The Raven Boy(s) Continued: Maggie Stiefvater – Call Down the Hawk

I have endless amounts of love for The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, and a big reason for that is the character of Ronan Lynch. When I heard Maggie was going to write a sequel trilogy all about Ronan, I got super excited. But could a story focused on only one of the Raven Boys hold up? Well… after having read this book, I believe that the trilogy may still be great, but this first book does not stand alone and can’t compete with the Raven Cycle books. Also MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Raven Cycle below!

CALL DOWN THE HAWK
by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: 2019
Hardcover: 472 pages
Audiobook: 13 hours 45 minutes
Series: The Dreamer Trilogy #1
My rating: 6,5/10

Opening line: This is going to be a story about the Lynch brothers.

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. . .

This will be a difficult review to write, not only because I didn’t love the book as much as I’d hoped but also because it felt so convoluted at times that I don’t even know where to start. This is a story about the Lynch brothers but it’s also the story of several new characters. We start with an establishing shot of Ronan – still in a happy relationship with Adam, still dreaming his dreams, still with his pet raven Chainsaw. Being with Adam, who went off to college, is not as easy as Ronan had hoped, not only because they are physically separated for long stretches of time but also because a sleepover isn’t as easy for Ronan as it is for other people. His dreams want to come out and sometimes, that can lead to good things but sometimes, it’s the nightmare creatures that follow him into the waking world. You can imagine how explaining that to unsuspecting roommates may be a tad difficult.

Call Down the Hawk also introduces two new plot strings. One follows Carmen Farooq-Lane who is protecting someone named Parsifal, someone she calls a “visionary”. Farooq-Lane works for a man named Locke and other than that, we don’t get much information for a very, very long time. Things do become clearer and her connection to Ronan’s story becomes obvious by the end but I felt annoyed with that plot line for the longest time. It’s not even that I didn’t like the characters. Farooq-Lane was as brilliantly written as all of Stiefvater’s characters and I sympathised with her. I just wanted that story line to feel more like it was part of a whole than just its own thing.

Things fared similarly with the third plot string, which follows Jordan Hennessey, who has easily become the most intriguing character in this book. Hennessey is a thief, a forger of fine arts, and also a dreamer. Her story also takes a long time to get started but once it gets going, it is really exciting. You see, when Hennessey takes things out of her dreams, they are always the same – they are always herself! So each time she dreams, she creates another Jordan Hennessey, who are real people with real feelings and hopes and dreams. That poses all sorts of difficulties, starting from Hennessey’s fear of sleeping for longer than 20 minutes at a time, over social security numbers, over appearing in the same place with several of her copies. Twins can be explained, sure, but what about four of five “siblings”?

So far for the setup and the characters. Again, Stiefvater is a master of creating believable people on the page, of making them distinct, of giving them a personality with just a few lines. I cared about all of the characters, even the annoying ones. At this point, I’d also like to mention Ronan’s brothers Declan and Matthew. Those two have so much potential and they didn’t appear nearly enough in this book for my taste. The actual story is kicked off when Declan takes Ronan to something called the Fairy Market and buys a painting there. A painting that a certain Hennessey desperately wants.

The story as such is actually rather thin and I’m not sure how much to talk about here because so many things only start making sense in the second half of the book. On the one hand, Farooq-Lane’s strange occupation drives the plot along, on the other hand, Ronan meets someone in his dreams who can talk to him and seems to know about him and his special ability. Declan meets Jordan which loosely connects those two plot strings, but as Declan doesnt’t appear all that much throughout the book, the romance I’m hoping for will probably have to wait until the next book. We jump between these characters with each chapter, mostly setting things up. We get to know the new characters, learn about where the Lynch brothers are now, but there isn’t much forward movement in terms of plot.

And this was my biggest problem with the book. While I loved the characters and the writing was superb as always, it just took too long for some kind of red string to appear. More than half the book is just set-up. In the second half, the Hennessey and Ronan stories finally come together and the Farooq-Lane story fits into the bigger narrative. There are still many unanswered questions and there’s still all of the actual plot to happen, and then Stiefvater dumps us with a very open ending that just left me feeling dissatisfied. This is a good book, no doubt, and if I had the sequel in my hands right now, I might even rate this higher. But as it is, the book doesn’t stand on its own, takes ages to get going, and by the end still hasn’t quite found its footing. For the wonderful characters and the beautiful prose, I’m still rating it pretty high, and I will definitely pick up the sequel.

MY RATING: 6,5/10 – Pretty good

2 thoughts on “The Raven Boy(s) Continued: Maggie Stiefvater – Call Down the Hawk

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I agree with all of this. Stiefvater’s writing is still so good — there’s a line where she describes Declan as having an “illuminated and specific smile” that gave me quite a shiver — but I wasn’t as engaged with the characters and the story in this one. Whereas with the Raven Cycle, that first scene where Blue meets the boys caught me SO COMPLETELY. Like you, I’m still going to read more in the series, but I don’t think I’ll love it the way I love the original.

    Liked by 1 person

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