The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.11

Summary:

The first thing that happens in this chapter is that Blue wakes up exactly 1 hour and 23 minutes before her alarm. Now, when I was reading about Whelk and his time at Aglionby I absolutely could not relate to the high school experience. But waking up before your alarm and absolutely hating yourself for it? That’s a High School Mood if I’ve ever seen one.

The wake-up call is Maura and Neeve fighting over whether or not Neeve should “look at” Henrietta. Neeve’s argument is that she can’t help it; the town is loud and she’s just listening. Maura’s protective over Henrietta and inadvertently lets slip to Blue that she asked Neeve to come to Henrietta and look for Blue’s father. The only thing we know about him is that we don’t know anything.

In Blue’s head, he was a dashing heroic figure who’s had to vanish because of a tragic past. Possibly to a witness protection program. She liked to image him stealing a glimpse of her over the backyard fence, proudly watching his strange daughter daydream under the beech tree. 

Blue was awfully fond of her father, considering she’d never met him.

Blue falls asleep and then wakes up before her alarm again, which has got to be some kind of sick joke. But what wakes her up this time is realizing that today is the day she’s going to meet Gansey (or so she thinks). In order to comfort herself she looks through his journal, and I can’t decide if that’s cute or weird. Or maybe a little bit of both, since Blue’s reasoning for not having friends is that everyone else is too normal for her. It all sounds like that impassioned speech Jughead makes in Riverdale—have you ever seen Blue take off that stupid hat? That’s weird, she’s weird—because she doesn’t have any friends and isn’t learning anything important, high school is pointless and she doesn’t want to go. Does that sound like anyone to you? Maybe someone who drives an orange Camaro and looks for Welsh kings in his spare time?

Instead of leaving for school like Orla keeps telling her to do, Blue goes to talk to Persephone, one of her mother’s best friends. Persephone is our favorite manic pixie dream girl, except that she’s not a dream nor is she manic, and I wouldn’t call her a girl, either. She fits the trope for about three seconds and then she blows it wide open, making me wish that she was a side character in every book I’ve ever read.

“Good morning,” Blue said.

“Good morning,” Persephone echoed. “It’s too early. My words aren’t working, so I’ll just use as many of the ones that work for you as possible.”

I don’t know what that means, but I do know it’s delightful. Persephone is working on a project that turns out to be a piece of paper with the word three written on it 3 times, and a pie recipe (banana cream, if you’re wondering). Blue suggests this could mean that good things come in threes. Persephone says maybe they come in sevens, you never know.

The real reason Blue knocked on Persephone’s door was to get her opinion on the journal. Persephone then delivers one of the most badass line in the history of the series when Blue asks her how she knows the journal isn’t hers:

Persephone paged back and forth. Her dainty, child’s voice was soft enough that Blue had to hold her breath to hear it. “This is clearly a boy’s journal. Also, it’s taking him forever to find this thing. You’d have already found it.”

Blue wants to know what her next move is. Persephone’s advice is to find the owner of the journal, and then find out if its contents are true. I assume Blue then gets on her bike and goes to school, finally listening to the myriad of Sargent women who have been screaming up the stairs all morning.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The attachment Blue develops to this journal in such a short period of time is wild. This book focuses mostly on Blue’s relationship to Adam, and if anything her interactions with Gansey are focused on the two of them searching for any sort of common ground on which to meet. But I’m surprised that I didn’t notice, in my earlier reading, how hard Blue falls for the side of Gansey she sees in the journal. It’s the Gansey Adam sees outside of Aglionby. And the journal brings the same nesting doll syndrome out of Blue:

She closed the pages. It felt as if there were a larger, terribly curious Blue inside her that was about to bust out of the smaller, more sensible Blue that held her.

When I think about how the plot of the series was originally framed, especially in the first couple of chapters, as “Blue will have a forbidden love because her kiss is cursed” being the main conflict, it can feel like we don’t get enough of that as we’re promised in the first installment. But it is, if you just look for it!

As for Persephone, her and Calla are some of the greatest characters in Henrietta (I know I say that about a lot of people, because if you hadn’t already noticed Steifvater has a knack for creating beautiful and complicated characters). Our introduction to Persephone, as Steifvater takes us through the layers of Persephone that people really see: the hair, the outfits, the mirror-black eyes. And then she strips that all away by giving us a woman who’s a psychic who speaks in echoes and is writing a thesis for her PhD (the PhD bit really endears me to her future relationship with Adam). What a woman.

