Remember when I told you this book let you in to new sides of Ronan that you’d never seen before? Well, I wasn’t kidding. This chapter opens with an in-depth look at the life and times of Declan Lynch, which greatly informs why our phone-hating, school-ditching, tattooed Ronan is the way he is.
Also, the fun twist is that it’s all through the eyes of a hit man, so. That’s especially fun.
Declan Lynch, the oldest of the Lynch brothers, was never alone. He was never with his brothers, but he was never alone. He was a perpetual-motion machine run by the energy of others: here leaning over a friend’s table at a pizza joint, here drawn into an alcove with a girl’s palm to his mouth, here laughing over the hood of an older man’s Mercedes.
(Why the hell is some girl’s palm on Declan’s mouth? That strikes me as distinctly unsexy. As someone who has been a girl for 19 years, I wouldn’t flirt palm first. But that’s just me.)
This is all to say that the Gray Man (yes, the assassin is called “The Gray Man”) is waiting for Declan to be alone, and it is taking a very long time. He follows Declan around as he navigates Aglionby in the summer, and we get some gratuitous descriptions of a well-manicured prep school that confuse the hell out of me. Am I supposed to feel bad for these rich boys living in dorms over the summer? Is there any way in hell I’d believe that instead of numbers, the rooms are labelled with attributes like “piety” and “effervescence?” Because, okay. I get that this is a rich person school. I also go to a rich person school, and our dorms have numbers like everyone else.
We get some fun internal monologue from the Gray Man, who is infinitely better than Barrington Whelk because he thinks thoughts like this:
The Gray Man checked his watch. The rental car place closed in an hour, and if he despised anything, it was public transportation. This would have to be brief.
The Gray Man busts down the door. To his credit, Declan recovers quickly and starts to fight, but he’s really getting his ass handed to him. Then, of course, the gun comes into play.
Stiefvater makes it very clear that Declan keeps the gun not as insurance for if, but when. He’s just not ready for the Gray Man to throw a motorcycle helmet at him, take the gun, and then pistol-whip him several times across the face. It’s grim.
The Gray Man wants to know where the Greywaren is. He’s willing to shoot Declan in several vital organs to figure it out. After maybe the third time Declan says it, the Gray Man decides to believe it, and then Declan gets a little more homework and finds out who killed his father.
After he pretends to leave, the Gray Man stands in the hallway and watches Declan through a crack in the door he just broke. Declan calls Matthew, first, but he left his phone in his room. Which is the same room as Declan’s! That’s sweet. We stan Matthew. He then calls Ronan. We know this because nobody picks up, and also because Declan says “Ronan, where the hell are you?”
Which, honestly, is what we all want to know.
Thoughts and Feelings:
Empathizing with Declan is new to me. This chapter makes it so easy, and also so hard. The thins about Declan is that he had the same father as Ronan but nowhere near the same amount of affection. He’s also everything that Aglionby loves a man to be, which isn’t objectively bad. It’s just a little too slimy for most people’s liking.
And yet there’s the image of him lying on the floor, nose broken, shoulder dislocated, calling his little brother before he calls 911. Sleeping with a gun in his dresser drawer because he knows, at some point, somebody is going to try and kill him. So different from Ronan, who would never be content to wait for something to come to him, but just as young. And just as parentless!
The Lynch boys are all kinds of messed up and I just want them to have a few soft moments. Is that too much to ask? (Not for Matthew, who spent this entire chapter chilling on a boat with his friends, but for the other two).
As for the introduction of the Gray Man, I know it’s only been one chapter so far, but as someone who’s read the books many times before I’m going to spoil something really quickly: we like him. He’s fun. He’s the best villain we get in this series.
Best Character Moment:
But the Gray Man had known before he arrived that Niall Lynch had taught his sons to box. The only thing the Gray Man’s father had taught him was how to pronounce trebuchet.
Best Turn of Phrase:
The Gray Man had been called effervescent, once, in an article. He was fairly certain it was because he had very straight teeth. Even teeth seemed to be a prerequisite for effervescence.
Action: There’s a gun! And a fight! It’s insane!!! 15/10
Magic: Unfortunately, Declan is not as magical as his brother. 4/10
Comic Relief: The Gray Man has very hard opinions on things. It’s a real treat to read about them. 8/10