Image courtesy of amazon.com
By Caroline Morris
Imagine that you can pull dreams from your head. This book is that dream as well as the mind it was pulled from, holding infinitely more dreams inside.
Mister Impossible, written by Maggie Stiefvater, was released on May 21, 2021. The novel is the second installment of the Dreamer Trilogy, a spin-off series tangential to Stiefvater’s #1 New York Times bestselling series The Raven Cycle.
This middle novel continues the journey of the whole series: Ronan Lynch, a haunted teenager from rural Virginia with the ability to take dreams out of his head, is on a mission to fix the broken nature of the world. Meanwhile, he and his companions, Hennessy and Bryde, are being hunted by the Moderators, a group trying to prevent the end of the world, which is prophesied to come by an unquenchable, dreamt fire.
Despite the novel’s somewhat pedestrian title—inspired by a song from musical duo Phantogram—Mister Impossible is a masterpiece.
Stiefvater has a gift for the ethereal and bending the mind of the reader. This trilogy involves a type of magic and fantasy that does not operate within the realm of logic or effability because, as we’ve all experienced, dreams also exist outside of such boundaries.
In spite of this seemingly insurmountable task—to understandably write a world that concerns the indescribable—Stiefvater triumphs. She accomplishes this through decadent descriptions that strike the heart rather than the mind. Stiefvater does not make the mistake of attempting to make the logical brain comprehend the illogical. Rather, she uses language that evokes the emotion she wants to convey so that the reader understands intuitively the message that can’t be put into words—except for those that Stiefvater has meticulously and inimitably curated.
The magic of this world is inextricably linked to ley lines, lines of supernatural energy that span across and connect the world. They are what fuel the dreams dreamers take out of their heads, but only few can sense them.
“Ronan felt it uncurl through him, like vines stretching toward the sun. It was the humming possibility of his dreams, the sense of ever-widening options, but he was awake.”
After reading Stiefvater’s lush descriptions of the ley lines and the natural world to which they are connected, the reader can’t help but go outside, close their eyes, and try to feel the pulse of the line beneath their feet.
Beyond the construction of fantastic worlds and plots, Stiefvater also has a gift for characters. Bryde, introduced solely as a mysterious voice in the first book of the trilogy, Call Down the Hawk, is present and acts as a dreaming mentor to Ronan and Hennessy in this book. Ronan is his primary focus and he attempts to teach him how to dream without danger, a skill Ronan thought he’d mastered.
“Don’t eat dreams, Bryde had chastised him. At best they’ll starve you and at worst they’ll control you. Dreams are like words, they’re like thoughts. They always mean more than one thing. Are you sure those pills only made you sleep?”
Mister Impossible also engages more with previously minor characters, such as Ronan’s brothers and Hennessy’s dreamt clone Jordan, and it begs the philosophical question of the realness and moral implications of a person dreamt out of another person’s head.
But the most compelling character is Ronan Lynch himself. For fans of The Raven Cycle, getting to enter more deeply into his fleshed-out psyche is immensely satisfying. For those first meeting the Irish-Catholic boy made of B.S. and talons who dreams of a quiet life on his farm with his boyfriend Adam, he is heartrendingly compelling. In Ronan, Stiefvater brings together elements that should be fundamentally incongruous, yet fit together in this torn young man who struggles to reconcile the different versions of himself. This includes Ronan’s awake and dreaming selves, a gap he struggles to bridge.
“Protector and guardian—that is what you are supposed to be. King and shepherd both… There are not two of you. Your waking self cannot ignore what your dreaming self needs, because they are the same.”
One of the most impressive aspects of Stiefvater’s writing is its intelligence. The plot that involves the minor characters has a strong focus on art, and so the novel is filled with rich reflection on art history and painting. She also includes small nods to classical education that function on their own but elevate the caliber of the book to the observant reader: for example, Ronan’s sword being engraved with the words Vexed to Nightmare, which is a reference to W.B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. This intellect pervades the work without talking down to the reader or expecting an extensive classical education to enjoy the book on its own terms.
Mister Impossible is a triumph both as a novel and the second installment of a trilogy. Book two is where trilogies can fall flat, but Stiefvater has avoided this common pitfall with a rich world, captivating characters, and a plot that pulls you along, page after page.
Hennessy describes seeing manifested dreams as “brain-breaking,” and the ending of this dream-filled book lives up to that expectation. Until the final book of the trilogy comes out, Mister Impossible will follow me into my dreams.