The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.03

Summary:

This chapter brings us an immediate answer to the question posed by Declan last time: “Ronan, where the hell are you?” He’s in the Camaro with all of his Best Friends™, and Gansey’s talking on the phone to Mallory. Everyone’s just kind of lounging around, so we get a fair bit of Ronan’s internal monologue. He notices Adam half asleep, Blue getting seeds off her clothes, and Noah being ghosty.

He makes a side comment that Gansey is driving because he always drives, and talking about Glendower because he doesn’t talk about anything else. I found this bit kind of fishy, not because of the car thing—we all have that one Friend Who Drives Everywhere—but because of the conversation topic. I don’t know if I could be friends with a guy who only talks about one thing? There’s got to be some interesting conversation dynamics here, and frankly I’m not seeing them.

Anyways, back to the inside of Ronan’s head. He wants to drive and can’t so he’s being dramatic and pretending to die of heat stroke while looking for something else to do.

Ronan leaned on the cracked black vinyl of the passenger-side door and chewed on the leather bands on his wrist. They tasted like gasoline, a flavor that struck Ronan as both sexy and summery.

This is one of my favorite Ronan lines of all time. First of all, he is willingly ingesting something that tastes like gasoline. Secondly, he likes it. And thirdly, he uses the adjectives “sexy” and “summery” to describe something that’s—well, you’ve probably all smelled gasoline. I don’t know if those adjectives ever came to mind.

This beautiful descriptive imagery is interrupted by Gansey’s stunningly boring conversation about how to look for Glendower under a lake they encountered in their quest to map all of Cabeswater, and whether or not they can use ground-penetrating radar to do it. Mallory’s side of the conversation is not transcribed but is probably equally as boring, so it’s a relief when Gansey hangs up the phone.

Then his mother texts, and we’re stuck in the same boring loop of Adult-Gansey Obligations again. She wants him to come help out on the campaign trail, because she’s rich and bored and running for Congress. I have to say, I’m appreciative that it’s Gansey’s mother running for Congress and not Gansey, Sr., but I suppose I’d be happier if neither of them ran and the Democrat got the seat instead.

Thankfully, all of this chatter is interrupted when another car pulls up next to the Gangsey. Stiefvater, who knows much more about cars than I do, describes it beautifully and gets across the dangerous characteristics without me needing to understand big words like “horsepower” or “transmission.” But, in case you want to know more about the Pig’s current rival, here’s some description by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about:

Kavinsky’s Mitsubishi Evo was a thing of boyish beauty, moon-white with a voracious black mouth of a grille and an immense splattered graphic of a knife on either side of the body.

So, the car looks like gasoline tastes. Sexy and summery.

Kavinsky calls Gansey some bad words and Ronan wants to street race. It’s the same underdevelopment of impulse control that leads me or a cat to think “push” every time we see a glass on the edge of a table. Adam shoots down the idea using his extensive knowledge of cars (Adam, Ronan, and cars is the true romantic coupling we deserve), but Ronan is still trying to convince Gansey. Until, of course, Blue weighs in that Kavinsky’s an asshole and he speeds off into the night.

The last line is Gansey calling Kavinsky trouble, which is very lazy and yet very appreciated forshadowing to Ronan’s relationship with young adult’s classic Hot Dirtbag.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I love being inside Ronan’s head like this. I love it. It’s the first Ronan POV and it starts of with pure wrath. Ronan is pissed, antsy, bored. His narrative and his mind whir so much faster than any of the other characters, and now that we see that he gains like 65 facets per second.

He spends half a page talking about death, and how excited he is to ask St. Peter questions at the pearly gates (it’s deliciously Catholic). He’s constantly moving and shifting. The language used to describe him is so tactile I started to feel itchy and restless myself. It’s not so surprising, after reading this, how Ronan is able to constantly create.

And, then, there’s the pairing you’ve probably seen in popular media if you’ve ever googled the Raven Cycle: Adam and Ronan. To all the people who said that Ronan being gay came out of left field, y’all we’re wrong. Kavinsky rolls up and we get a rundown of every rumor Kavinsky’s ever been involved in. Not to mention a careful description of his “boyishly beautiful” car and Ronan explicitly saying that even though he knows he should hate Kavinsky, he doesn’t. And if you’re not convinced yet, don’t worry. I will be pointing out every instance in this text that the Ronan Is Gay squad painstakingly searched for before it was stated in canon.

The last thing I’m going to say is that the next chapter is from the Gray Man’s POV, and I’m not even mad about it. That’s when you know our villain had a glow up.

Best Character Moment:

Ronan shifted restlessly. The successful demonstration of the plane had left him hyper-alive. He felt like burning something to the ground. He pressed his hand directly over the air-conditioning vent to prevent heat exhaustion. “You’re driving like an old woman.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

He had a refugee’s face, hollow-eyed and innocent.

He wore a lazy smile, and he mouthed something to Gansey that ended with “—unt.”

Action: The lack of street racing was disappointing, but I approve of the gang keeping Ronan out of trouble. 7/10

Magic: Ronan’s POV is the closest non-magic thing to magic I can think of. 9/10

Comic Relief: Sexy. And. Summery. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.02

Summary:

Remember when I told you this book let you in to new sides of Ronan that you’d never seen before? Well, I wasn’t kidding. This chapter opens with an in-depth look at the life and times of Declan Lynch, which greatly informs why our phone-hating, school-ditching, tattooed Ronan is the way he is.

Also, the fun twist is that it’s all through the eyes of a hit man, so. That’s especially fun.

Declan Lynch, the oldest of the Lynch brothers, was never alone. He was never with his brothers, but he was never alone. He was a perpetual-motion machine run by the energy of others: here leaning over a friend’s table at a pizza joint, here drawn into an alcove with a girl’s palm to his mouth, here laughing over the hood of an older man’s Mercedes.

(Why the hell is some girl’s palm on Declan’s mouth? That strikes me as distinctly unsexy. As someone who has been a girl for 19 years, I wouldn’t flirt palm first. But that’s just me.)

