Ah, another villainous interlude. Oh how I have missed you, Gray Man. A king amongst assassins. Not a Welsh one, so there’s room for improvement, but a king nonetheless.
The Gray Man has been out of commission because of what he calls “several gray days,” which is his way of saying depression. It’s also the reason why he’s so much more interesting and compelling than Barrington Whelk. Although I do love to hate Whelk, I prefer this more complicated villain whose first act upon getting out of bed is to stalk Gansey and call Maura Sargent to try and set up a date. His priorities are spot on.
In an interlude from the interlude, we learn about the way Gansey is dealing with the disappearance of Cabeswater: rich kid retail therapy.
He had spent forty-eight hours more or less awake and restless and then, on the third day, he had bought a side-scan sonar device, two window air-conditioners, a leather sofa, and a pool table.
I’m not rich enough to buy all that but I have treated myself to a crop top or two when I’m sad, so I know the feeling. Blue, on the other hand, is less human and more thrift store goblin, so she understands none of this. Her indignation gives us one of the worst descriptive lines in the book (“her hair bristling with indignation”) and a fun argument about the fact that Gansey is sitting on a brand new leather sofa yet still wearing boat shoes with holes in them.
This argument is a thinly veiled way for Blue to bring up the fact that she’s pissed Gansey invited Orla to drive the rental truck they need to check the lake for Glendower. I, too, would be self-conscious if my hot cousin showed up wearing nothing but bell bottoms and an orange bikini top (chapter OOTD #1). Especially because Blue is wearing two tank tops and a pair of cargo shorts (chapter OOTD #2). I’m with Blue on this one. Remember all those crop tops I bought when I was sad? I don’t love my body enough to wear them. Always consult a friend before you involve their hot cousin in anything, no matter how trivial.
While all this is going on the Gray Man is chilling outside in his rental car, thinking about medieval poetry. There’s a long rant about Alfred the Great, an old English king that the Gray Man is weirdly obsessed with, which is simultaneously one of many reasons I long to be in academia and a painful reminder that Gray Man is one of the white male gatekeepers that will do their best to deny me entry.
Ronan shatters this by walking outside and forcing the Gray Man to pay attention to him. He’s throwing a mini tantrum because he has to be alive, which is standard fare for Ronan. They Gray Man is into it.
Ronan opened the driver’s side door of the charcoal BMW hard enough that the car shook, then he threw himself in hard enough that the car kept shaking, and then he slammed the door hard enough that the car shook yet more. And then he left with enough speed to make the tires squeal.
“Hmm,” said the Gray Man, already preferring this Lynch brother to the last.
Kavinsky breaks in to drop off some fake IDs (we’ll talk about that more later) and then the Gray Man breaks in to search for the Greywaren. He simultaneously calls Maura to flirt, and I have to say, I one day hope to flirt while committing a crime. It sounds dangerous and exciting.
The Gray Man likes the ambiance of Monmouth. Gansey’s bookshelves and mini Henrietta charm a hired assassin, and I don’t think any of us expected any less. The Gray Man’s wit and candor charm Maura, which is a little more surprising but no less welcome. They’re making plans for the Gray Man to drop by Fox Way to get back the wallet Maura stole. It’s going so well that Maura even discloses the existence of Blue:
“Tell me this, then, Mr. Gray: are you dangerous?”
“To some people.”
“I have a daughter.”
“Oh. I’m not dangerous to her.”
I put this conversation in not because it’s important to the plot but because it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Blue and Mr. Gray that’s one of the highlights of this book for me. Get excited now, it only goes up from here.
The chapter ends when two other criminals break in also looking for the Greywaren. They’re less charmed by Gansey—as shown by their destruction of his model Henrietta—and the ultimately find nothing, because the Gray Man kills them. Then he changes his clothes and goes to meet Maura.
Like I said: King shit.
Thoughts and Feelings:
My main thoughts about this chapter are that it redefines the villainous interlude. The Gray Man took me on an emotional roller coaster and I feel like that should be acknowledged. For starters, the representation of depression in this chapter feels honest and personal. It doesn’t overtake the chapter but there’s no glossing over it. It explains where the Gray Man has been and also gives us as readers information about the antagonist that rounds him out as a character.
Then we hear about King Alfred, which I’m not sure how to feel about. In 2016 I was like “wow obsessed with a British king who loves poetry and gets rid of Vikings” but now, in 2020, especially with our current societal narrative, my thoughts run more along the lines of “screw western civilization and the white male rulers it wrongfully glorifies.” So that’s something I felt compelled to mention.
I think overall, though, just the more detailed look we’re getting into the Gray Man’s internal monologue and the way he lives his life and does his job endears me to him. And that’s something I’m genuinely excited about, because not only does Maura deserve a significant other, she deserves a complicated one who would kill a man for her. The Gray Man fits that bill perfectly.
Best Character Moment:
But she was pleased; he could hear it in her voice. He liked her voice, too. She had just enough Henrietta accent so you knew where she came from.
Best Turn of Phrase:
He imposed order and honor, and under that crushed-down grass of principle, the flower of poetry and civility had burst through.
Action: The Gray Man killed two people. Did I not make that clear? 10/10
Magic: As much as I loved Maura’s flirting, I chalk that up to skill and not magic. 3/10
Comic Relief: Gansey effectively said “okay Boomer” to his dad’s conception of female fashion. Couple that with the Gray Man’s outlook on murder and we’ve got ourselves a winner. 12/10