“Persephone stood on the bare mountaintop, her ruffled ivory dress whipping around her legs, her masses of white-blond curls streaming behind her.”
I know that this month is technically “science fiction month,” and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater is not, if we’re going to get “technical,” really “science fiction,” but this was my most poop my pants highly anticipated book of the year so I’m reviewing it right now, and if you don’t like it then YOU can go poop in YOUR pants! See if I care!
This is the third book in a four book series, so I’m going to give a bare bones minimum plot teaser thingy, because it won’t really make sense to anyone if they haven’t read the first two books. The psychically engaged Scoobies in the form of Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and kind of Noah, are focusing their respective abilities on trying to find Blue’s mother, who is supposedly underground just like their coveted dead Welsh king. Sleeping Welsh king. Whatever. He’s Welsh, and he’s apparently been in a cave for the past several centuries. So, there’s a lot of amateur caving. Also, Colin Greenmantle, the dude who hired the Gray Man to kill Ronan’s father is in town because he wants to coerce the Gray Man into producing the Greywaren (not possible!) by further threatening Blue’s mother, so he’s looking for her, too, only he doesn’t want to hug her when he finds her! So, everyone is mucking about in mystical caves, and most people are stressed out, and there is a lot of magic and ghosting around and Tarot and HOLY SHIT this book is satisfying. Like I said, none of that is going to make any sense if you haven’t read the first two books.
Like I said before, this was my most highly anticipated novel of the year, and you know what? It delivered and delivered and delivered. It’s strange. Every time I read a book by Maggie Stiefvater I think, “She can’t get any better than this,” but then, impossibly, she does. Her writing becomes more polished, her characters more vivid, her stories more achingly true despite (because of?) their magic. Maybe it’s because, at this point, I’ve read over 1,000 pages worth of The Raven Cycle, but to read this story is to fully inhabit its world, to love and understand its characters. They are so real and so familiar that every read word feels like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. There were times when I caught myself smiling like a loon at the way the characters were behaving, at the things they were saying, because of course that is what they would do, and of course that is what they would say. Stiefvater has created characters that aren’t just characters, they are friends, they are as real and natural and solid and nuanced as anyone I interact with in the world that exists beyond the page and and and….just…sigh. I love them all. Even shithead Ronan. Even the ever-suffering Adam. Understanding how their flaws make them whole is one of the themes that really touched me in this book. Whereas The Dream Thieves was all about the empty spaces in our lives that we try to fill, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is about reflecting your truth, warts and all, and just like in previous chapters in this cycle, Stiefvater hits the mark. Achingly so.
And, I have to say, Stiefvater creates a hell of a villain. I loved that, even though this is a fantasy with all sorts of ominous portents of doom, the actual antagonists in this book were a super wealthy sociopath who is mostly evil out of a lack of anything better to do and his wife whom I’m pretty sure wears Lululemon pants even when she’s not exercising. The banality of these characters as they did truly horrific things was enormously entertaining, especially when they were set in contrast to the ominous, unknown evil of the third sleeper who must not be woken.
This is mostly a book of changing gears; people are waking up, learning who they are, and shifting and dancing around each other to prepare for the next, final stage of their quest. What’s incredible about this book is that Stiefvater is, effectively, taking us through the long, slow process of that shift in consciousness between adolescence and adulthood. All of our characters are growing up, and the beautiful thing about this process is it’s so clear that, for each of these characters, that process means something different, just like how in real life growing up entails a different kind of awakening for each of us. This is what is so spellbinding about Stiefvater’s writing; she takes these very real, very human processes, and infuses them with a deliciously unfurling magic without ever losing touch with their humanity. All with pretty writing, too!
So, bottom line: this book is nothing short of magnificent. It is magical, it is human, it made my readerly heart swell with immense satisfaction. You should probably read this whole series, and then positively die with anticipation for the last book along with me. I honestly can’t wait to reread the entire series when that one comes out.
For music, I’m going to do an ode to my favorite new character, Gwenllian, and that ode is “Girl Anachronism” by The Dresden Dolls.
Where I got it: the library