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.


  • 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


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


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


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


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


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


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

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.42


This is a quick chapter that does some important work, so I have a feeling the summary is going to have an equivalent word count to the text it’s supposedly summarizing. Oh, well. It should be okay; I’m long winded, and if you haven’t realized that by now, have you been paying attention?

We start off with one of my favorite opening lines of all time:

Gansey woke in the night to find the moon full on his face.

The line isn’t as nice once it’s revealed that it’s not the moon at all, just streetlights. It turns out Noah is the one who woke up Gansey, by being ghosty and such. He has something to say but it takes a couple tries for Gansey to understand him.

He’s saying “Adam” (who, Gansey soon realizes, is gone). He wakes up Ronan and runs out into the parking lot to find the Camaro also gone. I have a couple of reactions to this: first of all, how dare you fuck with the Camaro. That car is the backbone of this story and I love everything about her. Second, the act of hotwiring a car is kind of, well, hot. It’s probably because I’ve been conditioned to fall in love with every chain smoking bad boy in every rom-com I’ve ever seen, but I stand by my statement. Adam’s hot because he can steal cars. That’s all.

Now we move back to the question of whether or not Adam’s decision really was a betrayal. Gansey’s answer is yes.

Gansey tried several different ways to think of the situation, but there wasn’t any way he could paint it that made it hurt less. Something kept fracturing inside him.

Ronan comes out of his room and he’s filled in by Gansey. We have to assume they’re only minutes behind Adam, and all headed to the same place. Let the games begin.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here we go! More thoughts and feelings on a chapter that comes in just under two pages! These chapters really test my ability to ramble. There’s nothing to ramble about, but I’ll do my best anyways.

The first thing I have is a question: there’s a line of description that says the lights of Henrietta reflected off the clouds make the inside of Monmouth bathed in a “dull purple” light. Excuse me? What kind of street lights are purple? Is that something specific to Virginia? I’m usually a sucker for Steifvater’s descriptive imagery, but this one really had me confused. If you know what she means, please, let me know.

Moving on, I’d like to mention our boy Gansey. We know he’s an insomniac who, instead of sleeping, makes houses out of cereal boxes. But instead of getting mad when Noah wakes him up from a rare episode of sleep, he’s the most polite and gentle boy ever. When Noah makes the hair on his arms raise uncomfortably, he apologizes and asks if Noah can speak a little louder.

This is PEAK GHOST ETIQUETTE. I’m obsessed with my beautiful and courteous boy and I don’t care who knows it.

I just spent about two weeks drafting, workshopping, and revising a ghost story for my creative writing class (which I am done with, by the way! I turned in my final papers for all three of my classes!!!! Go me!!!!!), so I hold a very special place in my heart for people who are nice to ghosts. It’s not their fault they’re dead and lacking some humanity. They just need a little love!

The last thing I want to talk about is this quote:

Gansey didn’t want to say it. If he said it out loud, it was real, it had really happened, Adam had really done it. It wouldn’t have hurt if it was Ronan; this was the sort of thing he’d expect from Ronan.

Excuse me. Why is everyone always shitting on Ronan? Just because he pretends to be an asshole all the time doesn’t mean he’d hotwire your car and go perform a creepy ritual without telling you. If he was going to steal your car, he’d take the keys. He’d also tell you straight up that he was going to perform the ritual and tell you to fuck off if you tried to stop him. Ronan is full of defiance and disregard for the rules, true, but he’s not sneaky and quiet while he’s breaking them.

Well, that’s all. Thanks for listening.

Best Character Moment:

Gansey tried several different ways to think of the situation, but there wasn’t any way he could paint it that made it hurt less. Something kept fracturing inside him.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The roar of the engine was probably what had woken Gansey in the first place, the moonlight merely a memory of the last time he’d been woken.

Action: Meh. 6/10

Magic: Not only was Noah a scary ghost boy, but Gansey was a polite living boy! We have the magic of the ley line and the magic of good manners all wrapped into one chapter. 8/10

Comic Relief: Really nothing funny here, but it’s hard to fit jokes and action into less than two pages. 3/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.41


Warning: this chapter is very small and very soft and very emotionally devastating. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We start off with Blue going back to her house to do her homework under the beech tree. I’m not sure if this is because I just read a chapter about Neeve driving Whelk to the woods to get straight up murdered, but I’m feeling a sense of urgency that Blue is just not in tune with. The ley line is waking up, girl! What possible reason could you give for doing your homework right now?

Of course, she doesn’t actually get any homework done, because she’s thinking about her boys and their many problems. And then, guess who shows up? One of her boys and all of his problems.

In a very sweet and underrated moment, Adam comes to Blue for whatever comfort she’s able to give.

Blue thought about saying, I’m so sorry about your dad, but instead she just stretched out a hand towards him. Adam gave an unsteady sigh of the sort that she could see from two meters away. Wordlessly, he sat beside her and then laid his head on her lap, his face in his arms.

