The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

FYA Photo-a-Day 9: Most Anticipated... and why I love The Raven Cycle

When having to choose my favourite series, for day whatever it was in the last week, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater was the first series that came to mind.  The thing is, it isn't finished and it just didn't seem fair to let an unfinished symphony win over the many series that I have finished and loved.  Ask me again in about a year, however, and I have no doubt that The Raven Cycle will have replaced all of the rest.

I've thought long and hard as to why I have been so entirely won over by Stiefvater's story of psychics, dead kings, dreamed of ravens and ley lines and I think I've hit on the answer.  It's not the characters, although with them she has taken worn silhouettes - Angry Boy, Kooky Girl, Rich Kid, Poor Kid, Dead Kid, all of which we've seen again and again in YA literature - and woven them into characters of real depth, originality and pathos.  Nor it is entirely the story line itself, although a good quest never did anyone any harm.  It isn't quite the world that she has created in both Monmouth Manufacturing, 300 Fox Way or Aglionby, although said world is as addictive as any of the beautifully drawn characters. No, these aspects are all quite brilliant (and you can read more about them in my reviews of both The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves) but they are not what I think of first, when I think of The Raven Cycle.  No, what immediately comes to my mind... is Cabeswater.

As a child I adored stories like The Secret World of Polly Flint (Helen Cresswell) and The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo, which I've already written about this week.  They contained hidden, magical worlds that both enchanted and frightened me. Similarly, Maggie Stiefvater has taken the old and the new, the ancient, the modern and the disconcerting to create Cabeswater, a wondrous and terrible well of strangeness, beauty and sacrifice. A place of impossible pools, talking trees, dark visions and old bones, she has placed Cabeswater at the heart of her story imbuing it with an air of magical unreality that spills across the pages of each book turning her contemporary setting into one that seems to exist out of time.  Cabeswater binds her story together, allowing the characters and their stories to come to life around it.  It is Polly's forest and Gwyn's mountain and every murksome yet miraculous dream you've ever had.  And it's out there, waiting, for you to pick up Blue Lily Lily Blue and return. Which you can't do, unfortunately, until the 21st of October.
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