No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, June 09, 2016

2016/35: The Dream Thieves -- Maggie Stiefvater

Gansey was polite in a way that squashed the other party smaller. Adam was polite to reassure. And this man was polite in a keen, questioning sort of way. He was polite the way tentacles were polite, testing the surface carefully, checking to see how it reacted to his presence.[loc. 2937]

Second in the Raven Quartet: this one is very much Ronan's story, and Adam's. Ronan is trying to make sense of the abilities he confessed to at the end of The Raven Boys, and attempting to decode the final phrase of his murdered father's last will and testament. Adam is learning to be a magician (his interactions with Persephone, one of the witchy women of Fox Way, are delightful) and wondering just what he has sacrificed to the forest. Gansey and Noah and Blue are all still searching for Glendower, among other things. And Mr Gray comes to town, searching for an object that can take things out of dreams and make them real.

I like Mr Gray very much. He is an academic turned hitman who can quote Anglo-Saxon poetry in the original, and whose favourite weapon is opportunity. He is terrifyingly efficient. He has a tragic past. He admires Alfred the Great. And he carries around a folder of his greatest hits -- in the sense of the college reading lists on which his 'not-unsuccessful' book, Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse, is featured.

The most fascinating character in this book, though, is Ronan Lynch. Ronan didn't get any viewpoint narrative in The Raven Boys, perhaps because it would have given too much away too soon. Ronan's scenes are masterpieces of restraint, of showing rather than telling, an effect that's heightened by his inarticulacy and his tendency to express most emotions as anger. He is is a hurt, angry, grieving young man (and he does seem younger -- or perhaps more vulnerable -- than the others in some ways) who is negotiating several complex interactions with friends, family and rivals, and who's starting to know himself a little better than before. That's what all the Raven Boys want, after all: to be known.

The Dream Thieves also features some unsettling remarks from Calla (who can pick up psychic impressions from objects, as well as from people), a vanishing forest, and a discussion of the fact that there's no word for blue in Ancient Greek. (Given the female protagonist's name, plenty could have been done with that.) And there are many secrets, some of which aren't known to the people they most concern. Plenty of character development -- not just for the teenaged protagonists, and not just for the characters introduced in The Raven Boys -- and plenty of plot. This is a novel of the fantastic that's very firmly rooted in the mundane world, even if its characters occasionally seem detached from that world.

With hindsight, I think this may be my favourite of the four novels.

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