Blue is a little startled at first, but she eventually leans into the moment and starts to pet his hair. Both of them are content but nervous and a little bit sad, which is a complicated basket of emotions they don’t quite know how to deal with. Blue mentions that Adam’s hair is the color of dirt (weird descriptor, but okay), and then they have a nice moment where Adam tries to be self-pitying but Blue reminds him that they’re both from rural Virginia and neither of them have very much money, so he should stop acting like she doesn’t know what’s it’s like to feel poor around rich people.

Adam kind of ruins the moment by telling Blue that he really wants to kiss her. I’m going to give him a pass on this one, because he doesn’t know about Blue’s whole kissing thing, but it’s hard to read anyways. It’s also the moment that their relationship stars to be doomed, which is sad but also inevitable. We know starting during the prologue that Blue is going to kiss Gansey to death, and that means she can’t be in love with Adam, you know?

“I don’t want to hurt you,” she said.

He pulled himself free of her, sitting just a few centimeters away. His expression was bleak, nothing like when he’s wanted to kiss her before. “I’m already all hurt up.” 

Blue didn’t think this was really about kissing her, and that made her cheeks burn. It wasn’t supposed to be a kiss at all, but if it had, it definitely shouldn’t be like this. She said, “there’s still worse than what you’ve got.”

Adam then says he can’t remember what Maura told him to do at the reading, but Blue remembers and so do we: make a third choice. And, also, he should bring a notebook so he can compare what happens with what the psychic said would happen. Just to know what kind of Yelp review to leave (but, for the women of Fox Way, Blue reminds him that no Yelp review is necessary. They’re very good at their job and they know it).

The advice she gives him on what to do is very sweet (“keep being brave”), but it leads directly into a dream sequence where it’s finally revealed what Adam’s scary tree vision was. Basically, Gansey’s on the ground covered in blood and it’s Adam’s fault. The repercussions are that Ronan tells him it’s his fault, and Blue is horrified that he could do something like that. I was reading this part I was kinda like, yeah, and? At least Blue kissing Gansey had some narrative setup and complicated emotional weight. As scary tree visions go, this was pretty basic.

As much as I’m underwhelmed by the mechanics of getting him to this point, the dream and the fact that Adam is sleeping in Noah’s room and not his own leads him to the decision that he’s the one who has to wake up the ley line.

He was full of so many wants, too many to prioritize, and so they all felt desperate. To not have to work so many hours, to get into a good college, to look right in a tie, to not still be hungry after eating the thin sandwich he’d brought to work, to drive the shiny Audi that Gansey has stopped to look at with him once after school, to go home, to have hit his father himself, to own an apartment with granite worktops and a television bigger than Gansey’s desk, to belong somewhere, to go home, to go home, to go home.

The only notes I have for this section are “I’m just” and “oof,” so I think you all know how it goes. Adam is hurt and scared and he needs that favor, but he also needs his friends to be safe. Instead of explaining this to them, he sneaks out.

He also brings the gun he took from his father’s house, and the reasoning for him having it is a little shaky? He’s like, “my dad can’t have it anymore” to which I’m like, maybe you should talk to the police about that? If you tell them he’s been threatening you with a gun shouldn’t they take said gun away when the man is arrested? But I’m not totally sure, everything I know about policework comes from Law & Order SVU.

All that’s to say that Adam puts the gun and anything else he might need in a duffle bag, has a scary run-in with an especially ghosty Noah, makes sure Gansey is asleep, and then bounces. See you next time for the probably ancient and definitely dangerous ritual!

Thoughts and Feelings:

So here’s the thing. This chapter gave me whiplash. I’m not saying it should’ve been two chapters (because that’s more work for me), but I am saying that the break in the middle that takes us from a nice Blue and Adam beech tree moment to an emo Adam not ~betraying~ his friends per se, but definitely leaving them out of an important and life changing decision that is going to emotionally damage everyone involved. Basically, it gave me a variety pack of feelings that did not fit together.

The first part was a very complicated romantic moment that’s definitely the beginning of the end for Blue and Adam. I can kind of understand why Blue was able to tell Gansey about the murderkiss situation—kissing isn’t even on the table with Gansey, yet, so the words “true love” just don’t carry the same weight—but I feel like, at this point in the relationship, it’s something that she should bring up.

Except for the fact that Adam, at this very moment, is “all hurt up.” Blue gives him good advice and tries her best to help him, but Adam really needs to deal with his own shit right now. And this is where the end of the chapter comes in: Adam’s healing process involves maybe betraying his friends by performing a dangerous ritual. Whatever happens, I think we all get the feeling Adam will be permanently changed, and then the sweet boy from Blue’s side of the tracks could be almost gone.

Writing these summaries forces me to really concentrate on what the characters are thinking and doing and what it means for the overall narrative, so I have more understanding for Adam now than I did the first time I read this part of the book. With that said, however, I still think it’s a dumb decision. I totally understand why he thought it was the only one he could make. It doesn’t mean it’s not dumb.

