Teen Book Reviews: the “Raven Cycle” series

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from someone who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

The Raven Cycle consists of four books, all reviewed below. WARNING: Possible spoilers exist.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

The Raven Boys is the first book in the Raven Cycle, and is the story of four prep school boys, Adam, Ronan, Gansey and Noah, who embark on a journey to find the deceased Welsh king, Glendower. Adam is a poor farm boy with an abusive father, while Ronan is a somewhat scary and viciously protective friend, and Gansey is an extremely passionate and extremely wealthy boy who simply wants to find Glendower. And Noah… well we don’t know a lot about Noah other than that he is friends with the other Raven Boys.

Blue, the daughter of a psychic, also finds herself swept up in the quest to find Glendower, while she tries to make sense of the prophecy her mother has given her; that she will cause her true love to die. Despite coming from a family of clairvoyants, Blue does not possess the ability to see into the future. Although she initially dislikes the snobby, prep-school boys, she later becomes close friends with all of them.

The four boys spend practically all of their time together, at their school Aglionby Academy, and at their own place, Monmouth Manufacturing. Gansey leads Adam, Ronan, Noah and Blue, on the quest to find Glendower which proves to be both frustrating and dangerous. Gansey and his friends find themselves competing with Mr. Whelk, their high school Latin teacher. Mr. Whelk has his own reasons for finding Glendower, which are revealed later as the race to Glendower commences. Blue and the Raven Boys uncover shocking secrets and supernatural powers as they try to find Gansey’s king.

The Raven Boys is a beautifully adventurous novel with many supernatural elements and crazy occurrences. I also enjoyed the witty humor of many of the characters as well as their unique personalities and hobbies (and their secrets). Overall I would definitely recommend this book. But get ready to read the next three Raven Cycle books (which are just as good or maybe even better than the first,) because this book ends on a cliffhanger.

4 stars.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

The second book in the Raven Cycle focuses more on Ronan rather than Gansey. The Dream Thieves focuses on Ronan’s ability to bring items from his dreams to the real world and his struggle with controlling this power. Ronan tells his friends Gansey, Blue, Adam and Noah, about this skill early in the novel. Ronan and his friends had already been on a supernatural quest to find “Gansey’s king”, Glendower, who is a deceased Welsh king. At Aglionby Academy, the private school that Ronan, Adam and Gansey attend, Ronan’s brother, Declan is badly beaten by a sinister man who calls himself the Gray Man. The Gray Man was hired by a powerful man who wants to find the Greywaren, an object that can bring items back from dreams. Even though Declan knows his brother is the Greywaren and that it is not a physical object, he keeps his mouth shut to keep his brother safe.

Meanwhile, in the hunt for Glendower, Ronan finds himself accidentally bringing horrifying and powerful creatures back from his dreams. Ronan and his friends have to battle Ronan’s uncontrollable dream-nightmare creatures while continuing the quest to find Glendower. Simultaneously, Ronan is being hunted down by the Gray Man, who is out to kill Ronan because of his ability to bring things back from his dreams. This book is fantastic, and possibly my favorite out of all four of the Raven Cycle books.

The stakes have definitely been raised since the last book, with all of the characters experiencing more risks in the quest to find Glendower. Meanwhile, Ronan battles some deep internal issues which manifest in the things he brings back from his dreams, which can sometimes be dangerous. This book is great and I highly recommend it!

5 stars.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in the Raven Cycle, which continues the tale of Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah and Blue, and their quest to find Glendower, a dead Welsh king, whom Gansey feels a strange connection with. This connection has led him to embark on a quest to find Glendower, a quest that he drags his friends on as well.

After the friends discover Ronan’s ability to bring items and creatures back from his dreams in the previous novel, it is discovered that Adam also has a unique power. Henrietta, Virginia, the town where the book takes place, has a large ley line running directly through the town. Blue’s family of psychics are very familiar with ley lines, which emit energies that psychics are able to harness to help see the future. These energies are also responsible for the various supernatural occurrences in Henrietta. Adam discovers that he can harness the power of the ley lines with the help of Peresphone.

Meanwhile, the Raven Boys and Blue discover a new threat in an artifact collector, Colin Greenmantle who targets Blue’s mom, Maura. As the group continues their search for Glendower they discover many strange and supernatural occurrences. The Raven Boys and Blue navigate new territories, and encounter unexpected surprises in their quest to find Glendower. Blue and her family unveil new prophecies that tell terrible fates for some of the characters, and reveal hidden secrets. I really enjoyed this book.

