A quick recap of the physical locations of our characters:
-Blue, Ronan, and Gansey (and maybe Noah?) are en route to Cabeswater
-They’re behind Adam, who stole the Camaro so he could get there first
-Whelk and Neeve were also on their way to Cabeswater when we left them
-Maura, Calla, and Persephone are at holding down the fort at Fox Way
We catch up first with Adam, who found somewhere to park and is now walking through the forest. The chapter kicks off with some fun forest imagery, which, after a kickass first line, gets old fast.
There are trees, and then there are trees at night.
And then there’s like three paragraphs describing what trees at night look like and why they freak Adam out. Until Adam thinks “hey it would be cool if it was bright now” and then Cabeswater is like “I gotchu dude” and it’s so bright he can’t see anything. As the light dims, there’s more tree descriptions, and Adam walks deeper into the them.
Cabeswater had become bright just as Adam had wished that it wouldn’t be dark, just as it had changed the color of the fish in the pool as soon as Gansey had thought it would be better if they were red. Cabeswater was as literal as Ronan was. He didn’t know if he could think it into nonexistence and he didn’t want to find out.
He needed to guard his thoughts.
I’ll give him this: the boy figures out the magical rules quicker than most.
He walks further into Cabeswater and finds two bowls, one full of liquid and one empty. We’ve seen Neeve perform a ritual before and we know what it looks like when she does. Adam doesn’t, but he does use his powers of deduction to know that if the bowl is filled to the brim and there’s no leaves or other foresty debris inside, it must have been filled recently. His suspicions are confirmed when he hears a mysterious voice.
Next, we catch up with Neeve and Whelk. Moving back into Barrington’s inner monologue, we hear about how he waited to make his play for freedom until they were all the way into Cabeswater. He also spends some time talking about how he misses Czerny, which I think is supposed to humanize him? But honestly, I don’t care. He killed his best friend over the loss of Daddy’s credit cards, I’m past the point of empathy.
Whelk doesn’t exactly have a plan and he wants to hear about Neeve’s, so he lets her park the car and walk him into the forest—there’s a moment where he remarks about how grateful he is that she didn’t take his car off-road, to which I was screaming “WRECK HIS CAR YOU COWARD”—before asking her about her evil plan and getting a nice detailed report of all the steps.
“…I have crossed the leg bones of three ravens I killed to show the nature of the spell I mean to do. And then I think I will bleed you out in the center of the pentagram while invoking the line to wake.”
Ew. But also, it’s a well thought out plan. More than I can say for Whelk.
He waits for her to be done explaining her plan, and then he escapes from his ties, knocks Neeve unconscious with a tree branch, and ties her up in the middle of the pentagram. The whole scene is a physical representation of what it feels like to be in a group project with someone who barely does any work and then takes all the credit.
And then he looks up and sees Adam, and the scene dissolves again.
The last group we hear from is Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and as much of Noah as can be manifested without his bones on the ley line. It’s raining, which means that Blue can’t stop thinking about her death vision, in which Gansey’s school sweater has rain on the shoulders. Every time it rains girl freaks out which, like okay. Move to Fresno or something, it probably doesn’t rain there. Or ask him to carry an umbrella. All simple solutions.
They’re walking through the woods, marveling at the magic, and then they come upon Noah’s Mustang. The dirt on the window has been wiped away by a finger, which has written MURDERED in big letters.
An invisible finger was in the process of tracing another letter on the glass. Though Blue had felt that Noah must’ve been the one to write the first word on the glass, in her head she had pictured him having a body while he did it. Far more difficult was watching letters appear spontaneously.
Summary: spooky Noah is spooky. So spooky, in fact, that he writes MURDERED so many times there is no dirt left on the windshield with which to write. There’s an aggressively cliché moment wherein Gansey apologizes and Blue wipes away one perfect tear.
And then Ronan salvages the moment when he writes REMEMBERED instead. My post-it notes say “soft boi alert” and frankly, I’ve never been more right. Ronan knows it, so instead of confronting this fact he walks deeper into the woods without a word. They all hurry after him, because the woods are starting to seem less like benign magic and more like ambivalent magic, that doesn’t care who they are or what they want.
It seemed important to keep them all within sight of each other. Cabeswater felt like a place for things to get lost at the moment.
Then Gansey says excelsior, and the chapter ends.
Thoughts and Feelings:
This chapter was a Big Boy. In the length and emotional department. I’m gonna be honest, it’s taken me almost a full two weeks to write the summary, because I’m trying to avoid having to write this thoughts and feelings bit. It has all the potential of being a monster, and yet I just don’t have the stamina to address everything that happened in this chapter. I’m used to forcing three paragraphs about a Whelk three-pager, not have relevant thoughts about genuine moments in the series.
That aside, here’s what I remember after a two week break from our precious Raven Cycle: this chapter was really aggressive about the forest imagery. Like, yeah, I get it. They’re in the woods and it’s dark. That has been sinister since the dawn of time; have you ever read Hansel and Gretel? They were so scared of the woods at night that they’d rather be eaten by a literal witch.
Other than that, this feels like Stiefvater moving chess pieces around. In the creative writing class that I have now finished taking, my professor spent quite a bit of time talking about what he called “mechanical scenes,” where the writer decides Kevin needs to get from his house to the park and then writes two pages where he zips up his raincoat, gets in his car, and drives through town. This pointless scene could be avoided by just writing two scenes: the one at the house and the one at the park. Cut out the middleman! Don’t make me read 2 pages about Kevin driving his car!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sucker for Ronan’s soft moment. I like hearing about how good Adam is with rules, especially when they’re magic. And during the Whelk scenes I started to ship him and Neeve, semi-unironically. But I feel like we’re sitting here waiting to hear about the moment where Adam and Whelk meet, and instead we’re stuck here watching Stiefvater move chess pieces. One of those chess pieces has a gun and one has a large knife, but still. I’ve never been big on chess.
Best Character Moment:
Neeve caught a glimpse of him and imagined that he was upset over his approaching death. “Oh,” she said mildly, “don’t be like that. It will not hurt very much.” She reconsidered what she had said, and then corrected, “At least not for very long.”
Best Turn of Phrase:
There are trees, and then there are trees at night.
Action: See previous: “I’ve never been big on chess.” 5/10
Magic: This was dripping in magic. DRIPPING. 10/10
Comic Relief: It had its moments. 7/10