This is all to say that the Gray Man (yes, the assassin is called “The Gray Man”) is waiting for Declan to be alone, and it is taking a very long time. He follows Declan around as he navigates Aglionby in the summer, and we get some gratuitous descriptions of a well-manicured prep school that confuse the hell out of me. Am I supposed to feel bad for these rich boys living in dorms over the summer? Is there any way in hell I’d believe that instead of numbers, the rooms are labelled with attributes like “piety” and “effervescence?” Because, okay. I get that this is a rich person school. I also go to a rich person school, and our dorms have numbers like everyone else.

We get some fun internal monologue from the Gray Man, who is infinitely better than Barrington Whelk because he thinks thoughts like this:

The Gray Man checked his watch. The rental car place closed in an hour, and if he despised anything, it was public transportation. This would have to be brief.

The Gray Man busts down the door. To his credit, Declan recovers quickly and starts to fight, but he’s really getting his ass handed to him. Then, of course, the gun comes into play.

Stiefvater makes it very clear that Declan keeps the gun not as insurance for if, but when. He’s just not ready for the Gray Man to throw a motorcycle helmet at him, take the gun, and then pistol-whip him several times across the face. It’s grim.

The Gray Man wants to know where the Greywaren is. He’s willing to shoot Declan in several vital organs to figure it out. After maybe the third time Declan says it, the Gray Man decides to believe it, and then Declan gets a little more homework and finds out who killed his father.

After he pretends to leave, the Gray Man stands in the hallway and watches Declan through a crack in the door he just broke. Declan calls Matthew, first, but he left his phone in his room. Which is the same room as Declan’s! That’s sweet. We stan Matthew. He then calls Ronan. We know this because nobody picks up, and also because Declan says “Ronan, where the hell are you?”

Which, honestly, is what we all want to know.

Thoughts and Feelings:

So. Declan.

Empathizing with Declan is new to me. This chapter makes it so easy, and also so hard. The thins about Declan is that he had the same father as Ronan but nowhere near the same amount of affection. He’s also everything that Aglionby loves a man to be, which isn’t objectively bad. It’s just a little too slimy for most people’s liking.

And yet there’s the image of him lying on the floor, nose broken, shoulder dislocated, calling his little brother before he calls 911. Sleeping with a gun in his dresser drawer because he knows, at some point, somebody is going to try and kill him. So different from Ronan, who would never be content to wait for something to come to him, but just as young. And just as parentless!

The Lynch boys are all kinds of messed up and I just want them to have a few soft moments. Is that too much to ask? (Not for Matthew, who spent this entire chapter chilling on a boat with his friends, but for the other two).

As for the introduction of the Gray Man, I know it’s only been one chapter so far, but as someone who’s read the books many times before I’m going to spoil something really quickly: we like him. He’s fun. He’s the best villain we get in this series.

Best Character Moment:

But the Gray Man had known before he arrived that Niall Lynch had taught his sons to box. The only thing the Gray Man’s father had taught him was how to pronounce trebuchet.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The Gray Man had been called effervescent, once, in an article. He was fairly certain it was because he had very straight teeth. Even teeth seemed to be a prerequisite for effervescence.

Action: There’s a gun! And a fight! It’s insane!!! 15/10

Magic: Unfortunately, Declan is not as magical as his brother. 4/10

Comic Relief: The Gray Man has very hard opinions on things. It’s a real treat to read about them. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.00

Summary:

Hello everyone, and welcome! It’s the first ever Dream Thieves summary and boy am I heckin excited. I want to start by talking about one of the quotes that precedes the prologue, because it’s just too good to ignore. There’s a poem about taking a flower out of your dreams, a quote about how dreams are dangerous, and then this bad boy:

I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven’t got the guts to bite people themselves.

-August Strindberg

I live by that quote. I have that quote written down on the first page of my journal. It is objectively amazing and there is no better way to start off this book wherein many people are bitten and we fall in love with the dogs who do it.

Now into the prologue. It functions as a sort of backstory for not only Ronan, but his whole family. This is done through the lens of secrets. First, we have to define what a secret is. They’re split into three types: secrets you keep from other people, secrets you keep from yourselves, and secrets that are so big, you don’t even know you’re keeping them.

This part feels a little bit like Patrick Rothfuss’s twice-used opening sequence where he describes types of silence. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d google which one came first just to see who was inspired by who. Regardless, we get to Ronan when Stiefvater starts to describe all of the secrets Ronan keeps, and why he keeps them.

The first secret is Niall Lynch. He claims that his birth broke the mold (evidence: an earthquake with a 4.1 magnitude). We’re supposed to be skeptical, because there are three Lynch brothers and all of them are like little mirror images of their father. This marks the first of around a thousand aggressively poetic descriptions of Ronan you can expect to see as we get further into the novel.

Each flattered a different side of Niall. Declan had the same way of taking a room and shaking its hand. Matthew’s curls were netted with Niall’s charm and humor. And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war.

Niall then goes on to talk about how Ronan’s birth was also a capital E Event. There were dried up rivers and cows that cried tears of blood and laughing ravens and flowers everywhere. If any of you have siblings, you can imagine what Declan said next. The classic and ever-pervasive “what about me?” Of course, Niall Lynch is not your classic father. He can’t tell Declan about his birth because he didn’t bother to show up.

The first thing I thought of when I read about Niall straight up telling his kid he wasn’t there when he was born was a quote from a John Mulaney special: “One black coffee. Same motherfucker.” Basically, Niall Lynch is the kind of guy who would roll up to a McDonald’s drive through and order one black coffee while his children scream in the backseat. Stone cold. Unflinching. That’s Niall Lynch.

Niall’s face was smeared with blood and blue petals.

“I was just dreaming of the day you were born,” Niall said, “Ronan.”

He wiped the blood on his forehead to show Ronan that there was no wound beneath it. The petals snared in the blood were shaped like tiny stars. Ronan was struck with how sure he was that they had come from his father’s mind.

That is also Niall Lynch. Fun multitudes, right?

Anyways, the first secret is that Ronan’s father was crazy and could also dream things into existence. The second secret, the one Ronan keeps from himself, is that he’s terrified. But, hey, it makes him human, so I’m not complaining.

