The Raven Cycle

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Name: The Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys (more common in early days, less now)
Abbreviation(s): TRC (TRB, TDT, BLLB and TRK for individual books)
Creator: Maggie Stiefvater
Date(s): September 2012-April 2016
Medium: Book
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: Official series site, Raven Boys Wiki
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The Raven Cycle is a series of Young Adult urban fantasy novels written by Maggie Stiefvater. The series is composed of four novels:

  • The Raven Boys, published 2012
  • The Dream Thieves, published 2013
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue, published 2014
  • The Raven King, published in 2016

The series is available in audiobook form and has usually been well-received critically, winning a number of awards and accolades. The author commented that while not being the one to sell the most among her series, it is the one with the most active fandom presence.

On April 10, 2017, Tor.com published an article stating a TV adaptation was in the making.

Overview

Synopsis

The series focuses on the meeting and adventures of Blue Sargent with the four "Raven Boys" Richard Gansey III, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch and Noah Czerny, so nicknamed because they wear the uniform of the nearby all-boys private school Aglionby Academy.

The series follows Blue and the boys as they are pulled deeper and deeper into Gansey's quest for the mythical Raven King along the ley lines of the world. It deals with fantastic and magical themes, tropes of forbidden love and star-crossed romance, but also more prosaic concerns such as figuring out one's sexuality, looking for one's family, poverty and privilege, drug abuse, physical abuse, death, grief, mental illness etc.

Characters

  • Blue Sargent is the main female character in the series. She is the only non-psychic member in a working-class household composed of many, many psychic women. It has been prophesized that if she kisses her one true love, he will die, which obviously puts a bit of a damper on her love life.
  • Richard Gansey III is the natural leader of the Raven Boys whose obsession with the Raven King is the catalyst for the series' events. With his Old Virginia moneyed background, he embodies privilege in every sense of the word.
  • Adam Parish is the brilliant local boy on a scholarship with a troubled family life.
  • Ronan Lynch is the series' loveable asshole.
  • Noah Czerny is the boys' somewhat mysterious roommate.

The books also feature a cast of secondary characters including the psychic women who make up Blue's biological and chosen family, the boys' families and some of the staff and students of the Aglionby Academy.

Fandom

The fandom is most active on Tumblr, where fanfic, fanart, headcanons, edits and meta are regularly posted. Being popular among the "aesthetic side" of tumblr, a good chunk of fanworks consists of minimalist edits, gifsets and photosets. Meta discussion and theorizing is also very common, given the "mature" themes present in the books, as well as the numerous subplots and Maggie Stiefvater's passion for unexpected twists and foreshadowing. Meta about the former tends to have a high chance of generating wank. As with most tumblr-based fandoms, shorter works and askfics get posted on tumblr, while longer fic is posted on ao3 and then shared on the author's tumblr.

As of Aug 8, 2015, there were 839 works tagged Raven Cycle posted on AO3. As of July 2016, the number has more than doubled.

Ships

The most commonly written pairings are:

  • Ronan Lynch/Adam Parrish, or Pynch: the juggernaut pairing, makes up more than half of the Raven Cycle fics.[1]
  • Richard Gansey III/Blue Sargeant, or Bluesey: second most tagged pairing on ao3. However, some fans argue this doesn't reflect the actual amount of content present for the ship, given that there is no way to know how many of those stories only include it as a side or minor pairing (a common issue on the archive). [2]
  • Joseph Kavinski/Ronan Lynch, or Rovinsky: third most tagged pairing and a controversial ship in fandom (expand). Has somewhat declined in popularity after the wank and Pynch becoming canon.[3]

A variety of other intra-Raven Boys ships exist, but they mostly show up in headcanon sets and visual fanworks on tumblr (more "casual" fandom activities). Poly ships are more common than in other fandoms, due to the book showcasing a variety of very intense friendships between the main group, who are also shipped in OT5 form. Another example is the Blue/Gansey/Henry OT3, which replaced Bluesey for some fans after TRK.

Tropes

This article or section needs expansion.

