The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.23

Summary:

Ah, another villainous interlude. Oh how I have missed you, Gray Man. A king amongst assassins. Not a Welsh one, so there’s room for improvement, but a king nonetheless.

The Gray Man has been out of commission because of what he calls “several gray days,” which is his way of saying depression. It’s also the reason why he’s so much more interesting and compelling than Barrington Whelk. Although I do love to hate Whelk, I prefer this more complicated villain whose first act upon getting out of bed is to stalk Gansey and call Maura Sargent to try and set up a date. His priorities are spot on.

In an interlude from the interlude, we learn about the way Gansey is dealing with the disappearance of Cabeswater: rich kid retail therapy.

He had spent forty-eight hours more or less awake and restless and then, on the third day, he had bought a side-scan sonar device, two window air-conditioners, a leather sofa, and a pool table.

I’m not rich enough to buy all that but I have treated myself to a crop top or two when I’m sad, so I know the feeling. Blue, on the other hand, is less human and more thrift store goblin, so she understands none of this. Her indignation gives us one of the worst descriptive lines in the book (“her hair bristling with indignation”) and a fun argument about the fact that Gansey is sitting on a brand new leather sofa yet still wearing boat shoes with holes in them.

This argument is a thinly veiled way for Blue to bring up the fact that she’s pissed Gansey invited Orla to drive the rental truck they need to check the lake for Glendower. I, too, would be self-conscious if my hot cousin showed up wearing nothing but bell bottoms and an orange bikini top (chapter OOTD #1). Especially because Blue is wearing two tank tops and a pair of cargo shorts (chapter OOTD #2). I’m with Blue on this one. Remember all those crop tops I bought when I was sad? I don’t love my body enough to wear them. Always consult a friend before you involve their hot cousin in anything, no matter how trivial.

While all this is going on the Gray Man is chilling outside in his rental car, thinking about medieval poetry. There’s a long rant about Alfred the Great, an old English king that the Gray Man is weirdly obsessed with, which is simultaneously one of many reasons I long to be in academia and a painful reminder that Gray Man is one of the white male gatekeepers that will do their best to deny me entry.

Ronan shatters this by walking outside and forcing the Gray Man to pay attention to him. He’s throwing a mini tantrum because he has to be alive, which is standard fare for Ronan. They Gray Man is into it.

Ronan opened the driver’s side door of the charcoal BMW hard enough that the car shook, then he threw himself in hard enough that the car kept shaking, and then he slammed the door hard enough that the car shook yet more. And then he left with enough speed to make the tires squeal.

“Hmm,” said the Gray Man, already preferring this Lynch brother to the last.

Kavinsky breaks in to drop off some fake IDs (we’ll talk about that more later) and then the Gray Man breaks in to search for the Greywaren. He simultaneously calls Maura to flirt, and I have to say, I one day hope to flirt while committing a crime. It sounds dangerous and exciting.

The Gray Man likes the ambiance of Monmouth. Gansey’s bookshelves and mini Henrietta charm a hired assassin, and I don’t think any of us expected any less. The Gray Man’s wit and candor charm Maura, which is a little more surprising but no less welcome. They’re making plans for the Gray Man to drop by Fox Way to get back the wallet Maura stole. It’s going so well that Maura even discloses the existence of Blue:

“Tell me this, then, Mr. Gray: are you dangerous?”

“To some people.”

“I have a daughter.”

“Oh. I’m not dangerous to her.”

I put this conversation in not because it’s important to the plot but because it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Blue and Mr. Gray that’s one of the highlights of this book for me. Get excited now, it only goes up from here.

The chapter ends when two other criminals break in also looking for the Greywaren. They’re less charmed by Gansey—as shown by their destruction of his model Henrietta—and the ultimately find nothing, because the Gray Man kills them. Then he changes his clothes and goes to meet Maura.

Like I said: King shit.

Thoughts and Feelings:

My main thoughts about this chapter are that it redefines the villainous interlude. The Gray Man took me on an emotional roller coaster and I feel like that should be acknowledged. For starters, the representation of depression in this chapter feels honest and personal. It doesn’t overtake the chapter but there’s no glossing over it. It explains where the Gray Man has been and also gives us as readers information about the antagonist that rounds him out as a character.

Then we hear about King Alfred, which I’m not sure how to feel about. In 2016 I was like “wow obsessed with a British king who loves poetry and gets rid of Vikings” but now, in 2020, especially with our current societal narrative, my thoughts run more along the lines of “screw western civilization and the white male rulers it wrongfully glorifies.” So that’s something I felt compelled to mention.

I think overall, though, just the more detailed look we’re getting into the Gray Man’s internal monologue and the way he lives his life and does his job endears me to him. And that’s something I’m genuinely excited about, because not only does Maura deserve a significant other, she deserves a complicated one who would kill a man for her. The Gray Man fits that bill perfectly.

Best Character Moment:

But she was pleased; he could hear it in her voice. He liked her voice, too. She had just enough Henrietta accent so you knew where she came from.

Best Turn of Phrase:

He imposed order and honor, and under that crushed-down grass of principle, the flower of poetry and civility had burst through.

Action: The Gray Man killed two people. Did I not make that clear? 10/10

Magic: As much as I loved Maura’s flirting, I chalk that up to skill and not magic. 3/10

Comic Relief: Gansey effectively said “okay Boomer” to his dad’s conception of female fashion. Couple that with the Gray Man’s outlook on murder and we’ve got ourselves a winner. 12/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.22

Summary:

New format alert! We’re diving right into Niall T. Lynch’s will this chapter, which is full of legal jargon and clues. I just love clues about Matthew. Mostly because I love Matthew, but some of it comes from my love of clues.

Two of the three Lynch brothers are having dinner together, so already the tension is high. Matthew wants them to get together to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, and Ronan wants to do anything but that. Meanwhile the will is interrupting their conversation every few paragraphs, detailing the 3 million dollars each brother will have when they turn 18.

This is when I had to take a break and ask: why are they so concerned with Ronan graduating from Aglionby? Can he not just get his G.E.D. and then live off his literal millions of dollars? This isn’t one of those instances where “stay in school” should be universally accepted, in my opinion.

The real question is, can the brothers really not go back to the Barns? Matthew asks the question, and the will answers it: no, they can’t. It’s so airtight it’s scary. They’ll lose all 3 million of their dollars if they put even a toe over the property line.

Upon my death, none of my children shall trespass the physical boundaries of “the Barns,” nor disturb any of the contents there, living or inert, or the assets dealt within this Will shall be bequeathed instead to the New York-Roscommon Fund

We figure out that Niall liked Ronan best and Aurora liked Matthew best. Ronan contemplates whether or not to bring Aurora to Cabeswater and revive her, given the plain facts. The plain facts are that he has no idea what the hell is going on and Declan is an enigma. A Ken Doll-shaped enigma.