Best character moment:

When she touched the beech tree, she felt at once comforted and anxious: reassured and driven to action.

Best turn of phrase:

When pressed, people often remembered Persephone’s hair: a long, wavy white-blonde mane that fell to the back of her thighs. If they got past her hair, they sometimes remembered her dresses—elaborate, frothy creations or quizzical smocks. And if they made it past that, they were unsettled by her eyes, true mirror black pupils hidden in the darkness.

Action: Besides people constantly yelling at Blue to get a move on, she never actually got her move on. In the words of many early 2000s movies, come on barf breath, you’re gonna be late for school! 6/10

Magic: Blue is learning about Welsh magic and the magic of a really beautiful scrapbook. Also, Persephone definitely saw some stuff about that banana cream pie. 11/10

Comic relief: I’ll repeat myself: Persephone DEFINITELY saw some stuff about that banana cream pie. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.10

Summary:

Unfortunately, it’s time for us to check back in with Barrington Whelk. I’ll try to pretend I’m creating an objective and unbiased summary, but I’m going to fail. Here goes nothing.

Barrington Whelk is an insomniac! I’m reminded of Gansey’s late-night model building habits, but, unlike Gansey, Whelk’s sleeping patterns are because of voices in his head acquired when he killed his best friend. And, even more unlike Gansey, Whelk takes the time spent awake not building houses but thinking about that time he, um, killed his best friend.

He seemed more wakeful at the full moon and after thunderstorms, but beyond that, it was difficult to predict. In his mind, he imagined that it was the magnetic pulse of the ley line itself, somehow invited into his body through Czerny’s death.

Thinking about the ley line gives Whelk an idea: why doesn’t he use the time spent not sleeping to do some nefarious plotting and try to fix his life by finding Glendower? He pulls out some maps he made with Czerny when they were teenagers and reexamines them. Their handwriting is all over them: they dowsed and took readings and toured the Virginia countryside. They came to the same conclusion as Malory and decided to do a ritual to wake the line up, but were chickenshit about it and kept pushing the date back.

Until, of course, the government seized his father’s fortune and left Whelk with nothing but $10 in his pocket and a leather couch.

The whole thing was all very public. The Virginia playboy, heir to the Whelk fortune, suddenly evicted from his Aglionby dorm, relieved of his social life, freed from any hope of his Ivy League future, watching his car being loaded onto a truck and his room emptied of speakers and furniture.

Apparently they’d been watching his family for years, and I really hope they pulled a Matilda and pretended to be speedboat salesmen parked outside the house. I have a feeling that’s not what happened, but I have no problem ignoring that feeling and believing in The Matilda Theory anyway.

Back to the story: Whelk finds himself with nothing and Czerny rolls up in a Mustang. That’s it for Whelk, who moves up the time of the ritual to as soon as possible because he simply cannot stand to be shown up by his best friend and future murder victim. The chapter ends, but we can fill in the blanks: Czerny dies, Whelk has nothing, and goes back home to become a bitter Latin teacher at the alma mater he never actually graduated from. 

Thoughts and Feelings:

I really appreciate the use of thunderstorms and full moons as a method for Whelk’s sleeplessness. It’s like the ley line knows that’s the dumbest way to come up with a pattern and is personally trying to mess with Whelk just because it knows just as well as I do that he’s literally the worst. But then again, the fact that Whelk’s map has so many more circles than Gansey’s is interesting to me. Does it mean that people have just been telling Gansey he’s good at finding stuff even though he sucks at it, or do I have to admit Whelk knows what he’s doing? It’s crazy to me that we can have this character who’s so beyond pathetic and yet competent enough to find multiple energy points on the ley line (using his “complicated” dowsing rod that’s just a bent clothing hanger and does not sound that hard to make).

I might be biased, but I’m a huge fan of Czerny and his red pen and red car (pick a color and stick to it, guys, it’s good for your branding). And then Whelk steals his girlfriend and murders him! High school was not like that for me. Not even a little bit. People didn’t really steal people’s significant others, and there was certainly no murder. Aglionby boys really are on some shit, and Blue’s rules are 100% warranted. I also can’t wait for her to break them and hang out with the Gangsey now that we’re done hearing from Barrington Whelk for a couple more chapters.