Although I feel like the other Raven Cycle books are better, I still really enjoyed this book, and I know that the Raven Cycle would not be complete without Blue Lily, Lily Blue. This book sets the reader up perfectly for the last book in the series, The Raven King.

4 stars.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

The Raven King is the final book in the Raven Cycle series, which completes the story of the Raven Boys and Blue, as well as their search for Glendower. Noah, the friendly ghost-friend, Ronan, with his powers in pulling objects from his dreams, Adam with his power to harness the energy of the ley lines, Blue the psychic’s daughter and Gansey, their fearless leader, face many challenges in finding Glendower.

Their quest has stretched out for a very lengthy period of time, and has taken a toll on many of the characters. However this quest for Glendower seems it may finally come to a close, though not without many obstacles and near-death experiences. One of which occurs when Gansey and his friends make a major blunder by awakening a demon which is set upon “unmaking” the world. Meanwhile, Cabeswater is in danger of dying due to a strange sickness. As black ooze drips out of the beloved trees of Cabeswater, Gansey and his friends become increasingly more concerned about the health of Cabeswater. Perhaps more terrifying, Adam, with his deep connection to Cabeswater, finds himself falling apart along with Cabeswater.

The quest to find Glendower becomes increasingly complex as new threats rear their ugly heads and time begins to run out. The final book closes the series with a dramatic flare as prophecies are tragically fulfilled and demons are fought. Additionally, during The Raven King, romantic relationships that were hinted at during the previous books are finally made official.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys adventurous books that involve the supernatural. The Raven King closes off the Raven Cycle with a fantastic ending that helps finish the Raven Boys’ story, while leaving an opening to other related books in the future (like Call Down the Hawk). All in all, highly recommended.

5 stars.

Solar Punk/Lunar Punk

Blame Cyberpunk.

The novel Neuromancer is credited as kicking off the Cyberpunk genre. You may not have heard the term, but you probably know it  – a dark blend of high-tech in a crumbling dystopian world where the poor get poorer and the rich have all the technology – think Bladerunner, Ready Player One, Alita: Battle Angel, Real Steel, Elysium, Guardians of the Galaxy, even Hunger Games and Divergent (you could make a serious argument for Star Wars, as well). They’re gritty, dark, and sometimes disturbing, and paint a not-so-nice view of the future, with emphasis on classism, violence, famine, and a disturbing police state. 

Steampunk is also a well-established fantasy genre, carrying on as if the gasoline engine never materialized and the world was stuck in 1890 and using steam power and copper pipes for everything. They’re wildly imaginative and adventurous – check out Chris Wooding, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, or Richard Preston Jr., or movies such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or The Golden Compass, among others.  

Since then, just like music has a thousand nitpicky subgenres (Simpsonwave, anyone?), fiction has also fractured into microgenres. Most are so nitpicky they’re pretty much covered under larger categories, but two more are becoming increasingly prominent: Solar Punk and Lunar Punk (Punk seems to be a word thrown in because someone is going against the establishment). Never heard of them? Neither have most people, but the genre is growing and defining itself.

Solar Punk is a backlash against all that dreary doomsday cyberpunk. Solar Punk is full of hope and ecology. Everything is green spaces, clean power, civil rights, encompassing communities, anti-establishment, and personal choice. Renewable energy, harmony with nature, and spirituality are key themes. Solar punk is a view of the future where everything finally does work out, a world where everyone benefits from the progress of mankind, because they’re all in it together. If steampunk is Victorian, Solar Punk is art nouveau. Think Star Trek, The Disposessed by Ursula LeGuin, Ectopia, by Ernest Callenbach, Dune by Frank Herbert, Disney’s Tomorrowland, and Black Panther (is anything more Utopian than Wakanda?).

If Solar Punk is all bright lights and butterflies, Lunar Punk is Solar Punk when the sun goes down. It’s moths and the twinkling of fireflies. It’s night-blooming lilies instead of sunflowers. It may be dark but it’s not dreary, like your backyard party at night, with fairy lights everywhere. Lunar Punk often deals more in mysticism, spirituality, magic, and the occult. Their flowers are mushrooms, their light is moonlight, their colors are the blues and purples and silvers of twilight. They have no solar, so they use bioluminescence. Individuals are more important than the communities they live in. The movie Avatar – the world of the Na’vi – exemplifies Lunarpunk. Still utopian, still upbeat ecological fantasy, but out of the bright sunlight. Andy Weir’s Artemis can fall into this category. Many Anime series can fall into these categories.

