These books have two speeds: terribad and bland with some almost not bad sprinkled on. This chapter is the latter. It is short but manages to be boring AF at the same time. We’ve reached the point in the story where Gryphon is so clearly trying to pad the narrative to fill a fourth book. As a result, she spends time on a couple of things, like building character relationships, that would have been important two books ago, and avoids any actual plot action.
Gillian et. al pick up Cassiopeia and Helmut at the airport, because we definitely needed to see them do that. The narrative tells is that Cassiopeia, who’s a vampire (and whom I forgot because she’s only been named in passing thus far), had to ride in the cargo hold in the airplane to avoid sunlight. We’re told that most major airlines have developed ways of accommodating supernatural passengers who can’t do sunlight. Kind of an interesting glimpse into the larger world that’s way too rare. Cassiopeia is gorgeous, of course, and she and Gillian are really good friends. Really really. We’re told this a couple of times before we hop halfway into Cassiopeia’s head.
Gillian and Cassiopeia talk about Perrin, who was able to overwhelm Gillian’s empathy shields or something with his gargoyle magic, so when Drangal came along, she was vulnerable to him. Okay, I’ll accept that. Cassiopeia says, “We gain a certain level of power and the skill to wield it through the centuries if we are Masters to begin with. Otherwise we simply top out, if you will; gain quickly and then stabilize.”
Masters to begin with? Isn’t master vampire more like a rank than an innate level of power, like every other damn master vampire in fantasy books? I don’t have a problem with books breaking the meta-norm of a particular fantasy race or whatever, but if you do, you have to do some internal explanation. Then again, I don’t need another couple of pages in which the story grinds to a halt to explain something that should have been explained in the first book.
Now, Gillian and Cassiopeia’s relationship seems genuine, which is nice. It’s much less forced than her and Kimber or her and Jenna’s (remember Jenna? I barely do). I would love to believe Gryphon has learned how to develop strong relationships between characters that don’t involve everyone sneering at Gillian or telling her what to do, but I don’t believe that for a second. I’m just waiting for Cassiopeia to become yet another Gaslighting Gremlin.
Cassiopeia helps Gillian with her shielding, then Gillian heads off to read the newest Harry Potter book.
Boy, I really am starting to question the wisdom in finishing out this series, because I am so fucking bored. At this point, the ostensibly menacing threat of Dracula should be coming to a head. Gillian et. al should be terrified for their lives and trying to find a way to stop him, not reading fucking Harry Potter. I’m not such a fan of J.K. Rowling anymore since she decided to dip her toe into the festering pool of American settler colonialism, but at least she knows how to tell a fucking story.
Aleksei comes in, they cuddle, and we’re injected into Aleksei’s POV without warning. He does some internal monologuing about how she smells, including her “virgin scent.”
What the fuck does a virgin smell like? Don’t worry, I googled it for you and got this internet gem.
Even while in Aleksei’s suddenly introspective head, we have to read about his appearance. In case you forgot, he’s tall and raven-haired, his features are breathtaking, and he’s strikingly handsome and elegant. I can only surmise he either carries a mirror around or there’s a mirror on every vertical surface in the house so he can constantly admire himself.
I have to give Gryphon some credit for Aleksei’s introspection here. He recognizes that how he behaved when Gillian first started banging Perrin as part of Perrin’s therapy was inexcusable, etc. etc. It’s way too little way too late, but it’s something. I can see two ways this character goes: either he goes back to the horrible misogynist Puff the Magic Vampire, or he reverts back to Bland McLargehuge, as he was at the beginning of the first book. Either way, I’m sure this scene was written specifically so we know how lucky Gillian is to have her very own Sex Behemoth who Loves Her So Much.
Gillian wakes up to Jenna calling her from Egypt, where she and Tanis have been visiting Osiris, if I recall. We’re told she and Gillian talk for two hours–thank Christ we escaped that conversation–then Gillian gets ready to have a couples counseling session with Samuel and Esi. Who the fuck are these people again??
This couple has apparently only been together for a few weeks but are already needing counseling. That speaks well for their relationship. Esi is guilt-ridden over her lost husband, whom she feels she’s betraying by banging Samuel. They initially fucked because of Perrin’s sex magic piano playing at the end of the last book. “Instead of cementing their relationship, Esi had been plagued by guilt over behavior she couldn’t have controlled if she’d tried.”
Welcome back, Rape Culture Vulture! It took me a couple of times of slack-jawed re-reading to realize Esi wasn’t guilty over being forced by magic to fuck Samuel but over ostensibly betraying her dead husband, but Jesus fucking Christ, when you end a sentence with “behavior she couldn’t have controlled if she tried,” it sure comes out that way. Her guilt over something she couldn’t control is fucking horrifying, too. The fact that their relationship basically began with forced sex ought to be the reason they’re in therapy.
For some reason in the middle of describing the conversation, we’re reminded that Samuel was ugly but is now gorgeous (of course). Ooohhh, that’s right, he’s the Frankenstein’s monster, and she’s Bullwinkle. So glad I cleared that up before we never see these characters again.
Gillian’s part in this therapy session is minimal; Samuel tells Esi that although he didn’t know Dead Husband, he’s sure Dead Husband would want Esi to be happy and bang him, and he really wants to marry her and they should get married.
OMFG. “Don’t worry, baby, now that I’m gorgeous, you shouldn’t feel bad about the two of us being forced to have sex by magic. Forget your dead husband. We should get married instead! It’s been weeks, you know.”
And that’s where the chapter ends. Why we needed that fucking scene I don’t know. We just keep getting more and more characters shoehorned into the narrative rather than focusing on character development for the heroine and her inner circle or, heaven forbid, on plot.
I glanced through the Goodreads reviews of this book and saw several complaints about the lack of plot. Since the previous books have been quite short on it, I wasn’t that deterred, but holy shit could this be more boring? I know how it needs to end: Rape Culture Vulture and Gaslighting Gremlin are defeated by a time-travelling hero who rips the manuscripts out of Talia Gryphon’s hands, burns them, systematically shreds any backups, and rescues the poor editor who had to deal with this shit. The end.