Best character moment:

Czerny had pulled up in his red Mustang. He hadn’t got out of the car. “Does this make you white trash now?” he’d asked. Czerny didn’t really have a sense of humor. He just sometimes said things that happened to be funny.

Best turn of phrase:

Back then, it had been a game, a treasure hunt. A play for glory. Was it true? It didn’t matter. It was an expensive exercise in strategy with the East Coast as the playing field.

Action: We did get an FBI investigation Danny DeVito would be proud of, so what is there to complain about? 8/10

Magic: The magic in this chapter spends its time torturing Whelk, and it does it outside of the constraints of temporal time. Hilarious. 11/10

Comic relief: It was mostly a downer. Czerny did have that one shining moment, but it was only funny because it was true, so. 3/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.9

Summary:

This chapter is an emotional rollercoaster. Please keep all your limbs attached and maybe grab a cupcake (gluten-free or otherwise) in case this gets too much for all of us.

Gansey’s phone rings in the middle of the night just so Stiefvater can give us the delicious detail that he’s basically blind and sometimes he wears glasses. Cue thirteen-year-old me picturing Gansey in wire-frames and losing my goddamn mind. Originally he’s pissed, but when he realizes it’s his ancient scholarly friend Dr. Roger Malory, he’s ready and eager to learn. Except it’s Malory, so he doesn’t learn anything. At least, not right away:

Malory launched into a one-sided conversation about the weather, the historical society’s past four meetings and how frustrating the neighbor with the collie was. Gansey understood about three-quarters of the monologue.

After I take a minute to fall in love with Roger Malory, we get to the good stuff: the theory is that the ley line is so hard to find because it’s sleeping, and the best course of action would be to wake it up. Although all it takes to wake Glendower is to find his tomb and shout “HEY OWEN GET UP,” the ley lines are underground and won’t be so easy to rouse. Malory’s found a ritual he’s going to try on his own UK version of the ley line, and says he’ll be in touch. After one more story about his mother’s death at the hands of the British healthcare system, he hangs up and leaves Gansey to stew in his own impatience.

He wanted nothing more than to start scouring books for further support for this new idea, school day be damned. He felt a rare stab of resentment at being a teen, being tied to Aglionby; maybe this was how Ronan felt all the time.

Gansey wants to talk to someone about this frustration and thinks Ronan might be his best bet, given the whole you-feel-how-I-feel-let’s-commiserate conversation they’d probably have. Unfortunately, Ronan’s room is empty and he’s not answering his phone. This is where the present has to stop for the past: we’re discovering both Adam and Ronan at the same time and Gansey’s panic makes perfect sense.

The first thing Gansey does is call Adam. All he has to say is “Ronan’s gone” and Adam agrees to go looking. The very act of calling Adam reveals how desperate the situation is, though:

It wasn’t an easy thing to leave the Parrish household in the middle of the night. The consequences of getting caught could leave physical evidence, and it was getting too warm for long sleeves. Gansey felt wretched for asking this of him.

And Noah reminds Gansey why he was so desperate in the first place just by emerging from his room.

Six months ago, the only time it mattered, Noah had found Ronan in an introspective pool of his own blood, and so he was exempt from ever having to look again.

Gansey isn’t the only one who feels wretched.

The BMW’s engine is cold and Noah had suggested Gansey try the church, so that’s where he goes. He finds Ronan lying in a pew and Steifvater gives us a page of suspense as she spins beautiful descriptions of Gansey’s terror. We’re relieved to hear Ronan is awake and drunk off his ass. And also, it seems, holding a baby bird. The bird is a raven, which excites and confuses Gansey. Glendower’s bird is the raven( but Ronan, who’s slurring his words and reeks of alcohol, is decidedly not Glendower). Eventually Gansey agrees to let the bird live in Monmouth anyways, and he does his best to drag Ronan home.

As Ronan unsteadily climbed to his feet, the raven hunched down in his hands, becoming all beak and body, no neck. He said, “Get used to some turbulence, you little bastard.”

“You can’t name it that.”

“Her name’s Chainsaw,” replied Ronan, without looking up.

Noah emerges from the shadows in the church, where his sole purpose seems to be allowing Ronan to insult him. The Gansey that was frantic over Ronan gives way to the one we knew at the beginning of the chapter, nerdy and eager and open. He’s happy Chainsaw joined their little crew, because she’s a raven and he’s hunting her king. And then, they all go home and get back to hunting. The end. 

