Every time I think I have it bad reading this drek, my co-author Tiger Gray posts another chapter of their Narcissus in Chains spork and I feel slightly better. At least there’s not as much rape.
That’s the standard. At least there’s not as much rape.
Dionysus laughs at Aleksei because Gillian is “a handful,” but Aleksei insists, for the billionth time, that “no other Human is as capable as she, nor as courageous.”
Dionysus calls Gillian “your piccola principessa.” For fuck’s sake, even he’s using Italian now. NEWS FLASH: GREECE ISN’T ITALY EITHER. Also, he’s joined in on the Objectifying Train by calling her a “little princess.”
Apparently vampires mate for life. What? Seriously? If your life is, without interference, eternity, why the fuck would this system be in place? Even humans are more likely to engage in serial monogamy than forever-monogamy. This standard makes zero sense. It would make so much more sense if they thought of everything as temporary because, in all likelihood, other opportunities will come around eventually. They are also “loyal and protective to their chosen. The non-Dracula variety, anyway.” So once again, as in the very early chapters, Dracula is back to being a variety of vampire. Is it a name or is it a class/type?
Oh boy, and here we have more arbitrary gendered bullshit. “Predatory and inherently dangerous by nature, the males were overwhelmed with the enhanced emotions and increased physical sensations the change wrought in them.”
HOLY FUCK THIS IS FUCKING OFFENSIVE AS FUCK.
The idea that a man is predatory and dangerous by nature is so, so harmful to both men and women. You know the whole school dress code debate and how it’s skewed against girls thanks to issues like rape culture and slut shaming? It’s saying that girls are responsible for “distracting boys” if they dress a certain way that adults find unacceptable, but it’s also saying that boys are highly distractable and can’t control themselves. Saying “boys will be boys” makes everyone helpless: it teaches boys they’re not responsible for their own impulses, even (especially) if they’re violent and/or sexual, and it teaches girls that they are responsible, but they better watch out anyway because if they don’t control themselves just right, boys will come after them anyway.
Boy, this book has everything! Misogyny? Check. Sexual coercion? Check. Sexual violence? Double check! Objectifying? Check. Gendered power imbalance? Check! Bechdel test fail? Check. Rape culture? DINGDINGDING! I would argue that while the ugliness in this book is slightly subtler than in Anita Blake (that is, fewer instances of blithe on-screen rape), it’s just as bad. It’s built into the entire fucking canon of the book universe now.
The narrative claims that the females are predators too, which I assume is supposed to be some kind of half-assed (really more like quarter-assed) attempt at justification, but the rest of the paragraph goes on to claim that although the males are terrible predators, they’re SO GENTLE AND LOVING to the people they care about! An entire race of abusers, y’all. Ain’t that the sexiest thing?
Aleksei likes to “[vent] about Gillian’s feminist attitude and her former occupation as a soldier.” The narrative actually admits that Aleksei thinks of her in terms of the fact that she’s a small human female, so she needs protecting. See, this would be okay if it were handled with nuance (which we know this book is incapable of) within the first couple of chapters, not in Chapter 21. By now, it is completely unacceptable for the romantic interest to have not budged one bit in his repugnant attitudes.
Here the author is spelling all this out better than I can:
Cezar didn’t want to be anywhere around if Gillian truly pushed Aleksei over whatever line would force him to take action. She would be in for an immediate and abrupt discourse in Vampire protective genetic traits. Aleksei would view it as necessary to get her attention and Gillian would view it as bullying.
This paragraph makes me physically ill. Aleksei doesn’t have any control over what actions he takes, see. He would be forced to punish her (read: assault her) if she stepped over whatever arbitrary line he set, because it’s necessary. I HATE how the situation is set up so Gillian seems like a recalcitrant child that Aleksei has to bring to heel (bully) in order to protect and be romantic about. WHO THINKS THIS IS OKAY IN A ROMANCE??
