Monday, October 28, 2013

Lucid Dream: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Listening to other people describe their dreams can be the most boring thing in the world. I know this. And yet I still can’t stop myself from telling people, “I had the craziest dream last night…” Dreams come straight from our raw emotional cores, which makes them a powerful experience that so colors the waking world that we need to share them with someone else just to continue our day. This also makes them extremely difficult to describe. “I saw this pink poodle, only it wasn’t a normal poodle, it was really scary,” doesn’t cover the visceral terror you felt when staring into the black, soulless eyes of a girly hell-dog. Dreams have unstable settings, as well as mysteriously vanishing and reappearing characters, and unresolvable plot holes. And yet Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, a book about dreaming, perfectly evokes the otherworldly feel of those nighttime phantoms while still maintaining a stable base of story.

The search for Glendower, introduced in The Raven Boys, the first book in the series, takes a backseat here to the journey of the characters. Adam discovers the consequences of the deal he struck at the end of the first book. Blue and Gansey’s relationship deepens and—however much Blue might want to avoid it—changes. And Ronan learns more about his mysterious power and murky family history.

The book opens with an intriguing discourse on secrets, and it is Ronan’s secrets that are especially of interest this time around. Ronan is the sort of hot wounded boy who would be catnip to a female protagonist in another novel. But he has always been a shade too mean and dangerous to be appealing to Blue. Early in the novel, Stiefvater introduces us to Kavinsky, who is even meaner and more dangerous. He is Ronan as he would have been after his father’s murder had he not become friends with Gansey. In this series, as in dreams, truths simmer under the surface and sneak up on you (like the realization about Noah in the first book). Ronan is drawn to Kavinsky and won’t let himself understand why. Stiefvater’s not talking either. Her elegant summation of Ronan—“He never put lyrics to the second secret, the one he kept from himself. But it still played in the background.”—hints at Ronan’s hidden core but leaves readers to their own interpretations. It’s a secret, after all, and Ronan is not yet ready to share.

The Dream Thieves also brings us another intriguing character in Mr. Gray, aka the Gray Man. The first time we meet him he is quite calmly breaking into Ronan’s brother’s dorm room and pistol whipping him. He lives his life like he is asleep, and is thus easily integrated into Blue’s family of psychics, who live their lives like they are dreaming. They run on instinct, feeling out rather than figuring out what their next actions should be. Mr Gray also has secrets, and Ronan’s struggle to understand his power and his secrets parallel Mr. Gray’s. 

Meanwhile, the threat of Blue’s prophecy looms over all, as Blue constantly checks in with her feelings—“Am I in love with him yet?” The series as a whole gives the dreadfully enjoyable sense of hurtling toward an unstoppably tragic and romantic ending. To read The Dream Thieves, and The Raven Cycle as a whole, is to be swept up in a lucid dream so enjoyable that you don’t want to wake up.

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