Some books are good. Some are even better on a reread. This whole series is so far.

The Raven Cycle is a four-part series by Maggie Stiefvater (guide to pronunciation), a delightfully terrifying author, musician, and goat herder.

It’s probably been a couple of years now since I first read one of her books, maybe a year more. All of them are very character driven. They have angst, humor, self-righteous indignation. In short, everything you expect from YA fiction without talking down to the reader.

Ooh, that’s the magical part. I’m not really fond of lumping books into genres. Each book is its own book that needs its own description. At least if it’s got any sense of originality. If it’s just a clone, then it’s just a clone. It doesn’t really deserve your time.

Luckily, this series deserves your time. Because it’s a series, it’s difficult to talk about specifics of each book without accidentally stepping on a previous book’s plot, so let’s stay broad.

The group follows an odd mix of teenagers delving into the supernatural. Like Breakfast Club meets Teen Witch without any unnecessary dance scenes.

Raven Boys, the first book, gets our ragtag group all together in the most wonderful way: one protagonist immediately pisses off another. Shenanigans, hijinks, and tomfoolery ensue. With magic.

One character is Blue, the non-psychic daughter in an all-psychic household. Next, we have Gansey, the natural-borne leader who immediately pisses off Blue. Then there’s Ronan who has anger issues and wants you to be very aware of it. Batting fourth is Adam who climbing the social ladder while being conflicted the entire time. Last is Noah, but everyone seems to forget about Noah anyway.

There are a bunch of side characters who are delightful. It’s hard to do them justice without context, but they keep the plot moving and seem far more adept at dealing with the situations the protagonists will run into than the protagonists themselves. But what fun would that be?

Like I said, this is a very character-driven series. The first read is good. It paints a picture that is absolutely worth seeing. A reread lets you see the details and what was embedded that you missed (along with the protagonists). I know this because I just reread the first three books. The last one comes out in a few days (unless you’re lucky and are near a bookstore that released it too soon.

I wanted a refresher. And I want to reread the series again, especially books 2 and 3 (The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, respectively). Book 1 was the best at following a clean plot and giving those introductions, but you don’t know the characters. You don’t really get their motivations. They’re all weird in their own little ways and you don’t know why. As you roll into 2 and 3, you know why. You get to see their struggles of interacting with each other and keeping something together that only lasts if you work. There’s a love story (or 3). There’s a sort-of triangle. There are fights. There’s a hit man. But most of all, there are characters. Developed, feeling characters.

And that’s why you should give the first book a read.