This is the second in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series, so will most definitely (probably?) contain spoilers for the first novel.
At the end of The Raven Boys, we learn that Ronan, Gansey’s difficult, hot-tempered friend and (ware)house-mate, pulled his pet raven, Chainsaw, directly out of his dreams. (That was a weird sentence I just typed.) This novel picks up that thread and runs (and runs and runs) with it and IT IS DELIGHTFUL. And also sort of horrifying and worrisome.
Ronan inherited a very special gift from his father, who was murdered the year before. He can take things out of his dreams. These can be good things, unbelievable things, or hellish nightmares that should never be brought into this world. Ronan doesn’t completely understand this gift but he wants to, even as he struggles with his more “normal” day-to-day existence, fighting with his older brother, hardly trying at school, and grieving for his murdered father. His only familial solace is his younger brother, Matthew, as kind and open as Declan is hard and unforgiving. He’s not permitted to set foot at The Barns, his family’s home, due to his father’s will. His mother is still a resident there, albeit an extremely quiet one.
I think of this book as belonging to Ronan, as it follows his struggles with all of the above, but Adam, Gansey, and Blue all go through some transformative moments, as well. Particularly Adam, who is coming to terms with the fact that he basically turned his body over to Cabeswater in the previous book. He’s not quite sure what that means, only that he hears voices and sees ghostly figures. He’s also now living on his own, having moved out of his abusive father’s home, and he’s struggling with paying bills and balancing school and the Glendower-quest with his many odd jobs. Adam is also feeling moments of extreme rage, which he finds understandably terrifying (as they are reminiscent of his father) but it’s also frustrating to watch him push his friends away because they don’t understand what’s going on with him. Adam has never wanted to accept help from the privileged Gansey and the two have some growing pains in this novel as a result.
Speaking of Gansey, he’s becoming frustrated with the search from Glendower, as the ley line (you know, the one Adam woke up) and Cabeswater keep flickering out of existence (ditto, Ghost!Noah). He seems to be floundering, particularly when Cabeswater disappears, in both his quest and his personal life. There are the aforementioned fights with Adam, but he’s also hella into Blue.
Blue is still trying to pretend that Adam’s the one who lights her fire, but her denial can’t stick around forever. Adam starts to get pretty fed up that Blue won’t kiss him and he’s kind of a dick about it, though I did find myself wishing she’d just come clean about why. It turns out that Blue is as worried about kissing him for “can’t kiss her true love” prophecy reasons as she is about whether or not he’s really the one she wants to be kissing. (Spoiler alert for those not paying attention: she wants to kiss Gansey.)
Noah pretty much a ghosts out of this one, though he does have some significant (read: heartbreaking) moments.
I did enjoy that Maura (Blue’s mother), Calla, and Persephone took on more of a role in this novel. Especially since they’re the adults most appropriate to deal with all the magic goings on. There’s also the introduction of a love interest for Maura in the form of Mr. Gray, a hit man who’s searching for something called the Greywaren for an unseen employer.
I find myself even more drawn to these characters the second time through. It’s making me a bit sad that the series is almost over, especially since I worry it’s only going to end in more heartbreak.