Best Character Moment:

“Your hair is the color of dirt,” she said.

“It knows where it came from.”

“That’s funny,” Blue noted, “because then mine should be that color, too.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Noah stood directly in front of him, hollow eyes on level with Adam’s eyes, smashed cheek on level with Adam’s ruined ear, breathless mouth inches from Adam’s sucked-in breath.

Without Blue there to make him stronger, without Gansey there to make him human, without Ronan there to make him belong, Noah was a frightening thing.

Action: Two vibes, one life-altering decision, a lot of fraught conversations. Steifvater is out here making moves. 9/10

Magic: I guess Blue telling Adam her mom is a bang-up psychic is like a magical five-star review, but other than that I got nothing. 5/10

Comic Relief: No jokes to report. Just angst. But we are at the point in the novel where that’s what I’d expect, so, I’ll give this chapter a pass. 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.40


Hello all! An enthusiastic Emily here to tell you that this is THE LAST very short, annoyingly Whelk-centric chapter!!!! WOOHOO!!! We made it, folks. This is the end of the line. This is the moment when we realize that all of the weird chapters where Whelk told teenagers there were cockroaches in their lockers and mourned guacamole have come to their ultimate conclusion. Thank God.

Basically, we skipped right from Neeve giving Whelk a pretend offer to help him to the two of them sitting in the car together. Except Whelk isn’t exactly sitting voluntarily. No, Neeve did the Lord’s work and kidnapped Whelk so she could sacrifice him on the ley line. In the meantime, she’s torturing him, somehow, by eating crackers with hummus.

Whelk knows he’s about get murdered in a ritual sacrifice because there are knives and also Neeve is driving his car wearing rubber gloves. Say what you want about Neeve, but the girl knows how to execute a plan.

She hadn’t told him she intended to kill him, but Whelk had spent the last forty minutes unable to easily see much but the floor behind the passenger’s seat. Lying there was a wide, flat clay bowl containing a collection of candles, scissors, and knives. The knives were sizable and sinister, but not a guarantee of imminent murder. The rubber gloves that Neeve wore now, and the extra set inside the bowl, were.

And even though it means he’s going to die, Whelk gives us a minute to appreciate how poetic the whole situation is. His journey from high school douchebag to best friend murderer to bad Latin teacher to getting killed the same way his aforementioned best friend did. It’s a nice cycle, when you think about it.

But he doesn’t think about it for too long, because as much as Neeve is great at creepy sacrifice rituals, she’s lacking in the knot tying department. Whelk isn’t tied tightly enough, and he knows it. And, scene!

Thoughts and Feelings:

I never thought I’d say this, but GO OFF, NEEVE! It’s kind of amazing what planning to kill a character I hate can do to making me like a person.

I’m also just a little confused about Whelk’s relationship to dips is. He’s pining after this guacamole, so much so that he makes us read three whole pages dedicated to it, and yet what’s making him want to kill Neeve the most is a little garlic hummus? I’d be angrier about the weird nature sounds CD she’s got playing. But hey, I’m neither shitty Latin teacher nor murderer, so I guess I can’t speak to what’s going on in Barrington Whelk’s head.

Honestly I’m just excited that he’s about to be integrated into the action and I don’t have to read these snippets from his perspective anymore. I’m going to reiterate what I said in the first Whelk chapter: I understand why these are here. It’s a narrative arc and it’s important that the villain is established and his motives are clear. It’s just that most people give the villain a big speech at the end that reveals it all in hindsight and doesn’t sprinkle it out over the course of the book in a way that disrupts the narrative flow developed by the main characters.

But, I digress. I got my cute Neeve x Barrington date, in which they’re both planning gratuitous violence, and we’re about to gather our main characters in Cabeswater for a showdown. No more complaining about Barrington Whelk for the rest of forever. Honestly, I think I might even miss talking about the guy. He’s grown on me. Like mold.

Goodbye, Whelk’s point of view! And good riddance.

Best Character Moment:

Since getting in the car, she had done nothing but eat hummus and crackers, and the combination of garlic odor and cracker chewing was incredibly aggravating. The thoughts that she was filling his driver’s seat with crumbs was one of the more troubling ones he’s had in a week of extremely troubling thoughts.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Whelk didn’t care for circularity. He cared for his lost car, his lost respect. He cared for the ability to sleep at night. He cared for languages dead long enough that they wouldn’t change on him. He cared for the guacamole his parents’ long-gone chef used to make.

Action: I mean, the off-screen action was cool. I would’ve liked to see Neeve hit Whelk over the head with something heavy, but I’ll take the hummus-eating aftermath. 7/10

Magic: Somehow I never imagined how the witches transported the sacrifices to the site of the creepy blood ritual. 6/10

Comic Relief: I mean, come on. Whelk was tied up and tossed in the backseat by a Sargent woman with an agenda. I love that for us. 11/10