Posted on February 12, 2016 | Back to Literature
REVIEWED: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3 in the Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater
Here be spoilers.
The third installment in Maggie Stiefvater’s popular Raven Cycle books continues the story of a young woman named Blue Sargent, born to a family of psychics who befriends a group of privileged prep school boys as they search for a mythical king called Glendower. As unlikely as that premise may seem, these are consistently strong and believable young adult novels and this third installment does a great job of building on an ensemble of characters which may be some of the most engaging in young adult fiction.
After dealing mostly with the character of Ronan Lynch in the preceding book (The Dream Thieves), this outing reestablishes Blue Sargent as the main protagonist of a diverse group of people bound together by both friendship and curiosity. As the novel begins, Blue is suffering acutely from the loss of her mother Maura who disappeared at the end of the previous book. Maura, a powerful psychic, has presumably decided to search for Glendower on her own — leaving behind only a cryptic note which promises she can be found “underground.” According to legend, Glendower was a Welsh king who was spirited away from his homeland and laid to rest somewhere in an elaborate cave system near the fictional town of Henrietta, Virginia. Like the legend of King Arthur, Glendower is not dead in the physiological sense, but rather in some form of suspended animation, waiting for one worthy soul to wake him. For the man or woman who manages to find and rouse the king, there's the promise of magical favors.
Joining with her unlikely friends from the prestigious Aglionby Academy (Gansy, Ronan, Adam and Noah), Blue spearheads the subterranean search for Glendower — logically assuming that if she finds the king, Maura will be nearby. This quest leads them to a rural farm owned by Jesse Dittley. One of Stiefvater’s strengths is creating memorable, often eccentric characters like Dittley. A great hulk of a man, he’s plain spoken and surprisingly gentle. He takes reluctant shine to Blue, nicknaming her “Ant,” a reference to things which are small yet powerful. Through their unconventional friendship, Blue convinces Dittley to allow her and her friends through the gated cave entrance on his property. This is not an easy decision, as Ditty’s convinced the cave’s cursed and has already claimed the lives of several of his relatives.
Upon entering the caverns, they find not the mythical king but his daughter, Gwenllian. Entombed alive for reasons unknown (yes, these things happen in the Raven Boys series), the woman is now utterly mad from centuries of isolation. Still, Blue and Gansy recognize that she’s a valuable source of information if they can ever sense of her constant riddles and taunts.
To complicate matters further, the maniacal and sinister Colin Greenmantle continues his own search for Glendower. Introduced in the previous book, Greenmantle is a professional collector of unusual things, a sociopath and a murderer. In The Dream Thieves, he dispatched a hired assassin (the enigmatic “Gray Man”) to locate a magical object called the Greywaren which could manifest items out of the dream world and into the real one. When the “Gray Man” discovered that this “object” was actually Ronan, he couldn’t bring himself to turn the boy over to his employer. Fuming from this betrayal, Greenmantle has come to Henrietta to finish the job himself. What follows is an increasingly dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as Blue, Gansy and the others try to outwit or at least out-race Greenmantle to the king’s final resting place. The story culminates with the opposing teams of supernatural treasure hunters entering the caverns for a deadly showdown.
Like the other books in this series, I continue to be impressed with Stiefvater’s world building, authentic characters and intriguing subplots. If I have one major criticism of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, it’s that it doesn’t do enough to advance the overall mythology of the series. The one major resolution of the novel is that Blue does find her mother. But after three books, the protagonists still aren’t that much closer to solving the mystery of Glendower. With lesser authors, this lack of resolution would have me annoyed or worried. But I trust Stiefvater will get us there in the end and, honestly, I’d be okay if these books went on forever. While I wished for more a little more in this one, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is another enjoyable installment to the Raven Cycle and well worth your time!