A group of Virginia teenagers finally finds a long-buried Welsh king in this conclusion to the four-part Raven Cycle.
A demon has infected the magical forest, Cabeswater, killing Ronan's mother, Aurora, and threatening Ronan's brother, Matthew, as well as Ronan and maybe the whole world—Gansey knows what he has to do. It's all been foretold, and readers have been waiting for it since Blue saw him on the corpse road in quartet opener The Raven Boys (2012). For three out of four novels, Stiefvater combined extraordinary magic and visceral reality in a way that felt entirely true. Here, the magic scatters in all directions, and too little of it makes sense. The characters—Ronan, Gansey, long-dead Noah, Blue Sargent, newcomer Henry, and especially Adam—are as multidimensional and fully realized as ever; Ronan and Adam's budding romance is beautifully told. The writing sings—each sentence, each paragraph marvelously wrought. Yet at the point where the story needs to make the most sense, it makes the least, prophecy and magics piling up on one another in a chaotic, anticlimactic climax. The ending feels trivial, almost mocking the seriousness of the rest of the quartet.
Stiefvater couldn't write a bad book, and this isn't one, but it is a disappointment after years of glorious buildup. (Fantasy. 14 & up)