Hello hello! I have decided that since I was so lax in posting these in October (and the beginning of November, but shh, let’s not talk about it), I’m going to be full steam ahead until Christmas. I have several essays due and that’s a good thing, given that these make me feel productive in a non-scary way because I know I’m not going to get judged for writing them. We’re churning out more than two chapters a week, and I’m not lying!
Chapter 17 starts with a dream. It’s Ronan’s dreams, because all other dreams are boring and have no bearing on the narrative. When we’re inside Ronan’s sleeping mind, we have to assume something is coming out with us, and this dream is no exception. Well, no, it is, since Ronan’s previous dream creations have been lovely and impossible. Now, we’re in a nightmare.
This one centers around a mask that belonged to Niall Lynch. Ronan’s not at the Barns, he’s at Adam’s apartment, but the mask is there anyway. Orphan Girl tells him that it’s cheating, to dream about something created in someone else’s dream, but Ronan is Ronan and therefore does not listen. He placates her with some friend chicken, and she tells him she’s probably a psychopomp. It’s a great word, which means a sort of guide through sleep or death or the psyche (aren’t they all the same thing?). Orphan Girl says it means that she’s a raven, and somewhere, in the waking world, Chainsaw feels a sense of crippling jealousy.
Ronan announces to no one in particular that Cabeswater is gone, and that’s when Adam appears:
“Far away isn’t the same thing as gone.” This was Adam. He stood at Ronan’s shoulder. He wore his Aglionby uniform, but his fingers were black with oil. He pressed his greasy hands to the mask. He didn’t ask permission, but Ronan didn’t stop him. After the briefest of pauses, Adam took the mask from the wall and held it up to his eyes.
This, as you might have guessed, is exactly the wrong thing to do. Adam’s face merges with the mask, the dream turns into a nightmare, and the regularly scheduled “night horrors” are on their way. Ronan reaches for Adam to try and stop the transformation, but the claws that hook themselves into Ronan’s neck makes the task difficult. Orphan Girl asks Ronan to kill the monster, but he can’t. It’s Adam. Even though he knows he’s in a dream, Ronan could never kill Adam*.
*Peak Romance Alert
The only thing Ronan can think to do is rip the mask off of Adam’s face, but he hasn’t fully considered the consequences. The mask has fused with the skin; when Ronan looks up at Adam all he sees is muscle, bone, the empty socket where Adam’s eye should be.
Adam slumped against the wall, life leaking from him.
Ronan gripped the mask, his limps awake with adrenaline. “I’ll put it back on.”
Noah wakes Ronan up before he can try. We stick with him through the temporary sleep paralysis, through his recognition that he’s brought the mask back, slick with blood. He wonders briefly how they should destroy the mask but the sight of dream-Adam dying takes over almost immediately. He can’t stop seeing it. While the image is still floating in front of him, his hearing kicks in, and there’s a bad noise. A very bad noise.
It was a long, slow scrape on the wood floor. Then a rapid sound like a drinking straw in bicycle spokes. Tck-tck-tck-tck-tck.
The chapter ends with all of us wondering: it’s possible for Ronan to bring living creatures out of his dreams, but how big and how deadly can they be?
Thoughts and Feelings:
Giving us this chapter right after the last is Important! Seeing how Ronan interacts with Declan and then that leading immediately into a dream about a murderous mask? Ronan terrified that artifice will take one of the most important people in his life?? Adam, who is chasing the success that Declan already has, and Ronan doing everything in his power to save him and failing being the subject of one of his worst nightmares??? CAN I GET A HELL YEAH????
There are a lot of dream chapters in other YA books that are heavy-handed or obvious, or play into overused tropes to tell us that the narrator is Stressed and Depressed. Yeah, another dream where the narrator shows up pantsless to algebra or wakes up right before they hit the ground after falling from a tall building, I’ve seen it all before. But this dream is one of those that’s so satisfying to pull apart because everything means something, but only to Ronan. Only to the dreamer. And then for that to have real narrative consequences? Oh my God! A masterpiece!
Basically, I really love that during the day Ronan is indolently tossing his body on top of Adam’s and in his dreams he’s trying to save his life.
And then for Noah to be the one who wakes Ronan up, who’s always waking him up from dreams and finding him because Noah himself is part of the ley line on which Ronan dreams… lovely. And then, even more lovely, is Noah as a comforting presence to Ronan as he wakes up, paralyzed and afraid.
I really did start reading this chapter with the attitude of “this is going to be so annoying to summarize and unfulfilling to analyze because it’s just a Stupid Dream Chapter” but boy, was I proven wrong! But I’ve never been happier to be incorrect. It really is a banner day for us idiots, I guess. See you soon for the next chapter, where the tck-tck-tck-tck-tck is identified and hopefully defeated before it can commit any serious crimes, like tax fraud or murder.
Best Character Moment:
It was early morning. Early, gray morning, rain beating on the window beside his head. He floated above himself. The boy below him was locked in an unseeable battle, every vein standing on his arms and neck.
Best Turn of Phrase:
But Adam was already becoming something else. The mask was gone, or it had become Adam’s face, or Adam was carved from wood. Every tooth behind the smile was hungry; Adam’s elegant jaw was starving. His eyes were desperate and incensed. A long, fat vein stood out in his neck.
Action: Dude. This shit was action packed and it barely left Ronan’s head. 10/10
Magic: This magic was dope but it also made me sad, which is personal bias but this is my blog so I make the rules. 6/10
Comic Relief: The fried chicken was nice but the rest was all fraught, and stuff. I didn’t mind it too much since that was clearly the move, but this chapter won’t make you feel light and fluffy, if that’s what you’re looking for. 6/10