Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Justice, Chapter 2

There’s one word that summarizes this chapter.bland

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.”

a confused pug with question marks around it

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.

lower your expectations

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.

baby rolling her eyes

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.”

No! That's not how this works!

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.

A man saying "Shall I compare thee to a summers--" then gagging

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.”Woman shaking her head and saying "I don't like it"

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.

woman waving her hands as if saying ew

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.

Dr. Evil making air quotes around the word "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.


Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Justice, Chapter 1

this guy just jizzed in his pants.

As I stepped onto the caboose of this bullshit train and considered all that had come before, it hit me. I always assumed Key to Redemption was a reference to Perrin until I re-read the biologically impossible and in all ways offensive last chapter, in which Gillian regains her virginity.

Gryphon is talking about Gillian.

She’s supposed to be this sexually liberated person who chooses her partners and so on and so forth. She’s a sex therapist. But, yanno, what she really needed was to be redeemed and virginized.Emma Watson looking uncomfortable

Welp. Here we go.

She felt like a virgin on prom night . . . except it wasn’t prom night. It was nighttime in the Carpathian Mountains and she had just been turned down for sex by her ex-boyfriend— if that was what she could call Aleksei— because he had some ridiculous notion of taking her out for a dreamy weekend, romancing her and seducing her gently. In short, he wanted to take her out and treat her like a lady instead of the hardball soldier he’d been sleeping with for the past few months. Inconsiderate bastard.

Okay, so I teach writing. I teach students that a reader generally expects that a paragraph will follow the lead of the first sentence. This one…does not. Or maybe it does? Maybe Gryphon is reliving her prom night, in which she was turned down by her ex-boyfriend for sex because he wanted to treat her like a lady? TMI, Gryphon. TMI.

“Gill”–I guess we’re back to calling her after an aquatic animal’s body part–has the same tired introspective thought train she’s had countless times already. She’s afraid of commitment, she doesn’t want to fall in love, etc. etc. and she’s afraid that if Aleksei pops her cherry, she’ll fall in love with him. I’m not discounting the fact that the intensity of sex can lead to feelings, and that maybe someone’s first time is more likely to lead to feelings, but I just want to point out that it’s not her first time. Her hymen regrew like a starfish’s lost limb, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this has happened:

french fry going into a donut hole

SHE WHO HAS BEEN FUCKED CANNOT BE UN-FUCKED, ergo it does not make goddamn sense that she would fall in love with him from this one time because he happens to break her hymen.

But you know, sometimes you just can’t fight this shit or you’ll go insane. Let’s say, “Sure!” and go along for the ride. On a Puff the Magic Vampire.

I know it’s standard fare for the beginning of the book to recap what happened in the last book, so I can’t fault the next few pages too much–I mean, I can, but I’m so used to this shitty writing that most of it doesn’t register. But it’s SUPER telling that what Gryphon chooses to recap here is only the last like two pages of the book, where he discovers her starfish leg has regrown. Not the whole rest of the lot, which…


You know, stuff happened. I guess.

Here’s some more of Gryphon’s stunningly beautiful character description:

He was remarkable. Powerful, but he refused to used it carelessly and was unwilling to force control or to bring fear. Aleksei was as he always had been even after coming into the full power of a Lord: noble, aristocratic, honorable, honest, stubborn, intractable, chauvinistic, opinionated . . . gorgeous, passionate, tender and bossy.

There, I fixed it!I would dearly love to believe this is not Gillian’s description, and that it’s attempt #1566759 by Gryphon and Gaslight Gremlin to make us think Aleksei’s actually a really great guy and worthy of Our Dear Heroine’s heart and refurbished hymen. But in all honesty, I think Gillian really does believe this shit at this point.

They go back to the castle, Gillian falls asleep and we hop into Aleksei’s head. I can already feel my teeth gritting at the patronizing bullshit that’s sure to assault my eyeballs. Indeed, it’s about what you and I both expect at this point: he insists she needs looking after and makes statements that are true but also horrifying, like this: “Trusting him with her life came naturally to her, as did trusting him with her body.”

man gesturing to wait

That is not a very good ideaThe fact that she does indeed trust him with both of those things is horrifying. I’ve said this a million times, but it is so fucking gross that she is portrayed at the liberated sexual female ideal, but whenever she does make her own choices, sexual or otherwise, she makes stupid choices that then have to be “corrected” by Sex Behemoth or some other swinging dick in these books. But she keeps letting them make those choices, and these fucking books keep insisting that they were hers all along. Just like the “no I won’t fuck you until I’m good and ready to you” bullshit we just saw.

Gillian wakes up the next morning to Kimber asking her wtf just happened. Kimber is apparently also a starfish and was “‘healed’ in the worst possible sense of the word.” Oh, thanks, Kimber, for bringing up another dimension of this fuckery. The idea that re-virginizing is “healing,” as if having sex causes a permanent wound a la Henry VIII’s chronically ulcerated leg (you’re welcome), is the most puritan thing in these books so far. I mean. I could write a fucking book on this point of analysis alone.

Pavel, Kimber’s werewolf boyfriend, had the same reaction Aleksei did and wants to be romantic and gentlemanly about breaking her refurbished hymen. I actually sort of liked Pavel, but at this point, all the penis-owning creatures are starting to morph into a backwards misogynist monolith.

There’s an awkward scene transition to another awkward info dump about things that ostensibly happened between books but we haven’t seen, even though this book started literally seconds after the last one ended. Gillian is going to see Drangal. Cue another bullshit info dump disguised as a therapy session, this one with information we should have learned at the beginning of the first book while Gillian was busy getting turned over Talis’s knee.

Drangal is the sexist being alive, and Gillian is having trouble shielding herself. This is mildly interesting, but I hate the idea of weaponized sexuality in the hands of someone like Gryphon. It has to be very careful and very intentional to not be terrible, and unless Gryphon has suddenly acquired the world’s best editor, this book isn’t magically going to turn into either of those things.