And let’s talk about the whole “Vampire protective genetic traits.“
Insofar as we know, vampirism is not genetic. In fact, it can’t be, because it’s an acquired condition that wasn’t there before. Chicken pox is not genetic. AIDS is also not genetic. The likelihood that vampirism will “take” might be determined by genetics, but I certainly don’t give this author credit for that much world building. Even with magicals, I fail to see how an acquired condition can alter someone’s genes. Even if that were true, I fail to see how genes determine how protective someone is. Mental illness can have a genetic component that then affects personality, I suppose, but I’m really reaching here and probably overthinking a stupid choice of words. This is not the way a book should be making me think.
In the background, apparently Gillian has been visiting Dante, and he’s “ready for discharge.” Since I still think he’s the fuck-spirit from her dreams, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him. Tanis is still missing and everyone is starting to think he’s dead please oh please
Gillian wants to go out and look for him–wow, something actually productive and proactive!–but nobody wants to let her, the IPPA included. Sweet Jesus, now even the narrative is trying to keep shit from happening.
Oh look, remember my rant about fencing? Apparently, Gillian fenced in college and “was damn good with a rapier, epée, side sword and foil.” Um, she must not have been doing sport fencing, then, because the three sport fencing weapons are foil, epée, and sabre. I don’t know what a side sword is, and the epée is the sport fencing equivalent of the rapier. There’s a “lack of protective equipment” despite having a quilted jacket like Gillian mentioned earlier. Gillian is doing this because it improves her skills. What skills, I don’t know, because fencing actually has very limited usefulness in actual combat other than basic hand-eyed dexterity, which I would expect her to have anyway. Sport fencing/dueling was actually designed to minimize injury; you hit your opponent, you back off. It’s heavily moderated. It has rules.
Yes, this is my pet irritation. I hate when people go directly to fencing as a combat training montage. If it seems like I’m wandering off into tangents, it’s because
So Dante wants to speak to Gillian. He tells her Tanis has been kidnapped by Dracula, so he’s not dead. Dammit. Dante is jealous because he can tell Tanis is who Gillian’s been fucking. Then we’re told outright that Dante is the one who’s fucking Gillian in her dreams. I have two things to say about this:
1) Wow, this is the most anticlimactic reveal ever
2) OH YAY ANOTHER RAPIST
Fucking someone while they’re unconscious and unable to give consent, when they haven’t been given prior consent? IS RAPE.
And then there’s this gem of a line:
Memory of those visits stirred him, bringing his form into solid, hardened reality as he thought of sliding into creamy heat while she slept.
I think “creamy heat” might be one of the grossest euphemisms I’ve ever read. I like some dirty shit in sex scenes and am not afraid of blunt phrasing, but euphemisms sometimes just make it icky. Let’s not forget he’s turned on at the thought of raping her. Just…fuck.
Dante wants her “dead or alive,” hurr hurr. “It didn’t matter to a Ghost if his girlfriend had a pulse or not, or was a noncorporeal being. What mattered was that Dante was a special Ghost.”
Serial killers think this way. I get what the author is trying to say here, but there is some bad, bad writing here.
More blunt info dump, because heaven forbid this realization come organically: Dante is “part Fey, Dark Elf to be exact, known among themselves as the Grael. He was inherently magical and could do a number of things that Ghosts normally had trouble with.” So the ghosts of supernatural beings are more powerful. See, this is interesting, which means that it won’t be developed at all.
We’re given a treatise on the Grael…I mean pages of it. Another candy bar that is pointless, out of place, and drags the pacing down, because right now Gillian is supposed to be delivering ostensibly important news to Aleksei.
And there the chapter ends. WTF?
The pattern of this book has become semi-reliable: in scenes where nothing happens, we dive right into offensive rape culture shit, and in scenes where something…kinda sorta happens, it’s because Gillian is an idiot, and the action/writing gets measurably worse. The men are nothing but aggressive, dick-waving Neanderthal fuck monsters and the narrative tries to pass that off as totes okay. I hope by now I’ve managed to establish now NOT OKAY all of this is. I am actually genuinely upset by the level of rape culture in the book that’s passed off as vampire/supernatural culture. It’s an excuse used the world over for oppression and discrimination and human rights violations, and the fact that the author has embedded it into this universe as an acceptable excuse is fucking disgusting.
Chapter 21 here. Chapter 22 coming soon if I can stomach it.