Matthew, of course, drops an intense quote with all of his charming baby-boy grace:

“Says you and Dad were both dreamers,” Matthew said, “and you’re going to make us lose everything.”

So Declan isn’t an enigma. He knows everything. And that means Ronan can safely tell Matthew that he’s going to wake up their mother. Not just tell, promise—and as we were reminded early on the very same page, Ronan doesn’t lie. Let the search for Cabeswater begin.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter is so pleasant. Mostly because Matthew is painted with the most delightful descriptions, and because everyone knows a Matthew. Always hungry, eternally friendly, kind of stupid. I’m less endeared towards him now because a lot has been coming out recently given the racist and misgynistic culture of high school lacrosse teams, and that means our sweet boy Matthew is complicit in all of that, but he’s also a character in a book, so I’m going to leave it at that.

I also feel connected to this chapter just because of the whole sibling dynamic. As one of three whose parents don’t have favorites, per se, but definitely have preferences, it can be hard. There are two parents and three kids, which is mathematically depressing. I’m very much the Matthew of the bunch, who’s kind of like “yeah whatever but Dad likes me best so the rest of you can fight over Mom.” I’m generally really appreciative of narratives that give siblings the realistic relationships they deserve. No “what’s up little bro” in this book!

And now on to my favorite part of the chapter: the clues! WARNING: if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now please and thank you!!!!

For all of the rest of you, there are so many moments that allude to the fact that Matthew is a dream. In the will Niall defines child as “born to or adopted by me.” Ronan compares his eyes to the dreamt baby mouse from the Barns. Both Declan and Chainsaw get distracted by the same butterfly, which has a 2/2 record if you only count dreamt creatures. And then, of course, the fact that he’s Aurora’s favorite. Dreams recognize dreams, I guess.

It’s a mystery of the same caliber as “hey, Noah told you he was dead the first time you met him,” which is a very high caliber. Obviously. This is why we read books slowly! Because stuff like this comes up! Sorry for all the exclamation points, I’m just very excited. Hopefully that emotion continues into the next chapter.

Best Character Moment:

“Declan started hating me first,” Ronan said. “In case you were wondering. So that wasn’t me.”

Matthew blew out a tuna-scented breath with the sanguine, pleasant air of either a nun or a pothead. “He was just upset Dad liked you the best. I didn’t care. Everybody has favorite things. Mom liked me best anyway.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Matthew Lynch was a golden, indiscriminate pit into which the world threw food.

Action: One tuna sandwich destroyed. No other movement. 4/10

Magic: Chainsaw finally got her chance to shine. Plus five points for all the hints. 7/10

Comic Relief: Matthew Lynch is Calla adjacent in terms of comedic potential, and you can quote me on that. 11/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.21

Summary:

Oh hello there, and welcome to chapter 21 of the Dream Thieves Reread. This chapter revolves around a fight about Ronan going to see a psychic and then, when he loses, him going to see a psychic. I’ve basically boiled it down into one sentence for you, but in case you want me to go more in depth, please read on. If not, see below for the “Thoughts and Feeling” section.

To start off with, I’ll say that Blue is the one who, after realizing Aurora Lynch is a dream woman, wants Ronan to see a psychic. I’d rather him see a therapist, but as we’ve established I’m not a character in this series and I have no control over anything. Ronan is immediately like, “no,” because he’s Catholic, and then Blue is like “stop validating my whole family’s existence,” because she’s Blue. It’s all very dramatic.

Gansey does his best to step in and make it not so dramatic, but of course (OOTD alert!) he’s wearing a ridiculous salmon polo shirt and nobody wants to take him seriously. Does anyone remember that whole “our lady of pantsuits” thing that happened with Hillary Clinton where they had pictures of her wearing every color of suit? At this point I feel like that’s Gansey in polos, and I’m not mad about it.

But back to the drama: Blue is explaining to Gansey why Ronan is an asshole, and Ronan is explaining to Gansey that he’s never done anything wrong in his whole life ever. In the midst of this Blue calls Ronan and Gansey members of her inner circle, I freak out, and then Gansey solves the argument by making an inadvertent Dr. Who reference and then we shift scenes to 300 Fox Way for ensuing shenanigans.

“Come on, man,” Ronan said.

Gansey sat up. “Come on, man, yourself. We’re all aware here that Cabeswater bends time. You yourself somehow managed to write on that rock in Cabeswater before any of us ever got there. Time’s not a line. It’s a circle or a figure eight or a goddamn Slinky. If you can belief that, I don’t know why you can’t believe that someone might be able to glimpse something further along the Slinky.”

A Slinky of wibbly wobbly timey wimey… stuff. Jeremy Bearimy. And infinite other pop culture references about how weird the passage of time is. But then… ding! We’re in Fox Way, and Calla’s going to tell us what stuff.

Before Calla can tell us anything, however, we need to spend two pages talking about that fact that she’s suspended from aerial silks. These are a very fun two pages, because nobody knows quite what she’s doing. Also, she calls Adam “the pretty one,” and everyone else is ever-so-slightly offended. But she’s right, and she should say it. Adam is pretty! (Where is Adam, by the way? I miss him.)

Calla doesn’t believe anyone when they say Ronan’s dreams are a matter of utmost importance until she touches the puzzle-box. Once they give her Chainsaw to hold, it’s game over.

Calla slid slowly upright, freeing her hands. “Snake, hand me that bird.”

“Don’t squeeze,” Ronan said narrowly, folding the raven’s wings against her body and relinquishing her.

Chainsaw promptly bit Calla’s finger.

What Calla gets from holding the bird is simple: Aurora was a dream the whole time. For her to wake up, she needs to go back inside a dream. And, to nobody’s surprise, Cabeswater is a dream forest. To wake up Aurora, they need to find Cabeswater. And now, let the plot move forward.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter and I have a reasonable amount of beef. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that it’s easy to forget how complicated a relationship Steifvater herself has with religion. I’ve read some of her non-fiction stuff and interviews, and she thinks a lot about faith and the role it played in her adolescence. That being said, I understand how important it is to divorce the author from their work. I only bring it up because I, a person whose entire existence has been about as secular as humanly possible in a world dominated by organized religion, find it really easy to forget how important religion is to Ronan and how it factors into his decisions.

This whole fight he has with Blue about not wanting to take any more chances with the state of his soul re: psychics is crazy to me, and ultimately felt like a lot of filler space. And the whole time I was going, where is Adam? And, I miss Adam. And then, why is this fight happening? I think Ronan’s obstinacy about what he believes is an important character trait, but it’s been well enough established by now. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading the filler space. I’ll take as much as I can get with these characters. I’ve just been waiting for them to look for Cabeswater for so long. We’re 20 chapters in! Where is the dream forest?!