Weaponized sex aside, there’s some fairly interesting exposition here about how vampires are made and the necessity of having a master vampire to show them the ropes and control them so they don’t murder everyone around them, which Drangal did. This is the kind of shit that ought to sit on a paranormal soul and require a paranormal therapist, not fucking fangxiety.

For some reason, Gillian brings up suicide and goes on to tell Drangal how she had a vampire patient die by suicide in front of her once. So not only does this conversation about her, but she’s telling her ostensibly guilt-ridden patient about another guilt-ridden patient’s tragic end.

Oh look at that, a dumb idea just found a friendNow apparently it’s Drangal’s turn to comfort her after she recounts her traumatic experience. YOU GUYS THIS WOMAN IS LITERALLY THE WORST THERAPIST. I really can’t tell whether Drangal is yanking her chain–not that that’s difficult–or telling her the truth in order to manipulate her. She’s already established that she’s also the most gullible person on earth despite allegedly being brilliant and guarded with her feelings and overly cautious, etc. So it’s not so much that Drangal is a genuinely terrifying villain, but that Gillian is just a blundering idiot.

Drangal observes a couple of times that Gillian’s scent seems “off” to him. I assume this means because she’s been re-virginized.

Well, apparently we’re done with that scene, because too much danger and conflict at once would just be too much. Gillian runs off to take Perrin to the airport, because that is exactly what I’d rather see instead. Perrin and Gillian have some bland but also nauseating banter in which Perrin is sexist enough that Gillian comments on it but everyone seems to think it’s funny. Perrin harasses her about missing him when he’s gone, and Trocar and Kimber join in. They all laugh at her but she’s fine with it because it’s just “gentle teasing.” This is one of those moments where I’m both disgusted by Gillian and honestly pity her, because she has no fucking clue what real friends are actually like.

Perrin, like Drangal, senses that there’s something new about Gillian, andcartoon man with erection and dismayed expression

He puts his jacket over his lap to cover his boner, and she reaches over and squeezes his thigh. Yeah. The dude she’s not supposed to have contact with for a year before she can bang him again.

He is unbearably turned on, like “spill inside his jeans” turned on.

this guy just jizzed in his pants.

He gets over it, and Gillian, Kimber, and Trocar get him to the airport. They each present him with gifts sweet jesus is this really 10% of the book and one of the gifts is the Phantom of the Opera DVD and soundtrack. This is with no irony whatsoever. GOD I hate this wink wink nudge nudge pop culture reference shit. It is not cute. It is not clever. It is just stupid.

The goodbye scene between Gillian and Perrin is actually pretty good. I actually felt a thing while reading it. It’s one of those moments that show up maybe once in each book, showing me that Gryphon could actually write effective feelings if she bothered to try and didn’t just say “They were sad. It was sad. Also Perrin is super hot and Gillian is super brave and strong and also small and fiesty.”

A woman sits down next to Perrin on the plane wearing an engagement ring and starts nattering away at him about her fiance and the fact that she’s a virgin. I think this is supposed to be a funny moment about an Awkward Seatmate on a Plane and a handy coincidence so Perrin can realize Gillian is a virgin again (because she smells the same, you see), but why does Perrin even need to know that, about Gillian or about TMI Woman? In what way did this chapter (11% of the book) need more padding?

It didn’t. It absolutely didn’t. Nor did it need the short follow-up where Trocar asks Gillian if she’s all right then makes a bad joke about how she’s a liar when she says she’s fine.

Fuck, thank god this chapter is over.

Gryphon is really, really reaching at this point. So far we have a gross, stupid plot device that I’m sure is going to receive way too much screen time during the Romantic Deflowering later, a scene in which Gillian is the Worst Therapist Ever, and some awkward shuffling of characters from one place to another. I realize that I just summarized the entire series, but it’s even more banal and boring than usual, when we’re coming to the end of the series and shit should be Really Serious.

Why am I still reading this? I guess it’s some masochistic form of escapism combined with a little ego boost. I’ve been feeling pretty down about my own writing lately, but all I need is to go back to Gillianland and realize that I should stop being so hard on myself. At least I’ve never described someone coming as “delivering his seed deep against her womb.”

kid giving a thumbs up

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 22 (NSFW)

96%. I hope to everything this is the last chapter.

We start out in Drangal’s head, and I guess we’re still meant to think this guy is just some schlub and not the villain we’ve ostensibly been chasing for three books. The narrative gymnastics continue, though this time it’s with all the grace of a mating giraffe:

Csangal had not been in the area for over a century but he was certain that the Vampire Lord would remember him so it was best to keep a low profile. No use in spreading the word around that a formerly local Vampire was crazy enough to be availing himself of Dr. Key’s skill.

giraffes mating

None of that is even necessary. Just show us he’s familiar with the area. You don’t have to jump up and down screaming “DON’T LOOK OVER HERE! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!”

After some more stumbling, we switch to Aleksei and Perrin saying goodbye. They’re all chummy now, which is sort of refreshing; at least the two points of the love triangle aren’t still dick-fencing, though of course it’s just to avoid any conflict in the resolution of this useless plot. Perrin will scuttle offscreen, and the only sort-of genuine relationship Gillian has will be gone. Perrin plans to seek Gillian out after the requisite year of no contact has passed, but I very much doubt we’ll see him again. Can’t wait for another book of this shit!

What’s a scene between Gillian and a man without some gross sexism? Perrin, who’s been the least sexist man in the books, tells her “You still need looking after, sweetheart,” and calls her a brat like she’s a ten-year-old who’s too big for her britches. All of a sudden this is more like an older brother saying goodbye to his kid sister. Charming!

Gillian and Aleksei remind us that Gillian’s mentor, Cassiopeia, will be visiting (probably on the last page if the fine tradition of everything-is-wrong-about-this pacing in these books), then Aleksei asks Gillian to fly with him. Oh look, it’s time for Puff the Magic Vampire!

puff the magic dragon

Sigh. I’d almost forgotten about this stupid shit.

