The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.29

Summary:

I want to start by saying I’m sorry that I took a week off, but I just entered midterm season and I needed a break to focus on other work (that gets graded) rather than this work, which brings me satisfaction and joy but absolutely nothing else. I’ll do my best to stick to the schedule in the future but I think I’d be deluding myself to think that anyone’s sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for these updates, so my best is just going to have to suffice for me and anyone out there reading this.

So, here we are. And by “here” I mean the same chapter in the book, because I sincerely hope you aren’t in the back of a very large van as your coach speeds over a bumpy two-lane highway. It’s not fun and I’d like to take a nap, but Noah is too important to me, so I’ll press on.

So, Gansey and Blue know that Noah is no longer alive. Or, has not been alive for some time. It’s time to tell Adam and Ronan, so he picks up Adam at work (which means this must be an emergency, because Adam’s job is one of those things you don’t get in the way of. When they get to Monmouth, Gansey just starts yelling for Noah.

He backed into the center of the room, turning to look at the corners, the rafters, searching places no one would ever find a roommate. Adam hesitated by the door. He couldn’t figure out how this could be over Noah: Noah, who could go unnoticed for hours, whose room was pristine, whose voice was never raised.

Now I know why Gansey is credited at “the one who finds things” and Adam is “the one who will go to an Ivy League college.” Gansey has the deductive skills of an explorer, and Adam has those of an observer. Ronan has the deductive skills of someone who doesn’t give a shit what they’re deducing, which he makes clear by doing nothing but shrugging and telling Gansey he’s crazy. Well, actually, he says “flipped” but that’s such a non-Ronan thing to say that I refuse to acknowledge its place in the narrative except to call it stupid.

They look in Noah’s room but it’s empty. Empty, in fact, of any signs of life at all. His bed is made perfectly, there’s nothing on the walls or scattered across the floor like there would be in any teenager’s room. Gansey makes the whole situation worse by asking what classes they have with Noah, and everyone’s forced to admit that there aren’t any. Ronan reasserts that he doesn’t care and Adam is still silently doing his best to process everything that’s being thrown at him: Noah doesn’t pay rent, Noah doesn’t eat, none of them can remember when Noah moved in with them or what is last name is.

Gansey then drops the news that he went to the church with Blue (which makes Adam feel blindingly jealous and makes me a little uncomfortable, because as much as I love the idea of love triangles the execution always leaves me feeling angry and hurt) and then spent the afternoon with the police. I don’t know why, but I guess I never imagined the Gangsey going to the police? This seems like one of those novels where everything they’re doing is a big secret and only for the kids to know about, and the police would ruin it. How would they explain their walk in the woods? Was there a fake romantic walk story that we were denied the chance to read about? Stiefvater, how dare you!

But, more important than that, Gansey tells them that they were at the police station because they found a dead body. He asks if they want to know whose it was. Noah, in an entrance that has the most drama and panache, says from the doorway of his previously empty room “mine.”

His skin was pale as parchment and his eyes were shadowed and unspecific, as they always were after dark. There was the ubiquitous smudge on his face, only now, it looked like dirt, or blood, or possibly like a hollow, his bones crushed beneath his skin.

The rest of the chapter is spent finding various ways to say “shocked and offended.” Adam is shocked, and a little confused about how he didn’t notice. Ronan is offended, because Noah didn’t tell him. Noah is both, because he did tell them, over and over, but they just didn’t listen. And can you blame them? He looked real, he acted real, so why would any reasonable teenager assume that their roommate was actually murdered seven years ago?

Gansey is the one to bring up the fact that Noah was killed (very different than just dying, if he’d just died he probably wouldn’t have stuck around). He wants to know if Noah can tell him, so Gansey can put the police on the trail of his killer. Noah doesn’t want to tell them. He draws inward, and Adam wonders if he was this shy when he was alive, or if it’s a side effect of being dead. He never finds out, though, because Noah has disappeared.

Thoughts and Feelings:

For this episode of “I have thoughts and also several feelings,” I’m going to zoom in on a particular passage and tell you why I’m disappointed in it. But, first, an overview of the chapter: it was good and well written and I liked most of it. Now back to the part I didn’t like.

Ronan began to swear, long and filthy and continuous, without stopping for breath.

Gansey’s thumb worried over his bottom lip. He asked Adam, “what’s going on?”

Adam replied, “we’re being haunted.”

I take issue with this passage as the ending to the chapter. Stiefvater has a habit of ending chapters with a line of dialogue that acts as a summation and a cliffhanger all at once, and often she succeeds. I’m thinking of the ends of the Cabeswater chapters, or when Persephone locks the narrative down with a spot-on interpretation. But this one doesn’t look forward, and it doesn’t accurately represent what was going on in the story.

First of all, I understand that Ronan likes to swear. I’m cool with the fact that he does it a lot, and I’m content with Steifvater telling us he’s swearing rather than writing out the language more often than not. However, this idea that Ronan is swearing “without stopping for breath” is giving me pause. I’ve never heard anyone swear like that. I don’t think people do swear like that. From what I’ve experienced, reactive swears are one single word, spoken with feeling:fuck.” I’m okay with calling Ronan’s swears “black painted poetry.” There’s an art to calling someone a dickwad, and I don’t deny that he’s mastered it. But this whole “long and filthy and continuous” thing is what I’m just not buying.

Moving on: why would Gansey ask what’s going on? He’s the one who gathered them in Monmouth to tell them what’s going on. He found the bones, he’s done extensive research on the ley line, and he turns to Adam—who’s smart, but who’s had literally 30 seconds to process this news—and asks him what’s going on? I’m just being nitpicky here, but that’s out of character.

And, lastly, “we’re being haunted” is just a lame last line. It has no sting. It’s not particularly true (sure Noah’s a ghost, but the word haunted comes with a connotation of malice that just isn’t there). It’s not a fun way to end the chapter, it doesn’t do the situation justice, and I know that Steifvater can do better than that.