Next is the inclusion of the Coke T-shirt.

He’d worn a red Coca-Cola shirt to the first reading and was now and evermore identified by it.

Oh, Adam’s Coke T-Shirt. This is mostly a comment on the fandom for this book series, that has wholeheartedly latched onto that description of Adam (which becomes his Fox Way moniker). Because of this description, not only do I own two Coke shirts, but I actually wore one of them yesterday. So thanks, Steifvater, for forcing me to look like I wholeheartedly approve of capitalism when I, as a 20-year-old, have my reservations and would like to not look like a walking Coca-Cola advertisement.

So, basically three things: 1) I want to know where Adam is, 2) This show has seeped its way into my wardrobe, and 3) I forgot how lackluster this plot is, but I’m excited to finally be out here looking for Cabeswater.

Best Character Moment:

That look, Blue thought. Ronan Lynch would do anything for Gansey.

I probably would too, she thought. It was impossible for her to understand how he managed to pull off such an effect in that polo shirt.

Best Turn of Phrase:

She had one of those low, smoky voices that always seemed more appropriate to a black-and-white movie.

Action: Calla’s aerial yoga saves the whole chapter so kudos to her. 6/10

Magic: There’s magic here. There’s also a fun argument about whether or not that magic can be reconciled with Catholicism, which… 10/10, obviously

Comic Relief: Ronan was not in top form. Calla was. 7/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.20

Summary:

We start off this chapter in the best possible way: soft homoeroticism. Literally what more could you want? If I never write anything but rip-offs of Gansey telling Ronan he used to smell like smoke and lemon cleaner, I’ll be disappointed, sure, but not unhappy. It does serve to function more as more symbolism of Old Ronan vs. New Ronan, but come on. Sexy barn smells? That’s too good,

But, just to remind you what’s really going on, the Gangsey (minus Noah, which is sad) are illegally exploring Ronan’s family home. It’s full of dream things, for obvious reasons, and so they all decide to make a study of what came from a dream and what came from IKEA.

“Remember how I told you that Dad—that my father was like me?” He pointed to the toaster. It was an ordinary stainless-steel toaster, room for two slices of toast.

Gansey raised an eyebrow. “That? Is a toaster.”

“Dream toaster.”

Dream toaster! Perfect.

There are many other dream things which I don’t feel like listing here because I’m ~lazy~! Except for the most important one, which is the mask. Remember the mask that Ronan had the nightmare about, which killed Adam and brought back two gross winged beasts that needed to be killed with a boxcutter and an incredible amount of luck? Yeah, that mask. Adam tries to pick it up and Ronan slaps it out of his hand. He also grabs Adam’s wrist, which. You know how human contact is.

So Ronan’s confused and angry and how does our resident bad boy deal with that? That’s right, he punches the wall! Hard. Gansey is the one who stops him. Adam doesn’t do anything because Adam knows that only Ronan can fix Ronan. Blue quietly sticks close to him, for moral support, as he heads into the sitting room to see his mom.

And there, in the middle of it, was his beautiful mother. She had a silent audience of catheters and IVs and feeding tubes—all of the things that home nurses always felt she would need. But she required nothing. She was a sedentary queen from an old epic: golden hair swept away from her pale face, cheeks flushed, lips red as the devil, eyes gently closed.

And then, the usual end of chapter bomb drop (but this one you probably already guessed): she’s sleeping because she, too, is one of Niall’s dream things.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The crazy thing about this chapter is that it’s supposed to be super emotionally intense but like… we’ve been there so many times with these characters. I’m not attached to Ronan’s mom a ton, which is a weakness of the writing that continues throughout the series. The one that we’re primed to care about is Niall, especially given that what happened to Aurora was so ambiguous we weren’t even sure if we were alive at this point.

I understand Steifvater’s impulse to go for shock value. In young adult novels, this usually pays off. But in this case it just fell flat for me? And I know I’m going on about it a lot, but as the main reveal of the episode it really seems like a thing I should care about.

Beyond that, I thought what we got with Ronan was really good. It’s nice to be inside his head and understand why he gets to the point of violence against inanimate objects. When I think about this moment I like to bring us back to the parking lot scene in the first book. When Ronan’s fist connects with Declan’s jaw, we’re in the Gansey/Blue/Adam point of view. We don’t know why he’s doing it beyond what his friends conceive of him, and as much as we love his friends, they aren’t inside his head. Ronan is an incredibly complex character, and thank God we got to see underneath the proverbial BMW hood in a moment like this.

Also, dream toaster. Very good!

Best Character Moment:

This was the sort of thing Gansey couldn’t resist, and so Adam and Ronan moved further down the hall towards the dining room while Gansey lingered over the flowers. When Ronan glanced over his shoulder, Gansey stood with one of the blossoms cupped in his hand. There was something humble and awed in the way he stood, something grateful and wistful in his face as he gazed at the flower. It was a strangely deferential expression.

Somehow this made Ronan even angrier.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“Were you just going to stand there?”

“Yeah,” replied Adam.

“Decent of you,” Gansey said.

There was no heat in Adam’s reply. “I can’t kill his demons.”

Action: Good! People are punching. 7/10

Magic: DREAM TOASTER DREAM TOASTER I’M NOT GONNA SHUT UP ABOUT THIS UNTIL I DIE 11/10

Comic Relief: I mean. It’s teenage boys and Blue Sargent, so there’s always going to be some humor, but this one was lackluster at best. 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.19

Summary:

Oh, boy. I have been gone for so much time. I’m not even going to apologize anymore, but here’s chapter 19. I wrote this in November when I was still in Ireland and it never made it up here. Am I a bad person? Maybe. Can I still make content? Who knows.

Summarizing this chapter is going to be really hard because it’s one of those where I kind of just want to quote the whole thing. Like, okay, let me set up the whole scenario: Gansey and Ronan have the decaying body of a nightmare that needs to get disposed of, somehow. They show up at 300 Fox Way at like six in the morning to grab Blue, asking her, and I quote, “how do you feel about doing something slightly illegal and mildly distasteful?”

How does one expect me to read this chapter and not freak out? I can’t believe it.

Back to business, as usual, we get a little OOTD from Blue, but this time it’s through Ronan’s POV. I’m not even going to try and describe this one, so just strap in. Ronan for editor in chief of Vogue, that’s all I have to say on that.

She wore a dress Ronan thought looked like a lampshade. Whatever sort of lamp it belonged on, Gansey clearly wished he had one.

Ronan wasn’t a fan of lamps.

(I promised I’d tell you when we got hints that Ronan’s gay, and although they’ve been coming thick and fast lately, this is one of the ones referred to a lot on the internet because it’s both subtle but, once noticed, impossible to misinterpret)

Blue, not to be outdone by Ronan, gives Gansey an outfit critique that mostly stems from the fact that she’s never seen him in jeans and a T-shirt. There’s a lovely description of all the “pleasant nooks and corners” that a T-shirt allows everyone to notice about Gansey’s collarbone, and then Gansey calls the outfit slovenly. This turns out to be the dress code for the distasteful activity they’re about to participate in, so Blue goes back inside to change. And put shoes on. All good things.

