At the start of this chapter, we launch ourselves right back into the Gray Man’s beautiful brain, starting off with his reasoning for becoming an assassin. Unlike Barrington Whelk, who was just a murdering bastard, our new villain is in his current line of employment because being an academic focused on Anglo-Saxon poetry isn’t a very lucrative profession.
He preferred a job he could approach with pragmatism, one that gave him the freedom to read and study at his convenience. So here he was in Henrietta.
Although he had to give up on his dream we do get a nice little description of a book the Gray Man wrote (“Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse”) which made it onto a fair number of college syllabi and resulted in two instances of polite fan mail. I’m glad he has something else to live for, especially something as pure as looking for the old-English equivalent of the found-family trope.
But back to the action. The Gray Man is staying at a very quaint bed and breakfast run by a couple that seem nice, but overinvested. We learn two new things about our antagonist: he looks hot in V-neck sweaters and he likes his Corona with lime. He’s also very good at small talk and blending in, but then again he’s an assassin, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.
The Wetzel’s hadn’t had a boarder in several weeks, and the Gray Man allowed himself to be the focus of their intense welcome for about an hour before excusing himself with another Corona. By the time the door shut behind him, the Wetzels were decided supporters of the Gray Man.
So many of the world’s problems, he mused, were solved by sheer human decency.
That’s tea right there!! Just be nice to people, and they won’t even care that you kill stuff for a living.
He’s trying to use an EMF reader and other fun gadgets to figure out where the Greywaren is, but none of them are working. We love static-noise Henrietta, especially when it keeps Ronan from getting pistol-whipped like his brother.
Then comes, what I call, the Page of Discovery. Over the course of one typed page, we discover that the Gray Man is employed by a professor named Colin Greenmantle (remember that name). We discover that they’re looking for an object that can take things out of dreams. We discover that that object is, in fact, Ronan. We also discover that Declan is a marginally less shitty brother, since he obviously knows what his brother is capable and did a fantastic job of lying to an assassin under the threat of death.
See? Page of Discovery.
In the end, Greenmantle is pissed the Gray Man isn’t working faster. But the Gray Man is such a dope and polite villain that he doesn’t particularly care. He knows he’ll get it done. He’s confident, self-assured, and has his folder of nice words about his poetry book. We love him.
What we don’t love is the final line, where we realize why Greenmantle is so anxious to get this thing found: there are other people looking, and they’ve found Henrietta too.
Thoughts and Feelings:
Why is every adversary in this series an academic? First a high school teacher, then a man with a graduate degree hired by a Professor? Is Stiefvater trying to tell me something? Should I drop out of college so I don’t become someone else’s worst enemy? I’m not so sure my father, who also reads this blog, would be too happy about hearing that.
I just think this chapter was wonderfully inserted. It answers a lot of questions we might have about a character like the Gray Man. I’m not wondering about his motivations. I’m not wondering about where he’s staying, or what he does in his free time. I’m not wondering who sent him (even though we don’t know a lot about Greenmantle, I’m glad the reveal isn’t dragged out for too long). Stiefvater sprinkles in little hints that the Gray Man and his parents aren’t on good terms, and that something is off about his family life. That foreshadowing is immensely helpful in the chapters to come.
This is how you drop in a villain. Especially because he’s not even a villain, per se, he’s just a guy trying to make a living. And a funny one, at that.
I’m still excited to get back to the Gangsey. I want to figure out what’s going on with Adam, and watch Blue sort out her many romantic feelings, and Ronan have crushes on any boy who knows his way around a car. But this interlude wasn’t so bad. And that is a huge compliment.
Best Character Moment:
The Gray Man tugged a folder out of his duffle bag and opened it on the bedspread. A course syllabus lay on top: Medieval History, Part I. Required reading: Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse. Sliding on a set of headphones, he queued up a playlist of The Flaming Lips. He felt essentially happy.
Best Turn of Phrase:
For a moment, there was no sound but that of three consenting adults mutually enjoying an alcoholic beverage after a long day. The three emerged from the other side of silence firm friends.
Action: While checking into a hotel would be a very action-packed and anxiety inducing event for me, the Gray Man handled it without too much fanfare. 4/10
Magic: Static Henrietta is a wonderful place. 7/10
Comic Relief: The Gray Man is a wry comedic God and should be worshipped as such. 11/10