The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.9

Summary:

This chapter is an emotional rollercoaster. Please keep all your limbs attached and maybe grab a cupcake (gluten-free or otherwise) in case this gets too much for all of us.

Gansey’s phone rings in the middle of the night just so Stiefvater can give us the delicious detail that he’s basically blind and sometimes he wears glasses. Cue thirteen-year-old me picturing Gansey in wire-frames and losing my goddamn mind. Originally he’s pissed, but when he realizes it’s his ancient scholarly friend Dr. Roger Malory, he’s ready and eager to learn. Except it’s Malory, so he doesn’t learn anything. At least, not right away:

Malory launched into a one-sided conversation about the weather, the historical society’s past four meetings and how frustrating the neighbor with the collie was. Gansey understood about three-quarters of the monologue.

After I take a minute to fall in love with Roger Malory, we get to the good stuff: the theory is that the ley line is so hard to find because it’s sleeping, and the best course of action would be to wake it up. Although all it takes to wake Glendower is to find his tomb and shout “HEY OWEN GET UP,” the ley lines are underground and won’t be so easy to rouse. Malory’s found a ritual he’s going to try on his own UK version of the ley line, and says he’ll be in touch. After one more story about his mother’s death at the hands of the British healthcare system, he hangs up and leaves Gansey to stew in his own impatience.

He wanted nothing more than to start scouring books for further support for this new idea, school day be damned. He felt a rare stab of resentment at being a teen, being tied to Aglionby; maybe this was how Ronan felt all the time.

Gansey wants to talk to someone about this frustration and thinks Ronan might be his best bet, given the whole you-feel-how-I-feel-let’s-commiserate conversation they’d probably have. Unfortunately, Ronan’s room is empty and he’s not answering his phone. This is where the present has to stop for the past: we’re discovering both Adam and Ronan at the same time and Gansey’s panic makes perfect sense.

The first thing Gansey does is call Adam. All he has to say is “Ronan’s gone” and Adam agrees to go looking. The very act of calling Adam reveals how desperate the situation is, though:

It wasn’t an easy thing to leave the Parrish household in the middle of the night. The consequences of getting caught could leave physical evidence, and it was getting too warm for long sleeves. Gansey felt wretched for asking this of him.

And Noah reminds Gansey why he was so desperate in the first place just by emerging from his room.

Six months ago, the only time it mattered, Noah had found Ronan in an introspective pool of his own blood, and so he was exempt from ever having to look again.

Gansey isn’t the only one who feels wretched.

The BMW’s engine is cold and Noah had suggested Gansey try the church, so that’s where he goes. He finds Ronan lying in a pew and Steifvater gives us a page of suspense as she spins beautiful descriptions of Gansey’s terror. We’re relieved to hear Ronan is awake and drunk off his ass. And also, it seems, holding a baby bird. The bird is a raven, which excites and confuses Gansey. Glendower’s bird is the raven( but Ronan, who’s slurring his words and reeks of alcohol, is decidedly not Glendower). Eventually Gansey agrees to let the bird live in Monmouth anyways, and he does his best to drag Ronan home.

As Ronan unsteadily climbed to his feet, the raven hunched down in his hands, becoming all beak and body, no neck. He said, “Get used to some turbulence, you little bastard.”

“You can’t name it that.”

“Her name’s Chainsaw,” replied Ronan, without looking up.

Noah emerges from the shadows in the church, where his sole purpose seems to be allowing Ronan to insult him. The Gansey that was frantic over Ronan gives way to the one we knew at the beginning of the chapter, nerdy and eager and open. He’s happy Chainsaw joined their little crew, because she’s a raven and he’s hunting her king. And then, they all go home and get back to hunting. The end. 

Thoughts and Feelings:

This is the chapter where Ronan’s character bursts wide open. I may have taken issue with the overload of imagery describing Ronan as “sharp” and “dangerous” in previous chapters, and I stand by that statement. But if I could quote the entire chapter in the summary, I would—there’s really nothing I can say to do it justice or quote I can pull out to encapsulate it. Stiefvater weaves through this idea that the magic in Henrietta, the magic that Blue’s family is drawn to, the magic that Gansey has traced here, is not entirely benevolent. And neither is she.

These characters have such full experiences before we even get to them, and we’re able to understand the breadth of these experiences without pages and pages of flashbacks or character therapy. The line “Sometimes, Gansey felt like his life was made up of a dozen hours he could never forget” does it all right there. It’s an insane narrative feat that I’m still not over, and this book was published in 2012.

Also (I haven’t fully figured out how much I want to include spoilers yet, but know that this paragraph will contain a lot of them if you need to look away), the amount of foreshadowing in these ten pages alone is astounding. Noah is ghosty not once but twice, Ronan literally admits Chainsaw came from his mind, and Gansey thinks Ronan is dead and only waking up because he commands him to. That’s covering major plot twists from Dream Thieves and Raven King, not to mention really hammering home the fact that Noah does not look like a regular boy immediately before a Whelk-POV chapter. It’s hovering right on the border between subtle and obvious and I have to say if I was a first time reader I probably still wouldn’t get it.

What I do get is how utterly hilarious Gansey’s reaction is when Ronan accuses him of hypocrisy. “I drink,” he says, “I do not get drunk.” If there was anyone who was trying to argue that Gansey isn’t a 40-year-old man, they should stop right now. What kind of teenager gets home from school and pours themselves a scotch on the rocks to begin work on their cereal-box model of small-town Virginia? I would’ve said no kind, but honestly now I can’t imagine Gansey doing anything else.

All right, my brother is snoring in the room next to me and if I don’t stop typing and try to go to sleep I’m going to go crazy, so I’ll end it here. Just know I can’t stress enough how beautiful and haunting this chapter is and nothing I say can do it justice.

Best character moment:

“What if I implement a no-pets policy at the apartment?”

“Well, hell, man,” Ronan replied with a savage smile, “you can’t just throw out Noah like that.”

Best turn of phrase:

And there Ronan was, stretched out on one of the shadowed pews, an arm hanging off the edge, the other skewed above his head, his body a darker bit of black in an already black world. He wasn’t moving.

Action: The Gangsey goes on a wild goose chase but finds a raven instead. If that’s not action-packed what is? 10/10

Magic: It’s dark and spooky and malevolent until Gansey reunites with Ronan, and even then it’s not good or bad, just…lurking. That’s the kind of magic I signed up for! 12/10

Comic relief: In a dark chapter, Malory, Noah, and drunk Ronan are here to lift us up. 8/10

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