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