Posted on November 6, 2015 | Back to Literature
REVIEWED: The Dream Thieves (Book 2 in the Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater
Here be spoilers.
The Dream Thieves is the second book in the Raven Boys Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s rare for me to launch into reading all the books in a series back-to-back, but I was so taken with the first, The Raven Boys, that I knew I had to continue on immediately.
Done correctly, the second part of anything — a movie, a play, a book — can be the best part. The introduction’s over, the conclusion awaits, and everything in between is where the heart of the story resides and some of the best drama unfolds. This was certainly true of The Dream Thieves which builds on the compelling but largely secondary character of Ronan Lynch. We learned some important things about Ronan in the first book, particularly how his promising future was upended when he found his father’s mangled body in the barns near the family home. Following this unsolved murder, Ronan’s mother lapsed into an inexplicable coma and the bizarre provisions of his father’s will have kept Ronan and his brothers away from both her and their home. This means poor Ronan has become the proverbial man without a country, receiving a monthly stipend from the vast family fortune so he can continue to attend the Aglionby prep school yet denying him what he wants most — answers.
As if Ronan's life wasn’t difficult enough, a corrupt and dislikable classmate named Joseph Kavinsky has taken a sudden interest in him, presenting him with a series of gifts which are both weirdly personal and slightly threatening. But Kavinsky also has the answers to many of Ronan’s questions, including how to extract items from one’s dream life and manifest them in the waking world. This ability, which Ronan shared his late father, allowed the elder Lynch to build their immense wealth and ultimately lead to his assassination by a mysterious individual known as “The Gray Man.” While Ronan approaches “dream theft” warily, Kavinsky is an unapologetic burglar, caring little for the long-term consequences of his actions if they fulfill his immediate needs and desires. The more Kavinsky and Ronan pull from the supernatural world, the more they deplete the ley line which powers Cabeswater, Ronan’s ghostly friend Noah, and may lead to the mythical king, Glendower.
It was risky for Stiefvater to dedicate so much of The Dream Thieves to Kavinsky and Ronan, especially since it meant less attention for the cycle’s presumptive protagonists, Gansey and Blue. Yet it worked for the most part. We never doubt that the boys’ strange teacher-student relationship is built on a foundation of mutual antagonism and selfish need, yet we revel to discover that Ronan, for all his faults, simply isn’t the hedonistic scoundrel Kavinsky and many others expect him to be. Their differences become irreconcilable when Kavinsky reveals a sexual price for his mentorship, reducing Ronan to just another possession to be toyed with and then discarded. The topic of Ronan’s sexuality and his reaction to Kavinsky’s demands are skillfully handled and also let Stiefvater address his equally complicated relationship with Gansey, a boy he describes as a brother but who clearly fulfills multiple roles.
While I didn’t enjoy The Dream Thieves quite as much as the first book, finding the conclusion too melodramatic for my taste, I was impressed by the author’s world building and her willingness to take her characters down uncharted paths. There’s a lot of new material and characters introduced in this book, but Stiefvater doesn’t cheat us (or Ronan) by withholding answers while simultaneously laying the foundation for greater things to come.
Onto book three…