When they arrive, a vampire named Sekhmet meets them. If you know anything about Sekhmet, you might be thinking, “RUN, GILLIAN, RUN!” Let me give you a hint: Sekhmet went crazy berserk once and started slaughtering people, and people had to get her passed-out drunk for her to stop.
But then again, you’d have to ignore Gillian’s track record of making sensible decisions (which is approximately 0-1,352,367). Maybe we can chalk it up to her chronic and inexplicable ignorance about her own universe in spite of what’s supposed to be top-notch intel and training.
There’s some decent description of Sekhmet wherein race is very carefully not mentioned. She’s apparently the most beautiful woman Gillian has ever seen, and, shockingly enough, Gillian doesn’t immediately feel insecure, defensive, or bitchy about it.
I actually don’t hate this part. Gryphon is decent at description, and there’s lots of it here. The compound where Osiris hangs out is underground and is pretty much every opulent Egyptian fantasy ever. I have a mental image of the one time I was in The Luxor in Vegas. Sekhmet takes Gillian off to rest, and the Rachlavs give her puppydog eyes as she leaves. They then meet up with Anubis, who “glided, floated, strode purposefully, a contradiction in physics, a dream, a solid presence.”
This is a really awkward description to me. I’m sure it’s meant to be poetic, but I can’t picture it at all. We’re treated to the same amount of exacting detail about Anubis’s appearance as we were Sekhmet’s, which makes me wonder why we don’t get much more than “hair color + eyes” description from the main characters. Admittedly, I’m a little (a lot) guilty of this sometimes.
Back with Sekhmet and Gillian. Jesus, this chapter is long. Sekhmet assures Gillian she’s free to come and go and explore as she pleases, because “throughout all of Egypt…she was safe from Dracula and his lot.” Remember that apparently Osiris can destroy Dracula with his brains. But there might be rogue vampires and other dangers, blah blah. I’m sure this is a setup for Gillian to get in trouble somehow.
More description of Gillian’s bedroom. She finds a nightgown, which sounds like it suits her, but it makes her look “delicate,” which of course she can’t have. She wants to look “tough and capable” instead, so she wears an oversized t-shirt. It’s sad that she–and SO MANY PNR/UF heroines–feels like the only worthy/valid wardrobe choices are anti-feminine. What the fuck does it matter what she looks like when she’s asleep?
Nope, this chapter isn’t finished yet. Gillian wakes up and thinks about Sekhmet and how powerful she is. The gist is that “Apparently absolute power did not necessarily corrupt absolutely.” In other words, these are the good guys no really the good guys they’re really good just like Dracula is really really really bad who needs moral gray areas
MORE description, Christ. No chapter end in sight.
Gillian wanders out into Cairo to see the Sphinx and the pyramids. For this, she carries rappelling equipment. Uh? As she’s wandering around Cairo, she “unconsciously patted the pistol she had in her pocket.” Now, we’ve been told many, many times that she’s an active-duty Marine, who presumably was taught how to carry a concealed weapon. It’s like she farted in public and is now trying to wave it away. If people didn’t notice before, they sure will now.
La la la, all this description reads like we’ve suddenly switched genres to “travel and leisure.” Apparently now she’s going to go wander around in the tombs by herself, with nothing but her rappelling equipment.
I kept expecting something mildly interesting to happen here, but nope, she just wanders around for a while, then goes back to describe the Sphinx and the history of the pyramids. Oh, apparently she’s actually traipsing merrily around an excavation site and displaying far more knowledge of ancient Egypt than she has anything thus far. I can tell this is what really interests the author, and I have to wonder why she’s not writing a book about this, rather than tacking on all the other shit.
She thinks she’s being followed. Good thing she has her Glock 22C, which she’s going to tell you about in detail before moving on to more description of stuff stuff she’s doing other stuff. Then there’s some world building about how undead beings have an aura. Now there’s some stuff about silver bullets. Now stuff about zombies.
Oh, something is attacking her! FINALLY SOMETHING IS HAPP-
The first part of the chapter is everything that’s wrong with the romance genre. There is no argument you can make that will make me believe what Tanis did was not rape, and she’s just like “lol okay.” As I was raging about it last night, Tiger pointed out that romance scenes like this come from women’s ravishment fantasies. Tiger has a good point, but you can’t have one “no really, I consent” scene and call it good. One instance of consent does not constitute blanket consent. It doesn’t excuse what comes after, if one partner does not give explicit consent before the encounter. This is not only bad character behavior, it’s shameful author behavior.
I actually did not loathe the rest of the chapter. The Egyptian characters sound mildly interesting. I have a soft spot for mythological figures (which is pretty apparent in my work) if completely opaque and one-dimensional still. However, the chapter as a whole was boring as fuck because characters kept moving around through endless description with no discernible purpose. I read the first three books of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series (until Jondalar got so insufferable he interfered with my ability to enjoy it), which is full of pages and pages and pages of description, but at least that had a purpose, most of the time. There was some kind of forward motion (usually literally) in the description. Occasionally that forward motion is in Gryphon’s description, but more often it’s “forget about what the characters are doing while I indulge my imagination.” It’s really hard to balance rich description and world building with plot, but you lose your reader if you don’t.
But thank fuck, some action is finally about to happen.