Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater

Note: I received an electronic copy of Blue Lily Lily Blue from the publisher for review consideration.

Second note: Of necessity, I’ll be talking about some of the events of the first two books in this series. If you haven’t read those yet, the short version of this review is that Blue Lily Lily Blue is an excellent third installment in an excellent series. But you probably shouldn’t read on unless you want to be spoiled for the first two. Spoilers for Blue Lily Lily Blue occur only in the bottom, bullet-pointed section, and I’ve marked it that way.

ETA third note: Alice has rightly pointed out that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, this review makes no damn sense. So you should probably skip it. And go read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. That is probably a better use of your time. My reviews of those two books are here and here.

Maura Sargent has been missing for over a month, and Blue and her raven boys are spelunking in Cabeswater, hunting for Glendower and Maura both. The man who hired someone to retrieve the Greywaren has come to town to do the job himself, and he’s brought backup. Blue does not pay reliable enough attention to whether Gansey is or is not wearing a rain-spattered Aglionby sweater at any given moment, and the answer to everyone’s questions seems to be in a mountain cave, which sings into Adam’s deaf ear and whose owner insists that it’s cursed.

Two processes are befalling the characters in the Raven Cycle. First, they are growing from variously broken teenagers into the working-order versions of themselves they have the capacity to become. Second, they are developing into powerfully magical people you don’t want to fuck with. Stiefvater knits these two things so tightly together that they become component parts of one and the same process: As Blue settles more comfortably into the feeling of belonging to her group, she’s also evolving a better and better sense of the value of her particular gifts and the ways she can usefully deploy them. [Adam example redacted for spoiler reasons]

They’re also discovering what readers knew all along: that they’re stronger together than apart. You see this particularly with Adam and Ronan, the two who have tapped into the fierce, unpredictable power of Cabeswater, and who can do some truly remarkable things when they’re working together. There’s a nice symmetry between Kavinsky’s shitty, amoral tutelage of Ronan in The Dream Thieves and Ronan’s clear-eyed confidence in Adam throughout Blue Lily Lily Blue. Both boys are pushing someone else to be more than what they’re currently being; but where Kavinsky was telling Ronan, Be more like me, Ronan’s telling Adam, Be more like you. It is super lovely.

Blue and Gansey are still in the throes of Doomed Love. Maggie Stiefvater does her best to get to me by having Gansey give Blue his coat and then teach her how to drive stick shift, and look, I am not made of stone, standard transmission cars are amazing and nothing says love like making sure the other person is warm enough, but still, so far I like Blue and Gansey separately more than I like them together. Or rather, I like them together fine when they are joking about faxes from hell, and less when they start getting all Doomed about their Love. It’s not them; it’s the Doomedness of their Love.

In terms of plot advancement, quite a lot of important events occur, and some mysteries are solved while many more are raised (including a pretty big one about Gansey’s past). Whether you came for the characters or the search for a Welsh king, there are so many reasons to leave this book feeling satisfied. Stiefvater’s writing is as lovely as ever, with her weird and perfect metaphors, and it has been an extremely long time since I loved any fictional characters the way I love these ones.

Miscellaneous, spoilery observations (this section will include both plotty and emotional spoilers. Big ones. Look away.)

