The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. 14 and up. Scholastic Press. 439 pages. Copy provided by my library.
Be forewarned, this is the second book in a series, so you’re going to want to read The Raven Boys first. So go do that right now, and come back right away. Because, guys, the second book is even better.
In the first book, Blue, who was raised in a family of psychics, meets four best friends Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, who are students at the private school nearby. She joins them on their quest to find an ancient Welsh king and there is magic and mystery and the characters are so vivid they jump off the page and the relationships between all of them are very complex and interesting and it is just one heck of a great book.
And like I said, book two is even better! The best way I can describe The Dream Thieves, what I found myself thinking again and again as I was reading it, is that this book is intense. And not only intense, but fast paced and filled with emotion and tension on every page. Reading this book is like an experience in not being able to catch your breath for page after page after page.
You discover as you read that there is a lot more magic in this world than you realized. And it’s also really scary and can affect you in disturbing ways. This book is mostly about Ronan who is a dark and angry character with a really, really interesting story line. He can take stuff out of his dreams. And he learns how to control it and starts doing it more and more but there are dangerous people out there who are after him and also other people who have this gift and abuse it. But the plot is so much more complex than that and there are so many surprises and twists and turns and I don’t think I have ever read a breathtaking page turner quite like it.
The five characters Stiefvater has created are so, so real. They are so strongly written and all have unique thoughts and desires and motives behind their actions. I can’t think of many other books with such a large main cast that are so strongly and distinctly written. It is really, really well done here. And I love each of those characters with my whole heart, even though quite a few of them are the kind of guys I would probably despise if I knew them in real life. But Blue even kind of acknowledges this but once she got to know them and was sucked into their world and their quest and their magic, she fell in love with all four of them too. I love this series and I am just dying to see where it is headed next.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy. I loved this book way more than I thought I would. When I heard the book was about angels and demons (chimera) I didn’t think it was really my thing. But so many people were raving about it so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did! Karou is a young woman with bright blue hair studying at an art school in Prague. She also has a secret life – she was raised by chimera and these demon-like creatures are the only family she has ever known. She doesn’t know who or what she is, but when an angel named Akiva shows up and tries to kill her, she is on her way to finding out. The thing that really sold me on this book is how vivid and imaginative Karou’s world is. It was like nothing I had ever read, but it also felt so real and so alive. I recommend this book to anyone with an imagination who likes to think there might be a little bit more to life.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Adult Literary Fantasy. (I listened to this on audiobook read by Mark Bramhall). I am almost done listening to the second book in the series now (The Magician King) and I have to say I may like it even better than the first. But we’ll have to wait and see how it ends. So, The Magicians is about Quentin Coldwater, a highly intelligent young man who feels restless and unsatisfied with his life. Then he discovers that magic is real and is admitted into Brakebills, a college for magicians. And then he also discovers that Fillory is real, the land he loved and read about as a child (think Narnia) and gets to go there, but it isn’t quite as fun and rosy as it was in the books. This book is so perfect for anyone who loves Harry Potter and Narnia and Middle Earth and all things fantasy/nerdy. A beautiful, if sometimes dark and gritty, homage to the great fantasy stories I love.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Ages 9 and up Illustrated Historical Fiction. This is a new book by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. You’ve probably heard of the movie Hugo, out just this year. I haven’t actually read the book yet (I know, it’s on my list!) but I can tell you that Wonderstruck was amazing. The book interweaves the stories of two characters, Rose and Ben. Rose’s story is told only through full-page illustrations. You have to see these to believe them. They are so realistic and Selznick’s ability to tell a story without any words is amazing. Rose and Ben live in two different eras and their stories tell of two different quests but the ways they are connected will just leave you in awe.
Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword by Barry Deutsch. Ages 9 and up Fantasy Graphic Novel. The subtitle of this book is seriously: “Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl.” I love it! Mirka doesn’t want to knit, she doesn’t want to spend all her time learning to become a good Orthodox Jewish wife. She just wants to be a dragon slayer! This lovely humorous graphic novel tells Mirka’s story. This book is cool for so many reasons. The illustrations and layout of the book were just really cool. I loved the strong-willed female protagonist. And it was a really cool glimpse into Orthodox Jewish life, which I really don’t know a lot about. Even though the story is clearly fiction with a lot of fantastical elements, I think it is great to see this culture represented in children’s literature. This book is great for anyone who craves a little more adventure.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. Ages 4-8 Picture Book. I gave a review of this book previously on this blog, Lost in the Pages. Check it out. On here, let me just say, I’m so glad this book is getting a lot of love this year because it totally deserves it! If you like your picture books with a little bit of cheeky humor that appeals to both young children and adults, this is the perfect book. Even if you don’t have any children in your life you should read this book. It’s that good. Honestly. My favorite picture book of the year.