That’s all. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Best Character Moment:

He stroked Chainsaw’s head with a single finger and she tilted her beak up in response. It was a strange movement in a strange evening, and if it had happened the day before, it would’ve struck Adam that he rarely saw such thoughtless kindness from Ronan.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The world hummed around Adam, suddenly charged with possibilities, not all of them pleasant. He felt like he was sleepwalking. Nothing was the truth until he could put his hands on it.

Action: This chapter was emotionally charged but I’m loathe to call all those feelings action…it was more along the vein of “everyone stands around in disbelief.” 5/10

Magic: All magic used in this chapter went into keeping Noah a corporeal character that we can still spend time with. If that’s not a worthy cause, what is? 11/10

Comic Relief: Literally none. This chapter was so heavy. Even Ronan asking if they were looking for drugs, girls, and guns in Noah’s room wasn’t that funny, given the circumstances. 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.28

Summary:

Everybody put on your suspenders and get ready for Gansey and Blue’s Big Romantic Chapter!! Now that Maura has warned Blue that she shouldn’t kiss a boy or get her heart broken, she can safely go exploring in the woods with her totally platonic friend Richard Campbell Gansey III.

But first, the ride to the church in the Pig! Blue is sitting in the front seat. This chapter is in Blue’s POV, but we have to assume that Gansey finds the sight of her hot. I do, a little. If every character in this book has a weird crush on Blue, I feel like I should too. Anyways, we start off with a nice OOTD for Gansey (aquamarine polo shirt, khakis, top-siders). Blue can’t even look at his shoes, they’re so offensive, so she focuses on the conversation they’re having about why they’re going to the church and not back to Cabeswater. It’s because Cabeswater makes him nervous, but that’s neither here nor there.

They get to the church, but only because Gansey yanks on the wheel at the last second and basically breaks his car. Blue wants to know why he has such an old car in the first place—isn’t he rich? Shouldn’t he drive a Porsche or something? If he has to have an ancient car, couldn’t he at least buy one that works? Gansey’s response serves to remind us that the Pig is more than just a car. It’s an extended metaphor for the way that wealth chafes at him, and if we manage to forget it Blue will always remind us. We also catch the small detail that Blue found Gansey’s EpiPen, which will be important later but isn’t right now.

And then, AND THEN, Gansey stretches when he gets out of the car. Blue is like “hello arm muscles?” and I am like “HELLO ARM MUSCLES!” and the Aglionby crew team sticker on Gansey’s car is like “you thought he would have the body of a scholar but you were WRONG!”

It’s about to thunderstorm, but even the weather holds off in appreciation of Gansey’s biceps, so they can set off into the woods for some good old fashioned exploration.

He strode over to the ruined church. This, Blue had discovered, was how Gansey got places—striding. Walking was for ordinary people.

The next couple of pages are revelations like the one seen above. Blue and Gansey are learning about each other, and it’s very cute. I don’t mean cute in the derogatory way, or in the way that minimizes the importance of the situation. I mean that it’s character development between two people that have a lot of differences but also have a lot in common, and it makes me happy inside. I feel bright when I think about it.

A whole host of things happen when they go into the church. Gansey has this feeling like he’s been there before, Blue has a tiny crisis over whether or not she should tell him he’ll probably die before the year is up, and the EMF meter goes wild. Blue decides they should explore behind the church, because it looks less like private property and thus they have a much smaller chance of being shot (oh, Virginia). And anyways, they can’t sneak around, because Gansey’s shirt is such an eyesore they will be immediately noticed.

“Aquamarine is a wonderful color and I won’t be made to feel bad for wearing it,” Gansey said. But his voice was a bit thin and he glanced back at the church again. Just then he looked younger than she’d ever seen him, his eyes narrowed, hair messed up, features unstudied. Young and, strangely enough, afraid.

Gansey’s emotional vulnerability previews one of the most romantically and emotionally deep conversations of the whole series, with each sentence punctuated by Blue whacking the ground in front of her with a stick to check for snakes and hornets (I say again: oh, Virginia).

It seems that Gansey’s in awe of the way Blue’s responding to all this forest magic. Ronan and Adam and Noah seem, to his eyes, nonplussed (definition: adj, surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react). Blue’s just taking it all in stride, and she attributes that to the fact that literally everybody in her house is a psychic except for her, which makes it easy for her to accept when trees say they’re happy to see her. But Gansey isn’t done throwing compliments at her: before Blue arrived they’d get one clue per month, and since she climbed into the helicopter it seems like the search for Glendower has blown wide open. Instead of thanking her, he says “I could kiss you,” and Blue takes a reflexive step away from him.

She decides to tell him about her murderkiss. He told her about his friends being nonplussed, and there’s something about getting him alone that makes him seem unmasked to her, and she trusts him. At first Gansey treats it like a joke, but when he realizes it’s serious he’s nice about it. Blue asks him not to tell Adam, and he raises his eyebrows.

Gansey’s voice, when he replied, was a little rough. “Well, if you killed Adam, I’d be quite upset.”

“I’ll do my best not to.”

For a moment, the silence was uneven and uncomfortable, and then he said, his voice more ordinary, “Thanks for telling me. I mean, trusting me with something like that.”

This seems like the moment to ask pointed questions, so Blue keeps it up. She wants to know why Gansey is looking for Glendower, and frankly so do I. This is when we launch into a flashback told in Gansey’s scared teenager voice, in fits and starts while Blue does her best not to interrupt. I’ll do my best to summarize without losing any of the charm.

His parents brought him to a fancy garden party when he was nine or ten and he decided to play hide and seek with some of the younger kids. He ran into a forest that ran behind the backyard, and went so far he couldn’t see the house. After a while he stepped on a hornet’s nest. We have a new Gansey alert, at this point in the story: compelling and vulnerable and the kind of person who uses the beautiful descriptor “they were just such small hurts, you know?” to describe hornet stings.

The bugs were in his hair and in his ears and he’d been stung hundreds of time, but after he felt his heart stop he heard a voice whisper to him: you will live because of Glendower. Someone else on the ley line is dying when they should not, and so you will live when you should not.

This was the Gansey who had written the journal. The truth of it, the magic of it, possessed her.

She asked, “and that’s enough to make you spend your life looking for Glendower?”

Gansey replied, “once Arthur knew the grail existed, how could he not look for it?”

