Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Haven’t read The Raven Boys yet? Check out my spoiler free review here. There will be spoilers for book one in this review so don’t read on if you haven’t read it!

I listened to the audio book of The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater earlier this month, the second book in The Raven Cycle series. It’s narrated by Will Patton again, who does a great job of creating tension and giving each of the characters their own sound. His voice is very gravelly, which is perfectly suited to Ronan!

The Dream Thieves Maggie Stiefvater Lyndsey's Book Blog

4 stars

Synopsis

The Dream Thieves shifts focus slightly away from Gansey and on to Ronan, who’s learning more about his strange ability to take things – like Chainsaw, the raven – out of his dreams.

“He danced on the knife’s edge between awareness and sleep. When he dreamt like this, he was a king. The world was his to bend. His to burn.”

Adam is now living in an apartment he rents from the nuns, refusing to move into Monmouth Manufacturing with the other boys. Typical Adam.

“It was nothing, but it was Adam Parrish’s nothing. How he hated and loved it. How proud he was of it, how wretched it was.”

Gansey is still looking for Glendower, and now Cabeswater, which has decided to disappear from its usual spot in the forest. The now live leyline is tripping the electrics across Henrietta, power surges causing the town’s generators to blow on a semi-regular basis.

A sinister man dressed in grey has arrived in town and is on the hunt for the Grey Warren, unaware that it’s a who and not a what. And an angry, shaved-headed who at that.

“He was clearly related to Declan: same nose, same dark eyebrows, same phenomenal teeth. But there was a carefully cultivated sense of danger to this Lynch brother. This was not a rattlesnake hidden in the grass, but a deadly coral snake striped with warning colours. Everything about him was a warning: If this snake bit you, you had no one to blame but yourself.”

Review The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater Lyndsey's Book Blog

I really enjoyed this book, it was great to slip straight into the story without too much introduction as we’re already well acquainted with the characters. I actually really liked the change of pace and getting to know Ronan a bit more, and the new characters that were introduced were fascinating and layered.

I’ve seen some people complain that it’s not really a sequel, it’s more like a spin off about Ronan, but I completely disagree (plus, there’s an entire series about Ronan coming soon!). We see plenty of the other characters, I would just say that whereas the focus of book one was Blue and Gansey, in this one it’s Ronan and Adam. I actually think it works better as a sequel than if we’d stuck with Blue and Gansey and left the others as somewhat secondary characters – this way it’s more of an ensemble cast.

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”
“I did explain it.”
“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

The group dynamic is just as dysfunctional and hilarious as in book one, with the relationships between Blue and Adam and Gansey becoming ever more complicated. I loved seeing more of Gansey’s and Ronan’s families, and it goes without saying that some of my favourite parts happened at 300 Fox Way. Maura, Calla and Persephone are great characters and add a lot of humour to the book.

“I thought you said scrying was a bad idea.”
“It’s like vodka,” Calla said. “It really depends on who’s doing it.”

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I gave The Dream Thieves 4 stars, I really loved being back in Henrietta with this co-dependent, magical bunch, but it has a slightly different feel to The Raven Boys. If I’m honest, I’m not sure about the whole Kavinsky thing, it felt a little bit too convenient, but that might become clearer in the next book.

I’m currently listening to A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, and as soon as that’s finished I’ll be jumping straight into Blue Lily, Lily Blue, so expect a review of book three soon!

Have you read The Raven Cycle series? What did you think? Who’s your favourite character? I was leaning towards Adam but I’ve taken a liking to Noah after this book!

Lyndsey

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I am a member of the Book Depository affiliate program, so if you click through and buy any of the books mentioned in this blog I might make a little commission, but I am not paid to review books and all reviews are my own opinions!

Review of The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater Lyndsey's Book Blog

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I recently listened to the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and really enjoyed it, it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s an adult fantasy, almost magical realism, set in part in London, as well as various real cities across the world that the circus visits. It spans over a century, with the main story beginning in the mid 1800s and ending in the early 1900s.

TL;DR two magicians play a dangerous game, pitting their unwitting contestants against each other in a decades-long battle of talent and skill. A miraculous circus that only opens at night, a group of incredibly talented illusionists and performers, and an utterly fabulous clock all combine to make a spectacular fairy tale filled with magic and enchantment.

 

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4.5 stars

Synopsis

Where to start! This book has so many layers, so many subplots that combine to make a beautifully complex story. It begins with an introduction to the circus as though you yourself are visiting it right now, in modern day, describing what you see and smell.