So Gillian’s riding on his arm when they fly into the Cloud of Info Dump. We’re told all about Gillian’s career before meeting Aleksei for some goddamn reason, information I’m not going to bother sharing with you because it’s convoluted and pointless.

Scanning…scanning…I feel like a meteorologist staring at the Dopplar radar desperately hoping to see an interesting storm, but I don’t see a single cloud.

Oh boy! More sex. And pointless relationship talk. Yay. As a side note, “with blurring speed” is my least favorite of Gryphon’s favorite phrases. There’s some awkward back and forth and Aleksei claims, “We have never had a problem communicating before, Gillian.”

"O rly?" owl meme

When haven’t they had problems communicating? Even ignoring the forced nature of their relationship, their breakup was caused by bad communication (and Aleksei being a total twatwaffle). I don’t know wtf this scene is trying to be, other than another tacked-on sex scene to drag the book out a little longer.

Allow me to animate the sex scene thusly:


animation of an erection

caution heavy equipment

wet cat.gif


an old car buried front down in a dirt pile and a stop sign

So he starts to put it in her, and it hurts. He puts his fingers in her and figures out what’s wrong.

“You seem to have regained what you lost a long time ago.” Aleksei leaned over and retrieved her pants, handing them to her as he rose and lifted her from the ground.

“What the fuck are you talking about? What did I lose?”

“Your virginity, dolcezza.” The smile he gave her wasn’t mocking; it was sweet and tender.

He wasn’t making fun of her, but it took a moment for what he said to sink in. “My virgini— You mean . . . ?”

“Indeed I do. You are intact once more.”

that's not how this works. that's not how any of this works.

4 Myths About Virginity – Everyday Feminism

Your hymen is not your virginity. Losing it does not make you NOT a virgin. Regaining the hymen, even though technically it’s possible (wtf?), will not re-virginize you. You cannot regain your virginity! That includes whatever fucking “spiritual virginity” bullshit religion tries to throw at you.

I cannot fathom why this appears in a book that is written by a fucking adult human being who is apparently educated. At this point, I thought I was beyond surprise at what these books could throw at me. I am not.


Help, I've fallen and I can't get up

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about the sheer disgusting bullshit that is this whole idea, too. Gillian is supposed to be a sexually empowered woman. She has sex a lot and is supposedly allowed to choose her partners (though as we know the reality is more stupid and complicated). WHY THE FUCK do you need to re-virginize her?!

Oh, right, because she has to be pure again and shit so Aleksei can pop her cherry. Do I need to enumerate the reasons why that is unbelievably disgusting? Maybe not, BUT I WILL.

I understand the motive behind this shitty plot point all too well. It’s written this way so Gillian’s “promiscuity,” the thing everyone complains about in this book’s reviews, can come out in the wash. I can just see the thought process behind that: “She’s having sex an awful lot in this book with multiple people. Romance readers won’t want to read about a slut. Better re-virginize her so it all goes away.”

Why, you ask? Because of course a woman’s worth is determined by her purity, which is determined solely by her virginity, which is determined by her hymen, which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with virginity, i.e. the state of not having engaged in sexual activity, i.e. THE ACTIVITY SHE HAS BEEN ENGAGING IN THROUGHOUT THIS PILE OF WORTHLESS SHIT.

shit rainbow

Thirdly, I’d like to just mention how gross the idea of “taking” and “losing” virginity is, as if virginity, whatever the fuck that even means, is a possession that can be lost like a stray sock or taken like your wallet. It implies that, like that sock, once you lose your virginity, it’s lost to the dryer gremlins forever. Except, no, that’s not an appropriate metaphor, because unlike a sock, virginity is supposed to be a girl’s most prized possession, so losing it or having it taken is more like losing a priceless relic that can never be replaced.

Except it can regain your spiritual virginity if God says so…? Who even knows. Note to self: Googling “spiritual virginity” will not actually give you an objective description of that bullshit. So here’s this, in case you’re interested.

looks like it's fuck this shit o'clock

Oh, fuck me with a chainsaw. Aleksei now won’t fuck her outside now that she’s a virgin again, even though they were just about to fuck five minutes ago. 

AAAHHH GOD I need to chew an aspirin before I go on with this shit

Aleksei says Perrin was right about her needing to be taken care of and that “you need to be straightened out on a number of things, piccola.”

“Gillian, being the first man to be with a young woman is a special thing for them both. I want to treat you as I would have treated you if I truly had been your first lover. Why is that so hard for you to understand? Will you not allow me to treat you with the respect this situation deserves? Like the woman I love?

“Must you always be the brash Marine and make light of something that could be so exceptional for us both? This is a miracle for you, cuore dolce, your own sort of rebirth. Do you want to just give it away to a Vampire you have already broken up with on a mountainside or would you like it to be a beautiful, special event?”


Answer me honestly. For whom was first-time sex a “beautiful, special event?” I won’t say mine was awful or traumatizing, but there was nothing grand or profound about it. The circumstances were actually kind of embarrassing. But what the fuck ever! Virginity wasn’t a profound thing for me anyway. Maybe it is for other people. I’m not disparaging that. But it wasn’t for Gillian either:

“My first experience was at three o’clock in the morning on a deserted construction site when I was eighteen,” she snapped, still coming to terms with where this had degenerated to. “I can’t believe you are stopping in the middle of sex because I grew back an insignificant piece of flesh thanks to Perrin and his musical mojo!”


But Aleksei is insisting that it has to be special, and it makes my fucking skin crawl to read this shit. She is trying to make choices she has every right to make, and he is trying to determine when and where it will happen. He has control over her virginity right now even though he’s aggressively gaslighting her:

I presumed too much. Of course it is your choice as to who will be the honored man, and when it will happen.” He turned away from her. “Perhaps Perrin would oblige if you are in a hurry to get on with it.”