The last secret, the big one, we get through a dream. Ronan’s asleep, and he’s looking at the Camaro. Gansey doesn’t let him drive it, because he’s smart. But then we watch Ronan pluck the keys from the ignition of this dream-Camaro and hold them in his fist. When he wakes up, they’re still there.

The third secret, it turns out, is a variation on the first. Niall Lynch could dream things into reality. So can his son.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I think the comparison I made to Rothfuss earlier speaks for itself. This prologue oozes magic and poetry and all the fun and good things we can expect from this book that we only got a little taste of in the first.

And I also appreciate the fact that this prologue gives us more backstory on Ronan that we got in the whole first book. Anyways, I’m not thinking or feeling a ton that isn’t my Earth Sciences midterm coming up, so I’m gonna end this quickly in the interest of getting it up on time.

Dream Thieves! Woohoo!!

Best Character Moment:

“When I was born,” Niall Lynch told his middle son, “God broke the mold so hard the ground shook.”

This was already a lie, because if God truly had broken the mold for Niall, He’d made Himself a knockoff twenty years later to craft Ronan and his two brothers, Declan and Matthew.

Best Turn of Phrase:

All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or kept-from, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches—that’s what will be left at the end of it all.

Action: I mean, it’s the prologue. Nothing happening is kind of the whole point. 5/10

Magic: Magic??? MAGIC??? Arguably too much! 11/10

Comic Relief: I can’t tell if Ronan’s childhood was happy or not, and that’s the opposite of funny. 4/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.Extra

Almost a year ago (July 18th, 2018, to be exact) I finished reading The Raven Boys in a single day. I read the copy I used to check out of the library, before my mom bought me my own books (the American hardcover, as opposed to the British paperbacks I now own). Then I decided to write down my reaction in a journal I keep for feelings about books and media I consume, to commemorate the moment and get some things off my chest. I wanted to transfer it here because I think I need a little break before I delve into Dream Thieves, and there’s nothing like a good old pre-written ranting to throw up here while I take the week off.

I also think it’s an interesting contrast, since these are my thoughts after reading it in one day, and you’ve only read my thoughts after they’ve been marinating for seven months. It’s a very different way of reading, I can tell you that much. But here it is, everyone:

A younger Emily’s reread of The Raven Boys

So this is probably going to be a part of a longer series in which I talk about all 4 Raven Cycle books individually and then altogether, because I find when I am in a creative spell I simply cannot resist them. So there’s that.

But of the first book in particular, there’s something to be said about a series I read bit by bit as it came out. I fell in love with the Raven Boys first, and I waited for the others to see what would happen next. A special spot in my heart is reserved for this book, and so I am biased.

I do maintain that this book isn’t prose, it’s just poetry without the line breaks. Everything is described in a way that doesn’t actually describe it at all, which strikes me as the ultimate trust of the reader. Steifvater knows when she describes Ronan’s tattoo as a hook, a knife, a fleur-de-lis, that we will understand Ronan is dangerous, damages, and wondrous. We love that Blue is sensible, in her crochet leggings.

This is the kind of book that ensnares me. It is, to steal Persephone’s words, more raven than the others. And I love it to death, I really do. This is a desert island book. Stiefvater is a desert island artist. I would take her work anywhere, and I’m not even being dramatic. I’m being sensible.

SOME OF THE BEST TURNS OF PHRASE:

  • Girlfriend held her hand 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 two 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. (42)
  • “Get used to some turbulence, you little bastard.” “You can’t name it that.” “Her name’s Chainsaw,” replied Ronan. (95)
  • A bruise spread over his cheekbone, red and swelling as a galaxy (130)
  • The tiny bunch of flowers made sense. They matched Adam’s frayed sweater. (181)
  • Adam’s mouth made the soundless shape of a laugh (213)
  • She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big it felt like sadness (223)
  • There was something musical about Ronan when he swore, a careful and loving precision to the way he fit the words together. A black-painted poetry (238)
  • “They were just such small hurts, you know?” (270)
  • “I want you to know,” Noah said, pressing the carved bone against his Adam’s apple, hard, as if it would squeeze the words from him. “I was… more… when I was alive.” (305)
  • It was a catastrophe of light. He was aware in a single, exploded moment of how many colors combined to make white. (339)
  • The roar of the engine starting was probably what had woken Gansey in the first place, the moonlight merely a memory of the last time he’d been woken. (374)

Current Emily’s reaction

So there’s that. Obviously I was trying a bit too hard to be poetic, but there were also plenty of things I didn’t pick up on. I didn’t mention the funny moments, or the complicated and sometimes frustrating magic, or the way that Stiefvater sets up little moments between each character pairing that feel like a screen test of romantic potential. I didn’t notice how obvious it was that Blue wanted to choose Adam but she couldn’t get over Gansey and his sexy, sexy journal. I wasn’t nearly as appreciative of Calla as I should have been. And, because I was reading so very fast, I didn’t feel the slow drag of every Whelk POV chapter pulling me down.

There are upsides and downsides to every way of reading. But, frankly, I’m just really glad I got to do it both ways. I’m glad this book holds up no matter how many times I’ve read it. And yet, I’m really excited to put Raven Boys back on my shelf and pick up Dream Thieves. I can’t wait for you to really meet Ronan. It’s long overdue.

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.48

Summary:

We’re here, folks! THE LAST CHAPTER!!! I’m going to be all sentimental about it in the thoughts and feelings section, don’t worry. I’ll put it at the end so you can skip it if you want.

This chapter finesses a nice time transition by taking us right to Noah’s funeral where, after a couple weeks of detective work, they give his bones to his family to bury. In that time, everyone finished school successfully, Gansey shed a little bit more of his good boy image by quitting the rowing team, and Adam got his own apartment above a church.

We also learn that Neeve disappeared because Calla, Persephone, and Maura snuck into her room and moved her mirrors around. Which sounds a little bit like psychic bullshit, but that’s characteristic of Blue’s family. But other than that, everything is right with the world:

And slowly their lives found an equilibrium, though it didn’t seem they’d ever return to normal. The ley line was awake and Noah was all but gone. Magic was real, Glendower was real, and something was starting.

