The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.29

Summary:

I want to start by saying I’m sorry that I took a week off, but I just entered midterm season and I needed a break to focus on other work (that gets graded) rather than this work, which brings me satisfaction and joy but absolutely nothing else. I’ll do my best to stick to the schedule in the future but I think I’d be deluding myself to think that anyone’s sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for these updates, so my best is just going to have to suffice for me and anyone out there reading this.

So, here we are. And by “here” I mean the same chapter in the book, because I sincerely hope you aren’t in the back of a very large van as your coach speeds over a bumpy two-lane highway. It’s not fun and I’d like to take a nap, but Noah is too important to me, so I’ll press on.

So, Gansey and Blue know that Noah is no longer alive. Or, has not been alive for some time. It’s time to tell Adam and Ronan, so he picks up Adam at work (which means this must be an emergency, because Adam’s job is one of those things you don’t get in the way of. When they get to Monmouth, Gansey just starts yelling for Noah.

He backed into the center of the room, turning to look at the corners, the rafters, searching places no one would ever find a roommate. Adam hesitated by the door. He couldn’t figure out how this could be over Noah: Noah, who could go unnoticed for hours, whose room was pristine, whose voice was never raised.

Now I know why Gansey is credited at “the one who finds things” and Adam is “the one who will go to an Ivy League college.” Gansey has the deductive skills of an explorer, and Adam has those of an observer. Ronan has the deductive skills of someone who doesn’t give a shit what they’re deducing, which he makes clear by doing nothing but shrugging and telling Gansey he’s crazy. Well, actually, he says “flipped” but that’s such a non-Ronan thing to say that I refuse to acknowledge its place in the narrative except to call it stupid.

They look in Noah’s room but it’s empty. Empty, in fact, of any signs of life at all. His bed is made perfectly, there’s nothing on the walls or scattered across the floor like there would be in any teenager’s room. Gansey makes the whole situation worse by asking what classes they have with Noah, and everyone’s forced to admit that there aren’t any. Ronan reasserts that he doesn’t care and Adam is still silently doing his best to process everything that’s being thrown at him: Noah doesn’t pay rent, Noah doesn’t eat, none of them can remember when Noah moved in with them or what is last name is.

Gansey then drops the news that he went to the church with Blue (which makes Adam feel blindingly jealous and makes me a little uncomfortable, because as much as I love the idea of love triangles the execution always leaves me feeling angry and hurt) and then spent the afternoon with the police. I don’t know why, but I guess I never imagined the Gangsey going to the police? This seems like one of those novels where everything they’re doing is a big secret and only for the kids to know about, and the police would ruin it. How would they explain their walk in the woods? Was there a fake romantic walk story that we were denied the chance to read about? Stiefvater, how dare you!

But, more important than that, Gansey tells them that they were at the police station because they found a dead body. He asks if they want to know whose it was. Noah, in an entrance that has the most drama and panache, says from the doorway of his previously empty room “mine.”

His skin was pale as parchment and his eyes were shadowed and unspecific, as they always were after dark. There was the ubiquitous smudge on his face, only now, it looked like dirt, or blood, or possibly like a hollow, his bones crushed beneath his skin.

The rest of the chapter is spent finding various ways to say “shocked and offended.” Adam is shocked, and a little confused about how he didn’t notice. Ronan is offended, because Noah didn’t tell him. Noah is both, because he did tell them, over and over, but they just didn’t listen. And can you blame them? He looked real, he acted real, so why would any reasonable teenager assume that their roommate was actually murdered seven years ago?

Gansey is the one to bring up the fact that Noah was killed (very different than just dying, if he’d just died he probably wouldn’t have stuck around). He wants to know if Noah can tell him, so Gansey can put the police on the trail of his killer. Noah doesn’t want to tell them. He draws inward, and Adam wonders if he was this shy when he was alive, or if it’s a side effect of being dead. He never finds out, though, because Noah has disappeared.

Thoughts and Feelings:

For this episode of “I have thoughts and also several feelings,” I’m going to zoom in on a particular passage and tell you why I’m disappointed in it. But, first, an overview of the chapter: it was good and well written and I liked most of it. Now back to the part I didn’t like.

Ronan began to swear, long and filthy and continuous, without stopping for breath.

Gansey’s thumb worried over his bottom lip. He asked Adam, “what’s going on?”

Adam replied, “we’re being haunted.”

I take issue with this passage as the ending to the chapter. Stiefvater has a habit of ending chapters with a line of dialogue that acts as a summation and a cliffhanger all at once, and often she succeeds. I’m thinking of the ends of the Cabeswater chapters, or when Persephone locks the narrative down with a spot-on interpretation. But this one doesn’t look forward, and it doesn’t accurately represent what was going on in the story.

First of all, I understand that Ronan likes to swear. I’m cool with the fact that he does it a lot, and I’m content with Steifvater telling us he’s swearing rather than writing out the language more often than not. However, this idea that Ronan is swearing “without stopping for breath” is giving me pause. I’ve never heard anyone swear like that. I don’t think people do swear like that. From what I’ve experienced, reactive swears are one single word, spoken with feeling:fuck.” I’m okay with calling Ronan’s swears “black painted poetry.” There’s an art to calling someone a dickwad, and I don’t deny that he’s mastered it. But this whole “long and filthy and continuous” thing is what I’m just not buying.

