Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 17, 2013
Rating: ★★½

Summary (via 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...

To be frank, I couldn't decide if I should just copy my Goodreads status updates here, or if I should write a proper review. I figured the former might be a bit too snarky for this space, as my 31 Goodreads comments can be condensed into a few key sentiments:

"Go away Adam"
"Go away Adam"

Needless to say, I just don't get the hype.

Certainly there's lots of good things about The Dream Thieves. For one, the prose is heavy and sophisticated, at times reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's surreal, hypnotic writing. What works well in The Dream Thieves is this blend of lucid dream (literally) and vague fantasy, mixed with a healthy dose of present-day culture. I mean, the Gray Man grooving to the Kinks? Yes, please.

Several characters also continue to show strong development. Adam becomes infinitely darker and douchier… (Granted, I stopped caring about him precisely because he turned into a blockhead… I mean, his use of feminism as an insult? Have we not moved past that yet?) We also develop a much more complex picture of Gansey. (In fact, I quite like Sad Gansey. I think I prefer him to Upbeat Gansey.) As for Ronan, this whole book might as well be called The Ronan Show. We get reacquainted with Ronan from a multitude of angles and it's really satisfying. (Insert bawdy Kavinsky-esque joke here.)

There are two moments between Blue and Gansey that stand out in my mind. One is a homesick phone call that Gansey makes from his family's mansion in Washington, DC. The other occurs at night, on the side of a mountain. Both are moments that allow you to see a different Gansey – truer, softer, without all the walls up. I wish that version of Gansey had been explored more in this book.

The Gray Man is a compelling character as well – a hit man that we come to sympathize with, somehow. Maybe it's the fact that he has decent taste in music, or the fact that other characters help us see the good in him. It's funny how thin that line is between good and evil. One might even say that the line is… gray.

To me, Joseph Kavinsky is easily the most fascinating character we meet. In The Dream Thieves, his life literally is sex, drugs, and cars. And yet there's so much more to him. He's one of the few characters whose point of view we don't get to explore. All we know about him is filtered through Ronan's eyes – which is not a bad thing, per se. We just don't get to learn as much about him as we do with the other characters. It's a shame, because he seems to have one of the most unexpected backgrounds and definitely one of the most dynamic personalities.

As you can see, this book is filled with all sorts of characters who have such interesting backstories and so much potential. Unfortunately, Maggie Stiefvater seems to overextend herself because we end up with half a dozen story lines that are halfheartedly developed. Most of her characters are totally underutilized (don't even get me started on Noah) and plot lines are dropped off and picked back up and dropped again.

Not to mention, the pacing is so bizarre. The plot is so slow for the majority of the book – and I mean, dull as dishwater, watching grass grow-slow. I'm guessing at least half of the entire book is pure character development, which means we're reading, for example, about Adam feeling sorry for himself, or Adam with a chip on his shoulder, or Adam being an entitled jerk. (GO AWAY ADAM.) I'm a sucker for character development, but when it feels aimless, it gets real old, real fast.

This goes on for a few hundred pages… and then in the last 50 pages or so, everything happens all at once and you're just like, "…what? Where did that come from? Why did this book have to drag on and on for that to occur?" It is very much a slow burn, but the problem is that you feel the heat for 400 pages and eventually all you want to do is go jump in a pool and swim away.

Simply put, this book was not for me. It felt too meandering and stray. Good prose and complex characters do not a strong story make.

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