The Many Probems of Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Cycle” Part 2: Characters

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I’ve already explained in my last post the problem with having people come to terms with who they are and putting up a fake front in the meanwhile. This post isn’t about the five main characters–it’s about all the minor characters who should have made them feel like they were living in a real world.

Firstly, I’ll say that I loved the characters living in –and the character of–300 Fox Way. At first. An unknown number of women doing eclectic and arcane things, living in air that literally stank of magic and arcana. It was an awesome, beautiful place, animated and fascinating, and the best parts of the second and third books were those that took place there. But in the fifth book, the number of women was quantified at 5, and nothing of particular importance took place there.

There were a lot of interesting side characters also introduced in the first three books. These characters were fundamentally misused, because they promised more than they gave.

Take Gwynllian. The illegitimate daughter of Glendower, the paper doll whose resurrection was theoretically the goal of the whole series. She is discovered buried deep under the earth, turned facedown. She has been there, awake and aware, for 600 years. Her appearance temporarily injects the plot with new life, her existence uncanny and her purpose obscure.

The reason that purpose was obscure was that there was no purpose. At one point she drives a character into a tree, forcing a revelation. That’s it. She has no role in any of the climactic events. She does nothing but wander around babbling and reminding the reader of the promise of the first book.

Or take any of the villains. Most of them last only one book, so that by the third one there is nothing really scary. They are each defeated with relative ease and no loss of life. One is a Latin teacher, one an addict teen, one never actually does anything (Greenmantle), and one is so patently stupid she is never scary. There is the demon that Gansey momentarily dies to defeat, but it has no personality whatsoever, and by now so many villains have been set up and knocked down that it’s hard to invest in the defeat of yet another one.

The events of the book are set in motion by Neeve, Blue’s aunt who appears and tells her she will meet her true love that year. Neeve is an excellent semi-villain for the first book, then disappears until the last pages of the third. There she provides a third person for a spell that needs three people, and is unceremoniously killed not long after.

My final complaint is Henry, who is introduced casually in the third book and is somehow a major character by the fourth. Henry feels like Steifvater wanted to have a person of color included and didn’t care how last-minute, incongruous, and unnecessary that character was. There he is, walking with the damn people we’ve spent four books watching grow into the final act of the Cycle. He feels like some sort of attempt to fulfill a promise that Steifvater forgot to even make.

Just one more outpouring after this, I promise.

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