Moving on: why would Gansey ask what’s going on? He’s the one who gathered them in Monmouth to tell them what’s going on. He found the bones, he’s done extensive research on the ley line, and he turns to Adam—who’s smart, but who’s had literally 30 seconds to process this news—and asks him what’s going on? I’m just being nitpicky here, but that’s out of character.

And, lastly, “we’re being haunted” is just a lame last line. It has no sting. It’s not particularly true (sure Noah’s a ghost, but the word haunted comes with a connotation of malice that just isn’t there). It’s not a fun way to end the chapter, it doesn’t do the situation justice, and I know that Steifvater can do better than that.

That’s all. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Best Character Moment:

He stroked Chainsaw’s head with a single finger and she tilted her beak up in response. It was a strange movement in a strange evening, and if it had happened the day before, it would’ve struck Adam that he rarely saw such thoughtless kindness from Ronan.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The world hummed around Adam, suddenly charged with possibilities, not all of them pleasant. He felt like he was sleepwalking. Nothing was the truth until he could put his hands on it.

Action: This chapter was emotionally charged but I’m loathe to call all those feelings action…it was more along the vein of “everyone stands around in disbelief.” 5/10

Magic: All magic used in this chapter went into keeping Noah a corporeal character that we can still spend time with. If that’s not a worthy cause, what is? 11/10

Comic Relief: Literally none. This chapter was so heavy. Even Ronan asking if they were looking for drugs, girls, and guns in Noah’s room wasn’t that funny, given the circumstances. 6/10

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

I’m not in the business of writing “books reviews” so much as I’m in the business of writing “book reactions,” so my disclaimer is that I’m going to be talking about what I liked and didn’t like about whatever book I read most recently. That doesn’t mean things are necessarily good or bad, it just means they were either words in an order I appreciated, or words in an order that I didn’t.

Also, there probaby won’t be spoilers. I’m going to try and talk in circles so that I don’t reveal anything. I definitely don’t have that kind of talent, but I’ll do my best. Anyways, here goes: my review/reaction to The Book of Essie

I saw this book come up on Goodreads, and I have to say, it has one of the most captivating blurbs of all time. You’re hit with intrigue at all angles. Essie (you know, the titular character) is pregnant and needs to get married to save face for her family’s evangelical reality show. Her sister is missing. She’s trying to start a sham marriage with Roarke, who also has a secret. And guess who else has a secret? Conservative blogger turned liberal reporter, Liberty Bell.

Read that paragraph again and tell me you don’t want to go pick this book up from your local library immediately. I don’t think you can.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that it was high-brow literature. It read like an elevated version of a Lifetime movie. I’m not saying that to be mean, either–I love Lifetime movies. My mom and I record “Stalked By My Doctor” every time it comes on. What I’m saying is that many of the plot twists are overdramatized and it makes this one of the most captivating reads I’ve picked up in a while. And, unlike a Lifetime movie, it has a moral center! It deals with hard topics like conversion therapy and domestic abuse and not once does anyone in the narrative say those things are okay and get away with it. There’s a lot of forgiveness, but no lack of culpability, and that’s a win.

I’m a sucker for platonic relationships and we get the ultimate one between Roarke and Essie, which is nice. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing that he agrees to fake marry her (if he didn’t would there even be a book at all?), but that decision marks the start of a very beautiful friendship. Even though there are times when both Essie and Roarke talk about their friendship to each other (which no character would do in real life so we know it’s purely for the sake of the young adult reader that may not pick up on the emotion that’s shown and not told), they’re cute like all the time.

Roarke does not say anything, but he reaches out a finger to touch my hand. I wonder if he’s doing it just to shore up the story of our romance, but when his finger hooks around my pinky, I realize that he really means to comfort me. I smile shyly, grateful for his friendship at least, even though it can never be more than that.

See? It’s nice. Platonic hand holding and trustworthiness is good for young adult readers.

Beyond that, though, there are times that the characters feel flat. Just a little too perfect in their goodness or in their wickedness. But I don’t begrudge MacLean Weir her right to make certain characters all bad. I think she did her research on evangelical reality TV (and by “evangelical reality TV” I mean 19 Kids and Counting) and realized that the people who let that kind of stuff continue in order to preserve a television show are despicable.

Others, as well, some devout and others less so, watching with morbid fascination the seeming contradiction that we epitomized. Our family rejected materialism and popular culture, and yet we also produced it…

The show paid for everything. 

The book is very clear that this kind of show is hypocritical, and created for all the wrong reasons. This sentiment is helped along as the point of view switches from Essie to Roarke to Liberty, and so the reader wants to agree with them about all things.

There were times, though, when I was mad at them I wanted them to not be perfect. I wanted Liberty to mess up and say something stupid, I wanted Roarke to yell at someone, I wanted Essie to throw something. There was a lot of forgiveness, which makes for a nice message but doesn’t allow for the kind of anger that’s also acceptable in Essie, Roarke, or Liberty’s situation. The only person who throws a punch was Lissa, and it happens off screen and is distinctly unsatisfying.

But overall, this book’s strengths lie in the fact that it explores the kind of things that fascinate people but repulse them at the same time. Essie’s situation is the kind of horrible I wanted to pretend has never and could never happen in the real world, and yet I know it has, and I’m grateful for the happy ending both she and I were given.

