Oh, Chapter 23, where we leave the land of Henrietta and join the land of magic. This is what I have been waiting for ever since Neeve did her stupid bad magic scrying. All I want is benign magic and I’m finally getting it and I can’t be any happier. Let’s get into it.
They land the helicopter and the first thing Gansey does is call Noah with the coordinates so he doesn’t have to worry about remembering them or something. This is a little jolt of a reminder that Noah isn’t around and we should be missing him, and I do, I promise. I’m just very overwhelmed with what’s happening right now and Noah isn’t the only thing on my mind. Basically the landscape is beautiful and it reminds Blue of Adam, which is to say that Adam is a very beautiful boy and we should all acknowledge it. Now back to the raven!
Gansey informs us that it’s made of oyster shells, but not before he stands in the middle of the field and yells “ARE YOU LISTENING, GLENDOWER? I AM COMING TO FIND YOU!” Nobody could shout into the void with that amount of conviction and panache but a Gansey.
The oyster shell bit is significant because they’re currently in inland Virginia, and the theory is that when Glendower’s body was brought in from the coast, they figured they’d pick up some shells too, and maybe do some large-scale sculpting.
My little research kings spend some time explaining what they think is going on, for the benefit of both Blue and the reader. And honestly thank God for that, they’re answering some very important questions here.
“They used to carry corpses in straight lines to churches to bury them. Along what you call the ley line. It was supposed to be really bad to take them any other route than the way they’d choose to travel as a spirit.”
“Right,” he said. “So it stands to reason there’s something about the line that fortifies or protects a corpse. That soul. The… animus. The quiddity of it.”
“Gansey, seriously,” Adam interrupted, to Blue’s relief. “Nobody knows what quiddity means.”
Quiddity (n): 1. whatever makes something the type that it is 2. a trifling point; a crotchet or eccentricity.
The rest of the group makes some jokes at Ronan’s expense while he pees on a tree, and then talks about Glendower some more. They answer questions like “why isn’t he in Wales where he’s from” (because America was built on immigrants duh) and “is Blue’s energy anything like the energy from the ley line?” (to which Gansey calls her “the table everyone wants at Starbucks—next to the wall plug”, and if you don’t think that’s the funniest shit you’ve ever heard you’re wrong).
But then Gansey finds a stream that his top-of-the-line EMF reader is excited about, and even though Adam’s politeness forces a reminder about Helen once or seven times, they all follow him into a forest without question.
The place they find is beautiful. Crazily beautiful, the kind that defies description, and as a reader I’m sat in my bedroom like…. :(. Nature is never that nice for me. Nature in the greater Henrietta area is so beautiful, apparently, that it’s stopped Gansey and Adam’s watches and time is no longer a concern. Nobody’s freaking out, but nobody’s unconcerned either.
She was okay, but in the way she’d been okay before the helicopter. It was not that she was scared of flashing lights on the EMF reader or Adam’s watch refusing to work, but she hadn’t got out of bed in the morning expecting to encounter a place where maybe time didn’t work.
Then, Blue reaches out and holds hands with Adam. And it! Is! So! Hot! I need to know how Stiefvater can take something so mundane and middle school and make it this attractive. Frankly, I’m blown away. Gansey is a little blown away by it too, not entirely in a good way, but not so much that he can’t lead them to a little pool where his EMF reader stops working. Blue had thought it was empty but now she sees fish, which doesn’t make any sense since it’s a tiny pool and there’s no reason fish would be in it.
And then, as they try to solve the mystery of the fish, we get Gansey and Blue’s first Big Romantic Moment™. It’s a nice counterpoint to Blue and Adam’s handholding that helps confuse the reader yet again, leaving us wondering whether or not there’s actually a love triangle.
Gansey looked up to them and she saw in his face that he loved this place. His bald expression held something new: not the raw delight of finding the ley line of the sly pleasure of teasing Blue. She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.
True love has never been so easily transcribed.
Blue and Ronan break up the moment, each in their own way: Blue lets go of Adam’s hand to caress a tree and Ronan calls softly for Adam. Then Gansey drops a truth bomb! The fish aren’t real, and here’s how he knows.
First the pool was empty. Then it was full of silver and black fish. Then, Gansey was wondering how fish got to this tiny pool and used his obscure fish knowledge to hypothesize that it was something specific brand of fish that were red on the bottom. He looks back down, and all the fish have turned red.
Not a little red, but bright red, sunset red, red as a dream. Like they had never been any other color.
So, basically, this place is magic as heck and everyone is excited but also a little scared, as they should be. If you can control a forest with your own expectations, you have to wonder what’s going to come out of the trees if you expect the worst.
Speaking of coming out of the trees, Adam just stepped out of a giant hole in one of them and seems shaken up. Blue spends some time talking about what the hole in the tree looks like (gross, disgusting, full of fungus and rot) and then decides to get in the hole—which, dude, you just told me it was putrid. Why would you voluntarily climb inside? But it’s Blue, and she loves trees to the point of spiritual connection, so she doesn’t see an issue with it.
The tree shows Blue a vision using all of her senses. That might sound confusing, but what I mean is that while she watches herself being in love with Gansey and killing him with a kiss, she also feels his fingers on her cheek and the smell of mint in his mouth.