Thoughts and Feelings:

This is the chapter where Ronan’s character bursts wide open. I may have taken issue with the overload of imagery describing Ronan as “sharp” and “dangerous” in previous chapters, and I stand by that statement. But if I could quote the entire chapter in the summary, I would—there’s really nothing I can say to do it justice or quote I can pull out to encapsulate it. Stiefvater weaves through this idea that the magic in Henrietta, the magic that Blue’s family is drawn to, the magic that Gansey has traced here, is not entirely benevolent. And neither is she.

These characters have such full experiences before we even get to them, and we’re able to understand the breadth of these experiences without pages and pages of flashbacks or character therapy. The line “Sometimes, Gansey felt like his life was made up of a dozen hours he could never forget” does it all right there. It’s an insane narrative feat that I’m still not over, and this book was published in 2012.

Also (I haven’t fully figured out how much I want to include spoilers yet, but know that this paragraph will contain a lot of them if you need to look away), the amount of foreshadowing in these ten pages alone is astounding. Noah is ghosty not once but twice, Ronan literally admits Chainsaw came from his mind, and Gansey thinks Ronan is dead and only waking up because he commands him to. That’s covering major plot twists from Dream Thieves and Raven King, not to mention really hammering home the fact that Noah does not look like a regular boy immediately before a Whelk-POV chapter. It’s hovering right on the border between subtle and obvious and I have to say if I was a first time reader I probably still wouldn’t get it.

What I do get is how utterly hilarious Gansey’s reaction is when Ronan accuses him of hypocrisy. “I drink,” he says, “I do not get drunk.” If there was anyone who was trying to argue that Gansey isn’t a 40-year-old man, they should stop right now. What kind of teenager gets home from school and pours themselves a scotch on the rocks to begin work on their cereal-box model of small-town Virginia? I would’ve said no kind, but honestly now I can’t imagine Gansey doing anything else.

All right, my brother is snoring in the room next to me and if I don’t stop typing and try to go to sleep I’m going to go crazy, so I’ll end it here. Just know I can’t stress enough how beautiful and haunting this chapter is and nothing I say can do it justice.

Best character moment:

“What if I implement a no-pets policy at the apartment?”

“Well, hell, man,” Ronan replied with a savage smile, “you can’t just throw out Noah like that.”

Best turn of phrase:

And there Ronan was, stretched out on one of the shadowed pews, an arm hanging off the edge, the other skewed above his head, his body a darker bit of black in an already black world. He wasn’t moving.

Action: The Gangsey goes on a wild goose chase but finds a raven instead. If that’s not action-packed what is? 10/10

Magic: It’s dark and spooky and malevolent until Gansey reunites with Ronan, and even then it’s not good or bad, just…lurking. That’s the kind of magic I signed up for! 12/10

Comic relief: In a dark chapter, Malory, Noah, and drunk Ronan are here to lift us up. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.8

Summary:

Strap in, folks, this is a cute one! So sweet it’s borderline sickly. Please make the appropriate appointments with your dentists for cavity fillings, as you will be needing them.

So the first thing that happens is that Blue leaves Nino’s feeling like most people do when leaving their minimum wage job, because they don’t get paid enough and never get treated with the respect they deserve. Honestly if you’re not nice to people in the service industry what are you even doing? But that’s beside the point. Blue looks up at the stars and she feels a grand something that makes her life seem a little less futile, and then Steifvater blesses us with some beautiful space poetry:

One day, she would live some place where she could stand outside her house and see only stars, no streetlights, where she could feel as close as she ever got to sharing her mother’s gift. When she looked at the stars, something tugged at her, something that urged her to see more than stars, to make sense of the chaotic firmament, to pull an image from it.

Blue hears someone behind her and it’s Adam, who saw her unlocking her bike just as he was unlocking his. Blue catalogues all the things about Adam that make him less Raven boy and thus an exception to her firmly held belief that they’re all bastards: his Henrietta accent, the worn seam on his sweater, the fact that he owns a bike and not a car. He also calls her Miss, which had me melting. What kind of boy starts a conversation with “excuse me, um miss—hi”? A keeper, that’s who.

It turns out Adam came over to apologize for Gansey, and Blue decides she wants to flirt with him and does an okay job at it, for someone who’s never flirted before. Until, of course, her conscience ruins everything by adopting Maura’s voice and reminding her that she has the kiss of death and must remain forever chaste. But she resists just enough to leave Adam with a smile and a phone number and there is nothing else to do but rejoice!!!!