And then the EMF reader dies. The battery’s not dead, though. When Gansey hands it to Blue her battery hands light it right back up, but only if she follows where it wants her to go. It thunders again, as if to say, “the weather is sufficiently dark and scary which makes it the perfect mood to find a skeleton:)” And then, guess what Blue steps on?

Ding ding ding! A literal human corpse. First of all, what? And second of all, what! Bones?! This was just a fun jaunt in the woods wherein we hoped Blue and Gansey might come to some sort of mutual respect and then go home with butterflies in their stomachs. But, no. Of course they find genuine human bones. Of course they discover them because Blue steps on them and they make a crunching noise. It’s disgusting and so very Stiefvater.

They find an Aglionby patch on the body (synthetic fabric decayed slower than the sweater it was sewed onto). Then Gansey finds a wallet, and a license. And here’s the Big Plot Twist that brought me to my knees the first time I read this book: the license belongs to Noah.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Oh, Noah. Oh, no. He didn’t deserve this then, and time doesn’t make it any better. The fact that he’s been a ghost this whole time was obvious (he literally answered the question “why are your hands so cold” with “lol I’m dead”) but also every time I find myself not really expecting it. I’m simultaneously happy, because this means that we can really dive into Noah as a character, and extremely sad, because it means that he is dead.

It’s a genius reveal, though. You never really expect one of the people in the main gang to be ghostly unless the book is marketed that way, and this one is decidedly not. We have a sleeping king and some psychics, but that magic is all based on hearsay and can easily be dismissed as being untrue or the product of wishful thinking. But this is a person with thoughts and feelings and a bedroom in Gansey’s abandoned factory house. This is undeniable magic, even more undeniable than the trees, because it’s magic that’s inserted itself into their daily lives without announcing itself as out of the ordinary. This is a dead boy who helps them look for Ronan when he might be in danger and pets Blue’s hair in the back of the Pig. It just makes it hurt more, because the things he’s doing feel so alive but we know that he’s always going to be this pale, smudgy boy who never gets any older and never gets to move on with his life. I want a full and happy life for Noah and it sucks that I’m never going to get that.

Beyond the conclusions I’m drawing about Noah (which will continue as we watch the Gangsey deal with this information in the coming chapters), nature plays a part in these scenes and I don’t want to undervalue its contributions. It’s stormy and thundering the entire time Gansey and Blue are checking out the woods, and the atmosphere that lends is perfect for stepping on a dead body. Beyond that, though, it’s so clear that Steifvater knows this part of America, the area around a town that’s very similar to Henrietta, and she loves it a lot. There’s a certain amount of care taken in the descriptions of the landscape that makes me want to take the time to explore rural America where before I was content to sit in my city and breathe in the smog.

On the other side of the car, Gansey tipped his head back to look at the storm clouds: living things, moving towers. In the very deep distance, they were nearly the same color as the blue edges of the mountains. The road they’d come in on was a dappled blue-green river twisting back towards town. The indirect light of the sun was peculiar: nearly yellow, thick with humidity. Apart from the birds, there was no sound but the slow, faraway growl of thunder.

Take another look at that passage and tell me Stiefvater doesn’t love Virginia. I certainly can’t. It makes me want to drive through the mountains and whack a stick on the ground to scare away the snakes and scream-sing “West Virginia, mountain mama” at the top of my lungs until I get stung by a million hornets and brought back to life by a Welsh King. It’s unrealistic, but it’s what I want. The end.

Best Character Moment:

“Aquamarine is a wonderful color and I won’t be made to feel bad for wearing it,” Gansey said. But his voice was a bit thin and he glanced back at the church again. Just then he looked younger than she’d ever seen him, his eyes narrowed, hair messed up, features unstudied. Young and, strangely enough, afraid.

Best Turn of Phrase:

They stared at each other over the body. Lighting lit the sides of their faces. Blue was very aware of the skull beneath Gansey’s skin, his cheekbones so close to the surface, high and square like those on the Death card.

Action: Blue and Gansey stepped on the skeleton of a teenage boy. It doesn’t get more action-packed than that. 10/10

Magic: The skeleton they stepped on was the bones of their friend, who is very much still walking and talking. IT DOESN’T GET MORE MAGICAL THAN THAT. 20/10

Comic Relief: Not much. Stiefvater using the phrase “ankle-height bags of foot bones” really sucked the fun out of the chapter. 6/10

The Raven Boys Reread: 1.27

Summary:

We start off this chapter with a healthy dose of self-doubt and confusion. It’s Sunday and Blue is supposed to walk her dogs on Sunday. Remember, the girl we met who worked three jobs, didn’t lie to her mother, and hated every Aglionby boy on sight? Yeah, Blue doesn’t remember her either. But she’s guilty and broke, so she’s on her way to go walk some dogs when the phone rings.

It’s Gansey, voice dripping with old money, asking if Blue is there. Thank God she waited a couple more minutes to drink her apple juice (Steifvater goes out of her way to tell us it’s “cloudy,” meaning it probably has pesticides and it is not the same quality apple juice as the kind Gansey drinks). Otherwise the whole jig could be up, and Blue wouldn’t be able to go with Gansey to explore the church while Adam is at work and Ronan is at non-dilapidated and still functioning church with his brothers.

“I have to walk dogs.”

“Oh,” Gansey replied, sounding deflated. “Well, okay.” 

“But it’ll only take an hour.”

“Oh,” he repeated, about fourteen shades brighter. “Shall I pick you up, then?”

At this point all of this nervous adorable shit is getting annoying. Or, that’s the angle I’m going with to sound like a Tough Critic™ who isn’t actually total trash who would think that Blue’s history homework was cute if they read it. So Blue is excited, if not nervous, to explore with Gansey. She wants to know more about the ley line and its energy, and so does every reader ever, so we’re all excited for her to go to the church and maybe fall in love a little bit more.

Enter Maura, stage left.

She calls for Blue in this weirdly menacing way, where she makes a one syllable name into a three syllable warning. It’s some very impressive mothering that most women can only accomplish with the use of a middle name.

“Bloo-OOOO-oooooo, my child, my child, come in here!”