She could feel how badly the other Blue wanted to kiss him, even as she dreaded it. Though she couldn’t understand why, her real, present day memories in the tree cavity were clouded with other false memories of their lips nearly touching, a life this other Blue had already lived.
I’m loathe to call this a love story lest the stigma surrounding teenage feelings turn people off to the story, but…damn. This is a really good love story.
The way Adam drags Blue away from the others leads her to believe they saw two different things. Adam saw something that makes him feel like he needs to defend himself to Blue, say he would never do anything to hurt Gansey. Blue doesn’t ask what particular type of hurt, because she doesn’t want to tell him what she saw. She just wants to let him wipe the tears off her face and hold her hand. Some more romantic parallels for you guys to ruminate over.
The last image we get is of Gansey in the cavity of the tree looking like a sleeping king with his eyes closed and Adam’s face turned away in shame. Blue asks him what he saw. He tells her it was Glendower. End scene.
Thougts and Feelings:
I have a lot of feelings about this chapter all arranged in a neat little line of post-it notes on my desk, so let’s get into it.
Number one: the image of 4/5 Gangsey members standing in a field as seen through Blue’s eyes. First off, the grass is thigh-high on Gansey. Imagine how high it must be on Blue, who is a straight up tiny person! Is anyone else worried about ticks? I am very worried about ticks. But, also, Adam’s hair being “the same colorless brown as the tips of old grass,” and being “more handsome than Blue remembered.” He is a romantic southern hero and you can pry that belief from my cold dead hands.
Going along with that, it’s one of my greatest regrets that ink cannot fully convey the differences in accents that we’re getting from characters. It’s nice to hear that Gansey’s speech sounds like old money, but what does that mean? I’m not from Virginia, so I don’t know the difference between scared-drawl Adam, clipped-vowel Adam, and pleasantly surprised one-word-slips-out-with-an-accent Adam. I want to know these things! This is why I’m simultaneously excited for the TV show and so, so scared they’re going to squander the glorious opportunity they’ve been given. Allowing The Raven Cycle to become a bad TV show is one of my greatest fears, and it should be yours too.
Number two: there’s some banter between Blue, Ronan, and Adam about how talking to Ronan is like being hung drawn and quartered. This is after Blue and Adam had a private conversation immediately post-helicopter and Adam likens Ronan to a pit bull that Gansey is training. Here’s the thing: I love when people talk about Ronan when he’s not there. It’s insightful and fun and a lot of the time people love that little asshole as much as I do. It just seems like this part of the book is really going after him and then not giving him the chance to defend himself.
I think this is a by-product of my having read the whole series multiple times, because Ronan gets infinitely more airtime in every other novel. Dream Thieves relegates practically everyone else to side character status and just digs in, and I’m missing that depth here. Yeah, Ronan’s looking dangerous and peeing on a tree, but he’s doing it without the emotional depth and flair for the dramatic that I’ve come to expect from Ronan Lynch. Don’t call him a mean pit bull if you’re not prepared to let him call you an asshole in response, is what I’m getting at. Only nice words behind his back. Only refer to him as a misunderstood and mistreated pit bull who doesn’t have a violent nature but is a product of their circumstance. Also, stop vilifying pit bulls period. They don’t deserve it.
Number three: Blue’s flash forward to her murderkiss. It makes me happy to read that scene because I forgot how accurate it was to the rest of the series. It makes me really impressed with Stiefvater’s ability to plan scenes and carry out narratives and I don’t know if any of the technical terms are coming out right but she’s combining a scene that evokes emotion with a whole host of other complex plot and narrative devices. And me, now, as a college student studying creative writing, is like, damn, Stiefvater! You really did that. I love you so much.
Lastly: that image of Gansey. You know the one I’m talking about: that one. The one where Gansey is in the tree, hands folded, head bowed, and Blue is like “that’s probably what Glendower looked like, and I didn’t think I’d be attracted to dead Welsh kings but um…” Yeah, that one.
It was a huge missed opportunity not to call back this image at the end of the series. There’s something about seeing Gansey so clearly with this masterful description and then just…letting the image drop. Not bringing back this idea that Gansey, to his friends, is the perfect likeness of the king they’re searching for. This should be a defining image for the rest of the series, and it feels like one now. I just don’t remember that feeling coming to anything, later. Maybe this reread will prove me wrong. I hope it does.
Those are my four thoughts and my innumerable feelings. Now on to some ratings.
Best character moment:
In the cavity, Gansey’s head was bowed. He looked like a statue in a church, his hands clasped in front of him. There was something very ancient about him just then, with the tree arched over him and his eyelids rendered colorless in the shadows. He was himself, but he was something else, too—that something that Blue had first seen in him at the boys’ reading, that sense of otherness, of something more, seemed to radiate from that still portrait of Gansey enshrined in the tree.
Best turn of phrase:
She closed her eyes. Almost at once, she could smell rain—not the scent of rain coming, but the living, shifting odor of a storm currently waging, the wide-open scent of a breeze moving through water.
Action: I mean, wow. I’m frantically excited about all the goings-on. They’re exploring a magic forest and also there is hand holding and multiple visions given to them by a tree about what is/could be to come??? Sign me UP! 12/10
Magic: Magic forest magic fish magic friendships, magic everything:) 20/10
Comic relief: Ronan peed on a tree? That’s it, the rest of it was pretty heavy. 7/10