The next scene—the entire thing, I am not lying—is perfect. Blue holds a shouted conversation to Maura about where she’s going with the boys while Gansey expresses his disapproval about the legality of the plan they’re about to carry out, just to get it on the record, and Ronan responds exactly how you would expect him to. I just realized I still haven’t said what they’re doing, so here it is:

“Well,” Gansey said slowly as the thunder rumbled once more, “the illegal part is that we’re going to Ronan’s family’s property, which we’re not allowed to do.”

Ronan flashed his teeth at her. “And the distasteful part is that we’re burying a body.”

They pick up Adam and head to the Barns, which reminds me a lot of the Burrow. The way that it’s been built upon over a series of years as a family expands, with no regard for style or aesthetic. But the most important part of the description is how clearly Ronan expresses his love for the place, and how much he misses it. He’s so happy to be home and so scared, because it’s all been taken from him, and the presence of everyone else in the car makes it that much better and that much worse.

The mood is ruined by the fact that Gansey and Ronan forgot a shovel. They ask Adam how to solve the problem (“’Einstein?’ Ronan addressed Adam”), which he helps solve not because he’s the smartest one but because he and Blue are the only ones with any modicum of common sense. They head towards a barn to look for tools, but, on the way, they find a cow sleeping in the middle of the field. Ronan says something in Latin (“Not death, but his brother, sleep”) again, for The Drama.

Gansey and Blue are engaged in some kind of Heckle and Jeckle comedy routine in which Gansey makes vaguely annoying and problematic comments about everything and anything just to listen to Blue take the bait and argue with him. It’s very cute and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

The rest of the cattle are in the barn, along with a beautiful but slightly impossible peacock, also asleep. To lighten the mood, Ronan calls Adam and Blue “you two Poverty Twins,” which, first, is exactly the kind of comedy I’ve been missing, and second, makes Blue run to Gansey and demand that he discipline his child. Adam rolls his eyes at all of them and confirms that, yes, all of the animals are sleeping, and no, they have no idea why.

To show that not everything that enters the Barns falls asleep Ronan finds a mouse nest in a feed bin and pulls out one of the babies. I know I’ve been critical of characterizations of “old Ronan” in the past couple of chapters, but that’s because I knew this one was coming: Ronan, gentle, holding the baby mouse up to his cheek so he can feel its heartbeat. Remembering when he and Matthew used to play with the babies before they learned to be afraid of humans. Feeling at home.

He passes the mouse around so everyone can feel its heartbeat, which is one of Those Moments that I think about all the time, even before I was writing the reread. They grab the shovel and bury the nightmare, taking turns digging until they’re sweaty and tired. We find out that Ronan calls the creature a night horror, or niri viclis, which Adam points out isn’t Latin. The puzzle box from the beginning of the book comes to the forefront of Ronan’s mind, because maybe that’s the language nobody knows. Maybe Blue was right. But Ronan doesn’t want to admit that, so he stops thinking about it.

And then, a moment that I have marked as the ultimate moment of camaraderie (and my copious research on the Canterbury Tales for class prompted me to post-it “Chaucer + his compaignye could never”):

There was something warming, Ronan thought, about all of them burying a body on his behalf.

Gansey wants to go to Nino’s. Adam, his exhaustion so obvious in his voice that Ronan is curiously concerned for him, doesn’t care where they go. Neither does Blue. But this is when Ronan looks at Gansey and finally, finally shows a little bit of the vulnerability he’s been hiding this whole time. He wants to go and see his Mom. How can Gansey deny him that?

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter wrecked me. Ultimately, I think it’s the perfect balance of comedy and emotion and I’ve been sitting on this chapter review for over a month so I’m going to stop there and get to rating. I think it’s pretty obvious from the summary how I think and feel about this one.

Best Character Moment:

Grudgingly, she accepted the tiny mouse and held it to her cheek. A surprised smile crept across her mouth. With a tiny, happy sigh, she offered it to Adam. He didn’t seem eager, but at her insistence, he pressed the little body against his cheek. His mouth quirked. After a second, he passed the mouse on to Gansey. Gansey was the only one who smile at it before he lifted it to his face.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Ronan parked beside a plum tree laden with fruit. Once, he’d had a dream that he’d bitten into one of the fruits, and juice and seeds had exploded from inside. Another where the fruit bled and creatures came to lap it up before they burrowed under his skin, sweet-scented parasites.

Action: They walk around a barn? But somehow, I’m note bored. 8/10

Magic: THE BARNS ARE A MAGIC CASTLE AND I’M AN OVERENTHUSIASTIC REAL ESTATE AGENT. 15/10

Comic Relief: Boy oh boy was this chapter sad but boy oh boy did the cow lead for a lot of comedic opportunities. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.18

Summary:

The beginning of this chapter made me feel so known, but probably not by any intention of Stiefvater’s. Gansey is wide awake and doesn’t know what to do with himself because sometimes, even though he quit the crew team, he still wakes up at 4:45 in anticipation of morning practice. He knows the struggle and I’m here to tell him that it never goes away. Morning swim practice still has me up in a depressed panic at 5am Thursday mornings, and I stopped swimming three whole years ago.

But, the story. It’s important that Gansey’s awake because he needs to go be sad in the Pig about the loss of Cabeswater. It’s always been strange to me how much these boys love their cars, and this is just the cherry on top of the cake: when Gansey is feeling particularly sad he heads to his Camaro to just sit inside and wallow. Stiefvater even gives us a description of a mosquito buzzing adding to the depressing ambiance, to which I said “brush it away, you dummy!” An astute observation made by a real scholar, thank you for noticing.

Noah comes to get Gansey because, if you remember from last chapter, Ronan dreamed his nightmares into reality. He’s led inside wordlessly by Noah, and takes a second to observe Ronan, who is conveniently facing away from Gansey and looking dramatic, as to better be observed.

This Ronan Lynch was not the one that Gansey had first met. No. That Ronan, he thought, would’ve been intrigued but wary of the young man standing in the motes of dust. Ronan’s close-shaved head was bowed, but everything else about his posture suggested vigilance, distrust… He was a snare for you to step your foot in.

Ronan says something in Latin, purely for The Drama. He backs up this statement by turning to face Gansey, showing off his blood-covered hands and taking his sweet time in saying that the blood isn’t his, it’s Adam’s (Noah is quick to point out that he means dream-Adam’s, real Adam is safe in his bed at St. Agnes).