Admittedly, the second person present tense was jarring at first, I’ve never read a book that was written that way, but only the framing parts are in second, the rest of the story is written in third. I’ve seen a few reviews where people DNFed because they couldn’t get into the book, and to be honest I can see why some didn’t persevere, but as I was listening to the audio book it was easier to push past the initially uncomfortable parts and just listen until I was completely absorbed by the story.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

We start with Prospero and “the man in the grey suit”, or Alexander, two old friends and rivals who decide to each choose a pawn to play in a mysterious game. Prospero’s own daughter Celia has recently come to live with him after her mother committed suicide, and Prospero quickly realises that she has inherited his magical abilities, a natural talent for manipulating the world around her. Marco on the other hand, Alexander’s playing piece, is plucked from an orphanage and spends years learning how to create illusions, use charms and enchantments, and manipulate the perceptions of the people around him.

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

We then meet Chandresh Lefevre, who Alexander encourages to open a circus, providing them with a game board on which to play their pieces. Marco takes on the role of Chandresh’s assistant, and Celia auditions to be the circus’s illusionist. Neither is aware that the other is their opponent. Both use their own skills and abilities to manipulate the circus and those who are a part of it, including the proprietors and the performers, waiting for the day their challenge begins, unaware that it already has.

“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon . . . is not the dragon the hero of his own story?”

They each begin to add to the circus, creating new and spectacular attractions – an ice garden, a cloud maze, a wishing well. Eventually, they both work out who their competitor is, and recognising the beauty of each others’ magic, they fall in love.

“Everything I have done, every change I have made to that circus, every impossible feat and astounding sight, I have done for her.”

There’s a parallel story about a young boy called Bailey who visits the circus as a child and meets Poppet, one of the twins, Poppet and Widget, who were born the night the circus opened and possess magical abilities of their own. When the circus returns years later, he searches for Poppet and discovers a whole new destiny.

“You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.”

The book is incredibly descriptive, with some long sections that only describe the various tents and features of the circus, such as the amazing clock, rather than furthering the plot, but it is astonishingly beautiful and Morgenstern’s imagination is fabulous. Some of the characters could do with a bit more fleshing out, I would have loved to hear more backstory on some of them, like Tsukiko the contortionist, and Alexander – the most mysterious character in the entire book, but in some ways the lack of backstory adds to the overall mystery.

The origins and limitations of magic are never explained, leaving it up to the readers’ imagination – a lot of things are alluded to in the story and never fully explained. How Marco is able to study magic and learn to wield it, while Celia is born with natural abilities, is just one of the questions we’re left with.

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I’m giving The Night Circus 4.5 stars because it was absolutely enchanting, with wonderful descriptions and a fairy tale like plot. The only reason it’s not a five star read for me is because of the confusing format, with changes in person and tense as well as time jumps that leave you wondering how long has passed if you’re not listening carefully.

The mountain of questions I was left with afterwards also stopped this from being five star, some of which are interesting and allow me to wonder, others make me wish there had been more explanation and back story. The ending was definitely unexpected, I’m not sure how I feel about it, I don’t think I would have ended it quite that way, but I don’t feel like I need a sequel, I think the story tied up neatly and didn’t really leave room, unless we focused on Poppet and Bailey’s story.

All in all, it was a lovely listen, and now I’m even more excited to download Caraval, which I’ve seen described as ‘The Night Circus for YA’! Have you read The Night Circus? What were your thoughts? I hear it’s been optioned for a film, but there’s been no announcements yet – I’d love to see it on screen! Who would you cast?

Lyndsey

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I am a member of the Book Depository affiliate program, so if you click through and buy any of the books mentioned in this blog I might make a little commission, but I am not paid to review books and all reviews are my own opinions!

Review The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Lyndsey's Book Blog

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

There are two reasons I picked this book up when I joined my library last month. One, I received Mark Lawrence’s newest novel, Red Sister in the February Illumicrate and I’d never read one of his books before so I decided to start at the beginning. Sensible, no?

And two, Cait @ Paper Fury absolutely raves about this series, and her word is gospel (except on Sarah J. Maas, we’ll agree to disagree, Cait), so I knew I had to pick it up as soon as I saw it on the shelf.

TL;DR a thirteen year old prince cuts a bloody swathe across a medieval-style region with the ultimate aim of winning the Hundred War and ruling the entire realm. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you love a whole lot of stabbing and swearing, and a conspicuous lack of morals, then you’ll love this.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

4 stars

Synopsis

Prince of Thorns is set in a Game of Thrones style, faux-medieval fantasy world. I would like to say that if you love the A Song of Ice and Fire series you’ll like this, but Lawrence uses the phrase “the game of thrones” several times throughout the book, and I can imagine that annoying big ASOIAF fans – I only watch the TV show and still found it a bit jarring. There are similarities between the plots and the worlds in both series, but you can find similarities anywhere if you try hard enough – it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying Prince of Thorns. There are one or two MAJOR differences, but I won’t spoil them for you!

