Book review: Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Dream Thieves”

When “The Raven Boys” came out two years, it was yet another feather added to the already crowded cap of young adult novel author Maggie Stiefvater.

Not only did “The Raven Boys” wow critics — who called it “compulsively readable” and a “compelling human drama” — it also hooked readers, who propelled it up the New York Times Bestseller list and the USA Today Bestseller list.

All this is in addition to all of the books in her “The Wolves of Mercy Falls” trilogy ending up on the New York Times Bestseller list and her standalone novel “The Scorpio Races” being awarded a 2012 Michael L. Printz Award Honor. The Michael L. Printz Award highlights works of literary excellence that are written for a young adult audience.

With so many accolades that came before it, it’s no wonder that “The Dream Thieves”, the second book in the planned for of Stiefvater’s “The Raven Cycle” series, has been so eagerly awaited by Stiefvater’s fans and readers. But will “The Dream Thieves” continue Stiefvater’s winning streak? Or will it spoil her so far perfect run?

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At the end of “The Raven Boys”, Blue Sargent and the four Aglionby boys — Gansey Ronan, Adam, and Noah — were one step closer to finding the mythical Welsh king Glendower, having been able to locate the mystical forest named Cabeswater. However, their progress has come at a cost: Noah has been revealed as seven years dead, and Adam has offered himself as a sacrifice to awaken the ley line that runs underneath the town of Henrietta.

In “The Dream Thieves”, we find out how that active ley line is affecting not just Blue and the Raven Boys, but Henrietta as well. Noah has been flickering in and out of existence, while Adam is seeing things that may not be there. And all around Henrietta, power outages are occurring.

Complicating matters even more is the Raven Boy Ronan Lynch. Already considered the most dangerous of the group, it is revealed that he has a magical ability as well: He can bring things out from his dreams. When dark creatures start seeping out from his dreams and into reality, it is another problem that Blue and the Raven Boys have to contend with.

Even worse, a hit man who calls himself The Gray Man is in town, looking for an artifact called the Graywaren, and he thinks that Blue and her family of psychics can point him in the right direction. With so many things coming at them, will Blue and the Raven Boys ever get back to searching for Glendower?

While not as lushly atmospheric as “The Scorpio Races”, one of the biggest strengths of “The Raven Boys” was how skillfully Stiefvater brought to life the characters in the book. That same strength is still present in “The Dream Thieves”, and makes it just as enjoyable to read as the first book in the series.

Characters like The Gray Man and Joseph Kavinsky, for instance, are sure to stay in the minds of readers. Stiefvater manages to achieve something with both characters that a lot of less skillful writers are unable to do: Make these dangerous characters come out as attractive. The pair are as magnetic as they are dangerous, and the different paths they both take in the story are fun to follow.

Blue’s family, especially her mother Maura, also benefit from Stiefvater’s skill. In “The Dream Thieves”, Maura is fun and fascinating, going up against one of the most dangerous characters in the book and coming out an equal — and maybe even something more.

Another strength from “The Raven Boys” that continues on in “The Dream Thieves” is Stiefvater’s deft handling of issues of poverty, class, and other social issues. Adam and Gansey’s interactions continue to be fascinating studies of the differences between rich and poor, all done realistically and without melodrama. 

Take, for instance, how she describes Gansey and the advantages that his wealth affords him: “The other boys attended Aglionby and fit in life around the edge. But Gansey — it was impossible to forget that he had arrived with a life intact, and instead fit Aglionby into it.” It’s a description that makes sense and drives home Gansey’s privilege in just two sentences.

But the biggest beneficiary of Stiefvater’s perceptiveness and sensitivity is Ronan Lynch, who takes center stage in “The Dream Thieves”. Drawn as an angry and dangerous young man in “The Raven Boys”, Stiefvater digs deeper into his heart and mind in this latest installment and gives readers an unforgettable character whose emotional journey they won’t soon forget.

One revelation in particular about Ronan’s personality is handled with exceptional sensitivity and subtlety. Perceptive readers will be quick to find out the clues that Stiefvater leaves throughout the text, and this new information about Ronan’s character makes him an even more intriguing and fascinating personality.

With “The Dream Thieves”, Stiefvater is cementing the status of “The Raven Cycle” as one of the better written young adult series out on bookstore shelves. The expectations for the next two books are going to be even higher, and hopefully Stiefvater delivers just as satisfying as she does in “The Dream Thieves”.

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