A few months ago, I reviewed Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and ended my review with how many of the questions I had were still left unanswered. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the book and it was nothing like I had expected or feared. It should come as no surprise that as soon as I finished that review, I continued reading my way through the series. This review, however, will contain some spoilers, so if you have not read the series I would like to redirect you to my review of the first book, which contains no spoilers at all, and you can find it here. In The Dream Thieves our beloved dysfunctional gang is back, including a pet raven, more magic, a dead Irish mobster and a hundred identical white cars. Yeehaw!
Speaking freely now, the end of The Raven Boys was such a rollercoaster. We found out that Noah wasn’t just joking, he has actually been dead for seven years, and the boys’ Latin professor killed him, when they were in school together. Noah was actually sacrificed on the lay line, in order to try and wake the ley lines up. Also, Adam has moved out! This is great news, but the even better news is that Ronan beats Adam’s father to a pulp before he does so. Cabeswater is the magical forest that seems to just have appeared on the ley line, and where the trees speak Latin. The gang eventually find their creepy Latin teacher in the forest trying to perform another ritual, when he pulls a gun on Gansey. Adam intervenes by offering himself up to Cabeswater, to be ‘its hands and eyes’, which wakens the ley lines and gets the creepy Latin teacher trampled. The book ends with Ronan casually mentioning that he pulled Chainsaw, his pet raven, from his dreams.
The sequel mostly revolves around Ronan, but Ronan isn’t anything without his little gang, so fret not. We learn that Ronan has inherited his knack of taking objects from his dreams from his father: a bit of a cliché Irish bastard, but Ronan seems to have loved him. A lot of Ronan’s issues do stem from seeing his father getting murdered. In this book Ronan tries to learn to control his gift, by showing it to his friends, but also through some lessons. A new character starts to play an important role in this novel, by the name of Kavinsky. Interestingly enough, he has the same talent that Ronan has, he is the roughly the same age, but they are nothing alike. Kavinsky throws loud parties, risks everything that can be risked, appears to have no fear and owns a hundred identical cars, pulled from his dreams. Ronan, on the other hand, has a pet raven he loves very much. However, Kavinsky does manage to teach Ronan a few things about himself and on how to control his gift. But that’s not the only challenge Ronan faces in The Dream Thieves: there is also the issue of his father’s will stating that his children can’t return to their childhood home, ‘the Barns’, even though their mother is still there. But, it should come as no surprise that Ronan challenges the will and goes anyways.
Another new character appears in town: The Gray Man. He is indeed a hitman, as the name might make you think, and he is looking for something called a ‘Greywaren’. He believes this to be an object that enables one to pull objects from dreams, though the reader knows it is not an object. The Gray Man is in fact the man that killed Niall Lynch, Ronan’s father, years ago, but he was hired to do so, as he is now. His employer remains a bit of a mystery, but his search doesn’t go unnoticed, especially when he gets to Ronan’s brother Declan. Also, pulling things from dreams takes energy from the ley line and with both Kavinsky and Ronan at it, draining the ley line has all kinds of effects on the small town of Henrietta. This is yet another challenge Ronan has to face, but when his beloved little brother Matthew gets taken, he really is out for blood.
I’ve praised Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style in my last review and I will try not to repeat myself. It’s as good as in the first book, maybe even better. In my first review I mostly went into her great gift for dialogue and that is still great and like you’re there with them. But this time I would like to praise her gift of creating space and ambience. Stiefvater isn’t one for describing places and scenery in great detail, but somehow she manages to create an entire world with just a few words. It’s like looking at one of those Tumblr moodboards. Just a few words, and I know what Henrietta looks like, what Monmouth Manufacturing looks like and what 300 Fox Way smells like. I can almost feel the texture of Blue’s hair, I can sense Ronan’s rage and I can hear Adam thinking. It is truly a remarkable thing that Stiefvater has accomplished here and many famous authors of great literature that have yet to master the skill of saying so little, while creating so much.
To be completely honest, this book didn’t have a great plot. If you didn’t like the first book, you really shouldn’t bother with the second one. The actual storyline, of finding a dead Welsh King and Gansey possibly dying, takes a step back in The Dream Thieves. But from the start, this series was all about the adventure of a raven king versus the madness of everyday (magical) life. And whichever way you look at it, this story starts and ends with the characters. The characters make the story. In my review of the first book I asked the question on why we should care about a dead Welsh king, but the answer is simple really: because Gansey wants to find him, because he needs to find him and because we want nothing but the best for Gansey! This sequel really explores the characters, especially Ronan and Adam, but all the others as well. I didn’t like Blue much at first, but she is starting to grow on me. It’s like getting to know a little sister and I feel so protective of her. The friendship between Blue and Noah: it’s absolutely wonderful and so pure. It’s the kind of love between friends that I never knew I needed. Gansey is still just Gansey, but there is a sense of loneliness to him that is even more pronounced in this novel. Like all the others, this is one of the elements that made the character even more three-dimensional in this sequel. Adam is my lone warrior, the magician, the broken boy that made my heart bleed a little. I cannot wait until he realises just how powerful he is. And I also loved the new characters! We don’t learn much about Kavinsky, but I was just fascinated by this train-wreck of a youngster, from beginning to end. There’s The Gray Man dating Blue’s mother, that was a twist, but I’ve never read about such a polite hitman before, so all is possible, right?
RONAN, I just can’t with this character. He is like my Irish farmer/hooligan good-heart-but-bad-manners baby and I want all the best for him in life. In the first book for the first few hundred pages he seemed like a bit of an arsehole to be honest, but I was already intrigued by then. The interesting thing in ‘The Dream Thieves’ are all the chapters from Ronan’s point of view, and you really get to know him. And he is just hurt. I loved how Ronan and Declan go to church every Sunday, because their younger brother Matthew demands it. I loved Ronan’s protectiveness of all he holds dear, while breaking every rule there is to break. I loved the fact, and this is the only real spoiler I’m giving for this book, that Ronan is gay. It was one of those fantastic moments where I didn’t see it coming, but it made perfect sense to me. He has none of the cliché traits that gay people often have in media, except that he, you know, loves a boy. I was utterly thrilled by every detail we got to know about Ronan Lynch:
”Ronan Lynch, keeper of secrets, fighter of men, devil of a boy, had told them all that he could take objects out of his dreams.”
His second secret is Adam Parrish, the one secret Ronan doesn’t even let himself think. Unless he thinks things like this:
‘’It was hard not to stare at the odd and elegant lines of his face.”
I cannot thank Maggie Stiefvater enough for creating this character.
All in all, this book wasn’t as good story-wise as the first book in the series. However, I loved this one ever better than the first one, and that is down to Maggie Stiefvater’s characters. I want more of them, all of them, and I want it now. That’s how real they are in my mind and that says a lot about an author’s abilities. I see them all so clearly before my eyes, the way they look, smell, hold themselves and with all their strengths and many, many flaws. I need them to be okay and I want all the best for them. We have now reached the point that I would adopt them all and I have four dysfunctional boys and one eccentric girl as my babies in my heart. So, furiously reading on it is, once again.
Lucid Award: for taking conscience dreaming to a whole new level
Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), (New York City, 2013)