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.28

Summary:

Everybody put on your suspenders and get ready for Gansey and Blue’s Big Romantic Chapter!! Now that Maura has warned Blue that she shouldn’t kiss a boy or get her heart broken, she can safely go exploring in the woods with her totally platonic friend Richard Campbell Gansey III.

But first, the ride to the church in the Pig! Blue is sitting in the front seat. This chapter is in Blue’s POV, but we have to assume that Gansey finds the sight of her hot. I do, a little. If every character in this book has a weird crush on Blue, I feel like I should too. Anyways, we start off with a nice OOTD for Gansey (aquamarine polo shirt, khakis, top-siders). Blue can’t even look at his shoes, they’re so offensive, so she focuses on the conversation they’re having about why they’re going to the church and not back to Cabeswater. It’s because Cabeswater makes him nervous, but that’s neither here nor there.

They get to the church, but only because Gansey yanks on the wheel at the last second and basically breaks his car. Blue wants to know why he has such an old car in the first place—isn’t he rich? Shouldn’t he drive a Porsche or something? If he has to have an ancient car, couldn’t he at least buy one that works? Gansey’s response serves to remind us that the Pig is more than just a car. It’s an extended metaphor for the way that wealth chafes at him, and if we manage to forget it Blue will always remind us. We also catch the small detail that Blue found Gansey’s EpiPen, which will be important later but isn’t right now.

And then, AND THEN, Gansey stretches when he gets out of the car. Blue is like “hello arm muscles?” and I am like “HELLO ARM MUSCLES!” and the Aglionby crew team sticker on Gansey’s car is like “you thought he would have the body of a scholar but you were WRONG!”

It’s about to thunderstorm, but even the weather holds off in appreciation of Gansey’s biceps, so they can set off into the woods for some good old fashioned exploration.

He strode over to the ruined church. This, Blue had discovered, was how Gansey got places—striding. Walking was for ordinary people.

The next couple of pages are revelations like the one seen above. Blue and Gansey are learning about each other, and it’s very cute. I don’t mean cute in the derogatory way, or in the way that minimizes the importance of the situation. I mean that it’s character development between two people that have a lot of differences but also have a lot in common, and it makes me happy inside. I feel bright when I think about it.

A whole host of things happen when they go into the church. Gansey has this feeling like he’s been there before, Blue has a tiny crisis over whether or not she should tell him he’ll probably die before the year is up, and the EMF meter goes wild. Blue decides they should explore behind the church, because it looks less like private property and thus they have a much smaller chance of being shot (oh, Virginia). And anyways, they can’t sneak around, because Gansey’s shirt is such an eyesore they will be immediately noticed.

“Aquamarine is a wonderful color and I won’t be made to feel bad for wearing it,” Gansey said. But his voice was a bit thin and he glanced back at the church again. Just then he looked younger than she’d ever seen him, his eyes narrowed, hair messed up, features unstudied. Young and, strangely enough, afraid.

Gansey’s emotional vulnerability previews one of the most romantically and emotionally deep conversations of the whole series, with each sentence punctuated by Blue whacking the ground in front of her with a stick to check for snakes and hornets (I say again: oh, Virginia).

It seems that Gansey’s in awe of the way Blue’s responding to all this forest magic. Ronan and Adam and Noah seem, to his eyes, nonplussed (definition: adj, surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react). Blue’s just taking it all in stride, and she attributes that to the fact that literally everybody in her house is a psychic except for her, which makes it easy for her to accept when trees say they’re happy to see her. But Gansey isn’t done throwing compliments at her: before Blue arrived they’d get one clue per month, and since she climbed into the helicopter it seems like the search for Glendower has blown wide open. Instead of thanking her, he says “I could kiss you,” and Blue takes a reflexive step away from him.

She decides to tell him about her murderkiss. He told her about his friends being nonplussed, and there’s something about getting him alone that makes him seem unmasked to her, and she trusts him. At first Gansey treats it like a joke, but when he realizes it’s serious he’s nice about it. Blue asks him not to tell Adam, and he raises his eyebrows.

Gansey’s voice, when he replied, was a little rough. “Well, if you killed Adam, I’d be quite upset.”

“I’ll do my best not to.”

For a moment, the silence was uneven and uncomfortable, and then he said, his voice more ordinary, “Thanks for telling me. I mean, trusting me with something like that.”

This seems like the moment to ask pointed questions, so Blue keeps it up. She wants to know why Gansey is looking for Glendower, and frankly so do I. This is when we launch into a flashback told in Gansey’s scared teenager voice, in fits and starts while Blue does her best not to interrupt. I’ll do my best to summarize without losing any of the charm.

His parents brought him to a fancy garden party when he was nine or ten and he decided to play hide and seek with some of the younger kids. He ran into a forest that ran behind the backyard, and went so far he couldn’t see the house. After a while he stepped on a hornet’s nest. We have a new Gansey alert, at this point in the story: compelling and vulnerable and the kind of person who uses the beautiful descriptor “they were just such small hurts, you know?” to describe hornet stings.

The bugs were in his hair and in his ears and he’d been stung hundreds of time, but after he felt his heart stop he heard a voice whisper to him: you will live because of Glendower. Someone else on the ley line is dying when they should not, and so you will live when you should not.