This was Maura’s voice, and the sing-song rhythm to it was highly ironic. With a sinking sensation, Blue followed it into the living room, where she found Maura, Calla, and Persephone drinking what Blue suspected were screwdrivers. When she walked into the room, the women all looked up at her with indolent smiles. A pack of lionesses.

Basically, Blue’s in deep shit.

The three women spend some time talking about the cocktails they’re drinking at 10am, because Calla is already finished with hers and Persephone made them with too much vodka (think the two shots of vodka vine, but slightly more clairvoyant). The conversation only thinly veils the fact that Maura is furious. She knows Blue is sneaking around and she’s hurt and angry and worried, that Blue will kiss him and/or that she will get her heart broken. Blue tries to say that she and Gansey are nothing alike, but Maura sees right through it.

“I wasn’t sure if driving an old, loud Camaro was the male equivalent of shredding your T-shirts and gluing cardboard trees to your bedroom walls.”

(Note: the trees, as Blue is careful to point out, are not cardboard. They are repurposed canvas, which is much better for the environment).

They try to keep arguing with each other but they’re bad at it. Blue is too ashamed for disappointing her mother and Maura has absolutely no idea how to discipline a child, so they sort of agree to disagree and move on. Calla sums it up better than I ever could:

“This is what you get, Maura, for using your DNA to make a baby”

Persephone tells her not to punch someone with her thumb inside her fist, which everyone basically ignores, and then Calla reminds Blue of their movie night on Friday. They’re watching “Even Dwarfs Start Small” in the “original German,” which is code for helping Calla touch Neeve’s stuff so they can gather dirt on her. Maura says that’s fine, because the movie sounds terrible and she’ll be out anyways.

She won’t tell Blue where she’s going, instead gives her some petty answer about not sneaking around with boys, and we’re left feeling like nothing at all got resolved. Maura is still keeping secrets. Blue is still going against her wishes. It’s all very fraught, and we wish it weren’t, because we love Maura and Blue as a mother-daughter team.

But I have a feeling it’ll only get worse, once Calla and Blue snoop through Neeve’s stuff and Maura’s principles catch them in the act. Oh, well. I’m just going to have to live with the teenage drama.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Every young adult novel needs a good fight between the teen and their parents, and I’m glad it was Maura fighting with Blue. I mean, it kind of had to be, because Ronan’s parents are dead and/or sleeping, Gansey’s parents can only do “respectful debate over paté,” and Adam’s family situation shouldn’t be joked about and is, needless to say, not a place where you can have witty banter. Close parental relationships are kind of thin on the ground for the Gangsey, so I’m sad that Blue is fighting with Maura but I’m 100% positive that they’ll figure it out.

I did miss hanging out in Fox Way, if only because I missed out on scenes where women are mixing drinks at 10am. If every scene could be started out by Maura singing to Blue and Calla taking a shot of vodka I think I’d have to bump the books to 6/5 stars, because you can literally never go wrong with a tipsy Calla.

And I think it’s important that we were able to see that this new way of being for Blue, this discovering magic that see can see and not just amplify, has consequences. She’s going out and finding her own adventures, but that means leaving someone at home. And Maura seems like the type to have been presiding over Blue’s adventures for a long time, so it makes sense that she would chafe at being left behind. If this part of the book had been left out, Maura’s character would be lacking and it would make it seem like Blue didn’t really have a mother figure, and I love that Stiefvater is taking care to show us the opposite: Blue may lack for Gansey’s old money and Ronan’s stolen BMW, but she doesn’t lack for love.

This chapter also does a nice job of hinting both forward and backwards, to the other problems Blue had before she started exploring every day with her boys, and to the snooping they’re going to do. I hope they dig up some weird irrelevant dirt on Neeve just so I can make fun of her more and tell everyone why I ship Neeve and Barrington Whelk. They’re the real anti-power couple, and it would make for some good content™.

Best Character Moment:

“If you don’t tell me not to see them, I don’t have to disobey you,” Blue suggested.

“This is what you get, Maura, for using your DNA to make a baby,” Calla said.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“I’m not your dungeon master,” interrupted Maura. “I’m not going to bolt you in your room or send you to a convent, for crying out loud. So you can just stop all the sneaking around stuff right now.”

Action: All this talk about dogs, and we never even got to watch Blue walk them. 4/10

Magic: The magic of motherhood? Maybe? 5/10

Comic Relief: The women of Fox Way are drinking and it’s 10am. Get wild! 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.26

Summary:

We pick up our story at the exact moment we left off. Gansey’s getting excited about the way the word “Cabeswater” sounds out loud, because it doesn’t sound like a modern word, and that could mean Glendower. I mean, yeah, Gansey, I guess you could focus on the etymology of the word rather than the fact that Ronan literally had to time travel to write it on the rock. It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s our Gansey.

Blue decides they should go look for water, since that’s what they need to amplify the ley line’s energy. She also, in classic Blue form, wants to communicate with the trees. Blue has a thing for trees and the rest of the Gangsey is just rolling with it. As they walk deeper into Cabeswater and the trees turn to winter, which is cool and weird and scary. It’s still winter when they find the water source, and when Blue tells Ronan to say hello to the trees.

He says “salvo,” explaining to Blue that it actually means “be well,” and then Blue asks him to be polite to the trees and ask if they’ll speak to him. The physical act of saying “will you” instead of just demanding compliance seems to cause Ronan actual pain. This is hilarious, both because how Ronan is that reaction, and because he’s already taking orders from Blue. Everyone should take orders from Blue, but this is a big step for Ronan specifically. I’m sure we’re all very proud of him.

And proud of the trees, who speak back! Only Noah and Gansey can hear them, which means that Gansey has to repeat what he hears so Ronan can translate it.

“They say they’ve been speaking to you already, but you haven’t been listening,” Ronan said. He rubbed the back of his shaved head. “Gansey, are you messing with me? Do you really hear something?”

“Do you think Gansey’s Latin is that good?” Adam replied tersely. “It was your handwriting on the rock, Ronan, that said they spoke Latin. Shut up.”

