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

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