Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 439
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The Dream Thieves is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s, The Raven Cycle. This review doesn’t contain any spoilers for the first book, The Raven Boys, so feel free to stay if you want to know if the series is worth pursuing.

THE DREAM THIEVES SYNOPSIS

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

The Dream Thieves picks up a few weeks after the events in The Raven Boys but it doesn’t exactly pick up where the first book left off. After finishing The Raven Boys, I was a little bit confused about some of the things that had happened and the consequences of those things happening. I was hoping that The Dream Thieves would give me some clarification or explain what had gone down in The Raven Boys. However, this book went into a completely different direction and the questions I had at the end of the first book were left unanswered. Which is completely fine… but I just felt like there were more and more unanswered questions and puzzles to solve and very few answers being given.

To me, the plot of The Dream Thieves felt largely unrelated to what happened in the previous book. At times, it almost felt like a filler book before we moved on to bigger things in the next two books. In this novel, we follow Ronan, the impulsive brawler of the group. We find out at the very end of The Raven Boys that Ronan is able to take things out of his dreams (this is not a spoiler since this is never explored in the first book) and in this book, we explore his story and the whole process of the dreaming further. Of course, Ronan’s dream thievery is linked to the greater story of the ley lines and the search for the lost Welsh king, Glendower, but for a huge section of the book, it felt almost like a separate and unrelated story. Having said that, I really enjoyed getting to know Ronan a little bit more because we didn’t get much of his back story in Book 1 and he was the enigmatic and closed off one of the group. I found his background and his family’s story to be really unexpected and interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything we learnt about him.

I enjoyed the plot of this second book a little bit more than the first one. It was magical, fascinating and very strange at times and I couldn’t help but be drawn into Ronan’s story and want to read more. There were some plot points that genuinely surprised me. I did, however, find the climax of the book to be slightly lacking. It wasn’t as exciting and intense as I had hoped it would be but I still really liked it and can’t complain about it too much.

The pace of this book is very slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys. It took a very long time for the book to get started and I wasn’t really engaged until after the 150 page mark. The story and the characters were still intriguing enough that I finished the novel in two sittings and I never felt bored even though there wasn’t very much happening. Obviously, I wish that the book could have been a little bit more fast-paced but the writing and the pace really enhanced the atmosphere of the book and I didn’t mind it too much after I got past the slow patch at the beginning.

The characters were still the stand out aspect of this series so far. They really filled in the large gaps in the book where there wasn’t much going on. My favourite characters are still Blue and Gansey. Their characters were the easiest for me to relate to and they felt the most normal to me. They’re so full of love for their family and friends and I just want to hug them. I also enjoyed Ronan’s character a lot more in this book. He’s still a little bit difficult to connect with since he’s such a closed off and distant person but getting to know his background and his cool dream thieving abilities really helped me relate to him a little bit more. The character that took a nose dive in terms of likability was Adam. I liked him quite a bit for most of The Raven Boys, but he became very annoying in this one. He acted like he was entitled to things just because he’s had a tough time and he wasn’t able to see things from the others’ perspectives. His need to be better than other people was infuriating and I just wanted him to work with the team!

“Being the Magician isn’t about being powerful when you have things and useless when you don’t,” Persephone said. “The Magician sees what is out there and find connections. The Magician can make anything magical.”

Yes, Adam. Take note. We are also introduced to a few new characters in this sequel. We have Mr Gray, a hit man who’s searching for something called the Graywaren. He does some atrocious things but his character was so complex, layered and unexpected that I really ended up loving his addition to the book. I think what Maggie Stiefvater does so well is really spending the time to develop her characters and make them multi-faceted. She plays around with stereotypes and tropes and I really love her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and Maggie Stiefvater’s writing and characters. I didn’t think the plot of this novel made any developments to the series and it almost felt like a side story with some links to the overall story arc of The Raven Cycle. However, I still really liked the book and I’m predicting that the events that take place in all these books will probably have some impact on what happens in the finale.

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416
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“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

The Raven Boys is the first book in Maggie Stiefvater’s paranormal series, The Raven Cycle. I’ve previously read the Shiver trilogy, which I really liked, and I think The Raven Boys, as a first book, was just as good, if not better. It was creepy and atmospheric, with lots of interesting and unique characters.

The Raven Boys, for me, was very much a character-driven book. It has a whole cast of very intriguing characters that draw you in and make you want to know more. Our main protagonist, Blue, comes from a family of psychics but she’s the only one who doesn’t have psychic abilities. Instead, she’s almost like a battery that enhances the spiritual energy around her and makes it louder. She becomes involved with a group of Raven boys from a nearby private high school, who are involved in a search for magical ley lines and a lost Welsh King.

The leader of the Raven boys is a boy called Gansey, who I found to be the most interesting of all the characters. He’s a very genuine character who everybody else seems to see as a little pretentious. But he’s definitely not your typical rich and perfect male protagonist. His character is complex and misunderstood and I loved him so much because of it. Adam is the scholarship student from an abusive family. He doesn’t quite fit in with the others and is always aware of his poor background. I really liked his character from the start but he started to get on my nerves as I progressed through the book. He became very resentful of others for what they had and his jealous nature started to come through, which annoyed me a lot. There’s also a weird love triangle involving Adam, and I really did not like it… We also have Ronan, who’s hiding some secrets and is a little bit rough around the edges, and Noah, the mysterious and quiet friend who comes and goes and isn’t always around.