Ouch. That hurt, but she really couldn’t blame him. “Perrin has nothing to do with this.”

“Neither do I, apparently,” he said softly, still with his back to her.


He manipulates her into agreeing to let him de-virginize her. Then there’s this bullshit:

Allowing herself a moment of honest vulnerability, she responded, “I know. I always wished that the first time could have been different. I just never admitted it to myself before.”

Smiling and stroking her hair, Aleksei whispered, almost to himself, “And we reach another milestone in the growth and development of Gillian Key.”

He tells her he loves her. End book.


rage flame

giphy (1).gif

flipping off webcomic

disembodied hand flipping off

squidward: fuck you

little girl flipping off

I’ll leave you with one final thought before moving on to the next book: at least her cervix has ostensibly been repaired. Poor cervix.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 21

89% of the way through the book, and the plot, having blown its wad a hundred pages ago, continues to be flop flaccidly around like this poor guy’s trunk:


This chapter begins with some supremely awkward writing. Aleksei needs healers, so Gillian runs off to find some, meeting Luis, Oscar, Trocar, and Finian along the way. It’s two pages of “hey, I need healers! Oh look, healers!” that could be summarized in about two sentences. She picks up “two or three spriggans, it was hard to tell” along the way. More Jim Butcher-style raiding of the D&D Monster Manual, I see. She recruits Perrin to use his magic, minus the erotic part, to help with healing. This is actually kind of interesting.

Gillian makes a shitty joke about not wanting “a bunch of bloody, dismembered people trying to screw each other,” which upsets Perrin. She tries to excuse herself by explaining gallows humor, but he’s unamused, saying he doesn’t like joking about pain. Which Gillian ought to have picked up on. She just goes,

oh well

“Dammit, I keep forgetting he’s not used to us.” She raked her hair back. “He just fits in now, you know?”

“Yeah, he does, honey, but you know you can’t think like that.” Kimber was right, as usual.

Yes, indeed, Kimber is right. Maybe Kimber ought to be the therapist, since she seems to have more emotional maturity on the whole. Rather than calling her on her shit, Trocar is like, “Oh, it’s fine, you just made a boo boo,” like she couldn’t have just damaged Perrin’s trust in her by being an insensitive asshole. If my therapist ever made a joke that implied I might cause someone pain by trying to help them (on her suggestion), I would never go back to her.

Team Shit for Brains gets a makeshift infirmary ready. One would suppose, being in the middle of a war, they might already have an infirmary, but whatevs. Gillian suggests to Finian et. al that they use Perrin’s music to bind their magic together, which is a decent idea. Perrin seems surprised, somehow, that she wants him to play his piano (which Pavel and another werewolf carried in, just to make things extra ridiculous).

Aleksei comes back with a bunch of wounded magical people. I think this is the first time in 2.9 books that we’ve seen the aftermath of a battle, though we don’t know what actually happened. Aleksei explains that he’s going to link everyone to Gillian. O…kay? She’s not an actual healer, but…okay.

Perrin starts playing and Aleksei mind-links everyone. The description is decent, though a bit like this:

hand mixer getting batter all over the kitchen

Here’s an example of this shining prose:

Aleksei felt the surge through their own link and reached for her free hand, putting his other on the piano beside hers, and completing the circuit. Mentally he reached for Perrin, drawing the masked man’s phenomenally brilliant mind to him. He couldn’t waver his concentration from the vast array of life forms whose thoughts and abilities he kept. There was no way for him to shield either Gillian or himself or warn her away from what she was gathering her strength to do.

Listen, writers. You don’t need to use more or fancier words to get your message across. Aleksei touches the piano, links their minds, and he can’t shield Gillian from whatever she’s about to do. It doesn’t have to be that dry, but it does need to be that clear (or clearer, since I have no idea wtf Gillian is trying to do). This reads like the kind of writing I’d expect to see from my teenage English 101 students. No judgment on them; purple prose is one of those things you have to get over when you’re learning to write. But this clumsiness does not belong in a published book.

Gillian does…something…and “the two hundred or more occupants jerked and rebounded in a cataclysmic paroxysm of absolute ecstasy and warm bliss.” So everyone has a simultaneous orgasm? Everyone flops to the ground, and “there was a deep, throbbing warmth between her legs that she couldn’t explain.”

I’m…pretty sure we can all explain that, Gillian.


So everyone’s piled on top of each other like a snake mating ball, but Perrin is in agony and is clutching his mask. The healing spell is healing over his fucked-up face. Astonishingly, he still has scar tissue. Oh my, will we actually have a less-than-physically-perfect character?

Well, yeah, but he’ll still wear the mask in public because heaven forbid he actually show he’s less than physically perfect. Perrin thanks everyone, everyone loves him, he leaves. Now everyone has to pledge fealty to Aleksei because he’s The Best Vampire Lord Ever for healing them. They all kneel to him and Gillian says, “Good grief, it’s fanged obsequiousness!”

eye roll arrested development

Aleksei is The Best because he’s so humble about this, y’all. He wants to be partners and shit. Presumably he just saved everyone’s asses, so maybe he ought to be like, “Yeah, you should be on your knees, motherfuckers.” Even another vampire in the group points out that in the vampire world, they’re supposed to pledge fealty rather than be equal partners. Gillian pressures Aleksei to accept their oaths but won’t accept them herself, saying she just works there. Aleksei says,

“While Gillian does work for the Institute in her capacity as psychologist, she will continue to be an invaluable resource in tactical and military matters. I encourage all of you to seek her out for her wisdom and advice should you require it. You may speak to either her or myself if you wish to organize any offensive effort. I trust her and so should you.”

  1. lolololol
  2. What an asshole. He’s basically volunteered Gillian for a position she didn’t ask for or expect.

