The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.5

Summary:

And thus begins the worst plotline of the book: what did Barrington Whelk do? And was it because he was so unfortunate to be stuck with the name Barrington Whelk, or just because he’s a raging asshole?

The short version is that the Gangsey’s Latin teacher turns out to be the worst and also killed his roommate on St. Mark’s Eve when he was a student at Aglionby. He only works there because his dad lost all his money and now he’s as bitter as Severus Snape and probably just as mean to children. He especially hates the Gangsey, because he’s bitter that they have a beautiful friendship and he’s so, so alone.

The mere mention of Ronan Lynch’s name had scraped something raw inside Whelk. Because it was never Ronan by himself, it was Ronan as part of the inseparable threesome: Ronan Lynch, Richard Gansey, and Adam Parrish. All of the boys in his class were affluent, confident, arrogant, but the three of them, more than anyone else, reminded him of what he’d lost.

Boo hoo, dude. You lost it because you literally killed someone. But that’s neither here nor there. Whelk thinks nefarious thoughts for a while, and then resolves to steal Gansey’s research, because if he has to be alone he should at least have a purpose. End scene.

Thoughts and Feelings: As someone who went to a private school for thirteen years, I thought it was kinda nice to see how seriously these teachers take their jobs (if only there were a font that displayed the sarcasm I wish to be oozing right now). While my school was a co-ed day school, located in a progressive section of a city, and not full of quite so many rich kids, I certainly admit that there was a certain amount of prestige that came with just Being Very Expensive and had nothing to do with the quality of the education. I had some truly terrible teachers (and some great ones, but neither Whelk nor Milo justifies that description). It seems that the Aglionby elite are suffering through the same situation.

Other than that, this chapter was just to set up a Small Bad Guy™ who plagues our intrepid heroes and gets his comeuppance at the end. Not very interesting, but necessary.

Best character moment:

Whelk was suddenly afraid that Milo could see the memory on him, could hear the inexplicable voices in his head, incomprehensible but nonetheless present ever since that failed day.

Best turn of phrase:

Every time his heart beat, red lines streaked in the corners of his vision, the trees darkening with his pulse.

Action: I understand why this had to happen but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 2/10

Magic: The only magic here was used to murder Czerny!!!! Very bad and no fun!!!!!! -4/10

Comic relief: Barrington Whelk is about as fun as a wet pile of paper. 0/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.4

Summary:

Declan visits his brother’s house/abandoned factory and, needless to say, it does not go well. He rolls up with a generic blonde girl and Adam, who’s suspicious someone’s trying to steal Gansey’s research on Welsh kings and thinks maybe it’s Declan. It’s cute, because in about five minutes we’ll realize that Declan doesn’t give a single solitary shit about Glendower and just wants Ronan to be less of a pain in the ass.

We’re then shown Monmouth Manufacturing as a tourist because Declan’s girlfriend has never been there before (her name is Ashley, which is important because she’s actually a smart cookie and shouldn’t be treated like an object regardless). She’s basically a stand-in for the reader and makes all the appropriate noises.

Beside Declan, Girlfriend held her hands to her chest in an unconscious reaction to masculine nakedness. In this case, the naked party was not a person, but a thing: Gansey’s bed, nothing but too mattresses on a bare metal frame, sitting baldly in the middle of the room, barely made. It was somehow intimate in its complete lack of privacy

(I included that quote for entirely selfish reasons; it’s one of those instances of absolute poetic brilliance Stiefvater doles out that I’ve thought about at least once a week since reading it).

Gansey then tells Ashley about Welsh Kings, not because she actually wants to know but because the reader would be absolutely lost without it and we’re already on chapter four, so getting the exposition out of the way is imperative for us to get to the action. Noah walks in, tells everyone he’s dead, and then Ronan’s entrance makes us forget that he doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

Ronan and Declan fight, everyone leaves angry, and then Gansey convinces everyone to go get pizza at Nino’s. Just another day for the good old Gangsey. Now we wait for the inevitable explosion that is Blue and her Raven Boys at Nino’s.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Adam’s first POV chapter! The first insight into the mind of our soft little guy. He spends most of it pretending to be invisible and worrying about money, but it wouldn’t be an Adam chapter without a healthy dose of self-loathing and a major case of impostor syndrome. But the beauty of Adam’s voice is that it’s the snarkiest thing in the whole world. He’d never say any of it out loud, but Adam spends the entire 12 pages he’s given judging everyone in a 5 mile radius and I love him for it.