After that beautiful quote Steifvater takes us right to Blue’s funeral OOTD. I don’t know why Gansey is judging her when he and Ronan both showed up in designer suits, but hey. At least her T-shirt dress DIY has black lace on it. It’s mourning-chic, get off her back. And it’s not like she’s planning on going to talk to Noah’s grieving family, right? That would be crazy.

But when Noah asks you to do something—no, begs you—you do it. So even though Gansey grabs her arm (alert! arm touch alert!) and she’s going to embarrass herself, she’s going to go tell the Czerny family what Noah told her to say: he’s sorry for drinking his mother’s birthday schnapps. Blue and Noah’s relationship is underappreciated and deserves more love, and this feels like a good time to say it.

Anyways, Blue walks up to the family and says her mother is a psychic. It wasn’t the best way to introduce herself, but the minute she relays Noah’s message his mother starts crying and she exits as gracefully as possible. Until, of course, everyone leaves and they start to dig up Noah’s bones.

Here’s the thing: of course Ronan lounged on the hood of his BMW while everyone else worked. Of course Gansey thought nothing of renting a literal backhoe to do the gravedigging. And of course Adam miraculously knows how to use it. After all that work, they rebury Noah’s bones behind the old church so they’re on the ley line. They get their friend back, we get our favorite boy back. Everybody wins.

“No,” Noah protestet, around Blue’s arm. “I’m serious. This place creeps me the hell out. Can we go?”

Gansey’s face broke into a relieved, easy grin. “Yes, we can go home.”

“I’m still not eating pizza,” Noah said

But this wouldn’t be a Maggie Steifvater novel without one good cliffhanger to end it all, and here it is: remember that baby bird that appeared out of nowhere? Her name rhymes with Slainsaw? Yeah, she didn’t exactly come from “nowhere.” Ronan took her out of his dreams.

Stiefvater really does love her zingy endings. Good thing we don’t have to wait for the next book… NEW DREAM THIEVES CHAPTER NEXT WEEK!

Thoughts and Feelings:

Whew. It really has been a wild ride. I’ve carried this book with me in my backpack every single day of 2019, and so far it’s been a pretty eventful year. Having some Raven Boys as constant companions wasn’t the worst thing I could’ve done.

As for this chapter as an ending, I’m glad this was the loose end that got wrapped up. I forgot about Noah. You forgot about Noah. We all feel terrible about it, and we’re very happy that he got the ending he deserved. It’s also important that we find out one of the main characters has superpowers. Okay, maybe they’re not under the traditional definition of superpowers, but when you can make a bird appear when there wasn’t anything there before? That’s super.

I guess I’m just excited for a new narrative. Not that it’s going to be all that different from this one, really. We get new points of view and a new Whelk-ish antagonist (although this new guy is better, I promise). We also get breakups and new love and better magic. We get more visits to Cabeswater. We get a hell of a lot more Persephone, which is a win for everyone.

There are a lot of people who have read The Raven Cycle and say that Dream Thieves is their favorite book. These people are the types that, when they hear the name Ronan, call him “my baby” and insist that he needs protection from all things bad and scary. He really doesn’t. I mean, he is (as established) a soft boy, but he’s not in need of any sort of protection. All this is to say that Dream Thieves is Ronan’s book. And people love Ronan.

Dream Thieves is not my favorite. If I had to pick a favorite, it’s Raven Boys, because I’m loyal and I read it first. What I’m trying to get across, though, it that you should be excited for the next book. If you love Dream Thieves half as much as everyone else does, this is going to be a fun six months.

Excelsior. Onwards, and upwards.

Best Character Moment:

When they ran back to the BMW, breathless and giddy with their crime, Ronan told Gansey, “This will all come out and bite you in the ass, you know, when you’re running for Congress.”

“Shut up and drive, Lynch.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Ronan, still in the ruins, looked over his shoulder at them. In the dim light of the flashlights, the tattooed hook that edged out above his collar looked like either a claw or a finger or a fleur-de-lis. It was nearly as sharp as his smile.

Action: A grave robbery occurred. Blue ruined a funeral. It was wild. 9/10

Magic: Noah used the power of love to turn Blue into the Long Island Medium. 8/10

Comic Relief: The fact that I can say the Gangsey relayed a message from beyond the dead and then robbed a grave all in one chapter is objectively funny. They’re teenagers. Why is nobody monitoring the hilarious shit they do? 11/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.47

Summary:

Ah, chapter forty-seven. The lovely part of this book where we get to dive into the age old question of whether or not it’s murder if you just stand there and let someone else get run over by a bunch of magical deer. Wait, I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we have to talk about how the-Gangsey-minus-Adam (is that what we’re calling it now? Why didn’t I think of a better name?) gets out of the tree.

The answer is simple: they throw themselves out. Unfortunately, though, we find out that Gansey saw only one snippet of Blue’s Murderkiss Vision (part 2). It’s so frustrating that Blue’s the only one who sees them! Show Gansey the steamy visions!!!!! He would be so confused and freaked out and internally chivalrous towards Adam’s feelings. It would be great.

Speaking of Adam, the guy is just standing in the middle of the pentagram, completely untouched. He’s holding the gun that Whelk just tried to shoot him with. And do you want to know where our boy Barrington is? You guessed it! Dead on the ground, having been stomped to death Mufasa-style (he’s also covered in leaves, but that’s neither here nor there).

Adam says he didn’t kill anyone, he just stood there and the trees gave him the gun while Whelk got trampled. Gansey says it doesn’t matter, if you have the ability to save someone and you don’t, it’s wrong. No matter how many cute ghosts they’ve created, no matter how much they sucked at teaching Latin. Adam has a different interpretation of justice. It’s a very philosophical debate, but the only conclusion it reaches is that the sacrifice did something to Adam that Gansey can’t see past.

And then the other two come out of the tree and Blue is ultimately very sensible and probably saves their asses.

“I think we should get out of here,” Blue said. “Earthquakes and animals and—I don’t know how much of an effect I’m having, but things are…”

Earthquakes and animals and guns, oh my!