Solar Punk and Lunar Punk are often categorized together, both supporting the same type of ecologically based, optimistic utopian fantasies, a genre that is growing to match our current promises of renewable energy and inclusive societies. Many of the new teen novels have been exploring the genre. They are the generation who has grown up with recycling, solar chargers, zero-emission footprints and Bald Eagles back in the wild. For them, Solar Punk could very well be the future. Check out some of it today!

Graphic Novel Adaptations: Old Stories with a New Twist

Graphic novel adaptations are not new, comic books based on classic literature could be found as early as the 1940’s and 50’s. Lately, however, there’s been a new crop of adaptations in graphic novel format that deserve some attention. While an adaptation of a book can never take the place of the original, it has value as a companion piece to the original, offering a fresh perspective on a well-established tale. This is particularly true of graphic novel adaptations, where illustrations and a change in pace can breathe new life into an older book. Even when a book isn’t all that old, a graphic novel interpretation allows us to see the story from a different angle.

We have a whole bunch of graphic novel adaptations on our shelves, for all ages. Here are some of our favorites.

FOR ADULTS:

The Handmaid’s Tale, original story by Margaret Atwood ; art & adaptation by Renée Nault.

Animal Farm, original story by George Orwell ; adapted and illustrated by Odyr.

The Great Gatsby, original story by F. Scott Fitzgerald ; illustrated by Aya Morton ; text adapted by Fred Fordham

Small Gods : a Discworld graphic novel, original story by Terry Pratchett ; adaptation by Ray Friesen

City of Glass, original story by Paul Auster ; adaptation by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

American Gods 1: Shadows, story and words by Neil Gaiman ; art by Scott Hampton 

A Game of Thrones, original story by George R.R. Martin ; adapted by Daniel Abraham ; art by Tommy Patterson

FOR TEENS (and adults, too!):

The Hobbit, original story by J.R.R. Tolkien ; adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming : illustrated by David Wenzel

To Kill a Mockingbird, original story by Harper Lee ; adapted and illustrated by Fred Fordham

Jane (based on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë), written by Aline Brosh McKenna ; illustrated by Ramón K. Pérez 

Poe : Stories and Poems, original content by Edgar Allan Poe ; adapted by Gareth Hinds

A Wrinkle in Time, original story by Madeleine L’Engle ; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

The Giver, original story by Lois Lowry ; adapted by P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Scott Hampton

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson ; artwork by Emily Carroll

FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS:

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) ; adapted by Rey Terciero ; pencils by Bre Indigo

Anne Frank’s Diary ; adapted by Ari Folman ; illustrations by David Polonsky

The Graveyard Book, original story by Neil Gaiman ; adapted by: P. Craig Russell ; illustrated by: Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, Stephen B. Scott

Anne of Green Gables, original story by L. M. Montgomery ; adapted by Mariah Marsden & Brenna Thummler

The Secret Garden on 81st Street (based on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett) ; adapted by Ivy Noelle Weir ; illustrated by Amber Padilla

The Witches, original story by Roald Dahl ; adapted and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu

Oz : the manga, original story by L. Frank Baum ; adapted by David Hutchison

Read it Before You See it: Book-to-Screen Adaptations Coming in 2022

So many screen adaptations, so little time! There are so many books coming to big and small screens this year, it’s easy to lose track or what’s coming out when. We’ve put together a list of some adaptations that we’re really looking forward to this year – some have release dates, some do not, but the list will give us time to read as many books as we can before their adaptations come out! Which books are you most looking forward to seeing on the screen this year?

