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***SPOILER ALERT! There are quite a few elements discussed herein that might give away some things from the two already-published Raven Cycle books. Read with care if you haven’t finished the series.***?
On to the discussion: The term “cycle” indicates a process that repeats over and over again. Stiefvater’s books do exactly that in my mind: the plot and characters spin around and around days after I’ve finished reading them. At this point I’ve read both books four times and I could keep reading them for YEARS and still find new things to ponder after each read. As you are aware, I find it necessary to ruminate over these types of stories with K, my dear book friend (and sometimes scarily telepathically-connected mind-sharer). I know you understand this, YABBAs. K and I have had numerous discussions about The Raven Cycle over the months and readings since The Dream Thieves came out. (Our talks, mostly via text messages, tend to be meandering and disjointed, so I’ve tried to put the ideas in an understandable order.)
We began by talking about Blue and her assertive, matriarchal family.
Me: There are so many strong female characters in this series. I love that Blue has so many positive influences to shape her emerging stalwart character. There is a definite parallel to mythology going on here. The women seem to be channeling The Fates. Calla is Past, Maura is Present, and Persephone is Future.
K: Persephone is creepy. At least, she is in The Dream Thieves (TDT).
Me: In The Raven Boys (TRB), Persephone seemed like such a minor and timid character to me: the sensitive and perceptive one who had a flash of insight here and there. She has BLOWN UP in TDT. She moved from timid and tangential to central and creepy. Much like Kavinsky. He went from sideline shithead to Antagonist Asshole.
K: Yes! I think that Persephone is connected to several elements of the story. I think she is Orphan Girl in Ronan’s dream world. She’s helping him realize what he is and how to use his power. Or rather, she’s guiding and advising him through the process of doing so. She even tells Ronan that she thinks she’s a psychopomp (a spirit whose job it is to guide souls to the afterlife–thank you, Wikipedia).
Me: Interesting…so Persephone can reuse time? Can any of the other women reuse time? Can Blue?
K: I don’t know. I think we have yet to discover the extent of all their powers. Blue is an amplifier: she strengthens the powers of those around her, but I don’t think it would make sense for her to be able to reuse time, too. That’s Persephone’s gig. But Blue is definitely Something More.
Me: Alright, so Blue is a power source. And Maura is truth? She is so blunt and straightforward. Calla is prickly and provides context from past events.
K: Yes, so their interactions provide three-dimensional pre-thinking for Blue as she makes decisions about how to proceed with the boys.
Me: Which brings us to THE BOYS. In my mind they each have a defined role related to the mythology behind the series.
K: Ronan calls Noah “prophet,” which got me thinking about the other boys’ roles. I think Gansey is the king, Adam is the magician, Ronan is the dreamer, and Noah is, as stated, the prophet. But one thing I can’t figure out is the quality in Gansey that makes them all follow him. Or is he really creating followers?
Me: It’s compassion. Gansey truly cares about all of them and is willing to help however/whenever he is able. Because all of them, Blue included, are searching for something, it bonds them together. They’re more teammates than Gansey’s followers because Gansey is trying to fill a hole like the rest of them. They all accept one another because they all feel unacceptable.
K: So they’re all missing something? Searching for something?
Me: Yes. Adam even says Gansey has a hole in him that’s eating away at his heart. Gansey wants the self-made aesthetic that Adam has crafted for himself. He worries that his own privilege gets in the way of people understanding him. Incidentally, it’s what originally made Blue detest him. Gansey expends so much energy trying to make it all look effortless. Adam is just the opposite. He’s constantly double-checking himself on the inside while he exudes this calm, flusterless persona. Adam is shaking on the inside and wants Gansey’s confidence that comes from Gansey knowing exactly what he wants. Ronan acts like he doesn’t care about anything or anyone but then why take such pains to stay in Gansey’s good graces? Ronan wants the unconditional love of a male figure since Niall Lynch disappeared and Declan is such a jerk even if he can’t admit it to himself. Noah longs for loyalty and true friendship because of Whelk’s betrayal. I think that’s why he and Blue seem to understand each other so well. Blue is proud of her individuality and “weirdness”, but she realizes how difficult it is for one who is weird to be friends with those who are “normal”. She needs friends just as much as Noah does.
K: Blue is more self-aware than the others in that way. Gansey is probably the closest to that level of self-awareness, even though he’s so often socially oblivious. (Hence his ridiculous “proposition” to Blue at Pino’s.) I think Gansey’s self-awareness about his privilege and position paired with his compassion and willingness to help all of them makes it more difficult for Adam, Ronan, and Noah to really know who they each are and what they want.
Me: Cue Adam and Gansey fighting in both books.
