|Hi, Ronan. Looking super tormented there, aren't you?|
I'm still a little bit in shock that I got this ARC, but I will put forth a valiant effort to make this review coherent (and spoiler-free... we'll see how that goes).
Only, it's not going to seem so much like a *review* as an enumeration of the things I love about this book, this series, and these characters. Yeah? Yeah.
The Dream Thieves starts off a little bit after where The Raven Boys ended, though it doesn't specifically say how long it's been. It's summer in Henrietta and the search for Glendower is still on, though it seems all of its participants have a different reason for wanting to find the Welsh king. Adam wants to find freedom, Gansey and Blue want to find something more, and Ronan's just along for the ride-- he's got his own demons to face, anyway, related to that thing? That thing that happened? At the end of the first book? Yeah, that.
Dreams and nightmares collide with reality in The Dream Thieves, making it everything I ever wanted and feared in a book. The series takes an unexpected turn-- monsters-- but does so in a cohesive way that, instead of seeming totally out of the blue (sorry, Blue), feels right. I mean, of course there's going to be bigger magic in the second book. The first book was largely setup for this one: a small Virginia town with complicated characters who have distinct histories and personalities, with a dash of magic sprinkled in to tell you where it's all going. Book two is about taking you there and playing out the consequences of what happened in book one. And oh, are there consequences.
Dream Thieves centers much more on Ronan than Raven Boys did, and I wouldn't have it any other way (okay, perhaps I'm hoping the next book is more about Gansey. But I have a soft spot for Gansey that is currently controlling all of my thoughts). That's not to say the other characters didn't play just as big a role as they did in the first book, it's just that it's Ronan's turn for some character development. Ronan has been steadfastly Ronan, no hesitation to express his feelings with fists rather than words, and a self-hatred that ran so deep you'd need a pickaxe and a flashlight to actually see it.
If you're a Ronan fan, this is your book. He is essentially the main character this time around, and while he doesn't change so much as learn like the rest of them, his character development is staggering. Plus you learn A Thing about him that might make you go WHAT? (but if you're like me, you'll love the Thing).
Oh, and since the bad guy in Raven Boys died at the end of that book, we need a new one. And we get one. A few, actually, but I'm going to focus on the one. Because I actually love him, and not in a love-to-hate-him-because-he's-the-bad-guy way. I mean he is not just a villain but a character, with emotions and a past. He's such a character that he's barely a villain. He's so not-really-a-villain that I just replaced the word "villain" with "bad guy" twice in this paragraph. Bad
Guy Boy #2, by the way, seems like he came straight from Blue's head, as he is everything she hated about raven boys before she actually knew any raven boys.
Moving on. What's that? The masses want to know about Blue's prophecy? The vision tree visions? Are Blue and Gansey going to fall in loooove? Well, suckers, I'm not telling you *George Lopez voice* NOTHING! I'll just say that, yes, there is kissing, but no, it is not what you think. Remember. Blue is sensible. She's not going around kissing boys who could die because of it. I'll also say that there were parts that made me squeal and bury my face in my hands, and immediately following the squealing came collapsing in despair, yelling CURSE THIS UNFAIR WORLD.
Which is how I like it.
Once again the writing, setting and tone are just flawless. You've never read books like these before and you probably never will again. It's a calculated mix of creepy, mystical, comedic and gothic, which is a gross oversimplification but it almost gets the point across.
Finally, I feel like the most important thing in these books is the friendship element. The characters are so complex that their relationships have to be pretty malleable to fit all of their pieces at the same time-- and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes something breaks and someone gets hurt. But they move on. They're those friends who are so comfortable with each other that anyone else feels isolated on the outside of the bubble, looking in. They have big, explosive fights when they can't see something from the same point of view, but they're too close and they need each other too much to dwell on it. That is something I find so rare in YA lit that I want to hug Maggie Stiefvater for making these characters act like real people.
I mean, when one eats around the fruit at the bottom of her yogurt cup because she doesn't like it, another one will say, "but that's the best part!" and finish it for her. When one of them can sense that another is feeling tense, he will make jokes about pigeons to make it better. Even when two of them don't get along 90 percent of the time, they have an unspoken understanding to be there for each other because the common enemy is anyone outside the bubble. That's how it works.
Basically, I love this book as much as the first book, if not more. I haven't decided yet if I like it *more* because I've now read the first book three times and I'm so familiar with it that it feels like a part of me, while I've only read this one once and it's still a strange alien entity. Here, have a chart:
That is actually one million stars, but it looks like five.
P.S. The Gatsby references are still relevant.