5 out of 5 stars
RECOMMEND TO: I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys adventure and quest novels. If you enjoy fantasy, you will enjoy the plot. Like the first book in this series, The Dream Thieves is a coming of age novel. This novel, however, is not a cotton candy coming of age story. The novel explores the darker (but more realistic) strands of self-discovery in an often hostile and unfair world. Its tone is reminiscent of the later Harry Potter books (numbers 4 through 7).
PLOT: The novel unravels more slowly and methodically than The Raven Boys. Some reviewers have found fault with the pacing, but I think that they are not taking into account that this is a character-driven book. As a first book, The Raven Boys was focused on framing the story and introducing the characters to the readers. The Dream Thieves can do things that a first book cannot do. It delves more deeply into the personalities of the characters and allows the readers a chance to join Blue and the boys on their continuing journey of self-discovery.
The Dream Thieves is centered around the sudden disappearance of Cabeswater and the discovery of Ronan’s ability to pull objects out of his dreams. It also follows Adam as he tries to come to grips with the effects of his decision to sacrifice himself to save his friends. We also begin to see some of the visions that Blue had of she and Gansey come to pass, which only reminds the readers that Gansey is due to die by the end of the year. The tension of the book does not unravel in a manic, edge of your seat plot like The Da Vinci Code, but its pacing allows Stiefvater to develop the characters’ personalities and relationships with each other (and the relationship the reader has with the characters) in a truly artful way. The characters are not pawns of the plot who are employed only as mechanisms of enacting the events of the novel. The novel’s focus on internal rather than external conflict allows Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah to become believable teenagers with their own hopes, dreams, and fears.
CHARACTERS: Although Ronan played a more minor role in the first book, in The Dream Thieves, we begin to understand how the prickly, impulsive Raven boy is a product of his circumstances. At the same time that we are learning about Ronan’s past, Adam is confronted with questions about his future. Adam’s subplot is one of the weaknesses of this novel. Stiefvater could have used Adam’s voice and viewpoint to elicit more sympathy for both him and his situation. However, I became somewhat apathetic towards him because, rather than coming off as a confused boy trying to break with the legacy of his messy past, he reminded me of the angsty Holden Caulfield.
Stiefvater’s depiction of Blue and Gansey’s budding relationship is masterfully executed. The sections of the novel in their voices beautifully portray the anxious uncertainty of teenage romance. Their relationship is not rooted in infatuation and physical attraction (although it is clear they are attracted to one another). What is wonderful is that their desire for one another is the result of mutual admiration and respect. Blue admires Gansey for his optimism and his ability to see the best in others. Gansey admires Blue for her courage and her down-to-earth nature. In the past decade, teen books have not left behind the unrealistic device of “love at first sight” and have often valorized unhealthy relationships by portraying male characters who are overly possessive. Blue and Gansey’s relationship stands as a model for the kind of romance that contemporary authors should be portraying.
VERDICT: Stiefvater does it again with this second book in the series. Although its pacing is slower than The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves focuses on on internal conflict which allows the reader to empathize with and become more invested in the characters. Stiefvater’s masterful portrayal of the developing romance between Blue and Gansey is perhaps the book’s greatest accomplishment.