 

MOVIES

 

The Black Phone Release date: Feb. 4, 2022

Death on the Nile Release date: Feb. 11, 2022

Mothering Sunday Release date: Feb. 25, 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing Release Date: July 22, 2022 (Netflix)

Salem’s Lot Release Date: September 9, 2022

White Bird: A Wonder Story Release Date: October 14, 2022

She Said Release date: Nov. 28, 2022

The Nightingale Release Date: December 23, 2022

Persuasion Release date: TBD 2022

The School for Good and Evil Release Date: TBD 2022 (Netflix)

The Wonder Release Date: TBD 2022 (Netflix)

 

TV SERIES

 

Outlander Season 6 (Starz) Premiere Date: March 6, 2022

Based on the book: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon 

Bridgerton Season 2 (Netflix) Premiere Date: March 25, 2022

Based on the book: The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Lord of the Rings (Amazon Prime Video) Premiere Date: Sept. 2, 2022

Based on the books: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein 

The Sandman (Netflix) Premiere Date: TBD 2022

Daisy Jones & the Six (Amazon Prime Video) Premiere Date: TBD 2022

Conversations with Friends (Hulu) Premiere Date: Spring 2022

Shifting Dunes

When it comes to epic book series impossible to film, first came Lord of the Rings, (which was done marvelously at last but needed more than 10 hours of screen time).

Then came Dune.

Dune, by Frank Herbert, is considered the best-selling Science-Fiction novel of all time (though it’s far more Game of Thrones than space ships), with more than 12 million copies sold in 14 languages. It tied for the 1966 Hugo Award. And like Lord of the Rings, getting it to film is a Holy Grail of filmmakers.

Dune tells the far-distant-future story of Duke Leto Atreides, who is given the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Dune is the only place in the universe where the spice Melange exists – a spice that not only can alter your mind, in some species it lets them fold time and space, creating almost instant space travel. “He who controls the spice, controls the universe.” Thus, Dune is a hotbed of politics and backstabbing. When the Duke is murdered, his son Paul, deemed an abomination by a powerful religious group, is seen as a prophesied savior by the natives of Dune. So begins the battle for control of Dune. The book is an immersive, detailed, visionary epic of grand scope (there’s a dictionary in the back). When you read the book, you are on Dune. This is a book that sticks with you for years to come.

Herbert wrote five books to the series; his son Brian added another twelve after his death. Dune – even just the first installment – is a novel of such grand scope (like GOT and LOTR) that putting it to film has been almost laughable – think of Rankin Bass’s 90-minute adaption of The Hobbit. Game of Thrones took 8 years and more than 73 hours to tell – can you imagine it as a three-hour theater film and have it make sense? It was tried in the 70’s, but after 3 years of attempts, the budget just couldn’t be managed. In 1984, David Lynch did make it, condensing much of the book to ethereal voiceovers, changing major points to condense action, and adding some now-cheesy early computer effects (the blue contacts of the Fremen didn’t work, and every frame of the film had to be colored by hand). It’s a film you either love or hate, with musician Sting as Feyd Rautha famously flexing in a winged bikini.

In 2000, SyFy channel did two Dune mini-series, which were much better received, won several awards, yet seemed to fade into obscurity faster than Lynch’s version, with the chief complaint it stuck too close to the source material, and dragged. Now, thanks to Warner Bros and HBO, we have a $165 million dollar spectacle by Denis Villeneuve that covers – only half the book, with a sequel (hopefully the second half) due in 2023. 

While the film has been viewed favorably, the scenery and cinematography spectacular, Villeneuve took many liberties with the material that once again changes the focus and depth of the story. To modernize it, he gender-swapped characters (which goes against the society Herbert wrote) and changed the roles of other women (no, the Bene Gesserit. He left out much of the religious aspect, the mysticism, even avoided the word jihad, used by the Fremen. It gives a sanitized, whitewashed view of the story, afraid of offending anyone. Herbert believed that modern societies will always decay back to a feudalistic society, and that the desert cultures, especially those of the Middle East, were more prone to messianic complexes and religious wars (remember, he’s writing in 1964 or so, when the Middle East was still rather bland politically. Think Star Wars and Tatooine, or The Great Humongous in Road Warrior, etc. There’s a lot to be said for that theory). To remove the root of the story – is it still the same story? Can anyone ever make a decent, book-abiding video version of Dune?

If you can’t wait for the new film to come out on DVD (or, rather, the first half of the book), check out the book series itself. Few things are better than the source material.

I can give up Sting in his bikini (though I thought he was a perfect Feyd), but there is no better Gurney Halleck than pre-Captain Picard Patrick Stewart. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it!

Dune

Dune Messiah

Children of Dune

God Emperor of Dune

Heretics of Dune

Sandworms of Dune

Dune: House Atreides

Dune: House Harkonnen

Dune: House Corrino

Dune: The Machine Crusade

Dune: The Lady of Caladan

The Winds of Dune

The Sisterhood of Dune

Paul of Dune

Mentats of Dune

Navigators of Dune