This was the Gansey who had written the journal. The truth of it, the magic of it, possessed her.

She asked, “and that’s enough to make you spend your life looking for Glendower?”

Gansey replied, “once Arthur knew the grail existed, how could he not look for it?”

And then the EMF reader dies. The battery’s not dead, though. When Gansey hands it to Blue her battery hands light it right back up, but only if she follows where it wants her to go. It thunders again, as if to say, “the weather is sufficiently dark and scary which makes it the perfect mood to find a skeleton:)” And then, guess what Blue steps on?

Ding ding ding! A literal human corpse. First of all, what? And second of all, what! Bones?! This was just a fun jaunt in the woods wherein we hoped Blue and Gansey might come to some sort of mutual respect and then go home with butterflies in their stomachs. But, no. Of course they find genuine human bones. Of course they discover them because Blue steps on them and they make a crunching noise. It’s disgusting and so very Stiefvater.

They find an Aglionby patch on the body (synthetic fabric decayed slower than the sweater it was sewed onto). Then Gansey finds a wallet, and a license. And here’s the Big Plot Twist that brought me to my knees the first time I read this book: the license belongs to Noah.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Oh, Noah. Oh, no. He didn’t deserve this then, and time doesn’t make it any better. The fact that he’s been a ghost this whole time was obvious (he literally answered the question “why are your hands so cold” with “lol I’m dead”) but also every time I find myself not really expecting it. I’m simultaneously happy, because this means that we can really dive into Noah as a character, and extremely sad, because it means that he is dead.

It’s a genius reveal, though. You never really expect one of the people in the main gang to be ghostly unless the book is marketed that way, and this one is decidedly not. We have a sleeping king and some psychics, but that magic is all based on hearsay and can easily be dismissed as being untrue or the product of wishful thinking. But this is a person with thoughts and feelings and a bedroom in Gansey’s abandoned factory house. This is undeniable magic, even more undeniable than the trees, because it’s magic that’s inserted itself into their daily lives without announcing itself as out of the ordinary. This is a dead boy who helps them look for Ronan when he might be in danger and pets Blue’s hair in the back of the Pig. It just makes it hurt more, because the things he’s doing feel so alive but we know that he’s always going to be this pale, smudgy boy who never gets any older and never gets to move on with his life. I want a full and happy life for Noah and it sucks that I’m never going to get that.

Beyond the conclusions I’m drawing about Noah (which will continue as we watch the Gangsey deal with this information in the coming chapters), nature plays a part in these scenes and I don’t want to undervalue its contributions. It’s stormy and thundering the entire time Gansey and Blue are checking out the woods, and the atmosphere that lends is perfect for stepping on a dead body. Beyond that, though, it’s so clear that Steifvater knows this part of America, the area around a town that’s very similar to Henrietta, and she loves it a lot. There’s a certain amount of care taken in the descriptions of the landscape that makes me want to take the time to explore rural America where before I was content to sit in my city and breathe in the smog.

On the other side of the car, Gansey tipped his head back to look at the storm clouds: living things, moving towers. In the very deep distance, they were nearly the same color as the blue edges of the mountains. The road they’d come in on was a dappled blue-green river twisting back towards town. The indirect light of the sun was peculiar: nearly yellow, thick with humidity. Apart from the birds, there was no sound but the slow, faraway growl of thunder.

Take another look at that passage and tell me Stiefvater doesn’t love Virginia. I certainly can’t. It makes me want to drive through the mountains and whack a stick on the ground to scare away the snakes and scream-sing “West Virginia, mountain mama” at the top of my lungs until I get stung by a million hornets and brought back to life by a Welsh King. It’s unrealistic, but it’s what I want. The end.

Best Character Moment:

“Aquamarine is a wonderful color and I won’t be made to feel bad for wearing it,” Gansey said. But his voice was a bit thin and he glanced back at the church again. Just then he looked younger than she’d ever seen him, his eyes narrowed, hair messed up, features unstudied. Young and, strangely enough, afraid.

Best Turn of Phrase:

They stared at each other over the body. Lighting lit the sides of their faces. Blue was very aware of the skull beneath Gansey’s skin, his cheekbones so close to the surface, high and square like those on the Death card.

Action: Blue and Gansey stepped on the skeleton of a teenage boy. It doesn’t get more action-packed than that. 10/10

Magic: The skeleton they stepped on was the bones of their friend, who is very much still walking and talking. IT DOESN’T GET MORE MAGICAL THAN THAT. 20/10

Comic Relief: Not much. Stiefvater using the phrase “ankle-height bags of foot bones” really sucked the fun out of the chapter. 6/10

The Raven Boys Reread: 1.27

Summary:

We start off this chapter with a healthy dose of self-doubt and confusion. It’s Sunday and Blue is supposed to walk her dogs on Sunday. Remember, the girl we met who worked three jobs, didn’t lie to her mother, and hated every Aglionby boy on sight? Yeah, Blue doesn’t remember her either. But she’s guilty and broke, so she’s on her way to go walk some dogs when the phone rings.

It’s Gansey, voice dripping with old money, asking if Blue is there. Thank God she waited a couple more minutes to drink her apple juice (Steifvater goes out of her way to tell us it’s “cloudy,” meaning it probably has pesticides and it is not the same quality apple juice as the kind Gansey drinks). Otherwise the whole jig could be up, and Blue wouldn’t be able to go with Gansey to explore the church while Adam is at work and Ronan is at non-dilapidated and still functioning church with his brothers.