There are a whole host of other characters, including all the psychics that Blue lives with. I found some of the side characters to be very creepy and I was suspicious of them all the time. They gave me this uncomfortable feeling that I couldn’t shake and some of their actions left me feeling pretty creeped out. The mysterious and magical tone of the book also added to the slight creepiness of the book. It was so atmospheric and dark that it did make me feel uncomfortable a lot of the time. I didn’t find the world and the setting to be particularly scary but the writing and the atmosphere of the story left me a little bit anxious. There are also ghosts in this book, and I have pretty low tolerance for ghosts.

While I really liked the plot, there wasn’t very much going on in this book. It’s very slow-paced at the beginning and the action doesn’t pick up until the second half of the book. I found the magic and the ley lines to be very hard to follow at the beginning and I felt confused until later in the book. We’re not given very many explanations, so I had to just accept what was happening and go with the flow. The last 50-100 pages of the book were more fast-paced and there was a lot more happening. However, by the time I reached the end of the book, I still didn’t feel like I completely understood what had happened. Some characters made choices and did things that I didn’t understand (and I didn’t know what the consequences of those action would be either). I just still felt confused after finishing the book, but I can forgive that since it’s the first book in a series.

The writing was beautiful and I didn’t find it hard to get into. I think having read Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, I was already familiar with her unique writing style so I didn’t need a lot of time to adjust. At the beginning, the writing also reminded me of the writing in A Little Life. It was very descriptive with little dialogue, and it really set the tone and atmosphere of the book. I also enjoyed the multiple perspectives that we got and I liked being able to see through each characters’ eyes. Like I mentioned, the pace of the book was a little bit uneven, with it being very slow at the beginning and fast at the end. But even though the book was mostly slow-paced, it wasn’t slow for me to read. I flew through the book really quickly because it was so engaging.

Even though this book left me feeling a little bit unsatisfied because of all the unanswered questions, I still really enjoyed the characters and the story. The confusion that I feel makes me even more excited to jump straight into The Dream Thieves.

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: January 13, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0316213071
Pages: 324
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Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Tourists drive in to see the lush wonders of Faerie and, most wonderful of all, the horned boy. But visitors fail to see the danger.

Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be. But as she’s swept up in new love, with shifting loyalties and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

my thoughts

4 stars

After reading the description of this book, I didn’t really know what to expect but I knew that it would be great, based on my experience with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The Darkest Part of the Forest was eerie and mysterious and darker than I thought it would be. I probably enjoyed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown just a little bit more but I would still really recommend this one if you like reading about faeries.

I thought the plot was very interesting and clever. It really kept me guessing and nothing was very predictable to me. The beginning of the book was very slow but it became more and more fast-paced as the book progressed. I flew through the last third of the book and I really enjoyed how it ended. The story and the world were well-developed, especially for a standalone novel, but I still wanted a little bit more from the story. For me, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a bit better developed.

The characters were my favourite part of the book. They felt incredibly modern and now, and I think a part of that comes from all the diversity that Holly Black put into this book. We have a couple of gay characters and some dark-skinned characters. I really appreciate that Holly incorporates diverse characters into all her books. Each of the characters in The Darkest Part of the Forest were very unique and we really got to know each of them very well. Ben was my favourite character from the start. He was very interesting to read about and I just connected with him straight away. I actually wasn’t a big fan of Hazel – I found it hard to connect with her and there were times when I felt that she was a bit dramatic. I liked most of the other characters though, and the relationships between them. I also liked that the romance didn’t play out in the way that I had expected and I really liked what we got in the end.

The other aspect of the book that I thought was really strong was how the book ended. I thought the epilogue was the perfect way to end the book. It was a nice, light ending to a book that was quite dark and creepy.

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0316213101
Pages: 419
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Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

This standalone paranormal fantasy novel was a really enjoyable read. It’s set in our modern world but in an alternate setting where there was an outbreak of vampirism a decade ago. In this world, vampires are feared but also romanticised at the same time, which created a very interesting world and setting. This book was atmospheric from the very first chapter. It was dark and a little bit creepy but very entertaining. It wasn’t a very fast-paced book or a page-turner for me, so it did take me a couple of sittings to finish it. It also explored some deeper questions about humanity, which I really liked.

This book was so well-developed for a standalone. It’s written with alternating chapters of present and past. In the present chapters, we follow Tana from the aftermath of the massacre all the way into the Coldtown. The past chapters were really interesting. Because the book is written from third person perspective, there were snippets of not only Tana’s past but also the past of some of the other key characters. These chapters did a really great job of building the world, as well as setting up the plot of the story.

I thought the plot was really great. It was kind of what I wanted from the book after reading the description. There wasn’t a lot of romance in the book but I was very satisfied with what we did get and the amount of romance there was. If it was any heavier on the romance, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. The resolution to the plot was perhaps a little bit anticlimactic but I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I really liked how everything unfolded because I don’t think I could have taken anything more intense. For me, the ending to the book was perfect and I wouldn’t change anything because I was thoroughly satisfied.

The aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy very much were the characters. For the first half of the book, I didn’t like any of the characters that were introduced, except Tana and Gavriel, the main characters. I thought all of the characters were really manipulative and selfish, and I just did not like them at all. However, my dislike of the characters didn’t change my opinion of the plot or the story, because Holly Black kind of intended for them to be that way. Plus there are definitely more likeable characters that are introduced in the second half of the book, and you grow to like them as you progress through the book. What I really appreciated was the inclusion of diverse characters. We have a bisexual character and a transgender character, which I thought was really nice to read about.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is probably one of the best vampire books I’ve read. There were some cliched aspects but a lot of it was very unique, and I liked that it was a standalone novel. Also, the cover (art and texture) is perfect. I’m definitely going to get this copy signed at the Holly Black & Cassandra Clare event in mid-August!