Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater The Dream Thieves

Published: September 17th 2013 by Scholastic Press

Source: ARC from publisher and purchased hardback from Rainy Day Books

Synopsis (Goodreads): Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Related posts: Maggie at Rainy Day Books for the release of The Dream Thievesmy review of The Raven Boys | My review of The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories | Maggie visits my library with Tessa and Brenna

My thoughts:

My reviews generally contain mild spoilers, because it’s more fun to actually discuss what happens in a book rather than vague statements. I don’t feel anything mentioned will detract from someone’s reading experience if they haven’t yet read the book, because this is more plot and language driven story than plot focused, but wanted to give a fair warning.

I grew to admire Maggie Stiefvater’s writing when I read The Scorpio Races, delighted in her short stories in The Curiosities, but The Raven Boys made me fall in love with her.

Maggie’s writing is atmospheric and rich in description, and her characters are well-drawn, fully formed, and unique. Readers looking for fantastic prose and interesting personalities will find both in any of her novels.

While The Raven Boys was about a boy’s quest for a lost king along mystical ley lines and a girl in a family of psychics and her inevitably doomed first kiss, the story that continues in The Dream Thieves is less easy to summarize. There’s a hitman who dresses all in grey, a boy who can pull objects out of his dreams, and street racing. But to say that the book is about any of those things is far too reductive.

I read this book in the worst possible way, in fits and starts and stolen moments. I highly recommend reading it one sitting (or as few as possible) so you can completely immerse yourself in the world and the writing.

ON DREAMS

What if you slept?
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you woke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(from the beginning of The Dream Thieves)

Maggie didn’t invent the concept of pulling objects from one’s dreams, obviously, but the way she used this creepy and fascinating plot line to develop Ronan’s character was certainly refreshingly new. In The Dream Thieves, we learn so much about how this ability has shaped his personality, how it influenced his relationship with his father, who also shared the gift, his brothers, who don’t have it, and his mother, who well…isn’t the same since her husband’s death.

But Ronan isn’t the only one with such an ability; and as surly and difficult his personality can be at times, he’s still sympathetic. Maggie introduces a foil for Ronan’s character, someone whose taken their dream-thieving to the extreme and threatened the balance of magic all along the ley line. I was in awe of Maggie’s ability to create a character so….repugnant? that still fascinated me.

The dream elements in the book were easily my favorite part, and being Maggie Stiefvater, she writes these scenes in dark and mysterious ways that fully immerse the reader in the experience.

ON RELATIONSHIPS

From the very beginning of The Raven Boys, readers are expecting Blue to fall in love with Gansey. She saw his image walking on the ley lines in the cemetery in the opening scene, and not being a psychic herself, the only explanation for her vision is that she kills him. Since all the psychics in her family have been prophesizing that if she were to ever kiss her true love, he’d die, it’s not a far leap for the reader to assume how Gansey will die in the next year.

But in The Raven Boys, it isn’t blueblood, polo-wearing, smooth-talking Gansey that Blue tenatively begins dating. In fact, he’s a bit of an ass to her when they first meet and the exact opposite of what she thinks she’s looking for in a boyfriend.  Instead it’s Adam, Gansey’s poor, hardworking friend who is ashamed of his background and dreams of escaping Henrietta that Blue is interested in, at least for a while.

But awakening the ley lines around Cabeswater at the end of The Raven Boys has changed Adam, and he’s got a lot of anger issues connected with his abusive father. Their relationship suffers. And it isn’t all that obvious, to either Blue or Gansey, that there is a growing attraction between them, until it is. And being Maggie Stiefvater, she writes not kissing in a way that makes a reader’s (at least this reader’s) heart ache so much more than actual kissing. But really, their relationship is built on so much more than thoughts of kissing, which Blue has resolved to never do. The attraction is built without references to penetrating eyes or rock-hard abs. It’s in the way Gansey calls her Jane, rather than Blue. It’s that he calls her just to hear he ramble about the goings on in 300 Fox Way. It’s the way love can sneak up on you in the most unlikely of places. Readers often complain that insta-love is unrealistic and a big turn off. While I think it can be done well by certain writers, I generally favor the sneaky kind of romance. The ebb and flow of the romantic relationship was extremely well done, in my opinion.

Even more interesting, we get several scenes that focus on an adult relationship. Grown-ups who read YA will certainly delight in the clever banter between Blue’s mother and a certain hitman.

ON SETTING

I am very fond of saying that I love books with a sense of “place.” I like to be transported to a different era or another locale. I like to get a sense of the where of a story. “Place” is so much more than using landmarks to situate the reader in a particular or describe the room each time the point-of-view character enters. It’s more about atmosphere and how the characters interact with the setting. The sleepy Virginia town of Henrietta feels real while reading, but Maggie goes so much beyond that. Whether the scene too place in a racing car, the converted warehouse that serves as the boys’ loft, 300 Fox Way, or the Gansey’s estate, or Ronan’s family home,  I instantly got a sense of the place, and why the details revealed were important, both in creating mood and in communicating the story.

ON SERIES

If you read a lot of YA, it’s easy to get series fatigue. I’m already in the middle of so many series, if I was a normal reader who went through a book every week or two, my reading schedule for the next year would already be set for 2014. I get irritated with cliffhangers and fuzzy on the details of previous books. By focusing each book one character and resolving a major plot arc in each installment, Maggie Stiefvater is avoiding the pitfalls of so many series. I’m eager to continue and will happily wait for the next book, which Maggie promised will center around Blue.

I highly recommend The Raven Cycle series for fans of lush writing, complex characters, and a story with a supernatural bent. It’s hard to compare other writers to Maggie Stiefvater, but after reading this strong second novel in the series, I’d put her in the same class as Laini Taylor.

Second Opinions:

Teen Librarian’s Toolkit: “Stiefvater’s writing is evocative and poetic, and blends in the supernatural with discussions of class and opportunities (or lack thereof). The Dream Thieves focuses more on the characters themselves rather than on the hunt for Glendower, which is both powerful and haunting.”

Ivy Book Bindings: “The Dream Thieves is a hot Virginia summer; lazy, slow, creeping, and steadily building up to a stunning conclusion that makes the entire journey worth the wait. Moreover, it introduces a handful of new characters who not only enrich the novel, but who enhance the characters we’ve already come to know and love. It takes talent to create three-dimensional characters, but it takes genius to forever peel back layer after layer, making the reader feel simultaneously as if they know everything about the characters and nothing at all.”

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Awesome, awesome thoughts on this book. I totally and 100% agree with basically everything you said haha. I love how the “place” of these books feels so real and it’s incredibly detailed without being bogged down by details. Everything that DOESN’T happen in these relationships are definitely the more exciting parts. The lack of kissing… KILLS ME.
    And YES. The series. I am very, very appreciative that it has an overall plot arc but that things still get resolved in each book and then the end of a book sets it up for the next without a total cliffhanger. The Raven Boys ended with quite the shock about Ronan, but it left me curious and not anxious or frustrated. I think that’s really important and so refreshing. I just finished a sequel and the whole book, I honestly could not remember ANY details of what happened in the first book. I’m not exactly sure why — maybe lack of connection to the characters and the world? — but Maggie surely knows how to make you connect with really EVERYTHING that’s going on and make it feel real.
    Awesome review! I absolutely loved reading your thoughts on this!

  2. I just finished The Raven Boys, and now I’m dying to read The Dream Thieves! I already purchased it on my kindle but I can’t read it yet because I’ve got a paper to finish writing. I’m so glad that you liked it, it makes me even more motivated to get this paper done so I can read it myself.

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