“I have to walk dogs.”

“Oh,” Gansey replied, sounding deflated. “Well, okay.” 

“But it’ll only take an hour.”

“Oh,” he repeated, about fourteen shades brighter. “Shall I pick you up, then?”

At this point all of this nervous adorable shit is getting annoying. Or, that’s the angle I’m going with to sound like a Tough Critic™ who isn’t actually total trash who would think that Blue’s history homework was cute if they read it. So Blue is excited, if not nervous, to explore with Gansey. She wants to know more about the ley line and its energy, and so does every reader ever, so we’re all excited for her to go to the church and maybe fall in love a little bit more.

Enter Maura, stage left.

She calls for Blue in this weirdly menacing way, where she makes a one syllable name into a three syllable warning. It’s some very impressive mothering that most women can only accomplish with the use of a middle name.

“Bloo-OOOO-oooooo, my child, my child, come in here!”

This was Maura’s voice, and the sing-song rhythm to it was highly ironic. With a sinking sensation, Blue followed it into the living room, where she found Maura, Calla, and Persephone drinking what Blue suspected were screwdrivers. When she walked into the room, the women all looked up at her with indolent smiles. A pack of lionesses.

Basically, Blue’s in deep shit.

The three women spend some time talking about the cocktails they’re drinking at 10am, because Calla is already finished with hers and Persephone made them with too much vodka (think the two shots of vodka vine, but slightly more clairvoyant). The conversation only thinly veils the fact that Maura is furious. She knows Blue is sneaking around and she’s hurt and angry and worried, that Blue will kiss him and/or that she will get her heart broken. Blue tries to say that she and Gansey are nothing alike, but Maura sees right through it.

“I wasn’t sure if driving an old, loud Camaro was the male equivalent of shredding your T-shirts and gluing cardboard trees to your bedroom walls.”

(Note: the trees, as Blue is careful to point out, are not cardboard. They are repurposed canvas, which is much better for the environment).

They try to keep arguing with each other but they’re bad at it. Blue is too ashamed for disappointing her mother and Maura has absolutely no idea how to discipline a child, so they sort of agree to disagree and move on. Calla sums it up better than I ever could:

“This is what you get, Maura, for using your DNA to make a baby”

Persephone tells her not to punch someone with her thumb inside her fist, which everyone basically ignores, and then Calla reminds Blue of their movie night on Friday. They’re watching “Even Dwarfs Start Small” in the “original German,” which is code for helping Calla touch Neeve’s stuff so they can gather dirt on her. Maura says that’s fine, because the movie sounds terrible and she’ll be out anyways.

She won’t tell Blue where she’s going, instead gives her some petty answer about not sneaking around with boys, and we’re left feeling like nothing at all got resolved. Maura is still keeping secrets. Blue is still going against her wishes. It’s all very fraught, and we wish it weren’t, because we love Maura and Blue as a mother-daughter team.

But I have a feeling it’ll only get worse, once Calla and Blue snoop through Neeve’s stuff and Maura’s principles catch them in the act. Oh, well. I’m just going to have to live with the teenage drama.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Every young adult novel needs a good fight between the teen and their parents, and I’m glad it was Maura fighting with Blue. I mean, it kind of had to be, because Ronan’s parents are dead and/or sleeping, Gansey’s parents can only do “respectful debate over paté,” and Adam’s family situation shouldn’t be joked about and is, needless to say, not a place where you can have witty banter. Close parental relationships are kind of thin on the ground for the Gangsey, so I’m sad that Blue is fighting with Maura but I’m 100% positive that they’ll figure it out.

I did miss hanging out in Fox Way, if only because I missed out on scenes where women are mixing drinks at 10am. If every scene could be started out by Maura singing to Blue and Calla taking a shot of vodka I think I’d have to bump the books to 6/5 stars, because you can literally never go wrong with a tipsy Calla.

And I think it’s important that we were able to see that this new way of being for Blue, this discovering magic that see can see and not just amplify, has consequences. She’s going out and finding her own adventures, but that means leaving someone at home. And Maura seems like the type to have been presiding over Blue’s adventures for a long time, so it makes sense that she would chafe at being left behind. If this part of the book had been left out, Maura’s character would be lacking and it would make it seem like Blue didn’t really have a mother figure, and I love that Stiefvater is taking care to show us the opposite: Blue may lack for Gansey’s old money and Ronan’s stolen BMW, but she doesn’t lack for love.

This chapter also does a nice job of hinting both forward and backwards, to the other problems Blue had before she started exploring every day with her boys, and to the snooping they’re going to do. I hope they dig up some weird irrelevant dirt on Neeve just so I can make fun of her more and tell everyone why I ship Neeve and Barrington Whelk. They’re the real anti-power couple, and it would make for some good content™.

Best Character Moment:

“If you don’t tell me not to see them, I don’t have to disobey you,” Blue suggested.

“This is what you get, Maura, for using your DNA to make a baby,” Calla said.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“I’m not your dungeon master,” interrupted Maura. “I’m not going to bolt you in your room or send you to a convent, for crying out loud. So you can just stop all the sneaking around stuff right now.”