  • Adam and Ronan should always team up to do magic and iniquity together. It is the best.
  • Actually, the real, legitimate best is when Gansey says “Wake up.” I got chills.
  • Why is everyone in the visions switching places? I don’t like that! At least when it was clearly Gansey who was supposed to die, I knew where to focus my worry. Now it just seems like anyone could choose to sacrifice themselves to save anyone else. Adam sees a version of his Gansey-dying vision where it’s Ronan dying instead; the vision Blue and Gansey share in the vision tree swaps two lines of dialogue when it happens in real life.
  • The reveal about Matthew is the Maggie Stiefvaterest reveal ever. She has this brilliant gift for making you not notice that she’s told you a secret several times in a whisper before she tells it out loud. It even feels crazy to call it a spoiler. Of course Ronan dreamed Matthew. It’s been obvious all along, but I just didn’t notice. (Cf. Noah being dead.) (You guys, that is rough for Declan. I feel bad for Declan.)
  • My head knew that there was no chance at all that Ronan and Gansey weren’t going to show up to Adam’s court date, but my heart could not bear the suspense. Maybe it is too Hollywood and too facile a resolution of what Adam has been trying to learn about himself all along, but it’s such a good moment that I don’t care. “Behind him was Ronan Lynch, his damn tie knotted right for once and his shirt tucked in.”
  • “Why me?” “I hear if you want magic done, you ask a magician.”
  • The cliffhanger ending everyone was going on and on about: Piffle. That is not a cliffhanger. They spent the whole book saying Whatever we do we must not wake up that one sleeper, oh man, that would be a terrible catastrophe if that one sleeper got woken up. If you didn’t know that someone was going to wake the sleeper, you must have never read a book before. A cliffhanger is like when the protagonist has just defeated his human foe and then he turns around and there’s a whole alien army bearing down on them all. It is not a cliffhanger if it surprises you zero.
  • The Raven Boys books always make me want to read someone’s fortune with Tarot cards. (Any volunteers out there? I am pretty good at it) I liked BLLB, but not as much as the previous two; it seemed sort of incoherent at times, and some of the key scenes felt unsatisfying. Like, I wanted a whole lot more of the courtroom scene. I felt I deserved it, after sweating it out with Adam. And the whole final scene felt somehow unearned. Piper’s character still feels two dimensional to me. But overall, a pretty good addition to the series, and you picked some great bits out. I just hope the finale cleans up all these loose ends in a satisfying manner.

    • Gin Jenny

      Ha! Me too about the Tarot cards. I love Tarot cards.

      I think Piper’s character maybe felt two-dimensional for this book because we’re always seeing her from Greenmantle’s perspective. If we saw what she was thinking about her own self, I bet we’d feel differently.

      I’m a little worried about the loose ends! There’s just so many of them!

  • Not related to your post, but for some reason, Feedly hasn’t been picking up your posts since 28 days ago. Oops! Fixed that now, so I’m going to go catch up on your posts! And here I was, thinking that maybe you are in a blogging rut. :-/

    • Gin Jenny

      Eek! I wonder why! I hope that’s not happening for anyone else! 🙁

  • I can’t read this. I want too, but unlike YOU, I hate spoilers. I’m just completely green because you got an advanced copy. I will sit over here and pout, then read your review as soon as I can. [pout]

    • Gin Jenny

      I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO READ THIS.

  • I read the spoilery list because I couldn’t help myself, and the Matthew thing?!?! Seriously?!?! I can’t wait to read this now and see her lay the groundwork. And yes, that sleeper is getting awoken. Of course. And of course the third book will end on a suspenseful note. That is how a book series works. See also The Dream Thieves.

    (Turns out my sister had a review copy all along and her gloating text went astray and I never knew so I couldn’t annoyingly beg her for it. Oh well. I’ll have a copy Saturday.)

    • Gin Jenny

      Yep! And if you read The Dream Thieves again, there’s a couple of places where she hints at it there too. Like, they talk about when Declan and Ronan were born, but not Matthew.

  • My (autographed) copy is winging its way to me and now I can take my time enjoying it. That’s the good thing about spoilers, sometimes–they can make me more patient.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, well you are a better women than I. My brother-in-law can tell you that I whined nonstop about Netgalley until they finally approved me for the early copy. It was a long few weeks for him. :p

  • I loved the Matthew reveal too, and it made me love Ronan all the more. (Can I love him more? Is love quantifiable?) Also, see, I don’t think B and G are doomed because there is the matter of Glendower that could result in some interference. But then again, if it isn’t G, it will be someone else, according to the prophecy, so is there any good outcome?

