Audio book length: 13 hrs 45 mins
Rating: 4 stars
#CBR12 Bingo: Orange
This is the start of a new series, so it stands alone. You don't have to have read Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series, starting with The Raven Boys, but it gives a lot of useful background to Ronan and the other Lynch brothers.
Official book description:
The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.
And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.
Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.
Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.
Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .
In this new Dreamer trilogy, Maggie Stiefvater takes some of the characters from her Raven Cycle, like the deeply spiky and hostile Ronan Lynch and his boyfriend Adam Parrish and writes a new story, which also gives more room and development to some who were very peripheral supporting cast, like Ronan's brothers Declan and Matthew. She also introduces a number of new characters, like the talented art forger Jordan Hennessey, who hides the fact that all the women she lives with, are in fact, copies of herself that she dreamed into being. Women who will become comatose shells if she ever dies - and with each dream where she brings forth a copy, she comes a little bit closer to that point. There's also Carmen Farooq-Lane, who works with a group of people determined to track down dreamers, and either make them stop dreaming (which is impossible, then they'll eventually die) or kill them. There is a dangerous prophecy, you see, that one or more dreamers will bring forth the end of the world. While she's unhappy about her assignment and haunted by the fact that she had to help bring down her own brother, she really doesn't feel she has a choice. She's helping to stop Armageddon.
Ronan and Declan, always at odds, are both haunted by the legacy of their father, the charming, but dangerous Niall Lynch. He was killed very suddenly, and clearly didn't have the time, or possibly just didn't have the inclination, to teach his son the art of dreaming safely. Adam, Ronan's true love, has gone away to college, and due to the dangers that Ronan can manifest when he dreams, he cannot move from the family home, and unfortunate and difficult to explain away things happen when he goes to visit Adam at school, effectively banning him from campus. Now he basically starts having guest appearances in his dreams from another dreamer, who keeps setting him tasks and leading him on a merry chase, for reasons unknown.
Declan, the eldest, left with the legal responsibility for his brothers when their father died, and their mother, a dream creation of his, drifted into sleep forever, tries desperately to appear as normal and inconspicuous as possible. He dresses to be non-descript, he makes sure to make himself invaluable to his employers in Washington D.C, but not so much so that he might get promoted into a position where people might take a good look at him or his family. Declan has trouble eating and sleeping and worries constantly, something neither of his brothers seem aware of at all. Declan comes to discover that there are more secrets in his past than even he suspected, and he and Ronan will need to find a way to work together to figure them out.
Sweet, good-natured Matthew Lynch has absolutely no idea that he isn't actually one of Niall's three sons, that he was dreamt into creation by Ronan as a child, and raised alongside the two young men he considers brother. If Ronan and Declan are united in anything, it's that Matthew is to be kept safe, and unaware of his own true nature. But something is up with Matthew. He keeps leaving his fancy prep school and running off to look at a particular river - and it may prove difficult to keep the truth from him for much longer.
As well as the Lynch brothers, we have Hennessey and her unfortunate dreamt sisters, whose doom is approaching all the quicker if Hennessey doesn't learn to control her dreams more. While Ronan learned little from his own father, Hennessey learned even less from her famous artist mother, who committed suicide in front of her. She sets a timer to keep herself from falling asleep for more than a few minutes at a time, knowing that each time she dreams properly, she brings out another copy of herself from the dreams, and comes one step closer to her own death.
There is also Carmen Farooq-Lane, who has to babysit a surly, German, teenage visionary, trying to figure out where the dreamer who is going to doom them all is located. She's dutiful, yet conflicted and frequently feels frustrated about her mission brief.
I remember thinking that The Raven King, the fourth and concluding volume in the Raven Cycle wasn't everything I wanted it to be, and was a bit let down by the ending and pacing of the book. In October 2019, Maggie Stiefvater posted a lengthy, very honest blog post, explaining just how little of the book she actually remembers writing, because she was struggling with really debilitating health problems at the time, and nearly died before they figured out what was wrong with her. So it seems the fact that it works as well as it does is remarkable.
Now that Stiefvater is healthy again, she writes as lyrically and vividly as always. She's hidden that Ronan is one of her favourite characters, and that there is a lot of her in him. He's a character who it's difficult to like, because he's so angry and defensive and sharp, but you can't help but love him. I really liked learning more about his brothers, and hope the family dynamics become something closer and healthier in the coming books, after some of the revelations in this one.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.