Action: All this talk about dogs, and we never even got to watch Blue walk them. 4/10

Magic: The magic of motherhood? Maybe? 5/10

Comic Relief: The women of Fox Way are drinking and it’s 10am. Get wild! 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.26

Summary:

We pick up our story at the exact moment we left off. Gansey’s getting excited about the way the word “Cabeswater” sounds out loud, because it doesn’t sound like a modern word, and that could mean Glendower. I mean, yeah, Gansey, I guess you could focus on the etymology of the word rather than the fact that Ronan literally had to time travel to write it on the rock. It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s our Gansey.

Blue decides they should go look for water, since that’s what they need to amplify the ley line’s energy. She also, in classic Blue form, wants to communicate with the trees. Blue has a thing for trees and the rest of the Gangsey is just rolling with it. As they walk deeper into Cabeswater and the trees turn to winter, which is cool and weird and scary. It’s still winter when they find the water source, and when Blue tells Ronan to say hello to the trees.

He says “salvo,” explaining to Blue that it actually means “be well,” and then Blue asks him to be polite to the trees and ask if they’ll speak to him. The physical act of saying “will you” instead of just demanding compliance seems to cause Ronan actual pain. This is hilarious, both because how Ronan is that reaction, and because he’s already taking orders from Blue. Everyone should take orders from Blue, but this is a big step for Ronan specifically. I’m sure we’re all very proud of him.

And proud of the trees, who speak back! Only Noah and Gansey can hear them, which means that Gansey has to repeat what he hears so Ronan can translate it.

“They say they’ve been speaking to you already, but you haven’t been listening,” Ronan said. He rubbed the back of his shaved head. “Gansey, are you messing with me? Do you really hear something?”

“Do you think Gansey’s Latin is that good?” Adam replied tersely. “It was your handwriting on the rock, Ronan, that said they spoke Latin. Shut up.”

The trees then talk directly to Blue, and say they’re happy to see her. They call her the “psychic’s daughter,” which is cute. And she seems really excited they’re talking to her specifically, which is even cuter. Our girl loves trees! And we love her. It turns out the trees also love Ronan, who they call “Greywaren,” and they tell him they’re happy to see him again.

I know this part of the summary is confusing, but when what I’m trying to summarize is teenagers talking to trees in a dead language, I’m going to cut myself some slack and just do my best. Basically the conversation continues when Ronan asks why Gansey doesn’t pay attention in class (rich, coming from a boy who doesn’t even go to class) and then asks the trees why they can’t talk to anyone but Gansey and Noah. They say the road isn’t awake, and that if Gansey manages to wake the line they’ll be in his debt.

Everyone has a brief moment of an existential crisis about the trees themselves, which is confusing? I’m going to put a quote in, because I don’t think I can explain it any better than that.

There was no way of knowing, either, if the trees were good or bad, if they loved or hated humans, if they had principles or compassion. They were like aliens, Gansey thought. Aliens that we have treated very badly for very long time.

I don’t think Gansey’s on something (remember: he drinks, he does not get drunk), but he doesn’t sound 100% sober. But he still manages to find out that the trees don’t know where Glendower is, and that to get out they need to go back through the seasons to get out of Cabeswater. I’m glad he managed to ask a useful question in the end, but then he kind of ruins it by questioning whether or not they should trust the trees. I’m kind of like, dude, you decided to trust Blue after ten minutes and you’re having a crisis over trusting a magic tree?

But Blue manages to convince them to follow the directions, which include turning left when they see a big sycamore. Apparently there’s something the trees want them to see, and it turns out to be a red Mustang, once tricked out with tinted windows and big rims but left in the forest to become overgrown, like those pictures of abandoned theme parks Tumblr loved so much. It has an Aglionby sticker and a dowsing rod in the trunk, and when Gansey finished describing a prickly feeling on the back of his neck Blue informs him that Noah is throwing up.

Ronan goes to deal with Noah and his retching (after a debate over which synonym for vomiting to use, everyone settles on retching, which is significant because it doesn’t require anything to actually come out of the dry heaving), and everyone else agrees that the dowsing rod is suspicious and they’re probably being watched.

The chapter ends with the nice little cliffhanger of Gansey telling us he needs more information. And, honestly, so do I.

Thoughts and Feelings

This chapter read like season 1 episode 5 of every TV show: to set up the mid-season finale we need to be inundated with information in a way that hopefully disguises the infodump as something other than an infodump. This is one of those moments where I really wish I could experience this book for the first time again, because I don’t know if I’d feel the same way if I weren’t aware of the book’s ending, and who the Mustang belongs to, and what’s going on with the trees. But I also know that even having read this book before, this chapter didn’t stick out in my memory at all, and a lot of it surprised me because I didn’t remember it happening.

We have our first Ronan/Blue interaction that’s not a fight (or at least not overtly hostile), which I’m over the moon about. Their relationship is a really special one that develops more in later books, but even then doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. I’m glad I was able to catch the small moment of Ronan and Blue and the trees that are happy to welcome them by going back through this book with a fine-tooth comb.

I also appreciate the careful way that Steifvater approaches the magic and the way that she prescribes rules to it; walking through the seasons and even questioning the intentions of the trees gives the magic a weight that a lot of other young adult books breeze past in the interest of spells and romance. Magic is only fascinating if it has limitations, and it’s only since I’ve been reading extra carefully that I’ve been able to appreciate the specific type of magic this series created.

