Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The captivating thing about Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle—or the two books of it that I've read—is the joy of discovery. The Raven Boys remains the best book I read in 2012, and one of the few books that I have read more than once. It's an adventure with your best friends, but it's also a beautiful puzzle box that unlocks if you take the time to examine it.

It is with no small sense of anticipation that I awaited the next installment, The Dream Thieves. Second books are tough, as authors some times go too big—they focus too much on expanding the world and it stretches the characters too thin. Some times authors serve up more of the same, and leave you wondering why characters who went through life-changing circumstances don't appear to have changed at all.

Some times authors give you everything you want—a balance of what remains the same because it was built in the first book, and a challenge to that status quo to create the conflict for the second book. What you found inside the first puzzle box is really a key that opens a chest full of secrets. Only The Dream Thieves isn't a chest; it's a treasure trove.

The story is told largely from the perspective of Ronan Lynch. Admittedly, as much as I appreciated his character and the role he had in the group dynamic of the first book, Ronan wasn’t my favourite Raven Boy. I didn’t identify with him as easily as I did with some of the other characters. (Gansey, Blue, and Adam.) So I was a little concerned about moving away from the much-loved perspectives of the first book and into what appeared to be uncharted darkness.

While multiple viewpoints are in The Dream Thieves—and used to give us new insights into characters we thought we knew—this book is very much about Ronan. And in being about Ronan, The Dream Thieves serves as a welcome excursion into the intangible dreamheart of Stiefvater’s world. Learning more about Ronan is getting lost in the woods to realize they’ve been planted to surround a homestead instead of create a boundary.

Love—painful, messy, angry love—for Ronan seeps every scene from his perspective. He is so obviously one of Stiefvater's favourites. Reading this book transforms Ronan by showing the reader why he is integral to Gansey’s life and the health and balance of the family by choice they have built. In walking with Ronan, seeing through his eyes and sharing his skin, his nature and behaviour becomes understandable. Relatable. Human.

The dark mirror of Ronan is the newly introduced Kavinsky. There’s a human being somewhere in all his gleeful awfulness—maybe. Possibly. He’s the only literary character in the past year that I have willfully hoped died in a fire yet found thoroughly entertaining because he’s so dedicated to being an antagonist. It’s impressive. In the worst possible way. (Oh, like Ronan in The Raven Boys, you say. No, Kavinsky is worse.)

That’s the magic of a talented author; she can make us understand and appreciate people who are night and day to us. Show it’s more like dusk and twilight. By the end of The Dream Thieves, I had an incredible respect for Ronan. I just wanted to give him a hug, and he's someone I previously wouldn't have touched without wearing a hazmat suit. (Maybe we would just fistbump. Like bros.) Honestly, by the end of the book I trusted Ronan more than Adam.

I don’t know how else to express what an incredibly successful second book in a series this is. It has kissing and racing and murder and the most interesting and relatable assassin in all of young adult literature. (I am fascinated by Mr. Grey. I'd read an entire series just about him, and I hope he plays a larger role in the next two books.) It is both creepy and laugh out loud delightful.

The Dream Thieves is about dreams and wants and desires and brothers and brotrayal and longings and fast cars and pain and acceptance. It’s about what happens to people who can have everything except the thing that really matters to them, and it shows all of the different ways that we deal or don’t deal with those feelings. It’s about wanting to be special and also just wanting to belong. It’s about family, and why we need it. Why we have to actively create family, because sometimes the one we're born with isn't enough.


Elise said...

This review was awesome. You articulated exactly how I felt about The Raven Boys and my initial reaction upon hearing that Ronan was going to be the focus of the second installment. Glad to hear that you were persuaded positively about him! I can't wait to read The Dream Thieves!

Elise @ Everyday Elise

Unknown said...

Oh, goodness, yes! Maggie Stiefvater, because of her writing style, makes her my favourite writer!

I agree with the fact that Ronan was one of those characters that, from the first book, you can't really be sure about, but as soon as I read the last line of The Raven Boys when Ronan says, "... I took Chainsaw from my dreams" I knew the second book would make him a more like-able character.

I have yet to receive my copy of The Dream Thieves and I can't wait!!!

Thank you for your awesome review!!