*This is book II in a projected four-book cycle. Click here for my review of book one.
Premise: When Cabbeswater disappears, the Raven Boys—particularly Ronan Lynch—must discover why it is gone and how to get it back. Published: 2013. Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult. Series: Book II in projected four-book cycle.
About: I enjoyed this book—by which I mean, I read it very quickly, eager to find out what happened—but it disappointed me.
What I Liked: (1) Stiefvater’s usual perfect tone control. Her dialogue and description are consistently dark and hilarious. She’s just…side-splittingly funny. Continually. (2) Gansey. Favorite character, hands down. (3) Adam. He’s becoming more and more interesting. (4) Will Patton’s lovely audio narration, on the audiobook.
My love stopped there.
What I didn’t Like:
(1) Ronan- As soon as I learned Ronan would be the narrator, I was already a little disappointed. But, I thought, maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe I’ll like him by the end. It usually happens that way.
Unfortunately, I really just don’t like Ronan. I never have, and I don’t understand why everybody seems to. Stiefvater clears adores Ronan and his even more extreme counterpart, Kavinsky, whose scenes I dreaded. (Not only is Kavinsky sexist, he constantly makes dirty jokes. Also, Kavinsky and Ronan both swear a lot. All of this narrows the range of people I feel comfortable recommending this book to, especially on audio.)
(2) Irritation with Characters- For that matter, Blue also irritates me. Why is she so pissed at the world all the time? And why does Gansey indulge her? I just don’t get it. And, unfortunately, if I don’t like the characters in character-driven entertainment, then I basically won’t like the book (especially if it’s written by Maggie Stiefvater).
(3) Lack of Plot- Yes, character-driven. Just like in the first book in this series, the plot is a faint string running through the alternating perspectives of too many characters. For example, the grey man. His perspective shouldn’t be necessary when we’ve already got five others. The plot is slow enough as it is, without requiring further character development. * This plot is even more non-existent than the first, to me. It’s mostly a “self-discovery” plot for both Adam and Ronan; almost nothing happens in relation to the cycle’s plot (finding Glendower). That was disappointing. The plot-lag is tiring me out. Even a character-lover like me eventually wants to get on with it. In fact, I had trouble writing the book’s premise for this review because…nothing really ties together. The idea of being a dream thief is interesting, but the book really lacks a series-related plot.
(4) Unnecessary, Self-Indulgent Installment- The book is almost like a standalone novel. Because of this extreme lack-of-plot, I think the cycle would actually benefit from losing this second installment entirely. I’m sure the important bits could be written into the next book; it had that little essential plot. The book is almost entirely self-indulgent, on Stiefvater’s part, and unless you really like Maggie Stiefvater at her most self-indulgent, you will probably not like this book.
(5) Preachy- Stiefvater’s books are becoming more and more preachy (like her personality, if you follow her by-turns-hilarious-and-ridiculous Tumblr, you’ll know what I mean). I find myself more and more conflicted by them as she expresses her beliefs more inflexibly with each. I honestly loved the first book in this series, The Raven Boys, despite some minor qualms; but this one was just preachy enough (particularly regarding issues such as feminism and the catholic church’s aloofness from new age practices; mostly expressed through the character of Blue) that I can’t say “I loved it” anymore. Nobody likes a crusader.
I had this problem with Atlas Shrugged, as well. I enjoyed the characters and their arcs; I just think there are alternatives to MOOCHER or CAPITALIST ROCKSTAR. However, I still loved Atlas Shrugged because it had fewer problems for me. (The plot moved quickly. The tension kept me reading. I really enjoyed all the main protagonists. And Ayn Rand didn’t throw down an f-bomb every three words.)
Stiefvater wrote one of my absolute favorite YA book (The Scorpio Races), an exquisite Celtic fantasy that I love. I hope she’ll write more like that one. It really was gorgeous—and it presents more objective views of hot-button issues, unlike The Dream Thieves.
So basically, I didn’t love The Dream Thieves.
Overall: The Dream Thieves was still worth reading, if you loved the first book. Also, it’s still worth reading because, amidst all my complaints, I still love Stiefvater’s sentence-level craft (poetic tone and voice), character-building, settings, and the series plot. Also: her humor can be the best thing ever. But that’s precisely why this book came as such a disappointment to me. Some readers will love it, but I was not among them. I will read the next book in the series, in the hopes that I will like it as much as the first; but I’m not expecting that. I probably won’t be buying this series.
3/5 STARS ***
Recommended To: character-driven readers; adults-who-YA; readers who don’t mind a lot of profanity. (I don’t recommend it to teens because, honestly, the plot may drag a little much for teen readers just out for a lark.)
*Not to say that I dislike the character-driven nature of Stiefvater’s books; to the contrary, it’s why I have so often loved them. I just don’t like that they so often lack sound plotting.
An example of why I can’t resist Maggie Stiefvater’s writing –>
“She wore a dress Ronan thought looked like a lampshade. Whatever sort of lamp it belonged on, Gansey clearly wished he had one.
Ronan wasn’t a fan of lamps.”
An example of why I didn’t like this book as much as the rest –>
“WAKE UP, F***WEASEL, IT’S YOUR GIRLFRIEND!”
NOTE 5/22/16- I have thought a lot about Stiefvater’s “preaching,” since writing this review. Ultimately, I was disappointed because this book was the death of a dream, for me. I thought I had stumbled upon a funny, clever, character-driven author who understood the principle of objectivity in relation to hot-button issues. I was wrong. The Scorpio Races was a wonderfully objective book in that several extremely subjective characters shared their viewpoints on a number of issues, so almost every side was represented in the debates. It was a heady discovery, for me, as this is one of my dearest writing goals. But I was wrong. The Dream Thieves threw sympathetic objectivity out the window and it frustrated me mostly because I was so disappointed in Maggie Stiefvater as a writer. She is absolutely one of the most talented authors writing in the YA genre and I know she can achieve that greatness because she did it with Scorpio. I would love to see that again.