In Raven Boys, there’s a significant amount of tension around an incident that happens before the narrative starts; the night Noah finds Ronan in a pool of his own blood. We find out now that it was one of Ronan’s nightmares that did that. He let Gansey believe it was attempted suicide because Niall said never to tell anyone, but they’ve moved beyond that now. Ronan can tell his own family.

At once he was incensed Ronan would have allowed him such continuous fear and relieved that Ronan was not such a foreign creature after all. It was easier for Gansey to wrap his head around a Ronan who made dreams real than a Ronan who wanted to die.

(I’m not super sure about the language here—people with mental health issues aren’t “foreign creatures”—but I also understand it’s coming from Gansey’s point of view and he’s probably not the most well educated about mental health, just thought I’d point out how the language makes me a little bit uncomfortable!)

With this confession out of the way, Ronan is free to let Gansey know that there’s a nightmare locked in his room. Or, no, he doesn’t exactly do that. He tells Gansey to grab a knife and asks him if he’s ready. Gansey is like, “ready for what?” and Ronan is like “my dark twisted mind XD” because, let’s face it, he’s the biggest drama queen in the world.

There’s a fight that’s quick and fast and reasonably well described. At one point Gansey grabs a beer bottle off Ronan’s nightstand and hits the monster with it, which, okay. I’m a college student and the idea of drinking out of a bottle of beer by myself is crazy, nobody is rich enough to just crack open a Corona in their room. Guess me and my poor canned beer friends can let ourselves out.

The fight ends when Gansey gets hooked under the chin by a claw and Ronan goes in for the kill, carefully disentangling Gansey from his possible death once he’s done.

Released, Gansey scrambled back from the creature. He pressed the back of his hand to the wound on his chin. He couldn’t tell what was his blood and what was its blood and what was Ronan’s blood. Both of them were out of breath.

“Are you murdered?” Ronan asked Gansey.

Gansey is not, in fact, murdered. ‘Tis but a flesh wound, and they both sit on the floor to calm down. Gansey finally figures out what the hell Ronan was saying in Latin way back at the beginning of the chapter (“A sword is never a killer; it is a tool in the killer’s hand”), they both notice Noah is gone. And then, in classic snappy-one-liner-to-end-the-chapter style, we find out that Ronan was already cut up when Gansey saw him because he couldn’t have just dreamt one nightmare, he had to dream two. And, of course, one got away.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter is cool because they fight a dream monster. Like, that’s dope. They’re taking the phrase “slay your demons” in the only literal direction that matters: using a crowbar and a Stanley knife to kill that asshole from your dreams.

I don’t know if Gansey was necessarily the right choice for a POV, though. I understand the desire to reveal what the nightmares are slowly, and to preserve an element of surprise that makes me want to keep reading. But the constant comparisons Gansey makes to the “old Ronan,” who wouldn’t be “like this” and who Gansey misses like crazy? Infinitely bothersome. Stiefvater thinks of teenagers as so changeable, able to become completely different people in no time at all, and yeah. Teenagers change faster than anyone else, and trauma speeds up that process. But we never met that “old Ronan” Gansey talks so much about. Frankly, I don’t know if I’d want to meet him. I can’t get a read on his character- does he have any flaws? Was he still quick-tempered and sarcastic? Angry? Misunderstood?

It doesn’t make sense that we should spend so much time mourning a character we’ve never met, especially not when we’re so clearly meant to love the version we have now. And I’m realizing over the course of reading this book that the fans of this series have infantilized Ronan a little bit. They’ve softened him around the edges by constantly calling him “baby” and pointing out the few times he’s nice to the people around him. Which, yes, that’s a part of his personality, but there are plenty of other parts that are just as prevalent. I’d just rather not chase this ideal Ronan when we should instead be dealing with the one we have now.

That said, let’s get back to my point about Gansey POV. I really do think the main reason Stiefvater used it is for suspense, but we already know what Gansey is dealing with. And, frankly, she doesn’t describe the monster well enough for me to be shocked by the reveal; we’re operating mostly on the noises it’s making and the understanding that it comes from a dream. It’s probably more effective to have the reader envision their own fears. So I’m not really getting the suspense, but I am getting Ronan throwing Gansey into a potentially fatal situation completely unprepared. Handing your friend a knife and asking them if they’re ready is not enough information to kill a monster. Gansey almost dies because when Ronan opens the door he literally doesn’t know what’s inside.

All he says is “watch your eyes” and “kill it.” I presume Ronan has fought one of these before: how does it move, where are its weak spots, how big is it? Apparently this thing can climb on walls like a spider, that would be good to know before going in!

I don’t know, I just felt like all the stuff leading up to the fight was poorly executed. The fight itself was great, though, kudos to Steifvater for knowing how to write a battle without getting too gory or too boring. It’s a skill not too many people have.

Best Character Moment:

Instead he had retreated outside through the drizzle to the early-morning Pig. Immediately, he had been comforted. He’d spent so many hours sitting in it like this—doing his homework before going in to class, or stranded by the side of the road, or wondering what he would do it he never found Glendower—that it felt like home.

Best Turn of Phrase:

A tattered shirt and a pair of jeans sprawled on the floor, at first glance a corpse.

Action: Dude. They fought a literal nightmare. With a knife!!!! Amazing. 20/10

Magic: Ronan used his experience with magic to be dramatic in Latin. It was funny but largely unnecessary, he could’ve been dramatic in English or just told Gansey what the hell they were trying to kill. 6/10

Comic Relief: Ronan asked “are you murdered” to which Gansey replied “I think so.” Amazing. Comedic genius. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.17

Summary:

Hello hello! I have decided that since I was so lax in posting these in October (and the beginning of November, but shh, let’s not talk about it), I’m going to be full steam ahead until Christmas. I have several essays due and that’s a good thing, given that these make me feel productive in a non-scary way because I know I’m not going to get judged for writing them. We’re churning out more than two chapters a week, and I’m not lying!

Chapter 17 starts with a dream. It’s Ronan’s dreams, because all other dreams are boring and have no bearing on the narrative. When we’re inside Ronan’s sleeping mind, we have to assume something is coming out with us, and this dream is no exception. Well, no, it is, since Ronan’s previous dream creations have been lovely and impossible. Now, we’re in a nightmare.

This one centers around a mask that belonged to Niall Lynch. Ronan’s not at the Barns, he’s at Adam’s apartment, but the mask is there anyway. Orphan Girl tells him that it’s cheating, to dream about something created in someone else’s dream, but Ronan is Ronan and therefore does not listen. He placates her with some friend chicken, and she tells him she’s probably a psychopomp. It’s a great word, which means a sort of guide through sleep or death or the psyche (aren’t they all the same thing?). Orphan Girl says it means that she’s a raven, and somewhere, in the waking world, Chainsaw feels a sense of crippling jealousy.

