine. He's one of mine."
    • In The Raven Boys:
    Gansey: We found a body. Rotted to bones. Do you know whose it was?
    Noah: Mine.
    Adam: I sacrifice myself.
    • In The Raven King: Did you dream Cabeswater?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Adam leaves St. Agnes before we can see how Ronan deals with his dead double and the bloodstain on the church carpet. They never bring it up to each other again.
  • Where It All Began: Gansey's search for Glendower begins and ends at the estate where he was stung to death as a child.
    • Thanks to the ley line's unusual flow of time, Noah's existence as a ghost comes to an end When It All Began, as he and Gansey are simultaneously dying on the line seven years before the events of the books.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Gansey wonders at first if "Blue" is a nickname, and decides "Jane" is a much better name for her.
    • Blue herself has this reaction in Blue Lily, Lily Blue when she finds out that her aura is blue. She wonders if it's like naming a dog Spot.
  • Wicked Wasps: Wasps, bees, and hornets are mostly portrayed pretty negatively due to Gansey's allergy. The villain of the final book is even a demon that looks like a giant wasp.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The timeline is... confusing. Blue is 16 at the start of the series, but then turns 18 a few months later in Blue Lily, Lily Blue (mentioning that she's "lived eighteen years as the town psychic's daughter"). Also, Gansey apparently came to Henrietta 18 months prior to the start of The Raven Boys and befriended Ronan immediately after moving to town. Adam also says he has been friends with Gansey for 18 months. Yet somehow, Gansey was friends with Ronan in Henrietta for months before meeting Adam. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: In The Dream Thieves when Gansey says "Blue" instead of "Jane," Blue knows something serious is going on.
    • Whenever the two are having a more serious moment, you know Gansey's emotions are getting to him when he calls her Blue.
    • Ronan rarely calls Adam by his first name outside of his dreams, and when he does it's typically at a pivotal moment.
  • You Can Keep Her!: Henry mentions that his mother told this to his kidnappers when he was being held for ransom as a child. Thankfully it was a bluff, and a successful one, but he's clearly still a bit hurt by the memory.