Before they can leave, though, the trees start talking again. They’re speaking a mishmash of Latin and English, but everyone can hear clearly what they’re saying: “Boy. We know what you’re looking for.”

The rest of what they say is in Latin, and Ronan translates as best he can:

“They said there’ve always been rumors of a king buried somewhere along this spirit road,” Ronan said. His eyes held Gansey’s. “They think he may be yours.”

They waited a whole book to tell us this, but hey. Better late than never.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This fun forest wrap-up of the novel’s main confrontation is kinda fun, if only because it’s just the kids. Somehow both adults were taken out of the equation, leaving this little knot of teenagers to trudge out of the forest and back to the car Adam stole. I wonder if he gives Gansey back the keys by himself, or if Gansey has to ask for them?

But these are questions that never get answered, because Steifvater just leaves us in the woods. I know I went on a fun mechanical rant recently about how we don’t need to see people move from place to place, but I take some of that back. I want a gentle falling of action. I want a slow return to whatever normalcy this gang of friends can scrounge up. I want a denouement!

Basically, give me soft moments or give me death (not exactly what Patrick Henry said, but I’m adapting for my own purposes).

And then, the part I’ve been dreading talking about: the philosophical debate. Adam and Ronan (all sotfboy moments aside—think parking lot fight club Ronan, not baby bird feeding Ronan) are so much more ruthless than Gansey, and it hasn’t yet been this obvious. It’s not explicitly stated until Blue Lily Lily Blue, but I admire the continuity of character that Stiefvater sets up here. Adam views fairness and justice in a totally different light than Gansey does. The minutia of those differences eludes me, but I’m not a Philosophy major so I think that’s okay.

Best Character Moment:

“He killed Noah,” Adam said. “It’s what he deserved.”

“No.” Gansey pressed his hands over his face. There was a body here, a body, and it used to be alive. They didn’t even have the authority to choose an alcoholic beverage. They couldn’t be deciding who deserved to live or die.

Best Turn of Phrase:

It was like the truth, but turned sideways. He kept looking at it, and looking at it, and it still had a young man dead who looked an awful lot like Noah’s crippled skeleton. And then there was Adam, his appearance unchanged, but still—there was something in his eyes. In the lines of his mouth. 

Gansey felt loss looming.

Action: My least favorite character got straight up trampled. That’s about as action packed as it gets. 15/10

Magic: Who needs a gun when you have magical deer to do your bidding? 9/10

Comic Relief: Gansey’s position on the morality of Adam’s choices was “no beer, no murder,” and while that’s not logically funny it did make me laugh, so. 7/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.46

Summary:

We pick up in this chapter right where we left off: the ground is shaking and everyone is being tossed around like popcorn in the microwave. Gansey’s holding onto a tree for dear life, Whelk’s on the ground, Blue gets tossed into Ronan. I like to think of Blue and Ronan grabbing onto each other, both of them grudgingly trying to shield the other, but because it’s not explicitly stated I’m going to say that it’s just a hypothetical I came up with in my spare time.

Everyone’s freaked out, and rightly so. For those of you who have never been to Virginia, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they don’t usually have earthquakes there. When Ronan yells “Look what you’ve done, you crazy bastard!” I can see where he’s coming from. I, too, like to call my friend a crazy bastard right after he sacrifices himself for the good of the friend group.

Somehow in all the commotion Whelk kept hold of the gun, and when he’s able to stand up, up he’s pissed.

“What would you know about what to do with power?” he snapped at Adam. “What a waste. What a fucking waste.”

Whelk is the fucking waste, and I’ve been saying that since day one. But I digress.

He points the gun at Adam and pulls the trigger. The reason I say “pulls the trigger” and not just “shot him” is because, well, Whelk had perfect aim and yet Adam is completely untouched. Whelk shot him but it didn’t take, and only Gansey knows what that means, at first. Everyone else catches on pretty quickly. Adam is strange now, different. He has powers that nobody understands.

These powers cause Whelk to make sad, pathetic noises, but he still doesn’t put down the gun. Adam tells him he should probably drop it, because Cabeswater, in all its sentient glory, isn’t cool with him having the gun. Me neither, but I’m not the one who triggers a stampede of aggressive white horned animals to trample him to death for not doing what I want.

On the plus side, this scene contains the line “she clutched at both Ronan and Gansey,” so it looks like I finally get my protective hugging scene. Or, some version of it. Instead of continuing to cling to each other, Blue throws everyone into the hole in that tree that gave them the visions because it’s probably safe from whatever is about to beat them to death with its hooves. Of course, the vision tree wouldn’t be the vision tree without—you guessed it—visions!

In this vision, the night smeared jeweled reflections across wet, steaming tarmac, stoplights turning from green to red. The Camaro sat at a curb, Blue in the driver’s seat. Everything was soaked in the smell of gasoline. She caught a glimpse of a collared shirt in the passenger’s seat; this was Gansey. He leaned across the gearshift towards her, pressing fingers to the place her collarbone was exposed. His breath was hot on her neck.

I like to talk about how this isn’t a “romance book”because of the stigma associated with teen YA. But something can be Teen Romance™ and still be Real Literature, and that quote is a perfect example.

But before we can appreciate it too much, Blue’s literally shoved out of her vision by Gansey and they fly out of the tree and onto the ground.

Thoughts and Feelings:

It’s honestly so rude to end this chapter with another cliffhanger. This weird extension of cliffhangers on cliffhangers on cliffhangers is going to get so old that at some point, there are going to be enough people hanging off the cliff that they can all just join hands in one big rope and touch the bottom.

Here’s the thing: they’re fine, when you’re reading the book all at once. You can devour it in one sitting and you hardly notice how few chapters give closure of any kind. But if you’re like me, and you’re reading this thing week by week and talking extensively about each chapter as a part of a greater whole, it starts to get a little tedious.

I guess I’m happy we’re back in Blue’s perspective? I’m not sure how much we gain from it, given that there’s nothing with her special little Sargent Spin. Again, much like the last chapter, I wanted her to notice more about Adam. I wanted her to look at him, really look at him, and make an observation that only she could make. I get it’s hectic, and in reality she probably would be more interested in preserving her own life than analyzing the actions of her would-be boyfriend but this isn’t reality. It’s fiction, and if I want a moment of deep thought within all this chaos then I’ll demand it!

