This was one of my most anxiously-awaited books of the year… we bought it on audio as soon as we could, and I made extra time to listen to it, finishing it in maybe two weeks.
The Dream Thieves. The Raven Cycle Book 2. by Maggie Stiefvater. Read by Will Patton. Scholastic, 2013.
This is the middle book of a trilogy. It’s obvious from the cover that this book focuses on Ronan, where Raven Boys was more about all four teens coming together in the search for Glyndwr. Ronan was my least favorite of the gang last time, but here, seeing him more from the inside, he’s much more sympathetic. We get to know all the other characters as well: Blue shows some impressive backbone, the various facets of Gansey are explored, there are some very sweet moments with Noah. With Adam, we learn more about what the sacrifice he made in the last book means and, heart-breakingly, disappointingly, yet realistically, see the effects of growing up with abuse. More characters are introduced for Ronan to play against, including his adored younger brother Matthew, of golden curls and ready smile and for whom I was instantly afraid; and a fellow Aglionby student, Joseph Kavinsky, known for his forgeries, illicit substances and, most irresistible to Ronan, late-night street drag racing. It became clear to me that Persephone, Maura and Calla are the Maiden, Mother and Crone of the Triple Goddess, as well as balancing out the overwhelming maleness of the Raven Boys. Filling the role of villain abandoned in the last book by Mr. Welk and possibly Neeve, we have Mr. Gray, a hit man searching for the Gray Warren, a mythical object for bringing things out of dreams.
So here I get around to plot (yes, I read for character first). The search for Glyndwr continues (and here I’m distracted in my review writing by noting that my library owns a 1965 book by Rosemary Sutcliff called Heroes and History that includes a chapter on Glyndwr), but is stymied when Cabeswater, the most magical and promising place on the ley line, disappears. There are relationship developments for Blue. We – and Ronan – explore his power to bring things out of dreams. It’s not at all the happy power it could be: he can’t control what he dreams, and frequently nightmare creatures come out whether he wants them to or not. Mr. Gray, the hit man looking for Ronan, visits 300 Fox Way and gets involved with Maura – a very odd development indeed, but one I think worked. The progress towards actually finding Glyndwr felt very small, both to me and to the characters – but I noticed it mostly only in retrospect, as the book is so filled with other interesting things. While this book is definitely darker than the last one, I still didn’t feel that we’d touched on whatever dark thing Neeve was dealing with in the last book. Was this an omission or even more darkness waiting for the next book?
I was interested to note that it’s been nominated for ALA’s Rainbow list (as well as the Cybils), and am not sure quite why. There isn’t any explicit non-hetero –sexuality in it, though maybe a suggestion of an idea that maybe Ronan isn’t straight. He feels more asexual to me, though, too busy with all of the enormous things going on in his life right now to be bothered with anything so extraneous. Actually, I really like that while these teens feel to me like they’re living in the modern world, just getting to dating and kissing is a big deal. The jokes are not clean, but the behavior on exhibit is. Part of that is Blue’s curse, of course – but it’s still lovely to see the importance of being friend-friends before dating friends and the magic of first kisses celebrated.
As always, Stiefvater’s writing is amazing. Here’s a small example, a description of Ronan’s father:
“a handsome devil of a man, with one eye the color of a promise and the other the color of a secret.”
I fell right into Will Patton’s narration, which took me a while to get into the first time, loving the toughness of Ronan’s voice, the cool, wariness of Mr. Gray, Calla’s growl. Even the basic narration shifts slightly in tone depending on which character we’re following, while still remaining distinct from that character speaking out loud. Now, a month after finishing the book for the first time, I’m listening to it for a second time in leisurely fashion, and still ignoring all the other books that I know I want to listen to.