I finished The Dream Thieves about a week or so ago and I really enjoyed re-reading it (You can check out The Raven Boys re-read here). I do have some general observations before I dive to specific things.
Compared to The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves is a far less tidy book. Stiefvater is tight with her storytelling at the beginning and snaps back at the end but the middle is loose. The threads she begins with are floating a bit out of her control with competing narratives causing the story to have an identity crisis. The Gray Man is given a point of view (POV) to replace that of Barrington Whelk but it takes up way more pages than Barrington ever did. Then you have the addition of Ronan’s POV that was missing in the first book which gives us five POVs who aren’t flowing with one another as well as the POVs did in the first book. Does this make it a “bad” book? No. I still really enjoyed it but there were lull moments and a lot of those moments were Kavinsky related. So that’s the general observation. Now it’s time for my bullet points.
Warning: Some of these bullet points will contain SPOILERS so please be cautious.
- Race: I have feelings about this. Stiefvater has done a fantastic job with dealing with class and given the lack of people of colour in The Raven Boys, I decided that I still love the book in spite of that. Race wasn’t a concern for the author and for me with this particular book, I let that go. A lot of the characters aren’t directly called out as WHITE but they are definitely white coded and none of the characters were overtly described as non-white in The Raven Boys. In The Dream Thieves….
It seemed impossible the length of silk would hold her weight. Currently, she was rotated toward the corner, her back to them. Her tunic hung down, revealing a lot of dark brown skin, a pink bra strap, and four tiny tattooed coyotes running along her spine.
- The Dream Thieves, Page 165
That’s a description of Calla and the first time you find out that she’s not white! However that’s all you get (at least in The Dream Thieves). So I don’t know if she’s black or south asian. We just know she’s A person of colour. It feels like a last minute add on and one that I missed the first time because of how little it plays into the storytelling. Now I can tell you that Calla is black because Maggie Stiefvater has book plates with Calla on one of them. Orla at one point is described as having “browned skin” (p. 190) but browned skin could also mean a tan. I bring up Orla because I was told that there’s a possibility that Blue is mixed race but nothing in the text supports that. For a story that has one of its major themes as class, it’s weird to throw in race haphazardly given how that plays a part in a person’s socio-economic standing. I wasn’t upset at the lack of people of colour in the series but now, I’m annoyed that one throw away line is meant to distinguish a character as non-white in the SECOND book of a series with no real follow up on that new piece of information. It’ll be interesting to see how Blue Lily, Lily Blue deals with this.
UPDATE: I got a comment below about more POC readings of the other characters and that race shouldn’t be a focus for a character to function. I’ve replied to it so take a look. Maggie Stiefvater verified via tumblr ask that Calla is the only POC person in the main crew and as someone whose read the books recently, Calla is the only one who in the text can be read as non-white. I hesitated with Orla but if you look at the in text evidence, there is no evidence she’s POC and if that line I shared is a way to showcase that she is (and Stiefvater has said she isn’t) then it’s a very VERY bad way of doing it.
- Ronan: Such an interesting POV but sadly weighed down by Kavinsky who felt more like a troll on the internet rather than the complex antagonist we’ve had so far. Ronan’s driving force is understanding who he is and working through his self loathing. I think the reveal of his sexuality was handled great but given the books loss of focus in the middle, it’s more surprising than it’s supposed to be as a first time reader. I caught the hints in my re-read because I was looking for them. This book also gave us a look at Ronan’s relationships. We see that he cares a great deal about Adam especially after he woke up the ley line (Ronan is crushing on him). Blue and Ronan are very similar especially in their understanding of Gansey which is probably they tend to butt heads. I was a huge fan of the Ronan/Gansey friendship because of how deep it runs and that it’s rooted in respect for one another. They see each other as brothers.
- Gansey: What I love about this book is the extra layer we’re given of Gansey. We see that he’s noble and good and in control but in this book, we see Gansey lose control a bit. He becomes Gansey the boy and not the old man he’s constantly described as. He’s fallible and we see this more when Gansey confesses that he read a Glendower story where the King killed someone violently and ugly because of a betrayal. It doesn’t fit in Gansey’s imagination of a noble man and it becomes a mirror of who he can be and is deep down. Not necessarily violence but that he can lose control in the ay that we all do.
- Blue/Gansey: I. Am. Digging. This. My friend called the moment when Gansey calls Blue to help him sleep as their “emotional affair” which I thought was funny. I never liked Adam and Blue together because Blue is too sensible to be with someone who is a hot mess. I’m not saying Adam shouldn’t be allowed to be a hot mess or be in a relationship but I’m not going to fault Blue for ending things. A relationship isn’t a place for fixing people.
- Adam: Dude, you had a lot of shit to take care of but I think that sacrifice to Cabeswater has been a way for Adam to truly face his demons. I hope that the eureka moment he had at the end will let him accept help when offered.
- The Gray Man/Maura: Glad that Maura found love with a hit man (and I guess former hit man now?) but it was one of those narrative threads that messed with the story’s overall groove. The Gray Man is a guy who’s past shaped him and literally came back to demand he face it (or him in this case). It’s also a past he literally slayed with a kill shot to the head (his psychopath brother).
Things I failed to realize the first time or forgot since I last read it:
- So apparently the reason why Persephone is weirder than the average psychic is because she made a similar sacrifice that Adam made? I’m not sure if it’s to Cabeswater specifically or a Cabeswater adjacent but that’s what’s implied.
- The rumour surrounding Kavinsky within the book is that he tried to kill his dad and he clarified that it was true but only because his dad tried to kill him. Someone suggested that his father possibly tried to kill him because of his sexuality and the text supports that line of logic. I just wish Kavinsky was less paper thin.
That’s that. I’m starting Blue Lily, Lily Blue next and my copy of The Raven King is on its way. Cheers!
3 thoughts on “Raven Cycle Re-Read: The Dream Thieves”
Most of the women in 300 Fox Way are women of color. Both Calla and Orla are women of color. Nerve was as well. I agree that it is mentioned briefly but at the same time one could argue that it shouldn’t be pointed out as if it’s a big deal that they are POC.
I do agree with you in the fact that upon first reading the series I didn’t notice how many POC characters there were. Upon second read I noticed it more and was surprised I hadn’t the first time.
That is untrue. The only woman of colour is Calla in the first two books and you find that out in book two (way too late) and Maggie Stiefvater verifies it (I’ll update it in the post itself). She also verifies that in terms of racial diversity, Calla is the only one in the main group of characters (I’m re-reading BLLB right now and there is a minor character – an Aglionby boy – who is Chinese according to his last name). Do I think you need to hammer home that a person is a POC when it’s not a story about race? No. Of course, people are more than their race but I’m talking 1) the very basics of differentiating your characters using something like race VISUALLY but failing to do that well VISUALLY. Calla’s description means she could be read south asian or black or any of the places that have people with dark skin. It’s a line across two books. TWO BOOKS by the way that deal with heavy themes of entitlement, class, and blind spots to privilege within a story about a sleeping king. In BLLB, Calla has a moment where she reminds Blue that even though she has less in some areas of her life, she’s still pretty privilege. Soooooo yes. It’s a big deal. I mostly have an issue with how her racial difference was dealt with, that’s all. It felt tacked on so that claims of diversity can be made later without doing the actual work. I have a problem with that. It doesn’t take away from the books themselves at least for me but I won’t defend them if someone does have a problem.