So, after spending a few weeks debating when I would read Maggie Stiefvater’s newest publication, I decided to place a hold request at the library and see how long it took.
Not long, it turned out. For some reason, I got a copy within days of publication. And I started reading almost immediately.
And within a few days, I was finished, and my overall reaction was: “Meh.”
But not even in a bad way. Yes, I will explain.
All bookdragons have experienced that moment of fear that their favorite authors have — gulp — already produced everything we want to read from them. Regarding the Stiefvater bibliography, this was the case for me. Then, as I discussed recently, I’d decided to go back to my originally-disappointing read of The Raven Cycle, with fresh eyes.
And this endeavor has been going well. Hence, why I felt ready to dive into Call Down the Hawk, which was billed as sort of a spinoff focusing on one of the main characters from The Raven Cycle. But it’s not The Raven Cycle 2.0, and therefore some people are disappointed.
I’m actually not. Why can’t Ms. Stiefvater write something different? Isn’t it up to her? Not us? Sorry, not sorry.
The prose shows Stiefvater is, in this regard, at the height of her game. It’s just what you’d expect from a seasoned author, and it’s clear she knows her characters, her plot intentions, and her method in weaving all the loose strands into one. The text makes you feel the words. The genre is definitely not YA anymore (more NA, if anything), but I don’t see that as an issue. (Others don’t agree; more on that later.)
Yet here’s why I probably won’t continue with the sequel: It just isn’t a plotline I’m invested in. And I don’t even mean I didn’t enjoy the book. Because I did, generally. Generally.
I like the idea of exploring the concept of “dreamers,” individuals who can literally dream things into actual existence. It’s intriguing, seeing what people might do with that power, how they would use or abuse it, how they might be misunderstood or even persecuted by “the rest of us”. But a lot of the story in CDtH concentrates on a complicated art heist with a world-class forger…and secret assassins hunting down and killing dreamers because they’re convinced a dreamer will bring about — dun, dun, dun — the apocalypse.
It’s all plausible, in my view. It wasn’t that I felt the premise was too much of a stretch. It’s that: A) I know very little about fine art; B) am not enthusiastic about it; C)really felt satisfied with the background we got on the Lynch brothers in The Raven Cycle, and not up for a rehashing of the canon, and D) have had more than enough exposure to “it’s the end of the world!” as a plot device.
Therefore, my official review is: “Meh.” But with a smile. If you adored this book, I won’t argue.
Inwardly, I keep going back to the most repeated complaint I saw in reviews: “It’s not like The Raven Cycle.”
Well, of course it isn’t, and it doesn’t have to be. How many times have book bloggers whined that an author only seems to write the same sort of story and characters over and over — and then, when a writer tries a fresh, new direction, these reviewers immediately grumble that the sameness is gone?
Why do a lot of fans these days seem to think they can dictate what creators produce?
As an author myself, I have to admit, that it does bother me when readers leave glowing reviews for my fantasy series, but have hardly touched my collections of short stories. Is it a marketing angle? Because I’ve pushed my full-length novels so much? Is it personal preference on the part of readers?
Is it hypocritical, because I will die on the hill of: “Maggie Stiefvater’s best books EVER are The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races“?
There are no easy answers, because art is subjective, forever, and for everyone. For creators, and for consumers.
For me, the biggest takeaway, though, is that, although I’m only “meh” about her latest release, I support Ms. Stiefvater to the very ends of the Earth.
And let’s just hope a dreamer doesn’t make that happen sooner rather than later.