She’s understandably pissed about this, so he backs off and says she’ll be there for however long she wants and do whatever she wants. The crowd eventually pledges their loyalty to Aleksei and the chapter ends.


Despite the potentially-interesting magic stuff here, this chapter is boring as fuck. I thought everyone was pretty loyal to Aleksei already, so none of this has any significance because there was never any tension or uncertainty.






Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 20

It just occurred to me that the title of this book actually makes sense, given Perrin’s redemption and all. Too bad the book itself is utterly beyond redemption.

Gillian, Daedalus, and Trocar go to the village inn to meet Dracula the client, and we’re treated to a paragraph of POV from Sexual Harassment Panda Daedalus telling us Aleksei should be “on her ass” about smoking. Nah, that was Tanis’s job back in the first book.

Daedalus tells her to be careful because “the Prince is not the forgiving type,” by which I assume he means Dracula. Gillian has this head-scratcher of a line: “That individual has probably forgotten all about me by now.” Even for Gillian, this is amazingly stupid, not to mention contradictory to all of the caution they’ve been exercising.

An open letter to everyone working with Gillian:

newspaper headline: working with idiots can kill you!

Daedalus has this genuinely brilliant line in response:

“Darlin’, you are the boob that fell out of Janet Jackson’s top, the bullet that shot J. R. Ewing and the pretzel that choked a president. You are not forgettable.”

I actually LOL’ed. Well done, Gryphon. Well done.

Gillian and Daedalus have some back and forth, by which I mean Daedalus is Sexual Harassment Panda some more and Gillian laughs it off. Ugh.

Finally the client makes his appearance. He’s described in the same purple prose as every other goddamn dick-swinger in the books, and apparently he is The Most Beautiful Vampire Evar. He gives his name as Csangal, which I assume is Romanian for “I’m a hot predatory sexist dick-swinger.” He gives off lots of sex vibes, so I guess he’s like an evil Perrin. Daedalus is affected by the sex vibes but HE’S NOT GAY Y’ALL NOT GAY NOT GAY NOT GAY. He “wasn’t homophobic, but, being heterosexual, anything besides a female was a nonoptional choice.”

Okay…let’s take a look at that last phrase again, shall we? “Anything besides a female was a nonoptional choice.” So basically he’s saying females are an optional choice, but anything besides that is compulsory. Yes, clearly that is the definition of heterosexuality.

word choice: use of precise and specific words

Dracula Csangal Drangal tries to convince Gillian she doesn’t need to shield with him, and thankfully she’s not as big an idiot as her earlier comment to Daedalus would imply. His smile “literally [lights] up the booth they[‘re] in.”

What it means when you say “literally”

He’s gorgeous, you guys. SO UNBEARABLY GORGEOUS. She’s distracted by it, which actually makes it a pretty effective power. Where Jack was aggressively nondescript (at least at first), Drangal is blow-your-mind beautiful. Interesting contrast. I don’t get why everyone in the bar isn’t trampling and tearing each other apart like rival tribes of chimpanzees to blow him all at once, though.

They have some pseudo-philosophical conversation about whether paranormal beings are people, and Gillian is nervous because of how distracting he is, inexplicably using the word “crikey” like she’s an extra in Crocodile Dundee.

At this point, any sane woman would be doing this:

a woman diving out of a car and running away

But not our Gillian. Oh, no. Despite all evidence that this motherfucker is way too dangerous to deal with, she has to put up some “I can’t do that I have to be his therapist” bullshit. I’ve mentioned this in other chapters, but I’ll say it again: a therapist is under no obligation–legal, ethical, or otherwise–to take a client that is so clearly a threat to them. I want her to run screaming from this so badly and for Dracula to become a threat in a different way.


There’s about a page of boring, standard “why are you seeking therapy” intake bullshit, then this description of his issues:

He was paranoid in the extreme, believing he was being targeted for murder by stalker or stalkers unknown. Another reason for his request for total secrecy. He had anger issues, some body dysmorphic problems, which she had found hard to believe at first, but he did— he was convinced there was something seriously wrong with his height. His sense of self, paradoxically, was fine, if you called bordering on megalomania “fine.”

what the fuck are you talking about?

He’s paranoid about being targeted for murder, but he wants to keep meeting at the inn. Oookay. Megalomania, fine. Sounds like a certain US presidential candidate. Body dysmorphia? Where the fuck does that come in? This is, as my two-degrees-in-forensic-psychology partner points out, a diagnosis salad. The dysmorphia thing comes off as a “hurr durr wouldn’t it be funny if Dracula thought he was too short?”

He had amassed a lot of money over the years in various enterprises and traveled a great deal, leading the quiet life of the fabulously wealthy immortal. He didn’t like attracting attention to himself, the exception being with prey; kept little to no company with anyone; and generally spent his time researching ancient religious art and artifacts.

A megalomaniac who doesn’t like attracting attention. He’s also sad because he has no friends.


Guys. Gryphon. Is. A. Licensed. Counselor. HOW IS THIS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

on a scale of one to even i can't

At this point you might be saying, “Jesus, Avery, we get it. What’s the BFD? It’s just a stupid novel. A really stupid novel.” Yes, it is. But here’s why this upsets me:

  1. The lack of professional pride displayed in the careless depiction of one’s profession is troubling. If I, a layperson, can break down this pile of bullshit, you’re doing it all wrong.
  2. If it’s not laziness, it’s incompetence, and that is fucking terrifying.
  3. Like it or not, people learn from what they read, including stupid novels. Factual inaccuracies or misrepresentations to this level are not acceptable. It’s the same reason why Fifty Shades of Grey makes me foam at the mouth.
  4. Misrepresenting things that are already stigmatized, like mental illness and (in the case of Fifty Shades, BDSM) is offensive to the real-world people who are affected by them. Representation, accurate and equitable representation, matters.


