- The villains. Maggie humanizes her villains so well. The Gray Man, at face value, is nothing more than your stereotypical hit man. Our first glimpse of him in the novel showcases his mercilessness as he beats the living crap out of someone. But as we get to know more and more about The Gray Man, it becomes obvious there are many, many layers to him. He's not a faceless killer, he is a person just like Blue or Gansey or Maura. He has a family, a past, a hometown, and Maggie illustrates this with such incredible skill, I found myself rooting for him more and more as the story unfolded. Hell, I even liked sleazy Kasinsky with his white sunglasses and trashy car. He reminded me a lot of Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories--an arrogant, vengeful, selfish criminal with a fierce temper and more than a little bit of craziness.
- The romance. No two loves are identical, and Maggie really showcases this in this second installment of The Raven Cycle. Each relationship in the novel develops differently, but despite their differences, there is no questioning the feelings the characters have for one another. I particularly enjoyed the surprise romance--the shift in the characters, like they are seeing each other for the first time. This book is worth reading just for that scene alone.
- The character development. The characters were already richly developed from our first glimpse of the in The Raven Boys, but The Dream Thieves just takes it to a whole new level. Throughout this second installment, there are so many plot twists and life-altering events. Maggie's characters are like mirrors, reflecting the effects of these events by changing and adapting just to keep up.
- The switch in character focus. In the same sense that The Raven Boys focused mostly on the lives of Blue and Gansey, The Dream Thieves focuses on the lives of Adam and Ronan. This shift to focus on the secondary characters was, in my opinion, an absolutely brilliant move. It gives the overall story much more depth, and allows the reader to feel more like "part of the group."
- The lack of focus on Glendower. While the shift in character focus felt refreshing, the shift in plot focus did not. I know, I know, the title of the book is "The Dream Thieves," so I should have seen it coming, but I just would have expected a little more focus on the hunting of Glendower. I missed hunting down the clues, trying to piece together the past, the overall time-travel-adventure feel of the first novel. This second novel is by no means bad (as you can see by my rating), and understanding the dream world rules is very important, I just enjoyed the magic from the first book more than the magic from the second.
4.5/5 - I loved this book. The depth of all the characters, from the villains to the Raven Boys themselves, is absolutely amazing. You know you have a well-written villain when, despite all the facts, you're still rooting for them to somehow get away with it all in the end. I also loved the switch in character focus to showcase a different set of Raven Boys than the first novel did. This gave the whole gang a more real world feel, and illustrated the fact that all the characters have a past, present, and future--there are no cookie cutter characters in a Stiefvater novel, people! The only thing I didn't care for was the severe lack of focus on the hunt for Glendower. So much time is spent explaining and discovering the rules of the dream world, there is little time left to worry about a dead king. Irrespective of that, this is a truly wonderful read. The magic, characters, and romance are all extremely well done, and I absolutely cannot wait to read more. If you haven't started this series yet, you really need to. I promise you it is totally worth your time.