    • Gin Jenny

      THERE ARE NO GOOD OUTCOMES.

      (Actually, I think the series will have good outcomes. I just don’t know exactly how right now. I’m afraid that everyone will be like “Okay, Gansey, when it’s Favor Time, make sure you ask not to die!” and then it will come Favor Time and Gansey will be like, “Noah’s life please!” That feels like something I can see Gansey doing.)

      • LOL – I think ALL of them will be falling all over themselves to give up the favor for one of the OTHER of them! Maybe The Glenwaren can make it right somehow….. (I mean, but seriously, how does Maggie Stiefvater get us talking about her characters like they are real people? Because they seem like real people even though they’re not even “real” people in the books!)

  • Soooo…. TELL ME YOUR THEORY.

    • Tell me YOUR theory. I don’t even KNOW. I have lost trust in my ability to form overarching theories. However, I do think Ronan’s been sleeping over at Adam’s. (Chastely.) Several hints have been dropped.

      • EEEEEEEEEEE, I love that. I also love that Adam KNOWS he’s Ronan Lynch’s other secret and has, like, thoughts and feels about that. And thirdly, I love that they spend so much time together in this book.

        You’re right about the Matthew thing, btw – I love being surprised by something that makes perfect sense in retrospect. And I agree about the ending not being a cliffhanger. Of course someone was going to wake that sleeper.

        No overarching theories for me either atm, but I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts in time.

        PS: I’m glad we were wrong about the Professor.

        • Gin Jenny

          Yeah, and he definitely did not seem displeased, right? More like “this is a high-quality person to be having a crush on me”.

          And I looooooved how much time Ronan and Adam spent together. I completely forgot that Gansey was going to do some mysterious Ganseyish thing in the headmaster’s office in that one chapter. When Ronan says “Parrish is coming for a drive with me” and Adam says “I am?” I immediately had to devote all of my brain space to being excited about that. <3<3<3

          I'm SO glad we were wrong about the Professor.

          • The mystery thing! It’s clearly Adam-related, but what?

            Also, THE SWEATER METAPHOR and “It’s simplifying.” “Exactly.” #feels

          • Gin Jenny

            My sister thinks it’s something to do with Adam’s court date. I said I didn’t think so because the court date gets resolved within the confines of the book, and Maggie Stiefvater could just have said so AT the court date. So I think it’s something else, but I just don’t know what yet. There are so many things Gansey could arrange with the headmaster that would piss off Adam.

          • aartichapati

            I am super glad we were wrong about the professor, too! I realize I am WAY late to this discussion, but I am about 100 pages in now, and since you were so kind to give me the Matthew spoiler, I have seen those hints everywhere, and I’m looking forward to the Adam/Ronan thing developing (just read the lotion part – so lovely).

            I also can’t stop laughing at Greenmantle. I’m sorry, I know he’s a villain, but he’s just SUCH a tool in every conversation.

  • Concur about the mystery thing. I also don’t necessarily think it’s to do with Adam. BUT WHAT??? It could be Ronan related, or it could be something else completely. Maybe…shoot, maybe he’s made his will or something.

    • I have definitely thought about the possibility that Gansey knows he’s going to die. 🙁

  • I finally read this book, so now I can read your review! And YES, agree with basically everything you’ve said. For me, this is the “plot book” of the series…I’m so used to Stiefvater’s thick, lush prose that I’ve come to expect a slow pace, but there’s actually A LOT going on here. I also love that Blue and the boys are really coming into their own, becoming a little more sure of themselves, their friendships, and their talents. I don’t mind the Doomedness of Blue and Gansey’s love so much, because Stiefvater wisely doesn’t go to that well very often.

    BUT. Now I have so much anxiety about Book 4! Who is going to die? Gansey? No one (which I would prefer but seems too easy)? EVERYONE? The only thing I am 100% sure of (okay, 99%) is that Blue and Gansey are going to kiss at some point. And even if he dies afterwards, it will be worth it!