She asked, “Are you coming back to Nino’s?”

“Am I invited?”

She smiled in reply. It felt like a very dangerous thing, that smile, like something Maura wouldn’t be pleased with.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adam bikes away. Blue freaks out. But before we get the inner monologue we deserve, stupid manager Donny comes up and shows Blue Gansey’s journal, which he left at the restaurant. He thinks it’s psychic-y, and even though Blue knows it’s not she takes it because she’s curious about President Cell Phone’s inner musings. As she peruses, it gets kind of obvious that she finds the journal kinda hot.

More than anything the journal wanted. It wanted more than it could hold, more than words could describe, more than diagrams could illustrate. Longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition.

Like I said. Steamy. Until Blue sees a shape drawn over and over again, one she recognizes from both Maura and Neeve’s absentminded doodles. This brings her to the conclusion that the journal couldn’t possibly belong to President Cell Phone, because he’s an asshole. She wants it to be Adam’s because, as discussed, she finds both Adam and the journal very attractive. Until the muderkiss rears its ugly head and she remembers that Adam isn’t Gansey, and she’s most likely screwed.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I know I’m probably too excited for this interaction between Adam and Blue because, duh, Blue and Gansey have this whole TRUE LOVE thing going on that can’t be beat. But I’m a sucker for free will and it’s okay for me to recognize some top-notch romance when I see it. And while I previously remarked on how cool I find the parallels between Gansey and Blue, it would be stupid of me to pretend they don’t exist between Adam and Blue as well.

Money is a huge issue in these books, and Blue and Adam come from the same amount (that is to say, not much). It stands to reason that they would find common ground in a town overpopulated with damaged rich boys, and it’s refreshing to see the two of them forced into the spotlight by the fact that none of those damaged rich boys are there to take it from them. It seems like Blue and Adam are always taking in details about other people and it’s refreshing to watch them scrutinize each other, if only because I know it’ll give me the most accurate picture.

This is just a nice moment between two characters who deserve a nice moment every once in a while. I’m gonna let them have it.

Best character moment:

“Talk,” he said. In his local accent, it was a long word, and it seemed less of a synonym for speak than it was for confess.

Best turn of phrase:

It was all Henrietta sunset: hot front-porch swings and cold iced-tea glasses, cicadas louder than your thoughts.

Action: not a lot happened by my heart is still pounding. High intensity flirting and the journey of the journal are two nice hefty plot points done right. 9/10

Magic: Blue sees magic in the stars, in Adam’s quiet charms, and in Gansey’s journal (which is so special she wishes it belonged to someone else). It’s like a variety pack of magical moments and I love that for me. 13/10

Comic relief: :-* 10/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.7

Summary:

The pizzas are gone. The boys are discussing next moves for the ley line search when Ronan is too much of a bother and Gansey sends him to the parking lot for a time out (they make him take Noah because nobody trusts Ronan alone outside). Adam is looking for Blue, but of course Gansey doesn’t know her name and calls her either evil not-a-prostitute waitress or devil waitress, depending on his mood. He also spends about two pages alternating between talking about how mad he is that he offended Blue and trying to think of ways to talk to Adam about working less without offending him. It’s a very narrow line that he clearly has trouble walking.

Speaking of narrow lines, Adam thinks the psychics could know something about the position of the ley line, since they have no idea where it is, and drawing pencil on a map can only get you so close. He also comes up with the brilliant idea that they should amplify the ley line’s energy so it’s easier to read. Gansey is excited about the idea, until Noah returns with the news that Declan is outside, and Ronan is probably about to punch him in the face.

From the looks of it, it was the opening act. In the sickly green light of a buzzing streetlamp, Ronan had an unbreakable stance and an expression hard as granite. There was no wavering in the line of the blow; he had accepted the consequences of wherever his fist landed long before he began the punch.

Ronan punches Declan. Then Declan punches Ronan. Then they punch each other for a while, until Ronan throws Declan into his car and Declan gets mad because it’s a very expensive car. We then learn why Declan is rich enough to have this very expensive car:

Niall Lynch was handsome and charismatic and rich and mysterious, and one day, he was dragged from his charcoal-gray BMW and beaten to death with a tire iron. It was a Wednesday. On Thursday, his son Ronan found his body in the driveway. On Friday, their mother stopped speaking and never spoke again. On Saturday, the Lynch brothers found that their father’s will left them rich and homeless.