Drangal makes dumb jokes about how if he were less attractive he might have more friends, and Gillian reflects on what an egotistical bastard he is, but she puts up with it without challenging him. And she doesn’t feel any duplicity from him. If you think about it, a villain who can make people think he’s guileless is a terrifying one.

Drangal leaves, and Trocar shows up to get all handsy with Gillian. He says,

“We must leave, Gillyflower. The Vampire’s visage and touch have left you quite ripe for the picking. I caught your scent as I came into the bar, and I believe the various other night walkers are making the same observation. You are advertising your need for sex with your scent, blush and body, Captain. I am staking my claim so the others will not bother you as we leave.”

Michelle Obama says eww

little girl crushing soda can in anger

God, not this again. “You’re too hot, let’s leave before these dick-swingers can’t resist you and have to rape you!”

Csangal had some powerful sex foo going on there, and despite how much she’d blocked, some of it had leaked through. Speaking of leaking . . .

Tim Gunn shuddering

If you’re going to use “leaking” in a sexual context, use it very carefully. VERY carefully.

Trocar gets Gillian back to the car (she says he can’t drive despite noting him driving earlier) and tells her to “take care of [her] need” immediately. So basically he’s demanding that she get off in the back seat.


God, why. WHY does this need to happen? Is this supposed to be titillating? Awkward?

Gillian calls Aleksei on the brain phone and wants to bone, but he says he can’t help her and wants her to go to Perrin. Failing in that, he wants her to fuck Trocar. Okay, fine. I’ve read criticisms of this book that are mostly concerned with her promiscuity, but I don’t have a problem with the protagonist banging a bunch of people. Let her bang everyone she comes across. Don’t care. But she tries to draw the line at banging Trocar because he’s her friend.

And he KEEPS TRYING TO GET HER TO DO IT ANYWAY. This motherfucker.

After a mere two refusals, he offers to get her off using the brain phone to “take the edge off” so she can shield. Why he didn’t fucking offer that in the first place, I don’t know. Trocar leaves, Aleksei gets her off telepathically, and she goes back to the castle.

As a side note, in case it becomes relevant later (50/50 chance), Aleksei tells her she’s having trouble shielding because she was around Perrin for so long, and this must be a super old, super powerful vampire. Again, this doesn’t seem to set off any alarm bells.

Gillian goes back to the castle and finds Team Shit for Brains lounging around like nothing is the matter despite the vampire attacks Aleksei is dealing with. She goes to the computer to chat with her mentor from the “Miller-Jackson Center for Intimacy” (the sex therapist organization), Cassiopeia, about struggling to maintain her shields. Cassiopeia has annoying speech affectations like calling Gillian “Ducks” and saying “yester eve” rather than “yesterday night.” This is going to get old in a hurry.

After some useless info-dump about Cassiopeia’s characteristics and some self-talk, the chapter ends.


Ah, Sexual Harassment Panda and Rape Culture Vulture have joined forces. AWESOME.

I get that sex and sexuality is the theme in this book. And it could work pretty well if it was an honest exploration of sexuality, sex positivity, and consent. It ain’t that.

I like that Dracula uses sexuality as a weapon. That’s interesting, and it has the potential to be deeply disturbing in an effective way rather than just by accident. Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre trilogy is an excellent example of how sex and love can be used both as weapons and as healing. Phèdre consents to a lot of sexual activity the average person wouldn’t, but there are also a number of rape scenes that are handled in a fascinatingly nuanced way. She finds pleasure in pain and humiliation, so when she’s assaulted, she finds pleasure in it. This causes deep emotional scars.

I bring this up because the Phèdre books are examples of forced sexuality or sexual pleasure done well. If Gillian were helplessly aroused around Dracula but was deeply disturbed by it because she doesn’t want to feel that way and doesn’t want to have to bang the first person she stumbles across to blow off some steam, that would be one thing. I want to be as genuinely creeped out as I was when Jack was masturbating in front of her. Instead, I’m just pissed. Forced masturbation (because it is forced even if no one is physically making her do it) is treated as a throwaway scene with zero emotional consequences.

When you fuck with someone’s sexuality, you are going to fuck them up. This is clearly a message we’re supposed to understand when Gillian is dealing with Perrin. Once he’s able to have sex, he’s able to be emotionally intimate outside of sex. But apparently the reverse isn’t true in these books. People are forced over and over again to have sex because of magic, but everybody is fine with it. This is so disturbing! I know it’s an LKH ass-lick emulation of the ardeur and whatnot, but let me tell you, that is not something that needs to be emulated the way it’s written. It’s basically a rape machine built into the plot, and that’s what this “sex aura” thing is turning into in Gillian Key’s world.

So. Gross.


Gillian Key: The Hateread: Key to Redemption, Chapter 19 (NSFW)

So while Gillian and Perrin were banging in an alleyway, they were being spied on by an unnamed vampire.

a book titled Who Could it Be, Pooh?

Dracula is “Gillian’s mystery patient.” Wait…what? I have a vague recollection of a mystery patient, but it sure hasn’t been mentioned since.

Oh, ew.

The man she’d coupled with was a monster, yet she had been docile, compliant, a lovely receptacle for the semen that the Vampire knew had been expelled.

I wish I could say this was purposefully gross, but I’m not sure it is, word choice aside. Every dick-swinger in this book has, at one point, seen her as tiny, petite, etc., which is code for “I can do whatever I want to her.” This is just a more explicit version of said same idea. Gillian smells like “snow on mountain clover, sunshine and wet, hot sex,” in case you needed a reminder. That sounds like the mix of odors that hits you in the mall whenever you pass a Bath and Body Works and a Yankee Candle Company right next to each other.

Dracula decides he’s going to visit her as a potential client. Why not start an entirely different plot 80% of the way through the book? It’s actually an improvement over the first two books books, starting the second book in the last 3% of the first one. He turns into a “night-flying raptor” (soooo, an owl?) and flies away.