The trees then talk directly to Blue, and say they’re happy to see her. They call her the “psychic’s daughter,” which is cute. And she seems really excited they’re talking to her specifically, which is even cuter. Our girl loves trees! And we love her. It turns out the trees also love Ronan, who they call “Greywaren,” and they tell him they’re happy to see him again.

I know this part of the summary is confusing, but when what I’m trying to summarize is teenagers talking to trees in a dead language, I’m going to cut myself some slack and just do my best. Basically the conversation continues when Ronan asks why Gansey doesn’t pay attention in class (rich, coming from a boy who doesn’t even go to class) and then asks the trees why they can’t talk to anyone but Gansey and Noah. They say the road isn’t awake, and that if Gansey manages to wake the line they’ll be in his debt.

Everyone has a brief moment of an existential crisis about the trees themselves, which is confusing? I’m going to put a quote in, because I don’t think I can explain it any better than that.

There was no way of knowing, either, if the trees were good or bad, if they loved or hated humans, if they had principles or compassion. They were like aliens, Gansey thought. Aliens that we have treated very badly for very long time.

I don’t think Gansey’s on something (remember: he drinks, he does not get drunk), but he doesn’t sound 100% sober. But he still manages to find out that the trees don’t know where Glendower is, and that to get out they need to go back through the seasons to get out of Cabeswater. I’m glad he managed to ask a useful question in the end, but then he kind of ruins it by questioning whether or not they should trust the trees. I’m kind of like, dude, you decided to trust Blue after ten minutes and you’re having a crisis over trusting a magic tree?

But Blue manages to convince them to follow the directions, which include turning left when they see a big sycamore. Apparently there’s something the trees want them to see, and it turns out to be a red Mustang, once tricked out with tinted windows and big rims but left in the forest to become overgrown, like those pictures of abandoned theme parks Tumblr loved so much. It has an Aglionby sticker and a dowsing rod in the trunk, and when Gansey finished describing a prickly feeling on the back of his neck Blue informs him that Noah is throwing up.

Ronan goes to deal with Noah and his retching (after a debate over which synonym for vomiting to use, everyone settles on retching, which is significant because it doesn’t require anything to actually come out of the dry heaving), and everyone else agrees that the dowsing rod is suspicious and they’re probably being watched.

The chapter ends with the nice little cliffhanger of Gansey telling us he needs more information. And, honestly, so do I.

Thoughts and Feelings

This chapter read like season 1 episode 5 of every TV show: to set up the mid-season finale we need to be inundated with information in a way that hopefully disguises the infodump as something other than an infodump. This is one of those moments where I really wish I could experience this book for the first time again, because I don’t know if I’d feel the same way if I weren’t aware of the book’s ending, and who the Mustang belongs to, and what’s going on with the trees. But I also know that even having read this book before, this chapter didn’t stick out in my memory at all, and a lot of it surprised me because I didn’t remember it happening.

We have our first Ronan/Blue interaction that’s not a fight (or at least not overtly hostile), which I’m over the moon about. Their relationship is a really special one that develops more in later books, but even then doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. I’m glad I was able to catch the small moment of Ronan and Blue and the trees that are happy to welcome them by going back through this book with a fine-tooth comb.

I also appreciate the careful way that Steifvater approaches the magic and the way that she prescribes rules to it; walking through the seasons and even questioning the intentions of the trees gives the magic a weight that a lot of other young adult books breeze past in the interest of spells and romance. Magic is only fascinating if it has limitations, and it’s only since I’ve been reading extra carefully that I’ve been able to appreciate the specific type of magic this series created.

So while this did feel a little more like an info session than some of the other chapters, maybe that turned out to be a good thing. If it were more fast-paced or had a Big Moment™, I wouldn’t have been able to be pleasantly surprised by some of the details I missed on the first read-through.

Best Character Moment:

Noah said, “further.”

Since Noah rarely expressed an opinion, his word reigned.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Their breath came in clouds, and they call looked badly underdressed. Even the color of their skin looked wrong: too sun-flushed for this colorless winter air. Tourists from another season.

Action: You’d think talking to some trees would be the weirdest thing to happen all day, but that’s actually when Ronan is nice to Blue. Progress, folks. 6/10

Magic: Trees. That. Talk. 14/10

Comic Relief: Apparently the word “puke” makes Gansey physically upset, so. Physical comedy reigns. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.25

Summary:

Hello again! I can’t wait for this part of the book, the part where the gang being together is more common than being apart. So, since I don’t want to wait, here we go:)

Thankfully, the post-gelato Gangsey hasn’t lost any of its charm. They’ve settled into a routine, which is basically meeting Blue after school (somewhere that’s not near Fox Way, since she’s still ~techincally~ sneaking around even though Maura keeps virtually no tabs on her whatsoever) and doing some kind of exploring or research together. They go to the courthouse to look at county records, and the library to look at microfiche, and some random fields to make stone circles and dick around with Gansey’s EMF reader. It’s all very intellectual and adorable.

There’s a brief snag where Blue forces them to eat at cheap fast food restaurants because she insists on paying for all her food herself, but Gansey seems bemused rather than offended. The whole thing makes Adam very proud of Blue. He’s prouder still when they introduce Noah into the mix and he and Blue get on better than anyone could have expected.

I keep gushing about friendships between characters, which I understand can get repetitive. I promise this is the last time; I just have a lot of feelings about Blue and Noah. She lets him pet her hair and she listens to his opinions and they deserve each other.

There’s some filler where Gansey keeps refusing to go back to the woods and they keep picking up Blue after school to do some more info-gathering sessions, and a nice scene where Ronan is trying to teach Adam to drive stick in his BMW. Blue shows up just as Ronan is swearing at Adam for stalling the car, and her hair smells like wildflowers. Adam finds this incredibly hot, which is weird, but whatever works for you, dude.

And then Gansey tells them they’re going back to the woods. That is, if the Pig’s engine starts. We get a nice couple of lines where Adam, Blue, and Noah sit in the back seat and Adam lets his leg press against Blue’s—you know, the kind of thing that makes this book rated R for “relatively tame.”

