Sunday, 6 October 2013
#CBR5 Book 124. "The Dream Thieves" by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: 4 stars
This is the second book in The Raven Cycle, which according to Stiefvater's homepage is going to be four books in total. This is not a series where the books stand alone, so if you haven't already read The Raven Boys, you should probably start there. My review of it is nice and non-spoilery, if you want to read why you should really give it a chance. If you haven't yet read it, you may want to give this review a miss, as I can't actually review The Dream Thieves without referring to some pretty spoilery things that happen during the course of the first book. So somewhere else - say a library, to find a copy of book one.
Still here? Then I'm not to blame if you get stuff spoiled. Stiefvater's Raven Cycle has a bit of an ensemble cast, really, and given the way this book was structured, I suspect that each book in the series is going to focus more on one or a couple of the characters, with the rest taking a backseat for a while. Let's recap - in The Raven Boys we were introduced to Blue Sargent, an independent teenager raised in a household full of psychic women, yet her only ability is to amplify their visions. She's known since she was little that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Not that she had anything to worry about, until she met the four boys from the preppy Aglionby Academy who have now become her good friends.
Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah. Richard Gansey III, the golden child scholar obsessed with finding the tomb of an obscure Welsh king. Adam Parrish, raised in a trailer, son of an abusive alcoholic, who holds down three jobs to afford the Academy, so he can become an important someone and get the hell out of Henrietta, and who struggles so desperately to hold in all his anger and avoid becoming like his own father. Noah Czerny, who's a ghost, and fades in and out depending on the power fluctuations in the little town. Last but not least, the vicious and volatile Ronan Lynch, whose father was brutally beaten to death, and who can reach into his dreams and bring things out of them, if he concentrates hard enough. Of course, not all of the things in Ronan's dreams are benevolent - some are nightmare visions with sharp teeth and claws and want to rend Ronan limb from limb.
We see and get to know more of Blue's eclectic family. Her mother Maura, her aunt Calla, her cousin Orla, the waifish Persephone. There's a mysterious and rather threatening new visitor in Henrietta - the Grey Man, who shows up on Declan Lynch (Ronan's older brother)'s doorstep and beats the snot out of him. The gang are still looking for Glendower, after performing the ritual to wake the ley line at the end of the last book, but Cabeswater, the mystical forest where they were looking, appears to have disappeared entirely. Adam is experiencing strange sensations after the ritual, and is growing more an more ambivalent about his relationship to Gansey. He loves his friend, but can't help but see what vastly different worlds they come from. While initially attracted to Adam, Blue is growing ever closer to Gansey, despite the ominous vision she had of him walking with the other ghosts on St. Mark's Eve.
Yet this book is Ronan's book. Such an angry, nearly feral boy, with such amazing abilities. Ronan has many secrets, not least the fact that he can be extremely generous when he wants to be. Blue, Adam and Gansey had centre stage in The Raven Boys, but here we really get to share Ronan's headspace, and that's not always a good place to be. His erratic and often startling behaviour becomes a lot more clear once you realize what sort of environment he grew up in, and how difficult it's been for him since his father was murdered. While I was unsure of Ronan in the last book, I now regard him with as much affection as I do the other four. I really hope poor Noah gets further exploration in a later book, as he's so far the one who's got the short shrift every time.
When Stiefvater is on form, she writes such great books. The first book introduced the characters and the paranormal fantasy world where magic is very much real. While I love Blue and her raven boys, the books are just as engrossing and fun to read when it focuses on the other supporting characters and takes the reader further into the strange and wonderful story, with mysteries and developments which just get more complex and enticing. The mysteries keep coming, and several of the characters seem like there is tragedy rather than a happy ending in their future. I'm gutted that I now have a whole year to wait to get the third book, and that I won't get to read the conclusion to this excellent series until 2015.