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‘Call Down the Hawk’ explores the weight of creativity

By: Eunice Lei Wu

These days almost every young adult novel of the sci-fi/fantasy persuasion is part of a series. And as if multiple-book deals weren’t enough, these very series also have spin-offs. Prequels and sequels crop up left and right with the same tropes, the same characters disguised in different names and different antics. No matter how good the spin-off is, you know you’ve been down this hole before.

So if you’ve picked up “Call Down the Hawk” expecting more of “The Raven Cycle,” you’re in for a hell of a turn.

From the bestselling author of the Printz Honored “The Scorpio Races” comes the first in a spin-off to fan-favorite “The Raven Cycle,” a series of four following a group of teenagers on a quest to find and awaken a sleeping Welsh king of myth.

The Dreamer Trilogy

Released on Nov. 5 last year, “Call Down the Hawk” is part of Maggie Stiefvater’s new “The Dreamer Trilogy.” You can read it without having read the original series (but why not go and do yourself a favor).

In the young adult literature industry, peopled as it can be with authors who have a tendency to repeat themselves, Stiefvater’s body of work is novel. She does things differently. And her new book literally deals with a whole ’nother animal.

If “The Raven Cycle” was about the longing and pursuit for life’s Something More, “Call Down the Hawk” explores what it means to create.

“I wanted to explore the weight and responsibility and the joy of creating,” Stiefvater said of her latest work.

Cocktail of mysteries

The new series focuses on one “Raven Cycle” main character, Ronan Lynch, who has the power to take things out of his dreams. As he goes on a deep dive into the complicated world of dreamers, the insular Ronan soon discovers that he isn’t as alone as he thought, and that the turbulent Lynch family of the dreamer father and dreamed mother, full of secrets to begin with, is not all that it seems.

Throw in a couple of brand-new faces in the mix⁠—tortured dreamer art forger Jordan Hennessy and conflicted hunter of dreamers Carmen Farooq-Lane⁠—and you’ve got a veritable cocktail of mysteries to unravel.

“Call Down the Hawk” is definitely darker, with more action, more plot and more plot twists in one book than in the whole of “The Raven Cycle” combined. Stiefvater gave a taster with “Ronan’s book” in the original series, “The Dream Thieves,” (2013, Book 2), which is closest in tone. But it is a mere dip of the toe to the cannonball that is “Call Down the Hawk.”

From heady tours in the seedy black market of impossible objects, to the enigmatic whispers of a faceless dreamer, there’s a lot more to unpack in this newer, bigger world Stiefvater has so lovingly crafted.

What keeps it all grounded is the familiarity of her brand of rich, effusive writing and character-centered narrative that have drawn in devoted readers several novels over. Stiefvater mines moments of quiet, understated intimacy in the midst of fantastical madness.

Nail-biting end

Many young adult books feel decidedly unfinished and purposefully drawn out to make more room for financially lucrative sequels, with loose plot threads and cliff endings making special appearances. While Stiefvater introduces a motley crew of new points of intrigue and leaves most of them up in the air for “Call Down the Hawk,” readers won’t leave unsatisfied.

Stiefvater is notable for writing the kind of stories where the plot feels secondary to the characters’ individual arcs. Plot moves in service of character development. In effect, every bit of unfolding action feels more meaningful. You are more involved in what’s at stake.

“Call Down the Hawk” ends with a tense nail-biter. A literal mad dash for survival with guns blazing. This is only the opening salvo, a cracking of the knuckles in literary form. When Stiefvater inevitably pulls her fist back, the blow will knock readers off their feet.