Time for some nice FRIENDSHIP MOMENTS for me to share with you before we get into the real action:

He saw goosebumps through the loopy crocheted cardigan Blue wore. She reached to take a handful of both his shirt and Noah’s, and tugged them both to her like blankets.

“Gas. Give it more gas.”

“That is with gas.”

Ronan punched Gansey’s right leg down, his palm on Gansey’s knee. The engine wailed high and caught. Gansey drily thanked Ronan for his assistance.

That concludes FRIENDSHIP MOMENTS, which are only there because I thought they were too good to leave sitting in the book for people to skim over. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

They drive to the woods and when Blue says she feels watched, they have a nice conversation about EMF readings to help bolster each other’s courage. Gansey marks the time as 4:13, Adam grabs Blue’s hand and tells himself not to crush her fingers, and they enter the magical forest.

A list of things that happen to them while exploring:

-Gansey loses Noah for a second (as in, Noah literally disappears and then reappears right in front of them)

-They follow the exact same path as the last time and somehow end up in a different place

-Adam feels crippling guilt because of his tree vision

-The leaves on the trees change from spring to summer to autumn in a matter of minutes

-Noah finds writing on a rock

I’d like to zoom in on the rock for a second, because it is the most important object in the whole chapter. Blue wants to know what language it is and she’s informed by Ronan and Adam that it’s in Latin. Adam isn’t as good at the language, but apparently it’s Ronan’s only strong subject in school, so he tells them that it’s a joke. Someone wrote a joke on a rock in a magic forest in Latin. Who in the world would do that?

“There’s a joke,” Ronan answered, “in case I didn’t recognize my own handwriting.”

This, Adam realized, was what had distressed him about the words. Now it had been pointed out, it was obvious that the handwriting was Ronan’s. It was just so out of context, painted on this rock with an arcane pigment, smudged and worn by the weather.

“I don’t understand,” Ronan said. He kept tracing and retracting the letters.

Everyone is shaken up, but Gansey brings up the whole time issue again: the ley line makes time an unpredictable beast, so this was probably future Ronan, leaving himself a dirty joke. It’s such a Ronan way to identify himself—don’t leave your signature, or a fun fact. That’s too easy. Leave yourself disgusting teenage boy humor, because that’s the best identifier.

And then make sure to tell yourself (or your past self) that not only do the trees speak Latin, but that they should call the forest by its name: Cabeswater. Which is a fantastic name for a magic forest, and also a fantastic name for my firstborn child. And I have dibs, so don’t even think about it.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I don’t know why, but I’m not having a lot of thoughts or feelings on this chapter. I think maybe because it’s pretty self-explanatory, in that what happens happens and what’s cute is cute. I’m glad we have more Noah and I’m glad we have some nice little friendship moments. A lot of the strength in this story resides in those moments, and the scene with everyone piled into the Pig is a particularly good scene.

I’m glad I can stop calling Cabeswater “the woods” in the interest of not spoiling anything (although I’m still not sure about my position on spoilers, since this is a reread but I like to think I’m approaching it with fresh eyes). It was kind of awkward to say “the magic forest” all the time, especially when I knew it had such a dope name that was yet to be revealed. Frankly I’m just excited for them to keep exploring Cabeswater and to continue on their journey to becoming best friends. Here’s to many more car rides where the Pig won’t start!!

Best Character Moment:

Blue permitted Noah to pet the crazy tufts of her hair, something Adam would have also liked to do, but felt would mean something far different coming from him.

Best Turn of Phrase:

As Adam stared at his lap, penitent, he mused that there was something musical about him when he swore, a careful and loving precision to the way he fit the words together, a black-painted poetry.

Action: There are two Ronans in this chapter, and one is taunting the other. And, yet, nobody gets punched, not even a tree. 7/10

Magic: Did I mention the fact that the magic bent time so much that future Ronan was able to leave past Ronan a note? That’s dope. 11/10

Comic Relief: I mean, a dirty joke in Latin is ten times funnier than a regular dirty joke. I still can’t believe nobody laughed. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.24

Summary:

This chapter is short but my fingers are still tired after typing out the summary of the last one so I’m going to make the summary even shorter. We skip a lot of stuff: the deciding to leave the forest, the leaving of the forest, the getting back to Helen. When we pick the story back up the siblings are arguing the helicopter, because Helen was mad the excursion took them seven minutes and Gansey’s stance is that she should be happy the ley line bent time, because they were exploring for over half an hour. Everyone else takes off their headphones. I wish I could, too.

We take some time to briefly explain why the ley line would be playing with time. Is there precedent? How does that even work? What the hell was that thing in the tree? The answers turn out to be yes, there is precedent (specifically in Scotland, where it’s called being “pixie-led”), the ley line plays with time because of “energy” and the thing in the tree was, um, really something, wasn’t it? Gansey thinks it was Glendower but Glendower is a sleeping person and not a rotting psychic tree. Just because they’re both on the ley line doesn’t mean it has to be him, you know? There’s probably plenty of other magical beings, the Welsh don’t have a monopoly on that particular market.

But the boy’s excited, so I’m going to let him have it. Especially since this causes him to demand they all get in the car so they can go hang out somewhere, and while Blue is demanding they get her home sometime “reasonable” (whatever that means), he comes up with THE SINGLE GREATEST NICKNAME IN THE WHOLE SERIES. In all caps so you PAY ATTENTION because this part is AN AMAZING WAY TO SHOW A BUDDING FRIENDSHIP.

Gansey asks if Blue is a nickname. She responds and he spends some time ruminating on how right she is, and on how she completes their group and how empty his life would be without her. Classic romantic stuff. And then…

He says, “I’ve always liked the named Jane.”

Blue’s eyes widened. “Ja—what? Oh! No, no. You can’t just go around naming people other things because you don’t like their real name.”

But that’s exactly what he does and that’s exactly why we love him.

They all go to gelato. They are loud, obnoxious teenagers. I was already in love with them as individuals, but this? This is the moment I fall in love with them as a group.

