Gillian leaves the meeting chamber, and we’re immediately treated to one of those orphan sentences that make absolutely no sense. She “didn’t notice Alexei and Tanis flanking her until it was far too late. Damn Vampire glamour anyway.” What? Since when do vampires use glamours? I have read nothing about this.
Aleksei and Tanis want to know why Gillian lied about what happened while she was out (hint: it was shambling, covered in rags, and eye-rollingly cliche), which is a good question. There’s absolutely no reason for her to lie, unless…
…actually, I completely understand why she lied: she was afraid of the consequences if the Rachlavs found out. This, in retrospect, makes complete sense of you see her as an abuse victim (which she is). Who wouldn’t be afraid if you thought two behemoth vampires would physically assault you just because they were mad, claiming it was for your own good?
Anubis, who has been relatively inoffensive thus far, suddenly decides to go full-on dickhead and hangs out in the hallway to watch the Rachlavs dress Gillian down without being decent enough to interfere.
Aleksei and Tanis argue over who gets to punish Gillian. Charming. Anubis thinks this is mind-rendingly funny and calls Gillian “adorable,” because there can’t be a man in this book who doesn’t make some sort of objectifying remark about her. Gillian is understandably upset and absolutely no one gives a fuck, because Aleksei and Tanis are butt-hurt and Anubis is giggling his head off. Tanis threatens her, saying, “This discussion has not ended, Gillian. Count on that.“
Gillian tells Anubis, “I suppose I should be flattered that they are so concerned for my welfare, but it does wear thin.” No you should not be flattered. They’re not actually concerned with your welfare. They’re “concerned” because you’re not obeying them. Actually, no, they’re not concerned. They’re hideous assholes.
Everyone in this book is disgusting.
Gillian invites Anubis into her bedroom–uh oh–but all she does is talk to him about the Rachlavs. There’s some pseudo-feminist shit that sounds good on the surface but is actually very anti-feminist. I’ll explain. Gillian says,
“I know you all are ancient. I understand you have wisdom and knowledge that I will never possess, but you all have really got to stop believing in the pampered-doll idea of a woman. She’s a myth. I wasn’t brought up to be in a gilded cage, I was brought up to take care of myself. I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to know that I could handle myself in any situation.”
There is so, so much wrong with this. This monologue is really a microcosm of what’s wrong with the whole book. It implies that there are only two types of women: the “pampered doll” and whatever the fuck Gillian is supposed to be. I assume this means a woman who rejects every part of what she perceives as feminine and has to “handle herself.” If a woman can’t handle herself in exactly the same way Gillian can (or is supposed to be able to–whether she can actually do this has not been proven), she should be looked down upon. This idea is just as harmful as the myth of the pampered doll. There’s no room for anything in between. If a woman wants to be a housewife? If she doesn’t feel she can handle herself like the badass Gillian is? If anyone ever feels like they can’t take care of themselves? God, those losers. How anti-feminist they must be.
Feminism is not about replacing one idealized version of a person (not just a woman) with another and disparaging people who can’t or don’t want to fit exactly that mold. It is not about this obstinate, uncompromising insistence that Gillian can take care of herself and doesn’t need anybody ever, flying in the face of reason and plot. Feminism is about allowing freedom of choice in lifestyle, sexuality, career, etc. and respecting those choices, but also recognizing that sometimes, even a strong person needs help.
Anubis fires back with that delightful abusive misogynist idea that the Rachlavs are “subjecting [her] to their discipline, because [she] mean[s] so much to them.” It’s like Schrodinger named his cat Bullshit and shoved it in a box with Gaslighting Gremlin, which poisons it until it’s dead. Every time he opens the box, he can either get Misogynist Bullshit or Pseudo-Feminist Bullshit, but as long as the box is closed, both exist at the same time.
Anubis seems to exist solely to defend the Rachlavs and insist they’re good guys.
Anubis leaves and Tanis wants to come in. He’s had a change of heart (big surprise) and comes in all concerned and loving and shit. One of the hallmarks of an abuser is complete unpredictability. You’re never sure whether they’re going to hit you or kiss you, yell at you or be completely normal, so you’re always off-balance. I can speak to this personally, having grown up with an emotionally abusive father. The abuser wants you dependent on them for approval and wants your attention at all times hence the unpredictability. You spend your time trying to predict what’s going to happen next. This is Tanis exactly. What’s worse is that this behavior follows pages and pages of pseudo-feminist conversation about shaking the Rachlavs up and bringing them into the feminist 21st century.
Gillian says, “I’m not that macho, and I’m not too proud to ask for help if I need it.”
She has not once asked for help in the entire book. As a matter of fact, up until this point, 40% of the way into the book, she has actively resisted help on every page. It’s like Gaslighting Gremlin is trying to attack the reader now, too. The author is trying to sell me a pound of organic grass-fed Wagyu beef from cows that get individualized healthcare without antibiotics, vacations, and feather beds, only it’s actually a maggot-covered half pound of Cruelty Pork fed on Monsanto corn, arsenic, and the blood of Republicans.
Nothing will do but Aleksei waltz in and apologize to the “little Captain.” Gillian of course accepts the apology and “something [melts] in her heart.” Something is melting in my heart somewhere in the region of the left ventricle and is about to bring on another rage coronary episode.
Gillian says, “I am breaking so many rules right now.“
She wants the Rachlavs to sit with her until she falls asleep. She tells them the mummy story, which is apparently hilarious, and “both [Rachlavs] came away with a better appreciation and understanding of how far females had evolved since they’d taken notice.” What, because she did something stupid in a tomb, disturbed a mummy, barely managed to escape it because she was too stupid to find a way past its mindless shuffle, and then shot a gun in a closed-up hallway? What kind of women did they know when they were humans if Derpina here seems like a shining example of evolved and empowered womanhood?
Gillian falls asleep and Aleksei ruminates on his feelings for her. He wants her bad, but he’s still the only person in the world who gives a shit about his professional relationship with her. Even I don’t care about it anymore because there’s no actual tension there aside from the contrived insistence that there is tension. There’s no chemistry between any of them, especially not Aleksei and Gillian. This bullshit exists for the sole purpose of making Aleksei seem “honorable” despite his manipulative assholery.
So that’s that.
We’re back to the boring chapters again, it seems, which should be fraught with emotional tension and complex personal negotiation like a nicely-layered deli sandwich, but instead it’s been sitting in the fridge for too long and the tomatoes and mayo have started to break down the bread and the cheese and lettuce are getting floppy and everything tastes like fridge. Except there’s that one overbearing note of cheap pickles that turns bland into gross, and that pickle taste is misogyny.
Earlier, I was thinking over this truly obnoxious book and trying to think if there was anything salvageable about it. I’m kind of a mercenary asshole sometimes, and when I’m reading a book like this, I look for little kernels of ideas that I can try to do better. This is legit, right? Aside from the barest basics of the psychologist/Special Forces operative concept (which I realized belatedly I’m using for an upcoming novel), there’s really just…nothing that’s very interesting. And that’s a shame.