On the other hand, I think my favorite part of the beginning of the book has to be the parallels between Blue and Gansey. Before this chapter, we’ve gotten Blue vs. Gansey at their respective church watches and then skipping school on the same day, which was nice, but Monmouth vs. Fox Way just feels more exciting. Seeing Blue in her natural environment and then seeing Gansey in his, both with these foreign intruders they don’t know what to do with (here’s the part where I growl at Declan and Neeve yet again) shows how they both present two different ways: rumpled scholar Gansey and Virginia money Gansey vs. sensible Blue and eccentric shredded shirts Blue.

Other than that, there are many simple pleasures we get during this scene: my perfect smudgy Noah, Gansey saying “excelsior” not because something exciting was happening, but because they decided to get pizza, and the fact that Declan ever thought Ronan would be caught dead playing tennis. Of all the sports for Ronan to be playing, and he picked tennis? The boy who got a full back tattoo to piss off his brother and supposedly taught his BMW to look like a shark is running around the tennis court in white shorts and sweatbands, and I’m supposed to picture it in my head without disbelief? I can’t, but apparently Declan can, because that’s why he showed up and started this whole mess. 15-love Ronan.

Best character moment:

“Oh! Your hand is cold.” Ashley cupped her fingers against her shirt to warm them. “I’ve been dead for seven years,” Noah said. “That’s as warm as they get.” BUT ALSO, Behind Ronan, his door, covered with photocopies of his speeding tickets, drifted closed.

Best turn of phrase:

He said you and Declan like it was a physical object, something you could pick up and look underneath.

Action: Adam took a scene where nothing happened and gave me some bomb ass character insights to make up for it. 8/10

Magic: There was no magic except for Gansey deciding Ashely was too much of a side character to explain it to because her eyebrows didn’t match her hair color. Boo that. 3/10

Comic relief: Full of so many good moments, plus an in-depth description of Monmouth which is very teenage boy and has a cardboard box town in the middle of the floor. 10/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.0

Summary:

The first thing we learn is that Blue Sargent’s kiss is deadly. Why? She lives in a house full of psychics that are 100% certain Blue’s love life will end in tragedy:

All the women came to the same conclusion, blunt and inexplicably specific. What they all agreed on, in many clairvoyant languages, was this: If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die

Blue takes us through several scenarios about how this will happen. We hear about a kiss-borne disease and a jealous ex-boyfriend and then, finally, that Blue’s just decided never to fall in love. This is a young adult novel, so we’re all skeptical, and then vindicated, when Blue’s aunt comes to visit and tells her this is the year she’ll fall in love.

Thoughts and Feelings:

As first lines go, this one is pretty cool. How could you possibly forget how many times someone predicts a murder? (Or, not a murder, but a death over which Blue has control, which is a pretty heavy thing to put on a six-year-old). And of course Stievfater doesn’t stray away from the magic. We are told immediately that Maura is, under no circumstances, a crackpot. What she sees is real, and it’s other people who are the dumb ones for thinking it’s not.

What really got me was the throwaway line about the fact that Blue could hear the Aglionby hounds crying from her house. First of all, I cannot believe that these 21st century boys are so bored with regular life that they’re still hunting with horses and hounds, but whatever. We want to show that they suck, and we’ve done that. But the fact that Blue is familiar enough with the sounds of hunting dogs that when hears the howling she goes “oh, they found a fox and they’re on the chase?” What kind of rich white nonsense is this?

And, of course, our introduction to Neeve, who I think of as so insignificant that I still forget she actually has a part to play in the plot. But here she is! Predicting a love story and setting the reader up for some good old fashioned Angsty Teen Sadness™. I can’t wait.

Best character moment: Blue deciding that her mother’s murder prediction didn’t matter because she would have a long loveless life and kill nobody

Best turn of phrase:

Again and again, she had her fingers spread wide, her palm examined, her cards plucked from velvet-edged decks and spread across the fuzz of a family friend’s living room carpet. Thumbs were pressed to the mystical, invisible third eye that was said to be between everyone’s eyebrows. Rune were cast and dreams interpreted, tea leaves scrutinized and séances conducted.

Action: Conflict revealed! The story can begin!! 7/10

Magic: Mystical and inevitable. 8/10

Comic Relief: It’s setting up the future action, so I won’t judge it too harshly, especially because it’s only four pages long. 5/10