Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reviews - The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Creepy, dark, psychotically twisted… satisfying, artistic, stretched-thin...

I read these two back-to-back. How appropriate for October. These books go well with foggy mornings and long evenings. October is not muggily hot enough to feel the sweat dripping (like in the story), but the chill in the air fits the stories better, I think...

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 30, 2013 by Scholastic
My copy: Nook from B&N

“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... (More)

My Review:

The Raven Boys was fast-paced fun. It’s the awakening of story that’s bigger-than-life. I love Gansey’s journal and there is so much of it in the story. He is researching a long-gone Welsh king, Glendower, who is somehow related to spiritual ley lines. I embraced the book and the spiritual lines , swallowing them whole.

Blue is a treasure of a character, being used to accepting the spiritual side of things in a blindfolded sort of way, trusting the people around her who can see them. (Tarot card readings.) She wants to stand out, which is a challenge in her very-strange environment, but she can’t help being extremely practical. She is so sensible in such an impossible situation, that I want to laugh. And I’m slightly intimidated.

Blue’s perception of Gansey is so complicated, I love it. She sees two versions of him and reacts to both. Simultaneously. She resists the prophetic version and smacks her forehead over the frustrating very-present version. Ha!

Gansey… is also complicated. Contrary to many of the other characters in the story, he storms forcefully into all the complications in his life, creating them and solving them with enthusiasm. I don’t think I would enjoy Gansey near as much if he wasn’t seen from everyone else’s point of view. And everyone else is thoroughly devoted to him (or enthusiastically not!)

“Everyone else” in Gansey’s immediate world is Ronan and Adam. Ronan fights personal challenges that hint at bigger-than-obvious as the book progresses. Adam faces personal challenges, too, but they appear faster and harder and grittier… and more overwhelming. I nearly forgot Noah. Lol. How typical. (He's not always... a solid presence.)

And there they are: The Raven Boys.

There are more characters in the story, though… everyone has family and friends in every-widening ripples and each is remarkably full-rounded, entire complicated characters that I would love to see more of. Never mind the Ley Line, itself, which apparently has its own opinions.

I couldn't put it down once I feel in. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I’d say, but once I adjusted to the flavor and the layers of plot and character, I was hooked.

Hence, diving into the second book the same minute I finished the first...

4.5 Stars - Fast pace, complicated plot, believable characters... lots more scope for the imagination!

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)
The Dream Thieves
by Maggie Stiefvater
Hardcover, 439 pages
Published Sept 17, 2013 by Scholastic
My copy: Nook from NetGalley

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

My Review:

The Dream Thieves goes much deeper than my brain wanted to process a few times. I confess it’s true.

The trouble (and succeeding delight) was that there are a lot of pieces left dangling well into the 4th quarter of the story. Sharing some of these questions will smack of spoilers for the first book. That’s my warning.

The Grey Man is downright scary. There was nothing about him that made me like him even after he visited Fox Way and got some sort of green light with sprinkles on top from the fairy godmother(s). I wanted them to treat him like… the lightbulb changer. I doubted their abilities, even.

Meanwhile the story takes a deep dive into Ronan’s (primarily) distasteful character. The fleeting moments of humanity took a long time to win me (enthusiastically) over.

Meanwhile… Adam is squeezed even tighter and begins to lose his grip on sanity before I understood what happened in the first book. It was like… catching myself on a slippery slope, only to find that I was hanging on by an itty bitty fern that pulled up by the roots, leaving me slipping down into WHA-?!  For me, Adam was the source of the most impossible tangle of unfinished threads. Threads that very neatly re-arrange themselves into a complicated tapestry by the end. (My reaction? "No. Way. She pulled it off.")

Plus… Blue/Jane becomes more human and more lovely simultaneously. Gansey reveals his vulnerable side, finally deferring to the possibilities hinted at in book #1.

The Ending… was more satisfying than I would have imagined possible at the beginning of the 4th quarter. One of the best culminations I’ve read, I think. There’s fire and death, for starters. Explosions. Lightning. Gunfire. But more importantly, there’s acceptance and understanding and a huge sigh of relief.

Even the epilogue cannot disturb my warm fuzzy feelings of all being (momentarily) right in the world. I think I’m happiest about Persephone. I needed her to prove her worth and now I’m ready to take on whatever else Stiefvater’s got up her sleeve for this crew. 

They’re my friends now!

4 Stars - More tangled plot than fast pace, even more believable characters, lots of automotive fun.

Mitsubishi Evo
Maggie's Car

Speaking of Automotive fun!

Adam is great as a working man who knows cars and can diagnose troubles. His self-consciousness about blackened, greasy, smelly hands is great and contrasts perfectly to his fine-boned good looks. The details surrounding him dipped into vague very quickly. The troubles he fixed on the Camaro? A bit of a mystery. The time it sounded like a battery cable was disconnected made me laugh and wonder at Gansey. Adam's work is a mish-mash... sometimes his knowledge is honored and sometimes he's changing oil.

I hiccuped a bit over the '73 Camaro*. 1973 is not very cool. A guy like Gansey should've gotten the '72, at least, or better yet, the '69. That's not opinion, that's fact. Anyone who has one of those... any of those (including the '73)... would feel like Gansey did about his car. Absolutely. No one else would ever be able to drive it... or lean on it... or look at it sideways. The rough shape of the interior, how it smells of gasoline... is not cool. The sound of the motor, yes, very cool, the gas smell, not. I expected the thing to blow up at some point. (And I was close, hey?)

I love how Stiefvater dived into the gritty awesomeness of the car world. I loved the revved motors and the exchanged looks that held so much meaning. How the stoplights would turn and the drivers would wait 'til they were ready to race. The street race was beautiful... and realistic. Lol. Every driver feels the spike of competitiveness and the humiliation of falling behind. That was sweetness wrapped in gorgeous burnt rubber even before the bird horrors arrived!

Don't forget the Mitsubishi! Bringing in a tricked out foreign car was genius. Kavinsky should have had the same attitude towards his cool ride that Gansey had for his Camaro, so it was a beautiful highlight of Kavinsky's character, etc. He chose something very modern and veeeerrrry expensive and treated it like an empty pop can (for reasons and by means that become obvious, but still.)

Tuners (tricked out foreign cars of the last decade or two) and muscle cars (of the 60's & 70's and sometimes earlier) travel in separate circles, not often intersecting. They are different in so many ways. The tug-n-pull over Ronan is clear enough knowing just the characters of Gansey and Kavinsky, but is much more dramatic because of what cars they drive.

There's some thoughts from someone who hangs out in the car world. And here's a pic of Kavinsky's sweet ride. Click on it to go to Stiefvater's page:

All of Maggie Stiefvater's life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she's tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She's made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

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*Oh.  Well, I take that back about the '73. It's cool.