Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Problem now is Waiting for Book Three

In an earlier post this summer I gushed over Maggie Steifvater's Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. Book two of that series, The Dream Thieves comes out on September 17. It provides ample evidence that this is a story unlikely to weaken as it develops.

Spoiler alert: I'll try to avoid major plot revelations from either book, but we're talking about a sequel here. Read forward at your own risk.

The Raven Boys series centers around, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah a group of boys enrolled at Aglionby, an exclusive boarding school in the small Virginia town of Henrietta, and a townie girl, Blue the sole non-psychic resident of 300 Fox Way, a house of psychic women offering readings to Henrietta's residents. The undisputed leader of this group is Richard Gansey--he goes by simply "Gansey"--who hails form a wealthy and powerful old money family from Washington D.C. Gansey is obsessed with finding Glendower, a 15th Century Welsh king whose body, legend has it, has been transported to America and interred somewhere near Henrietta. The rest of the group is nearly as dedicated to finding Glendower as Gansey is.

In book one, as they search for Glendower, Ronan, Adam and Noah all reveal or acquire supernatural traits. Book two explores the ramifications of these revelations with Ronan exploring expanding his dreaming talents, Noah struggling with aspects of his "condition," and Adam waiting for the consequences of his sacrifice. Blue, in the meantime, continues to struggle with her relationship with the boys; if she's not careful (or even if she is) she could be fatal to one of them. With the area now decidedly more alive with supernatural energy, Gansey pushes on in the quest to find Glendower, arranging a new expedition into the magical and dangerous forest of Cabeswater.

Two new villains arrive on the scene to thwart the group's efforts. One is The Grey Man, a former professor of Old English literature turned hit man with scant regard for human life, and who, as befits his name, hides behind blurred anonymity. The other is Joseph Kavinsky, a fellow Aglionby student and son of a reputed mobster who seems mostly interested in dealing drugs and racing his Mitsubishi against Ronan's BMW--there's a good deal of street racing in The Dream Thieves--until he reveals a darker motive.

As with the first book the crazy supernatural stuff becomes mundane to the characters as more and more of it piles up. "I grow weary of wonders," Gansey complains. This, however, doesn't make the wonders any less wonderful to the reader. It also doesn't make the reader lose interest in the characters. Quite the opposite. While they may grow weary of wonders even as they struggle with other-worldly forces, while they may ho-hum at amazing psychic tricks, the Raven Boys and Blue and the psychic women of 300 Fox Way don't grow weary of each other. The strength of their friendships remains at the heart of the story. Each character wants nothing more than to cure the others of their particular demons. And each one is terribly pained by their inability to do so. As much wierdness as there is in the world she creates, and as much evil, Steifvater's focus is always on how good her characters are and how good they can be to each other. That quality, along with her rich imagination and even richer language, sets Steifvater apart from anyone else writing YA fantasy.

FCC disclosure: for this review, the publisher provided me with an expiring advanced review copy in electronic form.

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