The beginning of this chapter made me feel so known, but probably not by any intention of Stiefvater’s. Gansey is wide awake and doesn’t know what to do with himself because sometimes, even though he quit the crew team, he still wakes up at 4:45 in anticipation of morning practice. He knows the struggle and I’m here to tell him that it never goes away. Morning swim practice still has me up in a depressed panic at 5am Thursday mornings, and I stopped swimming three whole years ago.
But, the story. It’s important that Gansey’s awake because he needs to go be sad in the Pig about the loss of Cabeswater. It’s always been strange to me how much these boys love their cars, and this is just the cherry on top of the cake: when Gansey is feeling particularly sad he heads to his Camaro to just sit inside and wallow. Stiefvater even gives us a description of a mosquito buzzing adding to the depressing ambiance, to which I said “brush it away, you dummy!” An astute observation made by a real scholar, thank you for noticing.
Noah comes to get Gansey because, if you remember from last chapter, Ronan dreamed his nightmares into reality. He’s led inside wordlessly by Noah, and takes a second to observe Ronan, who is conveniently facing away from Gansey and looking dramatic, as to better be observed.
This Ronan Lynch was not the one that Gansey had first met. No. That Ronan, he thought, would’ve been intrigued but wary of the young man standing in the motes of dust. Ronan’s close-shaved head was bowed, but everything else about his posture suggested vigilance, distrust… He was a snare for you to step your foot in.
Ronan says something in Latin, purely for The Drama. He backs up this statement by turning to face Gansey, showing off his blood-covered hands and taking his sweet time in saying that the blood isn’t his, it’s Adam’s (Noah is quick to point out that he means dream-Adam’s, real Adam is safe in his bed at St. Agnes).
In Raven Boys, there’s a significant amount of tension around an incident that happens before the narrative starts; the night Noah finds Ronan in a pool of his own blood. We find out now that it was one of Ronan’s nightmares that did that. He let Gansey believe it was attempted suicide because Niall said never to tell anyone, but they’ve moved beyond that now. Ronan can tell his own family.
At once he was incensed Ronan would have allowed him such continuous fear and relieved that Ronan was not such a foreign creature after all. It was easier for Gansey to wrap his head around a Ronan who made dreams real than a Ronan who wanted to die.
(I’m not super sure about the language here—people with mental health issues aren’t “foreign creatures”—but I also understand it’s coming from Gansey’s point of view and he’s probably not the most well educated about mental health, just thought I’d point out how the language makes me a little bit uncomfortable!)
With this confession out of the way, Ronan is free to let Gansey know that there’s a nightmare locked in his room. Or, no, he doesn’t exactly do that. He tells Gansey to grab a knife and asks him if he’s ready. Gansey is like, “ready for what?” and Ronan is like “my dark twisted mind XD” because, let’s face it, he’s the biggest drama queen in the world.
There’s a fight that’s quick and fast and reasonably well described. At one point Gansey grabs a beer bottle off Ronan’s nightstand and hits the monster with it, which, okay. I’m a college student and the idea of drinking out of a bottle of beer by myself is crazy, nobody is rich enough to just crack open a Corona in their room. Guess me and my poor canned beer friends can let ourselves out.
The fight ends when Gansey gets hooked under the chin by a claw and Ronan goes in for the kill, carefully disentangling Gansey from his possible death once he’s done.
Released, Gansey scrambled back from the creature. He pressed the back of his hand to the wound on his chin. He couldn’t tell what was his blood and what was its blood and what was Ronan’s blood. Both of them were out of breath.
“Are you murdered?” Ronan asked Gansey.
Gansey is not, in fact, murdered. ‘Tis but a flesh wound, and they both sit on the floor to calm down. Gansey finally figures out what the hell Ronan was saying in Latin way back at the beginning of the chapter (“A sword is never a killer; it is a tool in the killer’s hand”), they both notice Noah is gone. And then, in classic snappy-one-liner-to-end-the-chapter style, we find out that Ronan was already cut up when Gansey saw him because he couldn’t have just dreamt one nightmare, he had to dream two. And, of course, one got away.
Thoughts and Feelings:
This chapter is cool because they fight a dream monster. Like, that’s dope. They’re taking the phrase “slay your demons” in the only literal direction that matters: using a crowbar and a Stanley knife to kill that asshole from your dreams.
I don’t know if Gansey was necessarily the right choice for a POV, though. I understand the desire to reveal what the nightmares are slowly, and to preserve an element of surprise that makes me want to keep reading. But the constant comparisons Gansey makes to the “old Ronan,” who wouldn’t be “like this” and who Gansey misses like crazy? Infinitely bothersome. Stiefvater thinks of teenagers as so changeable, able to become completely different people in no time at all, and yeah. Teenagers change faster than anyone else, and trauma speeds up that process. But we never met that “old Ronan” Gansey talks so much about. Frankly, I don’t know if I’d want to meet him. I can’t get a read on his character- does he have any flaws? Was he still quick-tempered and sarcastic? Angry? Misunderstood?
It doesn’t make sense that we should spend so much time mourning a character we’ve never met, especially not when we’re so clearly meant to love the version we have now. And I’m realizing over the course of reading this book that the fans of this series have infantilized Ronan a little bit. They’ve softened him around the edges by constantly calling him “baby” and pointing out the few times he’s nice to the people around him. Which, yes, that’s a part of his personality, but there are plenty of other parts that are just as prevalent. I’d just rather not chase this ideal Ronan when we should instead be dealing with the one we have now.
That said, let’s get back to my point about Gansey POV. I really do think the main reason Stiefvater used it is for suspense, but we already know what Gansey is dealing with. And, frankly, she doesn’t describe the monster well enough for me to be shocked by the reveal; we’re operating mostly on the noises it’s making and the understanding that it comes from a dream. It’s probably more effective to have the reader envision their own fears. So I’m not really getting the suspense, but I am getting Ronan throwing Gansey into a potentially fatal situation completely unprepared. Handing your friend a knife and asking them if they’re ready is not enough information to kill a monster. Gansey almost dies because when Ronan opens the door he literally doesn’t know what’s inside.
All he says is “watch your eyes” and “kill it.” I presume Ronan has fought one of these before: how does it move, where are its weak spots, how big is it? Apparently this thing can climb on walls like a spider, that would be good to know before going in!
I don’t know, I just felt like all the stuff leading up to the fight was poorly executed. The fight itself was great, though, kudos to Steifvater for knowing how to write a battle without getting too gory or too boring. It’s a skill not too many people have.
Best Character Moment:
Instead he had retreated outside through the drizzle to the early-morning Pig. Immediately, he had been comforted. He’d spent so many hours sitting in it like this—doing his homework before going in to class, or stranded by the side of the road, or wondering what he would do it he never found Glendower—that it felt like home.
Best Turn of Phrase:
A tattered shirt and a pair of jeans sprawled on the floor, at first glance a corpse.
Action: Dude. They fought a literal nightmare. With a knife!!!! Amazing. 20/10
Magic: Ronan used his experience with magic to be dramatic in Latin. It was funny but largely unnecessary, he could’ve been dramatic in English or just told Gansey what the hell they were trying to kill. 6/10
Comic Relief: Ronan asked “are you murdered” to which Gansey replied “I think so.” Amazing. Comedic genius. 9/10