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

So Gillian is going to ruin fencing for me now, it seems.

I was a fencer in college. I don’t proclaim to be an expert, by any means, but I know enough that most movie sword fights make me cry inside. I can just imagine what fun this will be.

I’m going to try very hard to believe that Gillian is indulging in an old-world fencing style with a “quilted fencing jacket, tight pants and soft, pigskin thigh-high boots.” Because this is what a sport fencer looks like these days:

Portrait of a fencer, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo by Darron R. Silva
Photo by Darron Silva,

White canvas jacket, which will eternally reek of sweat because you can’t wash that shit out, canvas capri pants that similarly reek of crotch sweat, dorky knee-high socks (mine were usually mismatched and some variant of these), some type of gym shoe (special fencing shoes if you have the money), and a helmet with the black mesh face mask and a quilted/padded neck, which is absolutely the grossest, smelliest part of the outfit. The girl above is wearing a lamé jacket, which is woven with conductive threads and marks off the valid scoring area. The foil, which is the weapon most people think of when they think of fencing, can only score within this area. The weapon is wired to a machine, and the tip of the foil only responds to the jacket to indicate a score. The weapon I preferred, the epée, is the style most people think of when they think of fencing, which is to say, the whole body is the target.

Now, I’m willing to accept that unless Aleksei is kinda serious about fencing as a sport hobby, he probably doesn’t have the whole getup with the electronics and shit. But there’s absolutely no reason why she should be wearing a quilted jacket unless she’s using an actual bladed weapon, and definitely no reason why she’d need boots like that. They’d be extremely hard to do shit like this in:

fencing lunge
This is epée, by the way, and the girl on the left is going to have a bruise on her knee for days.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry. This is just one of those pet annoyances.

While Gillian puts on her pointless fencing gear, she thinks about the vampires and how protective they all are and how much it drives her nuts, but she’s realizing they don’t really see her as powerful, etc. etc. but she’s really amazing, “a no-nonsense woman in a world of bullshit.”

i beg to differ cat

If you looked at Gillian’s ingredient label, it would read as follows: Water, Nonsense, High fructose corn syrup, Red dye 40. But no, the narrative insists that she “[kept] her own dynamic personality clamped down in favor of her patients’ needs and the clandestine requirements of her missions.”


I actually love that the author has the nerve to insist all of this after literally hundreds of pages of Gillian doing exactly the opposite. Gaslighting Gremlin has his work cut out for him here.

Pages and pages later, by the way, no mention of actual fencing other than her putting on her bullshit uniform. I’m almost sad that my angry rant has gone to waste in favor of a useless info dump.

Because she can’t go long without doing something completely idiotic, she sneaks outside without an escort even though she knows she shouldn’t and she’d get in trouble if she got caught. Gross and also stupid, but finally she’s loaded her gun with silver bullets.

Predictably, something is stalking her, and she’s about to get into trouble. Oh my fucking god, this woman is so stupid and boring, the only time she ever does something proactive, it’s completely senseless and she gets attacked every time.

einstein insanity

einstein stupidity

She backs away and goes to stand under a waterfall, for some reason. It must be a really small waterfall, because if you’ve ever been in a water park with one of those features, you know it’s not exactly easy to just chill there while paying attention to anything but the water aggressively trying to drown you from above. “It never occurred to her at that point to call for help. The thing was close, and she didn’t want to risk anyone’s life who might come to find her.

…don’t you just love how she justifies her own rampant idiocy as wanting to protect the people who are centuries older and, by her own admission, exponentially more powerful?

She says it’s not one of Aleksei’s wolves, but it’s a lycanthrope. Huh? What? She’s referred to Aleksei’s werewolves as lycanthropes before. What the hell is the difference? “Praying that the old legends were true and that a .40 caliber silver-point bullet would be enough…” YOU DON’T KNOW THIS?! She’s been in Aleksei’s household for six months and somehow doesn’t know how to defend herself against other supernatural beings?!

keep calm and don't expect too much

Gillian shoots the thing and it dies. She finally “[sends] out a mental broadcast for help,” even though logically she could have done so much earlier and, you know, actually told them that hey, she was being stalked by something but be careful because it might eat them.