We continued with the whole Gansey-knows-something-is-up-first thing, and I’m glad for the consistency. It’s nice to know that all of the angst and fighting after Adam was released from the hospital is because the bonds of their relationship are so strong. I’d like to hear from Ronan, though? He’s oddly quiet in these scenes, like I’ve found him to be the whole book. It’s probably because I’m coming at it from a Dream Thieves perspective and I expect him to have a very active role, but don’t worry. We’ll get there soon.

The last thing I need to mention, the truly egregious thing, is located on page 408 of the British paperback edition.

“Why?” Gansey asked Adam. “Was I so awful?”

Adam said, “It was never about you.”

“But, Adam,” Blue cried, “what have you done?”

“What needed to be done,” Adam replied.

First of all: it’s not a crime to use the word “said” more than once. It’s a very inconspicuous word, and nobody’s going to call the repetition police on you. Also, I was semi-on board with the conversation towards the beginning (I mean it was a bit dramatic, but I’m not going to freak out over it). Until Blue was described as crying out a phrase, and then I was like, is this children’s fiction from the 1950s? Haven’t we moved past this? I’m picturing an actress in a black and white movie calling out after someone ran out into the rain. Blue is from the 21st century, please allow her to inhabit it. “Cried” is not an acceptable dialogue tag. Thank you.

Best Character Moment:

“Look what you’ve done, you crazy bastard!” Ronan shouted to Adam, whose gaze was sharp and wary as he stood in the pentagram.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Gansey, she warned, but she felt unstable and dangerous.

I just want to pretend, Gansey said, the words misting on her skin. I want to pretend that I could.

Action: I mean. An earthquake in the woods, a shooting that wasn’t a shooting, a stampede! What more could I possibly ask for? 12/10

Magic: Cabeswater wants gun reform laws, pass it on. 9/10

Comic Relief: Not really funny, just, um. Surprising? 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.45

Summary:

So. In case you’ve forgotten what went down in the last chapter, I’m going to catch you up to speed: Adam’s in the clearing with Whelk and Neeve with the rest of the Gangsey close behind. Basically, Adam’s in deep shit and everyone else is on their way to help him out.

The first thing Whelk does is make annoyed noises at Adam, because he’s probably tired of the Raven Boys just showing up places. Which doesn’t make any sense, because he stole the coordinates from them. If anything, Adam should be the one who’s pissed about them being in the same place.

Adam’s mad, but not about that. All of the anger is about Noah, even as he takes in the objects Neeve lovingly placed on the corners of the pentagram and the woman herself, tied up in the middle of it. I find it aggressively touching that when confronted with Whelk, all of the Gangsey can only think about Noah, and not any of the 50 other things that make Whelk a detestable man. Especially when Adam’s in immediate danger of the giant knife Whelk is holding.

After he asks Whelk why he had to kill Noah, and not any of the myriad Aglionby students who were actually bad people, Adam remembers that he has his father’s gun in his bag. He takes it out even though he probably shouldn’t, and then we’re stuck with the classic western stand-off: Adam points a gun at Whelk and Whelk holds his giant knife against Neeve’s soft and pretty face.

Adam spends a moment participating in self-loathing (of course Gansey would be able to talk his way out of this one but Adam, no, Adam has to toss the gun in the bushes like an idiot) but Neeve Big Badass Moment comes and saves him from getting her face cut off.

Neeve’s face was quite placid. “You’ll ruin the ritual if you do. Weren’t you listening? I thought you were interested in the process.”

Adam throws the gun, Neeve explains that the sacrifice isn’t the killing but the loss of innocence that killing provides, and then Whelk realizes that he can’t kill Neeve to complete the sacrifice because he’s already killed Noah. What a predicament.

Before Whelk can come up with a workaround, Gansey shows up. He calls Whelk “Mr. Whelk” and has “musty bedhead,” at which point I had to put down the book, first to contemplate how ridiculous it is that Gansey’s still addressing his murderous Latin teacher politely, and then to try and picture how in the world bedhead can look “musty.”

They’re about to get into another western standoff (Gansey has the threat that he called the police and Whelk is ready to call his bluff) when they look down and Neeve is gone. Disappeared, without any noise or preamble. Everyone is standing around, confused, until Whelk takes a flying leap towards the gun in the bushes and everyone explodes into action.

Ronan and Whelk are fistfighting (well, Ronan’s using his fists and Whelk is just hitting him with the gun), Blue is yelling, Gansey is standing there trying not to get shot, and nobody really notices when Adam jumps into the middle of the pentagram.

The next part of the book, I’ll admit, I didn’t understand upon first read. It depends upon the definition of sacrifice that Neeve gave us earlier in the chapter: it’s giving something up that has immense value to the giver. We tend to think of sacrifice in terms of death, because of the stupid conception of dying for someone else as the “ultimate sacrifice”—everyone who read Harry Potter as a child, can you say Lily Evans?—but Steifvater isn’t talking about that.

When it came down to it, Adam had been making sacrifices for a very long time, and he knew what the hardest one was.  

On his terms, or not at all.

Adam sacrifices his free will. As he’s doing it, Gansey’s the only one who understands what’s going on, and he’s yelling at Adam to stop, but we all know he’s not going to. And then he thinks, and this is important for later so remember the phrasing, I will be your hand. I will be your eyes.

Then the ground starts to shake.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here’s the thing about this chapter. There are definitely parts of it that I really like, like Whelk’s grubby schoolboy behavior, and the fact that Neeve goes poof and all hell breaks loose, but I have some complaints too?

Blue and Adam have been one of the strongest pairings in this whole book. And I get it, we kind of got the beginning of the end in Blue’s backyard, but still. In a chapter from Adam’s perspective, we probably should hear more about how Blue’s acting in regards to him. Not to say that I don’t like how prevalent Gansey is in this chapter. I think it’s really important that the two of them are established as brothers and that Adam obviously values his opinion so highly and hates the fact that he does, but come on. There are two other friends that are fighting for Adam’s life in the woods and he doesn’t seem to notice them at all.

