Sequels make me wary. When the first book is good enough to convince readers to pick up a second volume, expectations run high and hopes are easily dashed. Not so with Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the second book in her popular Raven Cycle. If you missed my review of book one, The Raven Boys, you can find that here.
About the book: The ley line is awake, but there’s a new problem with Cabeswater. Namely, it’s not where Blue and her Aglionby friends left it. Ronan still sees it in his dreams, however, and must use his ability of pulling tangible objects from his dreams to help put Cabeswater back to rights. There’s a new man in town, however, who’s also interested in Ronan’s dream capabilities and looks even more dangerous than Whelk. Adam, after sacrificing his senses for Cabeswater’s use, is also battling to restore the magical forest of Cabeswater because the only way to hold onto his sanity with Cabeswater in his head is to balance the surges and outages that the awakened ley line has caused all over Henrietta. Noah comes and goes, helping where he can. Gansey, of course, is busy trying to hold everyone else together, even when they’re hurting him. It seems that the only one who can help him keep everything together is Blue, and maybe she’s starting to feel the same about him…
“In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.”
The first book in the Raven Cycle focused heavily on Blue. In this sequel, however, Blue is given very little space in the narration. She’s often present, but her role is lesser in this novel and so the 3rd person narration highlights the characters that are most important to restoring Cabeswater–Ronan and Adam. The reader also sees Gansey with relative frequency, as he tries to lead the group even while its edges fray and his friends lash out at him, but primarily this book is an expansion rather than a continuation. As the story carries onward, we’re also seeing farther back into the characters’ pasts. Blue and Gansey step away from the center of the stage, but when they do appear, the tension between them evolves into something unprecedented in The Raven Boys. The Raven Cycle is not a romance series, but it does contain some romance, and the complications of love start to appear in this volume.
“Kissing’s a lot like laughing. If the joke’s funny, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last heard one.”
Worst aspect: without access to Blue’s thoughts, her minor fights over the wording of the raven boys’ statements come off more antagonistically. She makes good points, but the fact that she never seems to agree with anything the others say makes it seem like she’s always picking a fight. She handles awkward situations with each of them well, but being able to see the boys’ perspectives more prominently makes Blue seem more disagreeable and confrontational. I’m glad she’s there–this boy-filled quest for Glendower needed a female perspective–but I didn’t like her attitude as much in this volume. Also, the fact that she’s the only girl makes me wonder where the smart, rich girls of Henrietta are. If Aglionby is an all-boys private school for the rich and intelligent, where are the girls? Is there another special school, a counterpart to Aglionby? Do private school girls have to find another school in another town? I don’t need more than a one-sentence explanation, but I want to know.
Best aspect: Mr. Gray, the potential antagonist of the novel, is a highly interesting character. I mean, all of Stiefvater’s characters are interesting, but Mr. Gray is the sort of character that readers can spend a whole book wondering which side he’s on. He’s got a creepy past, an uncertain future, and even in the present he’s mysterious. The part that makes him best for this sequel, though, is the fact that he’s nothing like Barrington Whelk. Often sequels recycle bad guys, or create new ones from the same evil mold. Mr. Gray is entirely new and different, deadly with a charming exterior, and nearly every inclusion of him in The Dream Thieves’ narration meant another surprise.
“What a strange thing this was that they all knew that Mr. Gray was certainly not Mr. Gray, and yet they all went along with it. This playacting should have rankled Blue’s sensible side, but instead, it struck her as a reasonable solution. He didn’t want to say who he was, and they needed to call him something.”
The most notable difference between books one and two of the Raven Cycle, however, is the dramatic foray into supernatural territory. There were some otherworldly elements in The Raven Boys, but The Dream Thieves takes the supernatural side of the quest for the centuries-old slumbering king Glendower to a whole other level. Taking things from dreams is only the beginning of the strangeness in this book. If you’re not willing to believe the unbelievable, this may not be the book for you. If you like books that challenge your idea of reality, this is exactly the book for you.
” ‘There isn’t anything else, man.’ ‘There’s reality,’ [Ronan said.] Kavinsky laughed the word. ‘Reality! Reality’s what other people dream for you.’ “
My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. A rare rating for a sequel, but this one deserved it. I love that each book in this series so far left me desperately wondering what will happen next. A great strategy, Stiefvater, to keep me invested in reading your books. I will definitely be checking out the next volume in the Raven Cycle, probably next month, and it’s one of the books I’m most looking forward to on next month’s list. Usually I’m a little skeptical of supernatural stories, but I’m in this one for the long haul.
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown also has an incredible sequel to accompany its phenomenal first book. Although this series is not supernatural, it does take place on futuristic Mars, which is otherworldly in its own way. If you’re looking for a new series that rivals the Raven Cycle with its unique characters and superb writing, check out Red Rising. You can find my complete review of this book here.
What’s next: I’m currently reading Graham Moore’s new historical fiction novel, The Last Days of Night. It’s set in New York City at the end of the 1800’s, and focuses on a young lawyer who’s defending an inventor rival of Thomas Edison’s.
The Literary Elephant