I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Published by Scholastic Press on 17th September 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.
Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.
Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...
I think it important to point out that The Raven Boys, against my prior expectations, was to me a surprisingly enjoyable (if relatively safe) piece of YA melodrama, entertaining enough that I found myself looking forward to the rest of Steifvater’s series with, at the very least, the requisite level of interest necessary to set aside time enough to read her first of three follow-ups.
After The Dream Thieves, however, my desire to see this story through to its end has waned.
It isn’t that this novel is a truly terrible one. It does not make any significant blunders whilst going about its merry way, nor does it strike me as overly offensive for one particular reason or another.
No. This book’s sin lies in the fact that it is, above all else, dull. It never, despite its many mysteries and unresolved storylines, proves interesting enough to be wholly absorbing, its world so thin in its ability to enthrall that the smallest real-world distraction can pull one away from its few charms.
The issue originates, I think, from the fact that the narrative’s construction feels too haphazard. While Stiefvater has many curious ideas drifting about after the events of her previous work, the majority of them are only lightly touched upon here, and so much of the novel ultimately feels like filler. Plenty of new elements are added to expand upon the original’s story this time around, but few of them mesh well with the overarching narrative because they simply do not contribute anything truly necessary to the characters’ ultimate goals. Rather, they are for the most part self-contained, resolved by the final pages through means that are far too tidy and much too rushed to be satisfying. Those intriguing developments of The Raven Boys, meanwhile, are left nearly stagnant, resigned to the backburner as these new distractions come to play.
New or old, none of these concepts end up working well, because none of them are given time to breathe. The focus jumps between characters and their growing collection of struggles so often that there is no chance for the author or her readers to really dig into these stories and explore them at length. As a result, the book comes across less as a cohesive novel with clear themes and aims and more as a loosely drawn collection of potentially great ideas that go nowhere. Many questions continue to be left unanswered, if not outright ignored, while those that are give solutions that feel forced and contrived.
Ultimately, there’s little to The Dream Thieves that feels earned or organic. It’s all so clearly manipulated by the author that the connections drawn between the various plots are awkward and hard to swallow. It’s as though Stiefvater attempted to stuff two manuscripts’ worth of material into a single volume, and was consequently forced to cut and stitch their many pieces together into a clumsy puzzle that resembles too clearly its disparate parts rather than a unified picture.
Adam’s sacrifice. Gansey’s search for Glendower. Blue’s feelings for the both of them. Her family’s mysticism and her feelings of lacking. Noah’s connection to Cabeswater. Ronan’s dreams. Kravinsky’s hostility. All of these parts come into play, but each for so little time that none of them are particularly compelling. There appears to be growth, perhaps even conclusion, to them all, but it is masquerade rather than true progress. You cannot care for these tensions and curios when you are afforded only the barest peak into them before being whisked away to some new one.
And it certainly does not help that most of the characters prove exceedingly unpleasant, despite being given to the reader in small doses:
Blue has very little presence throughout the entirety of the novel, her actions based almost solely on what the Raven Boys are doing, her individualism lost to the others’ worries. She spends much of her time tagging along on somebody else’s quest whilst simultaneously acting indignant and annoyed towards the ways in which her friends treat her. Rather than ever truly standing up for herself, she instead occasionally puts on a brave face to exude a self-assured manner that shatters the moment her brief confrontations end. The remainder of her appearances are spent on confusing and inconsistent shifts in feeling towards one or both of her half-baked romantic subplots.
Gansey is meant to be more likeable than before, but he manages to only vex once again. His few moments of likeability are inevitably soured once he manages to follow them up immediately with some thoughtlessly insulting remark. He hovers over Blue as though she is some creature made of glass, taking her along on his journey for magic but routinely finding it necessary to play the gallant protector and shield her from the most trivial of inconveniences. His disparaging jokes about Blue being a feminist and casual disrespect towards those who are not wealthy only deepen his penchant for being irritating.
Adam has some intriguing circumstances to play with, from his anger issues to the ways in which his sacrifice to Cabeswater changes him, yet he shows up so rarely that his outbursts and lack of cooperation instead come across as the actions of someone too mulish and ungrateful to be engaging. His revelation late in the story lacks the buildup necessary to make his discovery feel like a proper development of his character, instead coming across as a cheap means of excusing his behavior and general selfishness. Bonus points for his also using feminism as an insult towards Blue.
Noah is given one particularly sweet scene with Blue, and almost nothing else. His erratic appearance makes him little more than a plot device used to issue ominous (and unnecessary) warnings from time to time, alongside the occasional joke.
Ronan, of the main cast, is the only truly enjoyable one in the bunch. His story, though rather uneven in its execution and unsatisfying in its conclusion, is the one most thoroughly explored, and consequently the best. Expanded upon as an individual, as a son, as a brother and as a friend, he proves easily the most interesting and relatable, and I anticipate the next book primarily for him.
The rest of the cast, though left largely unutilized, is for the most part fun when they are given their dues. Blue’s family provides a zest and humor to the story that is lacking more often than not, while the newly introduced Gray Man proves oddly endearing despite his fairly shallow characterization and lack of meaningful explanation. His and Maura’s blossoming relationship, as secondary as it is, was actually my favorite thing about the novel, and the only other thing aside from Ronan that will keep me attached to the series. Kravinsky, meanwhile, plays an important function this installment, but is worked into the narrative so erratically that his larger role is not appreciable development of him as a person so much as it is a strained exploitation of him as a plot device. Rounding out the playbill is a new villainous quack who, though likely to cast a more ominous shadow in later books, is here nothing but annoying and completely unthreatening.
Even the writing is lacking, with little of the poeticism and rustic alchemy that made it so likeable the first time around. Mostly simplistic, sometimes overwrought, and occasionally confusing, it feels messy instead, though bits of Stiefvater’s beauty do manage to shine through on occasion.
What’s left, then, is a sequel that tries to do many things and fails at nearly all of them. It is both too self-contained to feel a proper continuation of a preexisting story and ongoing series, and too listless to work as a memorable piece of fiction in its own right. It is both too open-ended in regards to some plotlines and too conclusive when it comes to others. It presents a façade of evolution by lazily pushing forward uninteresting threads and finalizing ones that should have gone on whilst bringing the most important enigmas to a frustrating stasis.
It is, in the end, at once too much and not enough.
The Dream Thieves is brimming with potential, and filled with many a good idea, but is ultimately too sloppy and too uneven to be satisfying in any real way. Overambitious in its scope but lazy with its individual parts, what is left is an entirely inoffensive but utterly dry sequel that has all but brought this series to an end for me, unnecessary final cliffhanger and all.
I will see things through to their conclusion, and I do hope that books three and four are more in line with The Raven Boys, as I really do appreciate what Stiefvater did with it. At the moment, however, I am not entirely optimistic.