K: Exactly. Adam is looking for perfection in Gansey the same way Gansey is looking for perfection in Glendower. Adam believes that because Gansey was born into the life he has, that perfection should be another character trait like Gansey’s social acumen or his extensive vocabulary. Gansey’s frustration with Adam stems from Adam’s refusal to believe that he deserves better and take action to make it happen. Gansey is impressed with Adam’s determination to improve his station in life but Gansey doesn’t understand why Adam won’t take the final step to get away from his family. For Gansey it’s logical whereas for Adam it’s emotional.
Me: But emotion does come into it for Gansey because he gets upset about the story wherein Glendower kills Hoell. He’s realizing someone he idolized is imperfect just the way Adam is realizing that about Gansey.
K: True. Gansey realizes that his hero isn’t perfect. I suppose that’s why Adam gets so angry with Gansey after the cocktail party in TDT. He’s realizing that Gansey isn’t perfect. And if Gansey isn’t perfect then what is Adam striving for? Gansey’s obliviousness strikes again during the cocktail party and when he talks to Blue, Blue is livid that Gansey “lost” Adam. Again, Gansey’s logic vs. another character’s emotion.
Me: With Ronan it’s ALL instinct and emotion. I think Ronan is Adam’s protector because Adam can’t (or won’t) protect himself. Ronan feels like he’s being attacked by his own mind and he can’t do anything about it so he channels that rage toward something/someone he can fight. In TRB it’s Adam’s father. In TDT it’s Kavinsky. Both “enemies” teach Ronan something about himself. Adam’s father shows Ronan that strength is not strength if you abuse others. Kavinsky shows Ronan that he does have morals and standards: he’s not a thief.
K: Oh, *sigh* Kavinksy. He’s so hateable and yet functions as the activation agent for Ronan’s realization that he is the Greywarren.
Me: One thing I wondered is why there are several of them that can dream things real? Was Niall Lynch the Greywarren and Ronan inherited it? Is Kavinsky a part of that “species”?
K: The forest tells Ronan that there are many thieves but only one Greywarren. Kavinsky is a thief, which is how even he describes himself: He gets in, grabs what he wants, and gets out. Like you said, Kavinsky shows Ronan that he doesn’t have to be a thief. He reminds Ronan that he had an ally in Orphan Girl and was able to take things from the forest long before he met Kavinsky.
Me: So how does The Gray Man fit in? I find it too much of a coincidence that he calls himself The Gray Man and is searching for the Greywarren.
K: It’s not a coincidence. The Gray Man is a cipher.
Me: Is he functioning as the key to a puzzle or is he “encrypting” something that’s already complex? It seems that his involvement with Maura will only complicate matters, as Calla predicts even though Calla does like him.
K: The term “cipher” is a British term for zero as well as meaning “to encode”. The Gray Man seems like he’s both trying to be nothing and cover up who he is. He’s hard to decode/discern.
Me: Ah, so he just adds another layer to the complexity of the character interactions. He’s complicating the sisters’ lives by becoming part of Maura’s. He’s complicating the plot surrounding Ronan because he was first hunting but now hiding the Greywarren.
K: Exactly. And Calla doesn’t like change or messiness. So she’s skeptical of Maura and The Gray Man getting involved because she’s certain it will end messily.
Me: What about the minor characters?
K: In a weird way, I’m not sure there are any minor characters. Even the characters doen’t stick around very long are integral to moving the plot forward or key to understanding the subtle symbolism of the series. For instance, Whelk seems minor but without his actions prior to TRB and his attempt to correct his teenage mistake, they never would have discovered Cabeswater.
Me: Which brings up Neve. As an old friend of Maura’s she seems ignorable but her presence is central to Blue learning the truth about her own fate that her mother has never told her and succeeding in waking the ley lines. Both events are crucial in moving the plot to TDT.
K: And all of Ronan’s family are symbolically important. His mother’s name is Aurora (Sleeping Beauty’s name) which is fitting since she sleeps through most of both books. Ronan’s name means either “little seal” or “oath”. If you look at the word “seal” like a seal on a letter or sealing a contract, both meanings are appropriate. The Barns are sealed and can only be opened by Ronan when Ronan deciphers Niall’s will. The contract and its specific language are like an oath or a promise between Niall and Ronan to protect the family and its secrets. I’m not sure that Declan’s or Matthew’s names have special significance besides them both being Irish names as well.
Me: I did have a thought about the brothers. Declan means “famous bearer” and for all of TRB and most of TDT Declan is carrying the burden of his father’s secret alone. He knows that Niall is responsible for The Barns’ and Aurora’s state and is carrying that around by himself. Matthew is the youngest and is innocent of most everything related to the Lynch family’s mysteries. He reminds me of Michael from Peter Pan. He’s going along with his siblings because it seems fun and he wants them to like him. Then he is ultimately the one that forces Ronan to confront his fears in order to save Matthew.
K: That’s deep.
Well, on that note, I think it’s time to see what others think. Leave us your comments and thoughts on the characters of The Raven Cycle. Don’t forget that commenting on all 4 posts enters you to win copies of both books at the conclusion of this series of posts!