So while this did feel a little more like an info session than some of the other chapters, maybe that turned out to be a good thing. If it were more fast-paced or had a Big Moment™, I wouldn’t have been able to be pleasantly surprised by some of the details I missed on the first read-through.

Best Character Moment:

Noah said, “further.”

Since Noah rarely expressed an opinion, his word reigned.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Their breath came in clouds, and they call looked badly underdressed. Even the color of their skin looked wrong: too sun-flushed for this colorless winter air. Tourists from another season.

Action: You’d think talking to some trees would be the weirdest thing to happen all day, but that’s actually when Ronan is nice to Blue. Progress, folks. 6/10

Magic: Trees. That. Talk. 14/10

Comic Relief: Apparently the word “puke” makes Gansey physically upset, so. Physical comedy reigns. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.25

Summary:

Hello again! I can’t wait for this part of the book, the part where the gang being together is more common than being apart. So, since I don’t want to wait, here we go:)

Thankfully, the post-gelato Gangsey hasn’t lost any of its charm. They’ve settled into a routine, which is basically meeting Blue after school (somewhere that’s not near Fox Way, since she’s still ~techincally~ sneaking around even though Maura keeps virtually no tabs on her whatsoever) and doing some kind of exploring or research together. They go to the courthouse to look at county records, and the library to look at microfiche, and some random fields to make stone circles and dick around with Gansey’s EMF reader. It’s all very intellectual and adorable.

There’s a brief snag where Blue forces them to eat at cheap fast food restaurants because she insists on paying for all her food herself, but Gansey seems bemused rather than offended. The whole thing makes Adam very proud of Blue. He’s prouder still when they introduce Noah into the mix and he and Blue get on better than anyone could have expected.

I keep gushing about friendships between characters, which I understand can get repetitive. I promise this is the last time; I just have a lot of feelings about Blue and Noah. She lets him pet her hair and she listens to his opinions and they deserve each other.

There’s some filler where Gansey keeps refusing to go back to the woods and they keep picking up Blue after school to do some more info-gathering sessions, and a nice scene where Ronan is trying to teach Adam to drive stick in his BMW. Blue shows up just as Ronan is swearing at Adam for stalling the car, and her hair smells like wildflowers. Adam finds this incredibly hot, which is weird, but whatever works for you, dude.

And then Gansey tells them they’re going back to the woods. That is, if the Pig’s engine starts. We get a nice couple of lines where Adam, Blue, and Noah sit in the back seat and Adam lets his leg press against Blue’s—you know, the kind of thing that makes this book rated R for “relatively tame.”

Time for some nice FRIENDSHIP MOMENTS for me to share with you before we get into the real action:

He saw goosebumps through the loopy crocheted cardigan Blue wore. She reached to take a handful of both his shirt and Noah’s, and tugged them both to her like blankets.

“Gas. Give it more gas.”

“That is with gas.”

Ronan punched Gansey’s right leg down, his palm on Gansey’s knee. The engine wailed high and caught. Gansey drily thanked Ronan for his assistance.

That concludes FRIENDSHIP MOMENTS, which are only there because I thought they were too good to leave sitting in the book for people to skim over. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

They drive to the woods and when Blue says she feels watched, they have a nice conversation about EMF readings to help bolster each other’s courage. Gansey marks the time as 4:13, Adam grabs Blue’s hand and tells himself not to crush her fingers, and they enter the magical forest.

A list of things that happen to them while exploring:

-Gansey loses Noah for a second (as in, Noah literally disappears and then reappears right in front of them)

-They follow the exact same path as the last time and somehow end up in a different place

-Adam feels crippling guilt because of his tree vision

-The leaves on the trees change from spring to summer to autumn in a matter of minutes

-Noah finds writing on a rock

I’d like to zoom in on the rock for a second, because it is the most important object in the whole chapter. Blue wants to know what language it is and she’s informed by Ronan and Adam that it’s in Latin. Adam isn’t as good at the language, but apparently it’s Ronan’s only strong subject in school, so he tells them that it’s a joke. Someone wrote a joke on a rock in a magic forest in Latin. Who in the world would do that?

“There’s a joke,” Ronan answered, “in case I didn’t recognize my own handwriting.”

This, Adam realized, was what had distressed him about the words. Now it had been pointed out, it was obvious that the handwriting was Ronan’s. It was just so out of context, painted on this rock with an arcane pigment, smudged and worn by the weather.

“I don’t understand,” Ronan said. He kept tracing and retracting the letters.

Everyone is shaken up, but Gansey brings up the whole time issue again: the ley line makes time an unpredictable beast, so this was probably future Ronan, leaving himself a dirty joke. It’s such a Ronan way to identify himself—don’t leave your signature, or a fun fact. That’s too easy. Leave yourself disgusting teenage boy humor, because that’s the best identifier.

And then make sure to tell yourself (or your past self) that not only do the trees speak Latin, but that they should call the forest by its name: Cabeswater. Which is a fantastic name for a magic forest, and also a fantastic name for my firstborn child. And I have dibs, so don’t even think about it.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I don’t know why, but I’m not having a lot of thoughts or feelings on this chapter. I think maybe because it’s pretty self-explanatory, in that what happens happens and what’s cute is cute. I’m glad we have more Noah and I’m glad we have some nice little friendship moments. A lot of the strength in this story resides in those moments, and the scene with everyone piled into the Pig is a particularly good scene.

