I have been excited for this book since pretty much the very second I finished its predecessor, The Raven Boys, a year ago. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is just that good. I was worried, though, because so many sequels I’ve read didn’t live up to the first book. Would The Dream Thieves be a disappointment?
Not at all. I’ll do my best to review this book, but know that The Raven Cycle is my new YA fantasy obsession and it’s really hard to describe just how much I love this story.
Sometimes when I read a book I think, “Oh, that’s nice” and I definitely enjoy it and everything, but I can easily turn off my thoughts about it. During the three days it took me to read The Dream Thieves (hey, it’s a long book), my mind went Gansey Mr. Gray where’s Glendower Calla 300 Fox Way Ronan and the Camaro Henrietta Blue when can I get back to this book? I could not stop thinking about it.
“If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?
Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.
Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.”
If books are like characters, like the titular Raven Boys, then the first book was Adam – quiet, deep, a little quirky, and unexpectedly cool. And The Dream Thieves is Ronan. Dark, violent, scary, and all-around intense. Ronan is, hands down, my favorite part of the book.
Oh, I loved nearly everything about the book. I loved the multiple perspectives. Having several characters narrate the story made it more complex and interesting. I loved how the Gray Man wasn’t just a villain; he was humanized. I loved the sarcastic humor (Calla, stop making me giggle so much!). I loved the personalities of the women at 300 Fox Way: it’s like they’re a bunch of mischievous kids, always plotting something, always having another trick up their sleeves. I loved the slow-but-steady pacing, the setting, the descriptions, the cover art. Everything.
But my favorite part is definitely Ronan Lynch. He went from being a one-dimensional, stereotypical angry teenage boy to much, much more. I disliked him at first in The Raven Boys not only because he was rude, but because he didn’t seem to be anything other than rude. By the end of the book I’d realized that he had reasons for being so angry and just a few chapters into The Dream Thieves, Stiefvater showed me that there was more to him than a raging boy who likes cars and tattoos.
While the first book focused on the search for the ley line, the second book turns away from that somewhat, focusing instead on Ronan’s ability to pull things from his dreams. This power of his turns out to be draining the ley line, which makes it impossible to search for Glendower as the king is connected to it. I loved Ronan’s struggle with and growth of his powers, and didn’t want to turn out the lights after the part where he dreamed the night terror. Yes, I’m a wimp. As always, I also enjoyed the plot twists – Ronan’s mom was only a dream! Basically, Ronan is one of my favorite YA fantasy protagonists, his intense and dreamlike chapters are what really pulled me into the book, and there need to be more stories exploring the fantasy world of dreams. Big high-five, Maggie Stiefvater.
Oh yeah, and the other thing about Ronan. He’s gay. I won’t say that it was unexpected (I saw the potential for Ronan/Gansey not even halfway through the first book) but I did think Adam/Gansey had more of a chance. Now it seems like Adam wants Helen, and Ronan’s interested in both Adam and Gansey (and Kavinsky a bit, but that can’t go anywhere now that he’s kind of dead). Oh, and Blue used to like Adam and now she likes Gansey, but she can’t kiss him because it was predicted that her true love will die if she kisses him so she kisses Noah instead since he’s a ghost. Is that confusing enough for you? I do think the relationships were handled well, though – I’ve seen The Raven Cycle classified as paranormal romance and I’d have to agree, but it is paranormal with romance as a subplot instead of the other way around. I actually enjoy romance in stories quite a lot, but I don’t want it to be the “main course”.
Back to gay Ronan. I’m happy about that for five reasons.
- The author did a good job of avoiding stereotypes. Look, it’s totally OK to be stereotypically [insert whatever], but you shouldn’t feel like you have to be that way. It’s like, I’m glad A Song of Ice and Fire has some LGBTQ+ but the main gay guy is, like, flamboyant and everyone is always commenting on how much attention he pays to his clothes. Um. Yeah. Ronan, on the other hand, is far more macho than the other Raven Boys. He’s religious too. Christian, specifically. Catholic. What. This is very good, because a lot of LGBTQ+ religious kids struggle with the two.
- Ronan’s a main character! I feel like it’s a cop-out to say an author has minorities in their books when the character(s) in question has a teeny-tiny role in the story. People won’t notice those characters.
- His sexuality is stated, not implied… That’s good, because it matches how any of the straight characters’ sexualities are mentioned. I’m tired of having to settle for hints so tiny that half the fandom has no idea they’re even there.
- …but Stiefvater doesn’t make a big deal about it. Again, this matches how the other characters are treated. Writing LGBTQ+ characters is not rocket science, people. Mention them the same way you’d mention straight people. Casually.
- And it’s fantasy with LGBTQ+! Two of my favorite genres – that aren’t usually combined, unfortunately. And The Dream Thieves isn’t what one might call a “gay book”, either. It’s like, sometimes I want to read a book where the main theme is that the character is LGBTQ+. But sometimes I’ve had enough of that and just want a story where a main character happens to be gay. I just want to know I’m not ignored. (This is, by the way, the reason I talk about this stuff so much – it means a lot to me and there aren’t a ton of books like this so I think I have every right to be excited.)
Well done, Maggie Stiefvater.
On many counts.
I would recommend this to EVERYONE. Stiefvater isn’t that obscure, but she deserves to be better known than she currently is. Any comparisons of The Raven Cycle, or her writing in general, to other urban fantasies like Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl just don’t do her justice. She has a style all her own, full of magic and dreams and searches for long-dead kings, and it’s wonderful.
I have to wait a year for the sequel, and I really don’t want to.