Blogging about sequels is not always my bag. Usually when I’m reading, at least new series, I tend to digest them all in one go and then, if I feel like blogging about it, I’ll do it as a full entity. Is that necessarily the fairest way of looking at it? A writer’s vision can change over time, and their style certainly can. So is it good or bad to look at a body of work as a whole, taking into consideration the best and worst of a series? Let’s all ponder that together, shall we?
But whilst pondering, let us also discuss Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. A sequel to The Raven Boys, Dream Thieves focuses mostly on powderkeg Ronan Lynch and his wild collection of dangerous secrets and dangerous activities. If you enjoy hit men, street racing, and mysterious deadly dream bird-beasts, strap yourselves in. Spoilers to follow…
My recap of Raven Boys was lackluster rambling nonsense at best, so I’ll try to break it down for you in slightly more palatable fashion. Blue Sargent, daughter of a psychic and living in a house of psychics but possessing no psychic ability whatsoever, is destined to kiss and kill her true love. Is he killed by the kiss? Immediately thereafter? Twenty years in the future? It’s a bit vague, but she’s playing it safe and not dating at all. Until she meets the collection of boys that go to local douchebag prep school Aglionby Academy (or as she calls them in her mind, raven boys) (there are a lot of ravens and references to ravens in this series, get psyched about ornithology), who are not your average douchebag prep school boys. They are, in fact, mythology nerds searching for legendary dead Welsh king Glendower, who is swathed in magic, buried supposedly in a sleepy Virginia town, and will grant a wish to whomsoever wakes him up. The raven boys on this quest are the unflappable Gansey (who Blue sees as a ghost outside of a church on a special night, thus prophesying he’ll die within a year), stubborn scholarship boy Adam (whose dad beats him to the point where he loses hearing in his left ear; who is now dating Blue in the awkward no-kissy way), smudgy Noah (who is dead), and Ronan Lynch, recently half-orphaned boy (who, at the very end of Raven Boys, mic drops that he pulled his pet raven out of his dream and into reality). The fivesome ends up discovering Cabeswater, a mystical forest, and Adam ends up sacrificing himself (in words only, for the time being), to truly awaken the power of the ley line and lead them to the next stage of their quest.
In Dream Thieves, we start to learn more about Ronan and his general screwed-up-edness. Once upon a time he was a happy sort, but then he came home one day to find his dad Niall dead in the driveway via tire iron. His mother Aurora immediately went nigh-comatose, and Niall’s will specifies that neither Ronan nor his brothers Declan and Matthew are allowed back to their home (the property known as “the Barns”) or to see their mother again. So Ronan is a mess, understandably so. And while he and Gansey were friends before Niall’s death, afterwards he really clings to the vague sense of stability Gansey provides, even if that stability is running around town searching for magical fault lines. But Ronan really, really needs stability, because it turns out he is a dreamer (or maybe more than that, more on that later), he can go into dreams and bring things out of them (like his raven, named Chainsaw). This is good: he can create things like a puzzle box that translates English into Greek, Latin, and the language of trees. But it’s also bad, because usually in his dreams he’s pursued by dark and flappy bird-beasts, and occasionally they follow him out of his dreams and into reality, which sucks a lot. But the real kicker is the discovery that Niall, who was also a dreamer, created his wife and Ronan’s mother Aurora Lynch, and that after Niall’s death, the dream, as it were, no longer existed, hence Aurora’s faux-comatose state. It’s a bummer all around.
Meanwhile, Ronan has a rivalry with local master forger, drug user, and general ne’er-do-well Joseph Kavinsky. They street-race each other, and Kavinsky’s obsession with Ronan’s signature arm-wear, and constantly needling about Ronan’s relationship with Gansey, and the sexual implications thereof, is all very homoerotic. (Ronan does but does not cop to being gay, though he admits he’s just not that into Gansey.) But then, after Ronan loses a race and accidentally crashes Gansey’s beloved Camaro (which he stole), he learns that Kavinsky is a dreamer like Ronan. He of course uses the power of his dreams to create forgeries, fake IDs, replicas of his stupidly/illegally fast car, booze and drugs, etc., but he teaches Ronan (through the aid of many questionable pills) how to steal large things from his dream. This is all well and good for learning and honing a new skill, but the sheer amount of things the boys take from the dreamspace in one boozy, hazy weekend turns out to be draining all the power from mystical forest Cabeswater. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing ever except for several factors. One of which is that Adam is tied to Cabeswater, owing to his earlier sacrifice, and is starting to lose his mind. The second of which is that Ronan has the idea that Aurora, being pulled from dreamspace, will wake up again once introduced to Cabeswater. And the third is that they need to get this all done before rival magic-seeking hitmen kill Ronan.
That’s possibly my favorite part of the book, the introduction of the Gray Man, a mysterious hit man who comes to town to search for a mysterious object, the Greywaren. There are three hitches to this plan: one, he is not the only one searching for it, and there are all kinds of dudes messing up his plans and breaking into houses and apartments all over Henrietta; two, the Greywaren’s not an it, it’s a he (and the he is Ronan); and three, the Gray Man starts dating Maura Sargent, Blue’s psychic mother. What’s great about this is because she’s psychic, and because he likes her, he admits right away that he’s a hit man. To her, her psychic friends she lives with, and to her teenage daughter. And they are, hilariously, all kind of cool with it. To his credit, for all of his ruthlessness when killing a guy (and we do get to see an example), he’s actually an okay sort of dude, and he doesn’t turn the Greywaren over to his employer when he finds it/him.
Long story short, by the end of all this, Cabeswater gets returned, someone wears a bikini (but who?), there is a dragon (the dragon does not wear a bikini), someone’s brother gets murdered at a truck stop (he had it coming), someone makes out with a corpse, and finally Blue’s mother disappears, now also in search for Glendower. It’s crazy stuff! This book does focus a little more on teen drama as Adam and Blue’s relationship is strained because she refuses to kiss him. Not to mention as Blue admits to herself that she does in fact have a crush on Gansey, and a moment they share while driving suggests in not so many words that Gansey has a crush on her, as well. Noah definitely has a crush on Blue. Ronan might have a crush on Kavinsky. Kavinsky’s too messed up to properly have a crush on anyone, although it is suggested that he killed his friend and dream-cloned him to be his lackey. Not to mention that Maura and the Gray Man have crushes on each other, and Blue’s cousin Orla just wants all of the raven boys to have a crush on her. There are a lot of hormones flying around. I hope that if and when Glendower wakes up, his gift to all of them is to just resolve some of this unresolved sexual tension. That, or he develops a crush on Ronan’s pet raven named Chainsaw.