***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***
Holy cow, Maggie Stiefvater is holding my attention with a series! That almost never happens.
I love the interpersonal relationships in these books. I love the family dynamic at Blue's house. I love the way many adults (Blue's female relatives and roommates, Gansey's sister to some extent) are very much part of the main characters' lives, and even of the adventure. In this book we begin to see Gansey's family dynamic, too, and I was glad to see that it was close-knit while also being (apparently) conservative, with no hidden judgment of their politics (although their Republican guests sometimes appear foolish). I love the wounded nature of so many of the supporting actors. The southern setting oozes off the page like molasses. There's a playfulness in much of the narration that borders on laugh-out-loud funny at times.The characters are fully fleshed out (with the exception, I think, of Kavinsky, who is quite flat).
And as usual, I love the the fact that everyone in this book has a passion, a research interest, a hobby, or a job he or she is pursuing, almost obsessively, and that friends and family value each other based on what Martin Luther King would call the content of their character. Those are very subtle, healthy messages that aren't common in YA novels. (More often, there are hidden unhealthy messages. I was disappointed, for instance, that in Shadow and Bone, using magic makes Alina more attractive. Even though Bardugo was careful to comment sort of negatively on it, the stronger fact remains for readers that the most powerful characters are the most beautiful.)
There are imperfections, though. The POV switched around occasionally randomly and abruptly. But I'm listening to these on audio and the narrator, Will Patton, is seamless about adjusting to and interpreting the changes, so he makes those transitions feel less random. (I'm lucky enough to have the print editions, too, which is the best of both worlds because I enjoy reading the spelling of the names and the Old English, and skimming through to see how the prose reads, visually)
Adam's powers are a bit of a surprise in this book: when he was in the circle in Book 1 he sacrificed himself to the Forest by promising to be its eyes and hands. At that moment a bond was established between him and the ley line, so that he could feel it and heal it where it was broken. Throughout this book he ignores the signs of his new "gift," the changes within him, and the calling--they feel tormenting--until the end of the book, when he comes into his own. By the end of the book we know that Blue, Ronan, and Adam all have some sort of magical gift, so Gansey is undoubtedly next.
The story is primarily Ronen's. We learn that his secret is that he can retrieve objects from his dreams. We learn that his dad's secret was the same, and that he made himself rich that way. We learn that the Gray Man killed Ronen's dad, on the orders of his boss, Greenmantle.
There are unfortunate loose threads and plot holes, although I suppose there's still a hope that they'll be tied up. For instance, I'm wondering whether Blue's slightly sudden attraction to Gansey is going to be (a la Monstrous Beauty) the result of some sort of ancient connection between their souls. Gansey is described very often as being both old and young--recall the woman at his mom's party being genuinely stymied until she looks at Adam and sees what a seventeen-year-old really looks like, and guesses seventeen (by analogy) for Gansey, too. I wouldn't be surprised if Gansey is Glyndwr. But how does Maggie explain away the dragon that's lying comatose on the drag strip after Kavinsky's death? So far the rest of the town doesn't know about magic--the dragon ought to be a rude awakening, but the last chapter and epilogue don't address the town's reaction. (Ronen's Night Horror is out of the picture, having flown off.) Are we meant to forget about the dragon ("Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!") or will the ramifications of its existence be included in the next book?
The Gray Man's boss, Greenmantle, is way too intelligent not to send someone out to Henrietta to find out what happened to the Gray Man's brother--wouldn't he want confirmation from the brother that the Gray Man had been killed? And once the Gray Man "disappears" (into Blue's mom's bed), would Greenmantle really rely on the Gray Man's last report that the Graywaren wasn't in Henrietta? Henrietta is where the trail went cold! Of course Greenmantle would send someone there to follow up. And speaking of Greenmantle, would he really search for an object that can pull real things from dreams and merely want to put it under glass in his cabinet of wonders? An object (or person) like that could make him not just rich but insanely powerful. It's asking a lot of us to believe that he's so eccentric he'd destroy or disable such a treasure, given how well he has masterminded this hunt. Come to think of it, would Greenmantle really have had Ronen's dad "killed messily," where Declan would find the body, so Declan would confess to where the Graywaren was? Wouldn't Greenmantle instead kidnap the dad, with the ransom being the Graywaren? Wouldn't Greenmantle assume that the dad might have information, too (information that would be lost with his death)?
I believe these are all genuine loose ends that are somewhat swept under the rug. I was so on board for the ride, I really wanted to believe they weren't there, but try as I might, they nagged at me.
But bring on the third book, Maggie, you sly dog. I'm still with you.