I’m cool with Neeve’s disappearance. It’s a little underwhelming but overall fitting for the kind of woman she is. Don’t worry, we do figure out why she disappears, but it doesn’t make anything any more satisfying.

And then, the sacrifice. The first time I read this I thought Adam was dead. I thought he sacrificed his life to wake the line and then the favor they asked of Glendower was going to have to ask for him back. I was very confused when he showed up very not dead immediately after this chapter ended.

And, if you’re still confused, Adam sacrificed his independence. He made himself reliant on something else, and gave up his free will. Which I still don’t totally get, because Adam isn’t independent. He’s giving up something that he’s striving for but doesn’t quite have yet, and honestly for a guy that understands the magic rules so well he should have wondered if that was going to work.

Then again, for a guy that understands the magic rules so well, he probably knows them better than I do. All that is to say that I don’t have a problem with the way the sacrifice shakes out. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool, and I’m excited to talk about its effects on Adam as a part of the group.

I’m going to end it here because I have class tomorrow morning and I have to sleep, but I hope you had a good time witnessing the thwarting of Barrington Whelk. Look forward to it continuing this Sunday!

Best Character Moment:

Adam tossed the gun into the brush. He felt terrible as he did, but he felt better when he wasn’t holding it.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Being Adam Parrish was a complicated thing, a wonder of muscles and organs, synapses and nerves. He was a miracle in moving parts, a study in survival.

Action: Ronan and Whelk had a gun/knife fight in a bunch of bushes. It doesn’t get more action packed than that. 10/10

Magic: This is good magic. This magic made Neeve disappear. We like this magic. 10/10

Comic Relief: I mean, other than the imagery of “musty bedhead,” I couldn’t find anything to laugh about. 4/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.44

Summary:

A quick recap of the physical locations of our characters:

-Blue, Ronan, and Gansey (and maybe Noah?) are en route to Cabeswater

-They’re behind Adam, who stole the Camaro so he could get there first

-Whelk and Neeve were also on their way to Cabeswater when we left them

-Maura, Calla, and Persephone are at holding down the fort at Fox Way

We catch up first with Adam, who found somewhere to park and is now walking through the forest. The chapter kicks off with some fun forest imagery, which, after a kickass first line, gets old fast.

There are trees, and then there are trees at night.

And then there’s like three paragraphs describing what trees at night look like and why they freak Adam out. Until Adam thinks “hey it would be cool if it was bright now” and then Cabeswater is like “I gotchu dude” and it’s so bright he can’t see anything. As the light dims, there’s more tree descriptions, and Adam walks deeper into the them.

Cabeswater had become bright just as Adam had wished that it wouldn’t be dark, just as it had changed the color of the fish in the pool as soon as Gansey had thought it would be better if they were red. Cabeswater was as literal as Ronan was. He didn’t know if he could think it into nonexistence and he didn’t want to find out.

He needed to guard his thoughts.

I’ll give him this: the boy figures out the magical rules quicker than most.

He walks further into Cabeswater and finds two bowls, one full of liquid and one empty. We’ve seen Neeve perform a ritual before and we know what it looks like when she does. Adam doesn’t, but he does use his powers of deduction to know that if the bowl is filled to the brim and there’s no leaves or other foresty debris inside, it must have been filled recently. His suspicions are confirmed when he hears a mysterious voice.

Next, we catch up with Neeve and Whelk. Moving back into Barrington’s inner monologue, we hear about how he waited to make his play for freedom until they were all the way into Cabeswater. He also spends some time talking about how he misses Czerny, which I think is supposed to humanize him? But honestly, I don’t care. He killed his best friend over the loss of Daddy’s credit cards, I’m past the point of empathy.

Whelk doesn’t exactly have a plan and he wants to hear about Neeve’s, so he lets her park the car and walk him into the forest—there’s a moment where he remarks about how grateful he is that she didn’t take his car off-road, to which I was screaming “WRECK HIS CAR YOU COWARD”—before asking her about her evil plan and getting a nice detailed report of all the steps.

“…I have crossed the leg bones of three ravens I killed to show the nature of the spell I mean to do. And then I think I will bleed you out in the center of the pentagram while invoking the line to wake.”

Ew. But also, it’s a well thought out plan. More than I can say for Whelk.

He waits for her to be done explaining her plan, and then he escapes from his ties, knocks Neeve unconscious with a tree branch, and ties her up in the middle of the pentagram. The whole scene is a physical representation of what it feels like to be in a group project with someone who barely does any work and then takes all the credit.

And then he looks up and sees Adam, and the scene dissolves again.

The last group we hear from is Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and as much of Noah as can be manifested without his bones on the ley line. It’s raining, which means that Blue can’t stop thinking about her death vision, in which Gansey’s school sweater has rain on the shoulders. Every time it rains girl freaks out which, like okay. Move to Fresno or something, it probably doesn’t rain there. Or ask him to carry an umbrella. All simple solutions.

They’re walking through the woods, marveling at the magic, and then they come upon Noah’s Mustang. The dirt on the window has been wiped away by a finger, which has written MURDERED in big letters.

An invisible finger was in the process of tracing another letter on the glass. Though Blue had felt that Noah must’ve been the one to write the first word on the glass, in her head she had pictured him having a body while he did it. Far more difficult was watching letters appear spontaneously.

Summary: spooky Noah is spooky. So spooky, in fact, that he writes MURDERED so many times there is no dirt left on the windshield with which to write. There’s an aggressively cliché moment wherein Gansey apologizes and Blue wipes away one perfect tear.

And then Ronan salvages the moment when he writes REMEMBERED instead. My post-it notes say “soft boi alert” and frankly, I’ve never been more right. Ronan knows it, so instead of confronting this fact he walks deeper into the woods without a word. They all hurry after him, because the woods are starting to seem less like benign magic and more like ambivalent magic, that doesn’t care who they are or what they want.

It seemed important to keep them all within sight of each other. Cabeswater felt like a place for things to get lost at the moment.