She doubted even a Lycanthrope could survive having its head exploded by .40-caliber silver bullets” BUT YOU JUST SAID YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHETHER THE BULLETS WOULD WORK OMG

pony headdesk


Something else grabs her…and…it’s another vampire. One she doesn’t recognize. Of course he’s gorgeous. He shoots a fireball from his hand at the lycanthrope, and she notes that “regular Vampires couldn’t do that. Did that make him irregular? Thinking too much again. Aleksei was going to kill her.” Everything about that thought is stupid.

She can tell the vampire isn’t evil, and indeed he isn’t. She thinks his accent sounds Greek, so I’m betting it’s Dionysus. …walking through the forest…. randomly.


He carries her back toward the house, and by now I’m convinced that Talia Gryphon is unable to write a male character who is not a complete patronizing dickbag with every breath he takes. Indeed, he says, “A little thing like you should not be wandering around unattended. For a former soldier, you are incredibly undisciplined.” Again, like every other male in this book, he’s right about the latter  and a complete fuckstick about the former.

Here’s the most eye-rolling paragraph yet:

There, the nobly born, iron-willed, genteel, chauvinistic, Old-World Vampire and opinionated, liberated, feminist Marine were having issues with the subjective topic of Gillian being able to handle a preternatural threat alone, or Sexism in Survival Situations 101.

you keep using that word

Let me point out that the “Sexism in Survival Situations” thing is from Jurassic Park, which I assume means Gryphon is trying to compare Gillian with Dr. Sattler. As someone who idolized Dr. Sattler when I was a kid, I am incredulous and offended by this comparison. Dr. Sattler was cool. She was actually capable. She was actually sensible and stable, everything Gillian has actually never been this whole time. I’m also fucking offended that Gillian is being passed off as “liberated” and “feminist.”

Aleksei starts out by being (rightfully) pissed that she was stupid enough to wander off alone for no fucking reason, but then he starts to be impressed with the fact that she handled herself with a lycanthrope using “Human techniques,” which I can only guess means hiding under a waterfall, staring at the lycanthrope a bit, then shooting it. What a technique.

Aleksei gives in, and we’re treated to one of 64,364 paragraphs about how strong and pretty he is. It seems Gillian is slowly wearing him down with her repeated idiocy, because now he just wants her to tell them whenever she wants to go off alone instead if sensibly demanding she accept an escort because obviously shit happens whenever she wanders off. Repeatedly wandering off by yourself makes you neither strong nor liberated. It makes you a completely ridiculous person.

Aleksei tells her she’s “extraordinarily capable,” meaning he has a boner for her and he’s blowing smoke so far up her ass she’s coughing on it. She says, “I appreciate you noticing.”

anderson cooper trying not to laugh

Aleksei worries that maybe Gillian doesn’t need him after all, boohoo. End of chapter.




In some ways, this is sincerely the most ridiculous chapter yet. Gaslighting Gremlin seems to have taken up permanent residence, assuring me that nothing is wrong and everything is copacetic despite everything, EVERYTHING being wrong with this fucking book. I actually feel cheated out of being able to critique a fencing scene, because at least I’d have something to roll my eyes at to distract me from the directionless rage at every goddamn thing else.

I feel like I have indigestion after reading that. There is literally no point to her doing this. The thing is, I can see what the author is trying to do here: to establish Gillian’s capability to handle herself. It’s just that this is the worst possible way to do that, because all it demonstrates is that the “liberated feminist” doesn’t have the sense God gave little chickens.

How does a book like this get published? HOW? Even knowing that Gryphon is associated with LKH, I have to wonder how much arm-twisting was involved to get editors to pass this into print. If I were the editor that had to try to spit-shine this turd, I would quit, and I’m not even joking. But then, I’m not even convinced this thing ever actually saw an editor.

your book is bad

Chapter 19 here. Chapter 21 here.


3 thoughts on “Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 20

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