Happy (day-late) Independence Day to Americans! The actual start of summer weather here in Seattle happens right around this time, which means I’ve spent the last several days lethargic because of the heat. No air conditioning is a travesty.
So, back at it. Gillian is really excited to tell Aleksei that Tanis has been kidnapped rather than murdered. I mean, really excited. I suppose I’d be happy to find out my fuckbuddy isn’t dead even if he was in the hands of a terrible enemy, but she says she has “something marvelous” to tell Aleksei, which seems to be overstating the case a bit. Aleksei is happy too, and they act like Gillian just found out she won the lottery and found world peace. They hug, and once again, Gillian smells like a Victoria’s Secret perfume, Eau d’Idiot.
Sekhmet, very sensibly, wants to know where the information came from. Gillian can’t reveal her source…for some reason. Dionysus wants to know why, and so do I. I doubt a statement like that is covered under patient-provider privilege. Yet another thing she’s keeping from them for no goddamn reason. When are the vampires going to stop trusting her and start being suspicious of her every move? Because I would have done that already. Aleksei thinks she’s “brave but incredibly stupid,” I agree with the second part and think the first part is more foolishness than bravery.
Nothing will do but Dionysus recommend that Aleksei “take [her] in hand.” Why the fuck is it a universally accepted vampire norm that men need to control and abuse women if they step out of line?
Maeti shows up to defend her BFF Gill, and Dionysus immediately has the hots for her. Apparently Maeti is using “the full power of Vampire seduction” to convince him. Oh my god, this is fucking disgusting. What it (strongly) implies is that female vampires have to use sex to have any power of conviction. We haven’t seen them stand up to–or even speak to–the male vampires except in this one instance, and Maeti instantly goes for the dick.
Oh, it gets better!
Damn, the girl was good. Not a shot fired and Dionysus was practically drooling at the Egyptian lady’s feet. Gill would have shot him. Oh well. Everyone does things differently.
So women in this book have exactly two speeds: unnecessary and unapologetic violence or objectified and sexualized. This is everything that’s wrong with urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The only way women can have power (especially over men) is one of these two things, or, if they’re really “empowered,” both at once.
I love to see female characters who are unapologetically sexual, really want to have sex and have it with whoever they want. If it’s done with nuance and sensitivity, I also don’t have a problem with female characters using their sexuality to get what they want/need. Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre does this, but it’s not in a way that reeks of widespread misogyny. The society is completely different, with freedom of sexuality being a foremost feature of it, so it’s not burdened by the fucktastic gender politics of our world. Part of UF/PNR is that it’s set in a world that’s very similar and parallel to our own, so if you want to have different sexual politics, you have to do some extra work to make it happen. This is where this book fails utterly and completely and also where Anita Blake fails.
Gillian, Anubis, Sekhmet, and Aleksei talk about how to go after Tanis while Dionysus and Maeti are banging. Sekhmet notes that Aleksei “[is] still worried…that if Tanis lives he and Gillian will still want each other.”
THIS is what he’s worried about? What a fantastic brother he is!
Sekhmet says it doesn’t matter anyway because Gillian “should be yours and in some ways, already is.” I have no idea how she knows any of this, except that she seems to have become Author Mouthpiece. Then she “rose gracefully in that boneless way only Vampires can.” This image amused me more than it should have.
Cezar suddenly freaks out and asks Gillian if she’s out of her mind. Aleksei “blurred over the back of the couch” to her rescue. I hate the use of that verb as intransitive. A person does not blur. A person blurs something.
blur [blur] Show IPA
verb (used with object), blurred, blur·ring.1. to obscure or sully (something) by smearing or with a smearysubstance: “The windows were blurred with soot.”
2. to obscure by making confused in form or outline; make indistinct:“The fog blurred the outline of the car.”3.to dim the perception or susceptibility of; make dull or insensible: “Theblow on the head blurred his senses.”
Though, you know, I have to say definition #3 is a perfect description for the entire book. As is this aptly-named gem of a song.