Ronan announces to no one in particular that Cabeswater is gone, and that’s when Adam appears:

“Far away isn’t the same thing as gone.” This was Adam. He stood at Ronan’s shoulder. He wore his Aglionby uniform, but his fingers were black with oil. He pressed his greasy hands to the mask. He didn’t ask permission, but Ronan didn’t stop him. After the briefest of pauses, Adam took the mask from the wall and held it up to his eyes.

This, as you might have guessed, is exactly the wrong thing to do. Adam’s face merges with the mask, the dream turns into a nightmare, and the regularly scheduled “night horrors” are on their way. Ronan reaches for Adam to try and stop the transformation, but the claws that hook themselves into Ronan’s neck makes the task difficult. Orphan Girl asks Ronan to kill the monster, but he can’t. It’s Adam. Even though he knows he’s in a dream, Ronan could never kill Adam*.

*Peak Romance Alert

The only thing Ronan can think to do is rip the mask off of Adam’s face, but he hasn’t fully considered the consequences. The mask has fused with the skin; when Ronan looks up at Adam all he sees is muscle, bone, the empty socket where Adam’s eye should be.

Adam slumped against the wall, life leaking from him.

Ronan gripped the mask, his limps awake with adrenaline. “I’ll put it back on.”

Noah wakes Ronan up before he can try. We stick with him through the temporary sleep paralysis, through his recognition that he’s brought the mask back, slick with blood. He wonders briefly how they should destroy the mask but the sight of dream-Adam dying takes over almost immediately. He can’t stop seeing it. While the image is still floating in front of him, his hearing kicks in, and there’s a bad noise. A very bad noise.

It was a long, slow scrape on the wood floor. Then a rapid sound like a drinking straw in bicycle spokes. Tck-tck-tck-tck-tck.

The chapter ends with all of us wondering: it’s possible for Ronan to bring living creatures out of his dreams, but how big and how deadly can they be?

Thoughts and Feelings:

Giving us this chapter right after the last is Important! Seeing how Ronan interacts with Declan and then that leading immediately into a dream about a murderous mask? Ronan terrified that artifice will take one of the most important people in his life?? Adam, who is chasing the success that Declan already has, and Ronan doing everything in his power to save him and failing being the subject of one of his worst nightmares??? CAN I GET A HELL YEAH????

There are a lot of dream chapters in other YA books that are heavy-handed or obvious, or play into overused tropes to tell us that the narrator is Stressed and Depressed. Yeah, another dream where the narrator shows up pantsless to algebra or wakes up right before they hit the ground after falling from a tall building, I’ve seen it all before. But this dream is one of those that’s so satisfying to pull apart because everything means something, but only to Ronan. Only to the dreamer. And then for that to have real narrative consequences? Oh my God! A masterpiece!

Basically, I really love that during the day Ronan is indolently tossing his body on top of Adam’s and in his dreams he’s trying to save his life.

And then for Noah to be the one who wakes Ronan up, who’s always waking him up from dreams and finding him because Noah himself is part of the ley line on which Ronan dreams… lovely. And then, even more lovely, is Noah as a comforting presence to Ronan as he wakes up, paralyzed and afraid.

I really did start reading this chapter with the attitude of “this is going to be so annoying to summarize and unfulfilling to analyze because it’s just a Stupid Dream Chapter” but boy, was I proven wrong! But I’ve never been happier to be incorrect. It really is a banner day for us idiots, I guess. See you soon for the next chapter, where the tck-tck-tck-tck-tck is identified and hopefully defeated before it can commit any serious crimes, like tax fraud or murder.

Best Character Moment:

It was early morning. Early, gray morning, rain beating on the window beside his head. He floated above himself. The boy below him was locked in an unseeable battle, every vein standing on his arms and neck.

Best Turn of Phrase:

But Adam was already becoming something else. The mask was gone, or it had become Adam’s face, or Adam was carved from wood. Every tooth behind the smile was hungry; Adam’s elegant jaw was starving. His eyes were desperate and incensed. A long, fat vein stood out in his neck.

Action: Dude. This shit was action packed and it barely left Ronan’s head. 10/10

Magic: This magic was dope but it also made me sad, which is personal bias but this is my blog so I make the rules. 6/10

Comic Relief: The fried chicken was nice but the rest was all fraught, and stuff. I didn’t mind it too much since that was clearly the move, but this chapter won’t make you feel light and fluffy, if that’s what you’re looking for. 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.16

Summary:

We start off with a broken down Camaro that presents several distinct problems. First, to restart it they’ll need a new battery. There is nowhere near them that sells car batteries. Second, Adam works for the only towing company in town and knows that there are State Inspections, so it’s going to take them hours to come pick them up. Third, this is the precise moment Ronan decides to throw a hissy fit, and Blue decides to call him out for it. Needless to say, there’s some swearing and neither party learns anything.

We’re still in Adam’s point of view, so any time Blue and Gansey interact in their efforts to solve the problem, the rampant jealousy really jumps out.

She and Gansey ducked their heads together to examine the screen and mutter about map options. The image of her dark hair and his dusty hair touching searing something inside Adam, but it was just one more sting in a sea of jellyfish.

After this Adam decides it’s time to keep the self-loathing party going, and when Blue continues to admonish Ronan for throwing rocks instead of communicating his feelings in a healthy way, Adam thinks it’s directed at him. He “simmers in shame and indignation,” this feeling only made worse by the fact that he’s the one who woke up the ley line and now Cabeswater is gone.

I want to make it clear here that I don’t want to trivialize Adam’s emotions re: physical violence. He’s processing his emotions in whatever way he knows how, which is 100% valid and also a process he needs to go through. Someone should give him a hug and it’s infuriating that nobody is doing that, so to take out my anger at the situation I’m doing my best to be lighthearded and snarky. Okay. Rant over. Back to the Gangsey in their car.

Gansey unilaterally decides he’s calling Declan to bring them a new battery, which goes over about as well as you can imagine. Ronan once again takes himself out of the conversation. Everyone else is still talking about what could have happened to Cabeswater. It’s Adam’s idea to ask Noah where he goes when they can’t see him, to answer the question: is Cabeswater gone gone, or just hidden from view?

Noah just blinked at him from the dimness of the back seat, his eyes liquid and far away. He was, Adam noted, nearly disappeared already. He was more the feeling of Noah than actually Noah.  

I find moments like these to be some of the saddest in the series, if only because we don’t know a Noah who isn’t ghostly. It makes me forget, often, that he fades in and out. That he’s so much less now than he was before Whelk got his grimy hands on him. Everyone forgets: the characters, the reader, Noah himself, until moments like this when he can’t participate in the discussion because he’s already gone, and we didn’t even notice him going.

But, like compensation for making us so sad, Steifvater hits us with the best scene. My favorite scene! Because when Declan arrives, well—I’ll just let y’all read for yourselves.

