Title: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Page Count: 448 (hardback)
My reviews for this series are somewhat unorthodox because, one, I figure there have been millions of traditional reviews already written about them. And second, a normal review just doesn’t feel right for this story and these characters. So they’re part story-time rambles, part discussion of Stiefvater’s writing craft, and many parts purply. I’ll most likely write out a full series review once I finish the other two books.
I’ve held a deep fascination with dreams since I was a kid. My best friend and I would write volumes and volumes of comprehensive dream journals and tell each other all the crazy, otherworldly dreams we’d had the night previous. These were stories conjured up from the depths of our brain to which we had no prior knowledge of and in which we were the actors. And we lived for them.
We were especially fascinated with how much control we held in these dreams. We often talked about how many of my friend’s dreams had a running theme of death. It was so easy for her to experience death in her dreams. And she felt she had no choice but to let it play out.
Me? I was deathly afraid of death. I wanted to avoid death by whatever means possible. And this fear gave me a burst of lucid control that I normally wouldn’t have had.
I’m in a car that’s catapulting off a bridge?
Slow down time, conjure myself a parachute, and jump out.
I’m being chased by a snarling dog and it’s this close to biting me in the ass?
Turn it into pillow.
I’m trapped in a corner, chased by all manners of nightmare fantasy creatures?
Will myself awake.
And one of my favourites? One that’s becomes more and more frequent?
Pause. Conjure up a game menu. Load a previous save where I wasn’t yet in danger.
I was also unnerved and intrigued by how much of my daytime anxieties and fears would seep into the narrative of of these nightly adventures. It doesn’t take a professional dream analyst to figure out which of my real-life problems are fueling my recurring nightmares.
Well, that’s fascinating, Kathy. But why are you babbling about dreams?
Because this book is all about dreams–the kind of dreams that take hold of our senses as we sleep. The wonder of them. The impossibility of them. The manipulation of them. And the way we drag our waking demons into them. Except in this story, the dream-warped demons follow out into the real world.
But Stiefvater also presents the other kind–the dreams that reside in our waking minds and fill us with hunger. While all of the Raven Cycle characters deal with the latter kind, here we find out that Ronan Lynch deals with both.
To write up a character like Ronan into existence, Maggie Stiefvater must have one foot resting in the dream realm herself, because he’s a complex mix of contradictions and illusions. You look at him and you think you see a sharp edge, and then you blink and it turns out it’s a smooth whorl. He’s false layers lying over real layers lying over false layers. And he’s infinitely, absorbingly fascinating. You can’t help but want to turn him over and over in your hand and study all the minute details.
Moreover, this series continues to be an AP English teacher’s wet dream. Everything is used to tell a character’s story–from actions and body language and expressions, to the environment (like the crookedness of Adam’s apartment and the raggedness of Gansey’s car), and words that say one thing but mean another. It’s very hard to pull this off in full-length novels without coming across as contrived, but Stiefvater nails it with brazen confidence.
I still think Gansey is the weakest of the boys (not including Noah). It’s not so much that he’s not a complex character; it’s that his struggles ring a little Poor Little Rich Boy for me to empathize with. And I’m still not sure what to feel about Blue. On one hand, I like her weirdness and her spunk. On the other, her “I’m sensible” shtick is getting a little old.
We also don’t get too much further with the Glendower plot. But I’m perfectly fine with that. This book is more about Ronan’s journey of realization that the past–and all the anger and fear that comes with it–should be wielded by the hilt, not the blade. It’s fantastic, introspective stuff.
The sleepy illogic of the plot and setting plays right into the tastes of readers who close their eyes each night eagerly anticipating that drop from the waking realm to the world beyond.