They drove to Harry’s and parked the Camaro next to an Audi and a Lexus and Gansey ordered flavors of gelato until the table wouldn’t hold any more bowls and Ronan convinced the staff to turn the overhead speakers up and Blue laughed for the first time at something Gansey said and they were loud and triumphant and kings of Henrietta, because they’d found the ley line and because it was starting, it was starting.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I mean, come on. That last paragraph. That’s full on poetry there, you can’t tell me it’s not. It’s like a punch to the face to every English teacher I’ve ever had who was like “that sentence is a run on” and then when I replied with “it’s creative license” they told me “grammar is more important.” No it’s not, you liars! I wish I had kept a printed out copy of this quote in my back pocket so I could whip it out and shove it in their face and prove them wrong. This is the way sentences were made to be written! Far too long and emotionally devastating!!

Frankly, I loved every word I read in this chapter. It’s short and sweet in every sense of the phrase, what with Gansey calling Blue Jane (on par with him calling her “sweetie” or “lovebug” or “you asshole,” frankly) and the references to Scottish fairy stories and Blue making fun of the Pig because it always smells like gasoline.

But mostly because: it is starting. It. Is. Starting.

Best character moment:

He smiled tolerantly at her. Rubbing his smooth chin with his recently assassinated chin hairs, he studied her. She barely came up to Ronan’s shoulder, but she was every bit as big as he, every bit as present.

Best turn of phrase:

They were loud and triumphant and kings of Henrietta, because they’d found the ley line and because it was starting, it was starting.

Action: We leave the helicopter behind but we gain a sense of group identity, which is honestly a huge plot development that should not go unnoticed. 8/10

Magic: Not much tree magic, but, I mean… wasn’t the real magic the friends we found along the way? 10/10

Comic relief: This chapter was hilarious. Blue begs to differ, to which we say: “who’s Blue? I only know Jane.” 11/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.23

Summary:

Oh, Chapter 23, where we leave the land of Henrietta and join the land of magic. This is what I have been waiting for ever since Neeve did her stupid bad magic scrying. All I want is benign magic and I’m finally getting it and I can’t be any happier. Let’s get into it.

They land the helicopter and the first thing Gansey does is call Noah with the coordinates so he doesn’t have to worry about remembering them or something. This is a little jolt of a reminder that Noah isn’t around and we should be missing him, and I do, I promise. I’m just very overwhelmed with what’s happening right now and Noah isn’t the only thing on my mind. Basically the landscape is beautiful and it reminds Blue of Adam, which is to say that Adam is a very beautiful boy and we should all acknowledge it. Now back to the raven!

Gansey informs us that it’s made of oyster shells, but not before he stands in the middle of the field and yells “ARE YOU LISTENING, GLENDOWER? I AM COMING TO FIND YOU!” Nobody could shout into the void with that amount of conviction and panache but a Gansey.

The oyster shell bit is significant because they’re currently in inland Virginia, and the theory is that when Glendower’s body was brought in from the coast, they figured they’d pick up some shells too, and maybe do some large-scale sculpting.

My little research kings spend some time explaining what they think is going on, for the benefit of both Blue and the reader. And honestly thank God for that, they’re answering some very important questions here.

“They used to carry corpses in straight lines to churches to bury them. Along what you call the ley line. It was supposed to be really bad to take them any other route than the way they’d choose to travel as a spirit.”

“Right,” he said. “So it stands to reason there’s something about the line that fortifies or protects a corpse. That soul. The… animus. The quiddity of it.”  

“Gansey, seriously,” Adam interrupted, to Blue’s relief. “Nobody knows what quiddity means.”

Quiddity (n): 1. whatever makes something the type that it is 2. a trifling point; a crotchet or eccentricity.

The rest of the group makes some jokes at Ronan’s expense while he pees on a tree, and then talks about Glendower some more. They answer questions like “why isn’t he in Wales where he’s from” (because America was built on immigrants duh) and “is Blue’s energy anything like the energy from the ley line?” (to which Gansey calls her “the table everyone wants at Starbucks—next to the wall plug”, and if you don’t think that’s the funniest shit you’ve ever heard you’re wrong).

But then Gansey finds a stream that his top-of-the-line EMF reader is excited about, and even though Adam’s politeness forces a reminder about Helen once or seven times, they all follow him into a forest without question.

The place they find is beautiful. Crazily beautiful, the kind that defies description, and as a reader I’m sat in my bedroom like…. :(. Nature is never that nice for me. Nature in the greater Henrietta area is so beautiful, apparently, that it’s stopped Gansey and Adam’s watches and time is no longer a concern. Nobody’s freaking out, but nobody’s unconcerned either.

She was okay, but in the way she’d been okay before the helicopter. It was not that she was scared of flashing lights on the EMF reader or Adam’s watch refusing to work, but she hadn’t got out of bed in the morning expecting to encounter a place where maybe time didn’t work.

Then, Blue reaches out and holds hands with Adam. And it! Is! So! Hot! I need to know how Stiefvater can take something so mundane and middle school and make it this attractive. Frankly, I’m blown away. Gansey is a little blown away by it too, not entirely in a good way, but not so much that he can’t lead them to a little pool where his EMF reader stops working. Blue had thought it was empty but now she sees fish, which doesn’t make any sense since it’s a tiny pool and there’s no reason fish would be in it.

And then, as they try to solve the mystery of the fish, we get Gansey and Blue’s first Big Romantic Moment™. It’s a nice counterpoint to Blue and Adam’s handholding that helps confuse the reader yet again, leaving us wondering whether or not there’s actually a love triangle.

Gansey looked up to them and she saw in his face that he loved this place. His bald expression held something new: not the raw delight of finding the ley line of the sly pleasure of teasing Blue. She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.

Um, wow.

True love has never been so easily transcribed.

Blue and Ronan break up the moment, each in their own way: Blue lets go of Adam’s hand to caress a tree and Ronan calls softly for Adam. Then Gansey drops a truth bomb! The fish aren’t real, and here’s how he knows.

First the pool was empty. Then it was full of silver and black fish. Then, Gansey was wondering how fish got to this tiny pool and used his obscure fish knowledge to hypothesize that it was something specific brand of fish that were red on the bottom. He looks back down, and all the fish have turned red.

Not a little red, but bright red, sunset red, red as a dream. Like they had never been any other color.