We hop into Aleksei’s head now. He’s jealous, “but not because she’d had sex with Perrin in the alley.” He’s jealous because Perrin can spend all night with her and he can’t (because vampires sleep in the ground and shit). How does he know she had sex in the alley?


Well, Evolved Aleksei is now dialing back to Inferiority Complex Aleksei. He frets over whether she’s unhappy because he can’t sleep next to her, because you have to be unconscious next to each other to be in love, doncha know. I can’t share a bed with anyone for more than a couple of nights because I can’t sleep with someone in my bed, so clearly my partner and I aren’t properly in love.

He goes right on whinging.


He’s jealous. Fine. Jealousy happens. Constant worry about whether your partner really loves you is a mark of anxiety (no I will not say the f-word), which would also be fine, except every single time Aleksei thinks about their relationship, it always, always comes back to himself and how everything affects him. PS, Tanis and Jenna are in Egypt for some reason; just noting it in case it becomes important later (lolololol).

After three pages of whinging, Gillian comes in, and we hop to her head. Gillian thanks him for being “great” about letting her deal with Perrin. You say “great,” I say whining man-child. He runs her a shower and she invites him in so he can keep whining and then insisting he knows best about what she needs. They discuss her encounter with Perrin in a surprisingly reasonable manner, then go to bed.

Why not jump heads for a fourth time to Perrin? He lets us know how totally awesome and kind and amazing and super cool and great she is, and he reflects on how “utterly passive” she was until after they’d first had sex.

baby making an 'ew, gross' face

This whole page and a half is pretty much just Perrin summarizing what an amazing therapist Gillian is and how she helped him so he can go on with his life, as if we hadn’t read the same thing at least three times. He calls for a flight back to Paris…which I assumed he already had, but whatever.

We’re back with Gillian and Aleksei. Ooo, do we get to play Bad Sex Diction this time? Yup!

plundering her mouth

old illustration of p

his thickness, her opening, “being conjoined


“Penetrate me,” exploding fangs


swelling fuller and tighter, his seed’s explosive journey, imperative thrusts, heavy jets


Also, apparently his dick and his tongue are both velvety. That sounds like a medical problem.

Cut to later in the day/night/whatever, and Gillian’s gotten a call about Dracula her new patient. Aleksei wants to go with her, but the patient asked for “total anonymity,” so she says no, that she’ll take Trocar and Daedalus instead.

you keep using that word

Anonymity apparently means bring your friends, but just not the vampire because, get this, “With Aleksei’s newfound power level, he might recognize the individual and they couldn’t let that happen.”

By “they” you mean “the plot,” I assume. This is some Simone Biles-level narrative gymnastics. We can’t have Aleksei go with her because the minute he does, they’ll all know Dracula is her patient and that will mean the next book can’t happen, and Ace wants four books, so the next book has to happen.


Words words words, Aleksei needs to deal with a nearby vampire attack, words words, Trocar references banging the sluagh, words words. Gillian says, “I don’t want to get used to someone else watching my back. It’s not healthy for me if I get complacent.”

This is sad, and it’s also indicative of everything that’s wrong with urban fantasy/paranormal romance heroines. They have to be one-woman armies, or they’re complacent/weak/etc. Dear Gillian: it’s not complacent to have someone watch your back. It’s called being a reasonable person. Did all that badass Marine training fail to instill the idea that nobody is effective completely on their own?

Yes. I’m going to say yes. I fucking hate this trope so very much.

Daedalus the Sexual Harassment Panda dishes out some sexual harassment, and they all go off to meet Dracula the client. End chapter.


Eh. This was a boring transitional chapter. The most engaging part of it was finding the gifs to snark it with. I do hate Daedalus more every time I see him, however, and I hate Gryphon for portraying him as the loveable rogue team member rather than the awful asshole who constantly, obviously, and aggressively sexually harasses Gillian. In a series full of dick-swingers who are terrible in different ways, he’s a special kind of terrible because he’s so much like the men women have to deal with every day in the workplace. It’s just so gross.



Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 18

Right, so, Aleksei invites Pavel, Kimber, Helmut, and Trocar to share in Gillian’s trauma help Gillian get over her trauma in five minutes. I just have to point out that Pavel, Kimber, and Trocar were also there and may also be traumatized by the event, but whatever, let’s not care about the effects of plot events on anyone but Gillian.

There’s a couple of paragraphs about what’s going on in the larger world. omg you guys, did you know that there’s still a war going on and other things are happening that don’t involve Gillian??

There was starting to be some pressure on all law enforcement, mental health professionals and even mercenaries to form a cooperative to share information and start second-guessing the attacks.

Another article announced that a few televangelists of varying denominations were reiterating their objections to legalizing the Paramortal community in general.

Tossing out the “ugh, these crazies are crazy” thing is cheap. Yeah, televangelists are bullshitters who object to everything, so it’s easy to discredit them. But you know, they’re right to be mad. I’m shocked all humans aren’t pitchforks-and-torches irate with Aleksei et. al at this point for doing fuck-all. I really don’t know how much time has passed since the beginning of this war because spacetime is warped in these books, but other than passing mentions of poking around and that treaty that’s only been mentioned two or three times, the alleged majordomo of Eastern Europe has been content to sit around with his thumb up his ass, and apparently so has everyone else.  It brings to mind FEMA’s response (or lack thereof) to Hurricane Katrina, among other things. And these are supposed to be the good guys!

Aleksei comes to find her and we get a description of what literally everyone is wearing that lasts a whole page. This shit reminds me of what every English 101 student ever has done to pad their essay to meet length requirements: just add unnecessary meaningless details! They invite Perrin along for the ride because he needs socialization. Is this a fucking party, or is Gillian about to face a traumatic event? All my faint hope that the coming scene will pack any emotional punch has faded.