Popular general tropes in fic include friends to lovers dynamics, hurt/comfort and mundane AUs. A lot of stories play up the fairytale and magical realism elements of the books, or focus on the chosen family aspect. After the series ended, there was a wave of fluff-y curtainfic about the main five's lives after TRK, compared to more plot-heavy works from before.

Example Fanworks

Fic

  • Compass by missdeviant, Gansey/Blue, Adam/Ronan, Gansey/Blue/Adam/Ronan, rated Mature. It was one thing to see the women of 300 Fox Way bare-breasted in a pagan rite. It was something else entirely to do the same with boys. (First story posted on AO3.)
  • Drive It Like You Stole It by geedygeek, Ronan/Adam, rated Mature. “He wants you,” Gansey said bluntly. Adam sucked in a breath, feeling the words in his whole body. “I’m not saying Cabeswater can do anything about that. But I think it’s important to wonder if it might.”
  • Close Your Eyes and Shut Your Mouth by ecaitlin, Ronan/Adam, rated Teen: Five times Ronan slept at Adam's, and the one time Adam asked him to.
  • Roses on Parade by Jamesina, Ronan/Adam, rated Explicit: Adam accidentally ends up in Ronan's dream and Ronan is very Ronan about it and Adam is very Adam about it. Gansey is also briefly very Gansey about things. Alternate summary: Adam has feelings and hyperventilates about it for 9,000 words. (That fic that's on everybody's rec list.)
  • King by the Roadside by nimmieamee, Adam/Blue/Gansey/Noah/Ronan (& intra-ot5 ships), rated Explicit: Richard Campbell Gansey III has never had any run-ins with bees. He's never stepped on a hive. He's never suffered any stings. He knows nothing about ley lines or Welsh kings. Then he loses everything, and has to learn. (Longest fic in the tag, notable for the fork in the road setting and the OT5)
  • you're ripped at every edge but you're a masterpiece by Klavier, Ronan/Adam, Blue/Gansey, OT5, rated Mature: It wasn't that Adam listened to the comments from other Aglionby boys about "the brain and the brawn" or took any of their gold-plated opinions into account. It was the fearless, almost insubordinate, nature of Ronan's rolled up sleeves. Two handprints encircled his wrists, a deep violet, darker than any mark Adam had ever seen. Gansey sported a matching color on both palms, as if he'd dipped them completely in paint. (Notable for being a Soulmate AU in which all the gangsey members are soulmates with each other)

Art

Vids

Zines

Meta

Meta Issues

This article or section needs expansion.

The author is active in social media and has commented about some of the meta issues raised by the book's fans. For example: Tumblr post about racebending Ronan and the book's failings regarding ethnic diversity, posted to her Tumblr in June 2015.

I debated about posting about this, because it’s a subtle and difficult issue, and I don’t want to tell the Raven Cycle fandom how to live their lives. I don’t want to hamper creativity or enthusiasm.

But.

If you are going to racebend Ronan Lynch — aggressive, petulant, thuggish Ronan Lynch — as a POC, please, please, please consider racebending the rest of the characters as well. [...]

Screencap of the author's tweets about her own fandom, posted by the author on her Tumblr, August 2015

She has also written about her own peculiar position as a sometimes unwilling participant in her own fandom, and the challenges that this poses:

Dear Fandom,

I’m going to try to say this in a way that I hope doesn’t crush feelings; I appreciate the enthusiasm for the series and I don’t want to hold it under the water until the bubbles stop, etc. etc.

But.

My inbox and Twitter feed are pretty adventurous places at the moment: basically, readers are asking me to participate in fandom in ways that I not only can’t (I can’t read your fanfic for legal reasons) or don’t want (I do not belong in my own fandom). Readers are asking me to confirm headcanons and provide extra-canonical material and asking for things to appear in the last book. Additionally, I have some messages about the content of the tag. [...][4]

Resources

References

  1. AO3 Ronan/Adam tag
  2. AO3 Gansey/Blue tag
  3. AO3 Kavinsky/Ronan tag
  4. Dear Fandom post by Maggie Stiefvater, posted to Tumblr Aug 4, 2015