muddying the water, or Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater

Mister Impossible is the sixth book set in the universe built in the the Raven Cycle. It as a universe that is well-loved, and it follows one of the most beloved characters from the original series—Ronan Lynch. And it was a massive disappointment, at least for me.

This review will contain spoilers for the entirety of the Raven Cycle and the two books of the Dreamer trilogy (Call Down the Hawk & Mister Impossible). Read at your own risk.

The Raven Cycle, while still a fantasy novel, was the sort of fantasy that is small and quaint. It was set in a small town, and our cast of character we knew intimately. While there were some distinctly fantasy-adventure elements, the elements of a small town contemporary and the carefully created characters kept the book grounded and gave it an almost cozy feel.

The themes and messages were largely focused on the characters. It was about abuse. It was about being gay. It was about finding you first love. It was about the complex relationships parents have with teens. Whatever the book wanted to say was filtered through these characters, through relationships. Even if there were grander and more widely reaching implications and messages, they were still linked intricately to these characters.

In Mister Impossible, and the Dreamer trilogy in general, everything is expanded.

There is a mostly new slate of characters and of the already existing characters that are featured prominently, with the exception of Ronan, are characters that were barely, if ever, focused on in the original trilogy. Adam Parrish is mentioned very briefly, appearing for a conversation or three with Ronan and Declan. Gansey is mentioned in passing, and Blue and Henry are not even giving

In the entire book, not a single character steps foot in Henrietta, the town that the previously series is set in. The setting is much more varied. Of the three plotlines, only one of them has a set locale—the other two featuring characters who are traveling almost constantly.

The plot of the book is also a much grander thing. It is no longer a group of friends trying to find a dead Welsh king and uncovering evil creatures and magic that could end the world. It is, instead, the start of war between Dreamers and the Moderators, the mysterious group dedicated to stopping the end of the world by killing Dreamers, and the stakes for both sides are large, both trying to save the world, even if one is clearly wrong in how they go about it.

And the themes of the book? Environmentalism that borders on anarcho-primitivism. Authoritarian fascism. Genocide. Terrorism.

In every way, the book is larger. It is grander and less focused, and what it has to say casts a wider net without the character-driven nature and small town setting that rooted the book in something tangible. With Mister Impossible, this attempt to say more, to throw a larger net with the themes, and to flesh out this world further not only make for a sharp departure from the Raven Cycle but also muddies the very purpose in making the world larger.

The characters are perhaps the most well done part of the book. They are still in the same vein of the characters in the Raven Cycle in that they are characters have intricate inner lives complete with motivations and desires. Even when the characters are not good people, and they quite often are horrible people, they are still compelling and nuanced.

However, even if the characters (and the relationships, though I will not be touching on this) are just as well written, they are more disconnected from the themes. The themes I mentioned above are wider and much more far-reaching than the themes of the first series in a way that means that they cannot be tracked easily onto these characters and the journeys they are going through.

This, in combination with the character-heavy nature of Stiefvater’s writing, muddies the themes. The entire environmentalism theme is connected to Ronan and his emotional journey. But this issue is too large to be tracked onto a single character. This works to not only hinder Ronan’s character arc but muddies the exploration of the theme itself.

And given given just how character-dependent the plot is, it led to, for me, a very muddled and forgettable reading experience—and I even took the time (five entire days!) to read this book and digest everything.

Maggie Stiefvater has strayed a bit too far from the ley line for this one.

Now, this is something what I couldn’t really fit naturally into this article so here it is, tacked onto the end: Did Maggie Stiefvater really imply that this has all been something Ronan dreamed? The Moderators are dreamed things. Bryde is a dream thing. These are the driving forces of the series and it just ! did not sit right with me !


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