Ronan said, “Move up, move up” to Blue until she scooted the passenger seat far enough for him to clamber behind it into the back seat. He hurriedly sprawled back in the seat, throwing one jean-covered leg over the top of Adam’s and laying his head in a posture of thoughtless abandon. By the time Declan arrived at the driver’s side window, Ronan looked as if he had been asleep for days.

Amazing! Perfect! 11/10!

And, to add to the amazingness and perfection, Declan notices that Ronan’s leg is touching Adam’s. In fact, when that happened, “his expression tightened.” That’s a protective Declan realizing something about his little brother that might make life harder for him, and worrying. Declan has a lot to worry about already, with the assassin on his trail and everything, but it’s not unreasonable for him to be concerned about his brother having feelings for his best friend, given that they go to a southern all-boys school. Just something to think about. Declan doesn’t hate Ronan, he’s just scared. Terrified. Something Adam picks up on right away.

Anyways, back to the story. Declan gives them the battery. Ronan tells Adam why Declan’s face is covered in bruises. Declan sees through Ronan’s sleepy disguise and yells at him to keep his head down. Gansey de-escalates the potential conflict using some annoying version of the bro code that makes Blue feel patronized, but the minute Declan leaves, he apologizes. Everyone is tired, and angry, and Cabeswater is still gone.

It’s not looking up for the Gangsey, but really, when has it ever been?

Thoughts and Feelings:

The very first thing this chapter does is give us a big old plot hole. I’ve been very forgiving thus far about Stiefvater’s preference to end chapters with one-liners that double as cliffhangers. I don’t begrudge her the fact that it makes her books page turners, but if you’re going to do that at least pick up the narrative where you left off. In the last chapter, it ends with them parked outside the field where Cabeswater used to be. Keyword: parked. And then, all of a sudden, the Camaro breaks down and Gansey has to wrestle it to the shoulder of the road.

What road? When did they start driving again? Was it at some point during the several sentences of description about what a car engine sounds like when it dies? It’s sometimes a good choice to just throw the reader into a new scene and forego transition. It keeps the narrative moving, it avoids boring scenes where all characters do is move themselves from one place to the next. And never mind the fact that the decision to give up on Cabeswater, to leave it behind and go somewhere else to figure out what happened, might have been an interesting moment for us to see. You can’t start a chapter with “and then” when it’s not continuous from the previous one!

To make a long complaint short, we’ll refer to my post-it: “PLOT HOLE! u can’t”

I have another complaint, though, but I’m not going to beat this one over the head. I already mentioned Ronan’s temper tantrum, but that paragraph of character description made me angry. Like, an actual feeling of rage coursed through my body. Here’s why:

The thing about Ronan Lynch, Adam has discovered, was that he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—express himself with words. So every emotion had to be spelled out in some other way. A fist, a fire, a bottle. Now Cabeswater was missing and the Pig was hobbled, and he needed to go have a silent shouting fit with his body.

The first sentence is fine. The last one is also fine. In fact, it even borders on acceptable. I like the bit about the “silent shouting fit with his body,” it feels true to character. But what comes in the middle? “A first, a fire, a bottle?” This is Mary Shelley writing, and by that I mean it sounds like a teenager in a horror fiction competition is doing her very best to write about an edgy boy. It might not stick out to anyone else, but I’ve been close reading this writing for going on a year now, and I’m sensitive to poor description. Here is some that does not do Ronan justice and should be pointed out.

In an effort to make this part not all criticism, I’d like to reiterate the point already made above about the image of sleeping Ronan tangling his legs with Adam’s, and Declan’s reactions. Those were good bits of descriptions in this chapter. I liked those bits. They made me happy. I already said why, so I won’t get into it again, and I will also let my poor hands rest from typing by ending this post here. See you soon for chapter 17! I promise.

Best Character Moment:

There was a breath’s silence. This was where Gansey, if he were Ronan, would swear. Where if he were Adam, he’d close his eyes. Where if he were Blue, he’d snap in exasperation.

But Gansey merely rubbed a thumb over his lip and then drew himself up. He was instantly cool and elegant, all true emotions placed in an undisclosed location.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The engine ticked like the twitch of a dying man’s foot. Adam rested his forehead on his knees and curled his arms behind his head.

All at once, Ronan snarled, “This car. This fucking car, man. If this was a Plymouth Voyager, it would have been crushed for war crimes a long time ago.”

Action: Meh. 5/10

Magic: Unless you count the Pig dying at a supremely inopportune moment magic, I’m afraid you’re all out of luck. 4/10

Comic Relief: Blue and Ronan have a fight, but it’s more exasperating than funny. 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.15

Summary:

As you may remember from two chapters ago, the Gangsey has finally decided it’s time to go back to Cabeswater. Yes, you heard, me right: after 14 chapters of doing exactly nothing, we’re going back to the forest that drives the plot. Is it overdue? Yes. Am I going to complain any longer? No.

This is an Adam POV chapter, so it wouldn’t be complete without a nice long rumination on how he’s somehow less than his best friends. This time we go back to the seed of his friendship with Gansey, a thinly veiled rumination on class distinction and the luxury that leisure time really is. It also manages to be pleasantly queer in its descriptions of Gansey’s grace and charm, going so far as to throw Ronan a compliment as well.

And he was the boy with the most beautifully interesting car and the most savagely handsome of friends, Ronan Lynch. He was the opposite of Adam in every possible way.

For all of you who think that Adam’s bisexuality isn’t represented in narrative, I beg you to look at the above passage. To go back to the book, actually, and read this whole chapter. Adam loves beauty! He doesn’t care where it comes from!!

The story of their initial meeting is that Adam biked past Gansey on his way to school. The Camaro was broken down, like it always seems to be, and Adam offered to fix it. Gansey played into one of the classic “I said I don’t want to be your bf because I want to be your husband” memes and said no, which made Adam incredibly sad and full of self-loathing, until he was like “I want you to teach me how to fix it myself.”

Long love story short, Gansey put Adam’s bike in the back of his car and drove him to school, asked him what he knew about Welsh kings, and the rest is history.

We rocket back to the present and are told that Gansey hates being still (for a guy that hates stillness it sure did take you a long time to get off your ass and go back to Cabeswater, but I digress). Everyone is in the car and Gansey is talking to the Pig like it’s a person, which I hate, and Ronan is playing terrible music, which I love. Adam is catching images and the magic is ramping up and the mood is excited which I’m trying to mimic with this run-on sentence and then

Cabeswater is gone. Like, was-never-there, everyone-was-on-something-and-dreamed-it gone.

The field went on and on. Scrubby grass gave way to a wash where a stream must have been, and then continued on for more acres of grass. Hundreds of acres of field.

There were no trees.