Everyone is a goddamn therapist now, peppering Gillian with questions and telling her how to relive her time with Jack. Kimber, quite reasonably, tells them to back off and let her deal with her shit, but Trocar–dammit, Trocar!–ignores her and keeps pushing. Internal dialogue from Gillian:

For the first time that she could remember, she’d acted solely by relying on others to come and save the day. That wasn’t like her.

this bitch can't be serious

Okay, well, maybe this is the first time she relied on others to save the day. I’ll credit her for that. The rest of the dozen times other people have saved her it’s because the plot said so.

She also claims Jack didn’t unnerve her. I was about to quote about half of the scene with Jack, but Trocar–thanks, Trocar!–says, “Of course, Petal, keep talking and you will convince yourself eventually.” Trocar’s role as the friend who consistently calls Gillian on her bullshit is one of those things that show me that the author does have some narrative skill, which makes the rest of the awful even more disappointing.

But then…dammit, Trocar. He keeps at it and starts outright taunting her. He toed the line with his snark already, but this is shameful. He wants her to remember that

her strength lay in her ability to use her anger productively, just as she had the night with Jack, to make judgment calls of her own accord, stand by them. Not feeling as though she had to make excuses for her actions. They owed her respect, not their mollycoddling.

You owe her some sensitivity at least, you cock. I’ll remind the reader that Jack masturbated in front of her and (I honestly didn’t catch this before) threatened to stick his knife in her vagina. Laws in the US vary about indecent exposure and sexual threats, but they’re all crimes because they’re all sexual assault. She was sexually assaulted. AGAIN. And now she’s reliving it, and the reader is being told that the way to handle this is to taunt her. Trocar is standing in for Tanis as Rape Culture Vulture in this scene and now I hate him.

What the actual fuck made Gryphon decide to handle Gillian’s trauma this way? Yes, there’s a difference between how the author would handle something and how the characters would, but this is just fucking stupid. This shit shouldn’t work. No real person says, “Thanks for being an asshole to me while I’m reliving my sexual assault, I’m all better now.”

a paper that's been marked with red pen and text saying "this is wrong! all wrong!" red pen massacre

…and now Kimber and Pavel ditch the group because Gillian is “wound up.” Doesn’t she just have the mostest excellent friends?

Gillian was wound up all right. Something cracked inside her. She was tired of having to defend her actions and choices in that situation. She was tired of thinking of Jack and how much he had bothered her. She was just plain tired and wanted everyone to leave her alone.

I CAN’T FUCKING BLAME HER. But are they going to leave her alone? Of course not.

Yet…somehow the tension in the scene just bleeds out for no reason, and everything is gravy. I need to stop thinking that surely, SURELY, this time we’ll see some Real Shit.

Gillian is over her trauma. “She would never be victimized in thought or in dreams by Jack the Ripper again.”

that's not how this works. that's not how any of this works.

Coping after a traumatic event

It takes time – weeks or months – to accept what has happened and to learn to live with it.

Everyone has a different timeline for dealing with trauma. Maybe Gillian isn’t one of those people for whom trauma results in long-term post-traumatic stress. But NO ONE can flip a switch from being filled with shame and guilt to totally over it.

denial: it's not just a river in Egypt

The “totally over it” trope in novels, especially SFF novels, pisses me right off. You don’t get to put your characters through some shit and then skip right past the hard emotional parts just because you don’t feel like dealing with them. Especially in a book about a fucking therapist!

Her “friends” spend about four pages telling her how awesome she is and how proud of her they are. For once I appreciate the affirmations, since that’s what she actually needs right now. Since she’s So Totally Over It, they all head to the bar to drink and tell stories and shit. Perrin realizes he has friends and it’s all butterflies and rainbows.

At the end of the night, Aleksei tells her to go fuck Perrin because he’s leaving soon, and Helmut jumps in to agree. Aleksei is very therapist-y about his reasoning despite Helmut actually being the therapist, because characters are assigned dialogue based on convenience rather than actual characterization. I’m fine with this, I guess. It shows Aleksei’s trust and lack of jealousy for Perrin. Again, though, this is a scene that should be at the end of the book rather than 76% in.

Gillian and Perrin go on a walk and discuss how well his therapy has gone and how he’ll be ready for “fun, friends, maybe dating . . . a few drinks, music, singing. All the things you enjoy and have become adept with, in an actual multibeing, social setting.”Well, we’ve only ever seen him with her until the last scene, but sure. She says she wishes she could have convinced him to take his Phantom of the Opera mask off because it means he’s vulnerable enough to get a girlfriend, basically.

He’s leaving soon, he says, and “There is only one thing left for me to do, one last hurdle. If you say you can take it . . . take me . . . as I truly am . . . I will indeed be a whole man.” Oh my, whatever could this mean?

I forgot they’re in the village, so he takes her to a corner that is “well secreted from the street.”

anatomical diagram of "secreted extracellular vesicles"

He waits until they’re fucking to take his mask off, which is kind of a dick move (pun intended). I mean, we know she’s going to be fine with it, but if you really want someone to accept you for who you are, maybe don’t do it when you’re balls deep in them. Basically, the masked half of his face is made of stone a la gargoyle, but predictably, she’s fine with it. It’s not a completely soulless moment, so I appreciate that.

Huh. I was all prepared to play the Bad Diction game with this sex scene, but it’s brief and surprisingly average as far as word choice goes. The next couple of pages is them talking about him leaving, which is surprisingly sweet. He asks to spend the night with her and she agrees…

…so he picks her up and slaps her ass as they go back inside. Why not. He wants to roleplay: “I think I will be the autocratic music teacher and you may be the young impetuous student.” We don’t get to see that intense awkwardness, thankfully, and the chapter ends.


Is Gryphon really a mental health professional? REALLY? Everything about this is a fucking travesty, and the couple of pages at the end do not come close to making up for the rest. That said, I feel like Perrin and Gillian have a more genuine connection that she and Aleksei do, but because Aleksei got his dick in her first, I guess he’s the one who gets to stay. Awesome.

punching computer monitor