I’m glad I can stop calling Cabeswater “the woods” in the interest of not spoiling anything (although I’m still not sure about my position on spoilers, since this is a reread but I like to think I’m approaching it with fresh eyes). It was kind of awkward to say “the magic forest” all the time, especially when I knew it had such a dope name that was yet to be revealed. Frankly I’m just excited for them to keep exploring Cabeswater and to continue on their journey to becoming best friends. Here’s to many more car rides where the Pig won’t start!!

Best Character Moment:

Blue permitted Noah to pet the crazy tufts of her hair, something Adam would have also liked to do, but felt would mean something far different coming from him.

Best Turn of Phrase:

As Adam stared at his lap, penitent, he mused that there was something musical about him when he swore, a careful and loving precision to the way he fit the words together, a black-painted poetry.

Action: There are two Ronans in this chapter, and one is taunting the other. And, yet, nobody gets punched, not even a tree. 7/10

Magic: Did I mention the fact that the magic bent time so much that future Ronan was able to leave past Ronan a note? That’s dope. 11/10

Comic Relief: I mean, a dirty joke in Latin is ten times funnier than a regular dirty joke. I still can’t believe nobody laughed. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.24

Summary:

This chapter is short but my fingers are still tired after typing out the summary of the last one so I’m going to make the summary even shorter. We skip a lot of stuff: the deciding to leave the forest, the leaving of the forest, the getting back to Helen. When we pick the story back up the siblings are arguing the helicopter, because Helen was mad the excursion took them seven minutes and Gansey’s stance is that she should be happy the ley line bent time, because they were exploring for over half an hour. Everyone else takes off their headphones. I wish I could, too.

We take some time to briefly explain why the ley line would be playing with time. Is there precedent? How does that even work? What the hell was that thing in the tree? The answers turn out to be yes, there is precedent (specifically in Scotland, where it’s called being “pixie-led”), the ley line plays with time because of “energy” and the thing in the tree was, um, really something, wasn’t it? Gansey thinks it was Glendower but Glendower is a sleeping person and not a rotting psychic tree. Just because they’re both on the ley line doesn’t mean it has to be him, you know? There’s probably plenty of other magical beings, the Welsh don’t have a monopoly on that particular market.

But the boy’s excited, so I’m going to let him have it. Especially since this causes him to demand they all get in the car so they can go hang out somewhere, and while Blue is demanding they get her home sometime “reasonable” (whatever that means), he comes up with THE SINGLE GREATEST NICKNAME IN THE WHOLE SERIES. In all caps so you PAY ATTENTION because this part is AN AMAZING WAY TO SHOW A BUDDING FRIENDSHIP.

Gansey asks if Blue is a nickname. She responds and he spends some time ruminating on how right she is, and on how she completes their group and how empty his life would be without her. Classic romantic stuff. And then…

He says, “I’ve always liked the named Jane.”

Blue’s eyes widened. “Ja—what? Oh! No, no. You can’t just go around naming people other things because you don’t like their real name.”

But that’s exactly what he does and that’s exactly why we love him.

They all go to gelato. They are loud, obnoxious teenagers. I was already in love with them as individuals, but this? This is the moment I fall in love with them as a group.

They drove to Harry’s and parked the Camaro next to an Audi and a Lexus and Gansey ordered flavors of gelato until the table wouldn’t hold any more bowls and Ronan convinced the staff to turn the overhead speakers up and Blue laughed for the first time at something Gansey said and they were loud and triumphant and kings of Henrietta, because they’d found the ley line and because it was starting, it was starting.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I mean, come on. That last paragraph. That’s full on poetry there, you can’t tell me it’s not. It’s like a punch to the face to every English teacher I’ve ever had who was like “that sentence is a run on” and then when I replied with “it’s creative license” they told me “grammar is more important.” No it’s not, you liars! I wish I had kept a printed out copy of this quote in my back pocket so I could whip it out and shove it in their face and prove them wrong. This is the way sentences were made to be written! Far too long and emotionally devastating!!

Frankly, I loved every word I read in this chapter. It’s short and sweet in every sense of the phrase, what with Gansey calling Blue Jane (on par with him calling her “sweetie” or “lovebug” or “you asshole,” frankly) and the references to Scottish fairy stories and Blue making fun of the Pig because it always smells like gasoline.

But mostly because: it is starting. It. Is. Starting.

Best character moment:

He smiled tolerantly at her. Rubbing his smooth chin with his recently assassinated chin hairs, he studied her. She barely came up to Ronan’s shoulder, but she was every bit as big as he, every bit as present.

Best turn of phrase:

They were loud and triumphant and kings of Henrietta, because they’d found the ley line and because it was starting, it was starting.

Action: We leave the helicopter behind but we gain a sense of group identity, which is honestly a huge plot development that should not go unnoticed. 8/10

Magic: Not much tree magic, but, I mean… wasn’t the real magic the friends we found along the way? 10/10

Comic relief: This chapter was hilarious. Blue begs to differ, to which we say: “who’s Blue? I only know Jane.” 11/10