Building the (B)romance: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

I finished and reviewed The Raven Boys in September, and thanks to Netgalley, I was able to read its sequel, The Dream Thieves, earlier this month. Not that much has changed in my impressions of this series — I still enjoy it, if not more so.

If this series is your first experience with Maggie Stiefvater’s works, you’ll notice that not too much happens in the 400+ pages. The author herself has admitted that most people don’t read her books for the action, but for the feels. Which, from my experience, is accurate. Maybe it’s a result of her artist background, but she starts from a basic framework and then slowly builds on it, layer by layer, one small detail at a time. As the spectator/reader, you can see that she’s making something beautiful, but it’s tricky to tell what the end result will be. But that doesn’t matter to you so much since even the process itself is art; the build-up and the anticipation are worth experiencing just as much as the final product.

After his unexpected revelation at the conclusion of The Raven Boys, it’s not surprising that focus of the narrative shifts to Ronan. While the rest of the Aglionby Four have their respective charms and quirks, Ronan is best known for his darkness. He hides in his anger, deflecting concern with jokes and snark. But for his friends, most especially Gansey, the real Ronan is a hurt, young man who only wants to go home. How Stiefvater tells Ronan’s story is exquisite — there’s no big infodump of why he’s so angry with his older brother, of how his father died and how this affects him not being to return to his family, of how exactly he can take objects back from his dreams. The details are revealed when they’re needed. I like that the reader is given the same time as the rest of the characters to digest and to reflect on the situations.

While it seems that the entire Raven Cycle is as much about the relationships as it is about the magic, the romantic entanglements don’t take center stage. In other Young Adult novels, friendships are second-tier to the love affair(s). Not so with this one; what happens between Blue and Ronan is just as interesting and entertaining as what happens between Blue x Gansey, or Blue x Adam. If you’re of the shipping mentality, all the combinations and pairings have the feels built right in…I mean, you’ve also got Blue x Noah, Grey Man x Maura, Gansey x Adam, Gansey x Ronan, Ronan x Kazinsky, etc. While I don’t think all of these relationships should/could be romantic, I appreciate that the connections between the characters are filled in. The author doesn’t introduce characters unnecessarily, if they’re in the book, they’re characters, not stage dressing. They’re given color (not a pun for Blue, I swear), nuance, and depth.

The Dream Thieves is a strong follow-up to what’s shaping up to be a intense ride of a series.