Saturday, July 20, 2013

From the Future Review: The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater

WARNING: ARC Copy Review Ahead
WARNING: Review of Said ARC Copy May Contain Vague Spoilers 

Maggie Stiefvater broke into the YA scene sometime during the paranormal romance boom with a story about werewolves and love. This was during my “YA Black Out” period, where school and work created a vortex of time suck and left no time for fun things like reading. However, even after The Dark Ages were over, the idea of the series didn’t interest me much. Love stories rarely do these days, for various reasons.

However, through the usual course of how I discover YA, The Raven Boys made its way into my hands. From the very beginning, I was drawn into Stiefvater’s writing, an odd prose style that sometimes reads like lyrics to a song. Her words both ramble and flow and it clicked with me right away and kept me up late during my first reading. I devoured The Raven Boys and was so stuck in their world that I hardly noticed when I was reaching the last page - until I actually reached the last page, gasped out loud, swore just as loudly, and almost threw the book across the room.

Why, yes, my husband thinks I’m crazy. Why do you ask?

The end of The Raven Boys was the best kind of cliffhanger and I was very tempted to hide my borrowed copy so I could pretend it was lost and I wouldn’t have to give it back. Logically, I knew this wasn’t the best course of action, but love makes us do terrible things. Ultimately, I gave the book back because my book nerd sister wasn’t a fan and offered her copy to me (for keeps!).

While at ALA, a wonderful book fairy appeared and blessed my travelling companion and I with copies of The Dream Thieves, the sequel to The Raven Boys and Part II of The Raven Cycle. Unlike with The Raven Boys, I paced myself here, sampling small bits at a time to fully digest what I was reading. For the people that know my reading style, this is an unusual method, but I knew from the first line of the book that there would be more to the story than just the words we were given.

The Dream Thieves moves the focus away from Blue’s unfortunate future and Gansey’s obsessive search to Ronan and Adam. Ronan, who has pulled a tiny baby crow from his dreams and Adam, who sacrificed himself to gain control of Cabeswater and protect the only family he has. Noah, sadly, seems to have played his part out and is merely window dressing for much of the story - but he plays important parts in a few of my favorite scenes and that was just enough to keep me from being sad at the lack of our ghost buddy.

Blue and Gansey actually lack the most in this book. With so much focus on the complicated situations surrounding Ronan and Adam, their actual growth is stunted and much of what they talk about is Blue’s prophecy, which gets a little old. Blue, however, is also trying to gain a foothold with the boys that isn’t somehow related to their romantic interest in her. This is an age-old problem in almost all types of fiction, based on some stupid “common logic” that girls and boys can never be friends without ending up romantically involved (unless one of them happens to be gay). Blue’s moments of sadness about never being able to belong, of always being other to the boys, were some of the few times I connected with her. Blue is not a girly-girl and neither am I. The things that we are told we should be interested in, as girls, have never interested us and our fellow females who are interested are almost an alien species. There is something the simplicity of being a boy that is attractive in a non-romantic way; if only the boys would stop seeing us as female and alien. Noah, for his part, provides some of this to Blue - and then ruins it by starting a discussion about Blue and kissing and then kissing her and telling her he would date her (if he wasn’t dead). So much for that.

Gansey is still Gansey and the quest for Glendower takes a backseat in the story as well. He does get to have some great moments of insight to make up for it. He understands how lucky he is to not only have been raised with money, but to have been raised by a family that cares about him. This was probably one of the few times I didn’t want to pinch him, because it’s very true and it’s something that more people need to appreciate. Gansey struggles, even in this book, to show how much he cares for his friends while still continuing to not understand why they refuse his help. That really about sums up his part in the story.

Now. Ronan and Adam. These two are the meat and potatoes of the story and are tragic in their inner destruction. The Raven Boys only showed small glimpses of just how hot these messes are; The Dream Thieves gives us a front row seat, whether we like it or not.

Both come from families outside the usual dynamic; both fathers are scoundrels of varying degrees and both mothers are strangely absent while present. For Adam, everything is gone except his shredded pride, which he clings to even as it weighs him down, and he is haunted by what his sacrifice to Cabeswater really means. For Ronan, his father was a man of secrets and the answers he needs are gone with him; his mother was all he really had and she’s also gone, hidden in the Secret Garden that is the Barns.

Adam’s insistence on keeping his pride grated on my nerves, from the point of view of an adult who has been in similar situations, done the similar things, and realized on the other side how absolutely stupid I had been. He clings to the idea that his family is gone, while missing that he has all of the family that he needs right in front of him. Everything is more difficult than it needs to be because he believes that this is what he deserves. It’s a terribly hard mindset to break and even as I wanted to reach into the pages and shake him, I was also broken hearted. I wanted him to have that after-school-special moment of realization so badly, so many times and he’s just not quite there. With two more books ahead of us, Adam’s story is set up to be either one of triumph or one messy tragedy.

Ronan has been saved for last because he is really the focal point of the book. It’s difficult to talk about his part and not give away any huge spoilers. It’s also difficult to talk about his part because Ronan is inherently difficult - he’s rough and rude and spiteful even as he’s nearly drowning himself in fear and anxiety about his abilities and himself. You want to hate him for being such a pain in the ass but, through the miracle of POV, you’re given insight into why. He tries to use the good old drugs/drink/adreneline rush combo to offset the numbness that all of his fears and questions fills him with, to varying degrees of success. It comes to head when he discovers that he is not the only one with the power to take from the dream world - and then has to decide what his powers are really meant for.

In the end, I was besotted by Ronan. He’s a tough sell but his willingness to do anything for his younger brother and mother struck the right chord with me. Not only am I waiting excitedly for the sequel, I’m waiting excitedly to re-read both books and build the puzzles all over again. 

Don't agree with me? Check out Liz's review over at Assorted Leafs and see if you're more Team Liz  than Team Brittany.

The Dream Thieves is set to release September 2013.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I'm comfortable with having a team. I would be a terrible captain.