Chapter over.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Although this chapter is distinctly short, at least they’re doing something, you know? They’re in the car, they’re moving, and now that Cabeswater is gone they’re forced into action! That’s good. I’m excited about that one, even though it comes with the absence of magic.

Something that I want to address, though, in this short little post before I go do some research for my Chaucer essay: the whole “the real Gansey” thing is starting to make me a little bit annoyed. Every person is made up of the layers and layers of artifice we use to make ourselves palatable to other people. (Sorry I sound so pretentious but I have a lot of feelings about this so I’m trying to be precise). It’s not about what’s “really” underneath, because what makes up a person is a combination of what they think, feel, and do. And Gansey is out here doing things and hiding them under the idea that it’s not the Real Him, like his displays of wealth are some mask that we shouldn’t consider. But he’s choosing to put the mask on! It is an inherent part of him!

I just think it’s a really odd message to be sending out in a young adult novel, that if we hide our actions behind the sentiment that it isn’t the “real us,” then it shouldn’t reflect back on us. Our friends should be able to see the mask slipping and know who we really are. And this is just a small mention of that, but I’ve heard it so many times in the first 15 chapters of this book alone that it seems to have struck a nerve. But that’s all I have to say on that, let’s get to the ratings.

Best Character Moment:

Noah played the drums on the back of Ronan’s headrest. Adam, for his part, was not wild, but his did his best not to appear unwild, so as not to ruin it for the others.

Best Turn of Phrase:

They didn’t speak. Why would they speak? Adam slid into class and kept his head down and listened, trying to learn how to clip his accent. Gansey, a furious sun, glowed from the other side of the universe, his gravitational pull too distant to affect Adam.

Action: Some movement. I’m not mad. 8/10

Magic: The magic is that the magic is gone! Trippy, but effective. 6/10

Comic Relief: None. 2/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.14

Summary:

So here’s the thing. Irish universities do this thing where they give all the students “reading week,” which is to catch up on studies and decompress from midterm essays being due, etc. Instead of doing what was recommended, I went traveling for a week to 3 separate countries and, needless to say, was behind on work. Couple that with a general anxiety disorder and the mental block that builds up when I don’t do something for a while, and you can understand why it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything.

But I’m back! Forcing myself to do this! Getting back into the swing of things is going to be tough but I’m really going to try to get these going regularly and post some travel/general life updates, since I was enjoying doing those as well. And hey, why not tell you about the books I’m reading? Content™, folks, I’m going to try and create it.

What better way to ease myself back into The Raven Cycle than with a chapter about the women of Fox Way? Here we go.

Emily from a month ago post-it-noted that this is it, this is the kind of chapter that sets this series apart from so many others. All the characters are rich, including the side characters and the parents. Finding parental figures with personalities other than the generic “overbearing” or “free-spirited” is near impossible, and Maura Sargent alone would be a treasure. Having Calla and Persephone makes this book a winning lottery ticket.

So, the plot: the women are bored. They’re going to test the limits of how psychic they are. We love them for it.

On days off, when the mixed drinks emerged, it often became a game. Maura, Calla, and Persephone scavenged the house for magazines, books, cereal boxes, old decks of tarot cards—anything with words or images… Maura called it continuing education. Calla called it turning tricks. Persephone called it that thing we could do if there’s nothing on television?

Calla is drunk (we’re happy for her). Persephone isn’t (Persephone doesn’t need us to be sad for her, because she’s sad for herself). Before we can see about Maura’s mental state, the doorbell rings, and in walks the Gray Man. He doesn’t want a reading, which is refreshing. He says he’s doing research for a novel. Nobody believes him.

The women let him stay because he can recite poetry, and they give him alcohol because he can recite it in the original Old English. The Gray Man is very handsome, so the conversation is very flirty, especially on Maura’s part. They eventually decide that it’s time to impress him, and this is when we realize how good at their jobs these three women really are.

“Would you do the honor, Mr. Gray?” Maura handed him the deck of cards. “You’ll have to ask ‘top or bottom’.”

Mr. Gray gravely accepted the responsibility. He asked Calla, “top or bottom?”

“Three of cups. And top, of course,” Calla said, her smile plum and wicked. “The only place to be.”

Hell yeah.

Calla and Maura trade correct predictions on which card is at the top or the bottom of the deck. Persephone raises the stakes (and becomes queen of the observable world) when she says the king of swords is 16 cards from the top and she’s right. Legend.

She’s also right about the fact that the king of swords is Mr. Gray’s card:

“The king of swords is a very powerful card. He’s strong, but impartial—cold. He is very, very good about making decisions based on facts instead of emotion. No, it’s not a terrible card. But I’m picking up something else off it. Something like…”

“Violence,” Calla finished.

Once they’re done reading him for filth, the Gray Man admits he’s a hit man with little to no prompting. There’s a moment of shock, everyone gets over it, and they all have another drink and a nice conversation. When the Gray Man asks Maura out, she says yes. It’s all very civilized, until he leaves and you find out that Calla stole his wallet.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I love this chapter. I mean, I already talked about it being a gem just due to the amazing side characters that this book gives us, but as a chapter? As a way to humanize the Gray Man and make him a deeper and more complex antagonist who’s not very antagonizing at all? Simply amazing.

I want you all to think back to book one, where we had that absolutely nasty chapter in which Barrington Whelk came into 300 Fox Way without an appointment and demanded a reading. He was a prick. I was uncomfortable. I did not like reading that chapter and I didn’t like talking about it. This chapter is basically a thesis paper on why the Gray Man is infinitely preferable to Barrington Whelk, and it got an A.

I’m a fan of all the flirting that Maura does being connected to violent threats and meaningful glares. Only Maura would flirt with a known hitman. The morality of these women is both fluid and amazing. Also, I’m never particularly afraid for Blue’s life, because I truly do believe that the Gray Man would get himself killed before he ever laid a finger on Blue. I also believe that, after witnessing this interaction, he’s not malicious and wouldn’t hurt Blue unless there was money in it for him. The ethics of that are sketchy, but at least he didn’t kill his roommate because Daddy’s credit cards stopped working, you know?

The last thing I have to say on this topic is that Persephone is a Virginian Luna Lovegood. Go ahead, try and change my mind. You can’t. Because I’m right. That’s all I wanted to say.

Best Character Moment:

He did absolutely nothing to make his words easier to accept. It was impossible to tell if he was asking them to believe him or to humor him or to fear him. He merely laid out this confession and waited.

Finally, Maura said, “might be nice to have someone deadlier than Calla in the room for a change.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Maura swore delicately: one well-chosen and highly specific word. Calla swore indelicately: several more words with rather fewer syllables.

Action: Ah, the action present in inaction *chef’s kiss* 7/10

Magic: I don’t even need to explain myself. 12/10

Comic Relief: Drunk Calla and Persephone watching Maura violently flirt with a hit man should be a Netflix Comedy special. 10/10