So, basically, this place is magic as heck and everyone is excited but also a little scared, as they should be. If you can control a forest with your own expectations, you have to wonder what’s going to come out of the trees if you expect the worst.

Speaking of coming out of the trees, Adam just stepped out of a giant hole in one of them and seems shaken up. Blue spends some time talking about what the hole in the tree looks like (gross, disgusting, full of fungus and rot) and then decides to get in the hole—which, dude, you just told me it was putrid. Why would you voluntarily climb inside? But it’s Blue, and she loves trees to the point of spiritual connection, so she doesn’t see an issue with it.

The tree shows Blue a vision using all of her senses. That might sound confusing, but what I mean is that while she watches herself being in love with Gansey and killing him with a kiss, she also feels his fingers on her cheek and the smell of mint in his mouth.

She could feel how badly the other Blue wanted to kiss him, even as she dreaded it. Though she couldn’t understand why, her real, present day memories in the tree cavity were clouded with other false memories of their lips nearly touching, a life this other Blue had already lived.

I’m loathe to call this a love story lest the stigma surrounding teenage feelings turn people off to the story, but…damn. This is a really good love story.

The way Adam drags Blue away from the others leads her to believe they saw two different things. Adam saw something that makes him feel like he needs to defend himself to Blue, say he would never do anything to hurt Gansey. Blue doesn’t ask what particular type of hurt, because she doesn’t want to tell him what she saw. She just wants to let him wipe the tears off her face and hold her hand. Some more romantic parallels for you guys to ruminate over.

The last image we get is of Gansey in the cavity of the tree looking like a sleeping king with his eyes closed and Adam’s face turned away in shame. Blue asks him what he saw. He tells her it was Glendower. End scene.

Thougts and Feelings:

I have a lot of feelings about this chapter all arranged in a neat little line of post-it notes on my desk, so let’s get into it.

Number one: the image of 4/5 Gangsey members standing in a field as seen through Blue’s eyes. First off, the grass is thigh-high on Gansey. Imagine how high it must be on Blue, who is a straight up tiny person! Is anyone else worried about ticks? I am very worried about ticks. But, also, Adam’s hair being “the same colorless brown as the tips of old grass,” and being “more handsome than Blue remembered.” He is a romantic southern hero and you can pry that belief from my cold dead hands.

Going along with that, it’s one of my greatest regrets that ink cannot fully convey the differences in accents that we’re getting from characters. It’s nice to hear that Gansey’s speech sounds like old money, but what does that mean? I’m not from Virginia, so I don’t know the difference between scared-drawl Adam, clipped-vowel Adam, and pleasantly surprised one-word-slips-out-with-an-accent Adam. I want to know these things! This is why I’m simultaneously excited for the TV show and so, so scared they’re going to squander the glorious opportunity they’ve been given. Allowing The Raven Cycle to become a bad TV show is one of my greatest fears, and it should be yours too.

Number two: there’s some banter between Blue, Ronan, and Adam about how talking to Ronan is like being hung drawn and quartered. This is after Blue and Adam had a private conversation immediately post-helicopter and Adam likens Ronan to a pit bull that Gansey is training. Here’s the thing: I love when people talk about Ronan when he’s not there. It’s insightful and fun and a lot of the time people love that little asshole as much as I do. It just seems like this part of the book is really going after him and then not giving him the chance to defend himself.

I think this is a by-product of my having read the whole series multiple times, because Ronan gets infinitely more airtime in every other novel. Dream Thieves relegates practically everyone else to side character status and just digs in, and I’m missing that depth here. Yeah, Ronan’s looking dangerous and peeing on a tree, but he’s doing it without the emotional depth and flair for the dramatic that I’ve come to expect from Ronan Lynch. Don’t call him a mean pit bull if you’re not prepared to let him call you an asshole in response, is what I’m getting at. Only nice words behind his back. Only refer to him as a misunderstood and mistreated pit bull who doesn’t have a violent nature but is a product of their circumstance. Also, stop vilifying pit bulls period. They don’t deserve it.

Number three: Blue’s flash forward to her murderkiss. It makes me happy to read that scene because I forgot how accurate it was to the rest of the series. It makes me really impressed with Stiefvater’s ability to plan scenes and carry out narratives and I don’t know if any of the technical terms are coming out right but she’s combining a scene that evokes emotion with a whole host of other complex plot and narrative devices. And me, now, as a college student studying creative writing, is like, damn, Stiefvater! You really did that. I love you so much.

Lastly: that image of Gansey. You know the one I’m talking about: that one. The one where Gansey is in the tree, hands folded, head bowed, and Blue is like “that’s probably what Glendower looked like, and I didn’t think I’d be attracted to dead Welsh kings but um…” Yeah, that one.

It was a huge missed opportunity not to call back this image at the end of the series. There’s something about seeing Gansey so clearly with this masterful description and then just…letting the image drop. Not bringing back this idea that Gansey, to his friends, is the perfect likeness of the king they’re searching for. This should be a defining image for the rest of the series, and it feels like one now. I just don’t remember that feeling coming to anything, later. Maybe this reread will prove me wrong. I hope it does.

Those are my four thoughts and my innumerable feelings. Now on to some ratings.

Best character moment:

In the cavity, Gansey’s head was bowed. He looked like a statue in a church, his hands clasped in front of him. There was something very ancient about him just then, with the tree arched over him and his eyelids rendered colorless in the shadows. He was himself, but he was something else, too—that something that Blue had first seen in him at the boys’ reading, that sense of otherness, of something more, seemed to radiate from that still portrait of Gansey enshrined in the tree.

Best turn of phrase:

She closed her eyes. Almost at once, she could smell rain—not the scent of rain coming, but the living, shifting odor of a storm currently waging, the wide-open scent of a breeze moving through water.

Action: I mean, wow. I’m frantically excited about all the goings-on. They’re exploring a magic forest and also there is hand holding and multiple visions given to them by a tree about what is/could be to come??? Sign me UP! 12/10

Magic: Magic forest magic fish magic friendships, magic everything:) 20/10

Comic relief: Ronan peed on a tree? That’s it, the rest of it was pretty heavy. 7/10