Then Gansey says excelsior, and the chapter ends.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter was a Big Boy. In the length and emotional department. I’m gonna be honest, it’s taken me almost a full two weeks to write the summary, because I’m trying to avoid having to write this thoughts and feelings bit. It has all the potential of being a monster, and yet I just don’t have the stamina to address everything that happened in this chapter. I’m used to forcing three paragraphs about a Whelk three-pager, not have relevant thoughts about genuine moments in the series.

That aside, here’s what I remember after a two week break from our precious Raven Cycle: this chapter was really aggressive about the forest imagery. Like, yeah, I get it. They’re in the woods and it’s dark. That has been sinister since the dawn of time; have you ever read Hansel and Gretel? They were so scared of the woods at night that they’d rather be eaten by a literal witch.

Other than that, this feels like Stiefvater moving chess pieces around. In the creative writing class that I have now finished taking, my professor spent quite a bit of time talking about what he called “mechanical scenes,” where the writer decides Kevin needs to get from his house to the park and then writes two pages where he zips up his raincoat, gets in his car, and drives through town. This pointless scene could be avoided by just writing two scenes: the one at the house and the one at the park. Cut out the middleman! Don’t make me read 2 pages about Kevin driving his car!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sucker for Ronan’s soft moment. I like hearing about how good Adam is with rules, especially when they’re magic. And during the Whelk scenes I started to ship him and Neeve, semi-unironically. But I feel like we’re sitting here waiting to hear about the moment where Adam and Whelk meet, and instead we’re stuck here watching Stiefvater move chess pieces. One of those chess pieces has a gun and one has a large knife, but still. I’ve never been big on chess.

Best Character Moment:

Neeve caught a glimpse of him and imagined that he was upset over his approaching death. “Oh,” she said mildly, “don’t be like that. It will not hurt very much.” She reconsidered what she had said, and then corrected, “At least not for very long.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

There are trees, and then there are trees at night.

Action: See previous: “I’ve never been big on chess.” 5/10

Magic: This was dripping in magic. DRIPPING. 10/10

Comic Relief: It had its moments. 7/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.43

Summary:

I’m gonna start this summary off with a gentle reminder that when I asked for all the books in the Raven Cycle for Christmas last year, for some reason Amazon sent my mom the British version. So, here we are, a kilometer away from the events of last chapter in Blue’s bedroom. That shakes out to like .6 miles, for all of you out there who don’t know shit about the metric system.

Maura is like “psst are you sleeping” and Blue is like “yeah,” which is a classic sleepover line. But even more classic is what we’ve got coming up next:

She sat on the end of Blue’s bed, looking soft as a poem in the dim light.

Are you kidding me? That line sent me. A poem? And the light is dim, too? It’s too much. I have to take a break.

Okay, I’m back. All great lines aside, this is a nice moment. Stiefvater does a really good job showing us the room we inhabit and how it reflects aspects of Blue’s personality. All in all, it’s just a nice scene where Blue and her mom talk softly about their growing pains as a pair and Blue’s father, Artemus (or, as he’s more commonly known, Butternut).

It turns out that Artemus just sort of appeared after Maura, Calla, and Persephone performed a ritual on the ley line. Which, okay, I’m a little confused how Maura looked at him and was like “yeah I guess it’s time for me to have a kid with this odd magical man” but we got Blue out of it, so I’m not complaining. Neither is Blue.

We also learn that he didn’t leave as much as he disappeared when Blue was born. I don’t know if your mom has ever likened your birth to a ritual, so I’m not sure if there’s any comparisons out there, but I think Maura does a pretty good job with this conversation. She does call Blue a “strange child,” but she’s not wrong. Blue is a psychic battery who puts repurposed cardboard trees on her wall and falls in platonic love with four boys at once. But before Blue can get too indignant, Persephone arrives.

“I don’t mean to interrupt. But in either three or seven minutes,” Persephone said, “Blue’s raven boys are going to pull down the street and sit in front of the house while they try and find a way to convince her to sneak out with them.”

Her mother rubbed the skin between her eyebrows. “I know.”

Some other things we learn: the women of Fox Way have been lying about how good they are at predicting the future. They are very good with specifics. Also, Neeve stole their car and Maura is cool with Blue leaving with the boys as long as she remembers how significant the stuff she’s meddling with is.

And that’s it. In TV terms we would call this part of the novel a bottle episode, but seeing as words only cost as much as the ink they’re printed with, I think it’s more fittingly described as setup. You know, for the big conclusion. But now everyone is in motion, and we get some fun and funky new settings.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Y’all know I’m a sucker for both platonic and romantic love, but I’m also (big surprise) a sucker for familial love! I love my mom and so does Blue, so this little exploration this mother daughter relationship is nice. I’m a fan. I know this because First-Read Emily kept saying, over and over on her Post-It notes, “I’m a fan.”

I’m also really impressed with the setting in this chapter. I made a dig like ten seconds ago about the fact that it reads a little bit like a bottle episode, but unlike TV, in books the setting is often left up the reader’s imagination. An author will be like “her room was small” and I’m like okay, cool. Any other details you wanna give me? And the author is like, “no.”

Here’s the thing: I’m guilty of this as well. I focus so much on character that it’s easy to let setting fall by the wayside. But this is a really good example of character through setting. Steifvater takes the time to talk not only about what goes on in Blue’s room, but the room itself. The canvas trees on the walls and the poems copied onto the ceiling. Sure, it reads a little too manic pixie dream girl for my taste, but we have ample evidence that tells us Blue is anything but.

I’m just obsessed with Maura and Blue’s mother daughter relationship, what’s wrong with that?

Best Character Moment:

There was nothing unfamiliar about this quiet between them; for as long as Blue could remember, her mother had come into her room in the evening and together they’d read books on separate ends of the bed.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“Your light was on,” she observed, and with a sigh, she sat on the end of Blue’s bed, looking soft as a poem in the dim light.

Action: Two rituals were described, and both of them led to the creation of Blue, our main character and driver of all action. We’re moving now, folks. 10/10

Magic: Did I mention the rituals? And the mysterious, Latin-named, ley line father? 12/10

Comic Relief: When Maura told Blue her vanished father would’ve liked all the shit she put up on her walls, that clinched it for me. 9/10