Honorous Jorg Ancrath, the eponymous Prince of Thorns, is a thirteen year old prince from one of the hundred separate kingdoms spread across the realm. He’s been through a lot in his short years, has Jorg. For the past four years he’s been burning down villages and killing anyone who crosses his path, helped by his band of road brothers, a motley crew of criminals, outcasts and downright psychopaths.

“There is no evil, Makin,” I said. “There’s the love of things, power, comfort, sex, and there’s what men are willing to do to satisfy those lusts.”

He’s been on the hunt for Count Renar, the man who’s responsible for killing his mother and brother, and leaving Jorg for dead in a poisonous hook-briar bush (hence Prince of Thorns). He hasn’t actually caught up to Count Renar yet, for one reason and another (no spoilers), but he decides to head back home to his father, the King of Ancrath, who he hasn’t seen or spoken to since leaving at age nine.

There’s no love lost between Jorg and his dad, who sent his Captain of the Guard after Jorg four years ago. Instead of bringing Jorg home, Sir Makin joined Jorg’s rabble, ostensibly to keep an eye on the boy and make sure nothing untoward happened to him, but the friendship between Jorg and Makin is one of my favourite things about the book. The Road Brothers are a fascinating bunch, each with their own backstory, motivations, and collection of disturbing personality traits and skills.

“Most men have at least one redeeming feature. Finding one for Brother Rike requires a stretch. Is ‘big’ a redeeming feature?”

There is also a massive plot twist about two thirds into the book that I did not see coming! If you know what I’m talking about tell me in the comments whether you guessed it or not – there are hints if you’re paying attention, but it definitely took me by surprise!

There is a magical element to the story, on our journey we stumble across dream-witches, necromancers and a tribe of mutant creatures with interesting abilities.

“I’ll tell you now. That silence almost beat me. It’s the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears. The spirits of the dead have nothing on it. The dead one tried to show me hell, but it was a pale imitation of the horror I can paint on the darkness in a quiet moment.”

The book is written in first person, so we get a really  deep insight into Jorg’s mind, which is part terrifying (especially when you remember he’s thirteen) and part hilarious because he’s full of acerbic wit. He’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in ages, absolutely devious and very intelligent – he often quotes philosophers thanks to his royal education, and his strategic and tactical skill is far beyond anything a normal teenage boy would be able to manage.

At the end of the book there’s an excerpt from book two, King of Thorns, and having glanced quickly at it I think there’s a four year time jump, so it’ll be interesting to see how Jorg changes as he grows up.

“Blood is on these hands, these ink-stained hands, but I don’t feel the sin. I think maybe we die every day. Maybe we’re born new each dawn, a little changed, a little further on our own road. When enough days stand between you and the person you were, you’re strangers. Maybe that’s what growing up is. Maybe I have grown up.”

My only negative comments are related to Jorg’s age, I’m not sure if Lawrence did it to make Jorg’s actions and behaviour even more shocking, but some of the things he says and does I would expect more from a sixteen year old, or even older. If he’d started Prince of Thorns at sixteen, it might have removed the need for such a big time jump between books one and two, but without reading King of Thorns I can’t say whether the time that has passed is crucial to the story. (I’ve just read Mark Lawrence’s comments on the Goodreads page for King of Thorns and it sounds like he uses a dual timeline to show what has happened in the preceding four years alongside what is happening now, so I guess there’s your answer!)

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I gave Prince of Thorns 4 stars because it’s a really gripping, entertaining and dark fantasy novel with a fascinating main character and some fun plot twists, but Jorg’s age feels slightly out of sync to me, and I found the use of the phrase ‘game of thrones’ slightly jarring – like if a character in another book was called Harry Potter! Especially a book from the same genre. I’m sure George R.R. Martin wasn’t the first author to coin that phrase, but he is the most well known.

If those things don’t bother you, definitely pick this one up! I’m excited to get my hands on King of Thorns now, I’m expecting an even better rating as we’ll hopefully get some more character development and world building, which are my favourite things!

Have you read The Broken Empires series? What did you think? Recommend me some similar books in the comments!

Lyndsey

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I am a member of the Book Depository affiliate program, so if you click through and buy any of the books mentioned in this blog I might make a little commission, but I am not paid to review books and all reviews are my own opinions!