The short version is that Ronan’s father was murdered, and his will kicked his sons out of the house and gave Declan power over the family fortune. This left Ronan with nothing but money and Gansey. Ronan then stole his father’s car and began to hate his brother, which is why they’re still punching each other in the Nino’s parking lot in front of Ashley (and everyone else who went to get some pizza).

Gansey intervenes and the description of violence that comes next is well written but kind of gross and I’d rather not summarize it. It ends up with Gansey getting punched in the face, Declan’s face smashing into his car door, and Ronan on the ground wanting nothing more than to commit a murder.

With a jerk of his chin, Declan spit blood at the pavement. His lip was bleeding, but his teeth were still good. “Fine. He’s your dog, Gansey. You leash him. Keep him from getting kicked out of Aglionby. I wash my hands of him.”

Declan insults his brother for a little while longer until Gansey tells him to leave. Meanwhile, Ashley is watching the whole thing from the window of the Volvo, and Gansey notices that she doesn’t look like an idiot at all. I’m proud of you, Ashely, you show them!

The argument ramps up a notch when Gansey mentions Niall (“you are not Niall Lynch, and you won’t ever be. And you’d get ahead a lot faster if you stopped trying”). These seem to be the magic words for the brothers, who stop trying to kick each other’s asses and use their words, instead. We get the most insight through Gansey’s eyes, though:

Ronan’s hands hung open at his sides. Sometimes, after Adam had been hit, there was something remote and absent in his eyes, like his body belonged to someone else. When Ronan was hit, it was the opposite: he became so urgently present that is was as if he’d been sleeping before.

We learn that if Ronan doesn’t keep his grades up, he can’t live at Monmouth Manufacturing anymore. Gansey reminds Ronan of a promise he’d made. When Ronan replies “I know what I did,” it doesn’t sound like he intends to keep it, but I have faith. If anyone can pass a class out of pure spite, it’s Ronan Lynch.

Cut to Adam, standing in a dark corner of the parking lot bouncing a rubber SpongeBob ball. He spent the fight convincing the manager not to call the cops, because he is practical and we would be nothing without him. While they wait for Noah to finish tipping the waitress, they discuss Ashley and her prior knowledge of Welsh kings. Adam admits that he feels watched, and Gansey’s response is simple: why would somebody be watching unless they were looking in the right places?

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter will devastate you, if you let it. To her credit, Stiefvater gives us a couple of pages at the beginning to enjoy ourselves. She has this incredible ability to make her descriptions hilarious in the simple truths they tell. For example:

Gansey and Adam stood in line while a woman argued about mushroom topping with the cashier.

That’s funny, when you catch it as a standalone line in the middle of a serious narrative. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

Then we get some Adam insight, which is always hard. He looks tired and he won’t accept help—this is fine now, because it’s the first time it’s come up, but wait until I complain about it later, after the 59th fight Adam gets into with Gansey (because of good intentions from all parties, but still frustrating). But this is when the mood in the chapter starts to come down, until it crashes when Declan fights Ronan in the Nino’s parking lot.

I have to say this is one of the better fights I’ve ever read in young adult literature. It’s physically charged, it carries emotional weight and consequence, and at one point Ronan has his fingers hooked in Declan’s mouth—that is to say, it’s scrappy and realistic. But those emotional consequences come back to bite you when you realize everything Ronan’s gone through that made him this way, and he’s still going through it every day at Aglionby.

And, after all that, we don’t get any closure! We just get Ronan in the car, waiting to go to Monmouth because he can’t go home. It’s sad and I’m sad and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Best character moment:

“I wish,” snarled Ronan. His entire body was rigid underneath Gansey’s hand. He wore his hatred like a cruel second skin.

Best turn of phrase:

Scrambling around the side of the building, he skidded into the parking lot just in time to see Ronan throw a punch. The swing was infinite.

Action: The minute someone got punched in the face meant this chapter got full marks, and then when Ronan uttered the words “I will never forgive you” the score went through the roof. 16/10

Magic: Nothing magical except the particularly cool tricks Adam performs with his bouncy ball, which Gansey seems to enjoy immensely. 4/10

Comic relief: Well, at least the beginning of the chapter was fun. Sort of. 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.5

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best character moment:

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

Best turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.4

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

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

Best character moment:

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

Best turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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