(Yep, I’m an English teacher. Sorry about that.)
Cezar is upset because…I don’t know. I assume that like everyone else, he thinks Gillian shouldn’t go off doing shit that’s probably stupid. Predictably, every vampire in the room leaps to Gillian’s defense. Cezar says, “You do something about her, Aleksei. I will not have any of my pack held responsible if she is going to talk like a crazy woman.” In general I’d have to say I agree with Cezar, though I still don’t know what the fuck is going on.
Oh, apparently Gillian wants to go rescue Tanis and with “a friend or two from the service [and] take a couple of werewolves with [her].” I agree even more with Cezar now, because if I were him, I sure wouldn’t want my pack members volunteered to go along with this idiot with some humans against Dracula. Gillian insists they’ve done recon “many times,” which makes me wonder if she’s talking about her own experience in general or what the vampires have been doing. If the vampires have done recon before, we haven’t seen it, and if they have, why didn’t they figure out Tanis was being held captive in the first place?
“Thoughts flew across Aleksei’s face and the silvery gray eyes shifted into cold platinum discs, icy with anger.”
This author has a grand love for misusing phrases to make them sound as stupid as possible.
Aleksei doesn’t want her to go because he doesn’t want her to risk her life, and of course the other vampires agree. Anubis calls her Virgo, and I have no idea what the fuck language that’s supposed to be (Latin? Greek? More anachronous Italian? Who the fuck knows). Again, the entire narrative is trying to prevent her from, you know, actually being the protagonist and taking action for herself. As I’m sure she’s going to go anyway, I assume we’re meant to see that she’ll fly in the face of danger at any cost, but as I’m equally sure she’ll do it in the dumbest way possible, my respect for her remains in the negative.
To her credit, Gillian is like, “Fuck y’all I’m going anyway.” The other vampires think going against Aleksei’s wishes is a bad idea because he’s
an abusive dickbag a sooper powerful vampirez. She gets nervous and
…discretion being the better part of valor occurred to her. Chess. This was chess, not power. Bluffing was out. In chess, the best defense is a good offense. Offense was also not a good plan at the moment, seeing Aleksei’s frame of mind, but she could work on that.
That pained expression, by the way, is permanently affixed to my face as I’m reading this absolute pile of shit.
But then, there’s this piece of ironic wisdom: “Lying was a very bad idea with this many older Vampires in the room.”
Hey, how about that time you lied by omission for weeks (possibly months) by not telling the vampires important and relevant information that only didn’t end in disaster by sheer dumb plot luck? Or the time you lied about what you were doing in the Egyptian pyramid for no reason? I mean, what the fuck, did the author just forget about those little incidents or is Gaslighting Gremlin making an appearance again?
At least she’s reasonable when she says essentially she doesn’t want Tanis to die and they should do something. For whatever reason he says, “That is not the correct response, piccola…. You will remain here, under my protection. You will not attempt to leave or rescue Tanis or there will be hell to pay. Is that clear?” If he’s said repeatedly that he underestimated her competence and she can take care of herself and other assorted lies in that theme, why is he so hell bent on her not going? It’s not as though the vampires have formulated some kind of plan to rescue Tanis. I guess it’s just another dick-swinging misogynist “instinct” that is “genetically” inherent in male vampires.
They go back and forth and he threatens her a couple more times if she leaves. The narrative assures us that “Gillian was his equal in every way but physical strength and speed” despite noting at every turn that she isn’t at all equal. Sekhmet is all,
I suppose I ought to be grateful that Gillian is trying to take the initiative to do something, finally. And I kind of am. But also, I do not understand why every single other person in this fucking book is out to stop her from doing what she’s ostensibly very good at. I can only assume that, like me, they see she’s actually a complete fool. Maybe they’re a little like,
But from a storytelling standpoint, I hate that the tension in this book is not about Dracula’s threat to the supernatural world, but about the fact that everyone is so protective of Gillian because they think she’s a fragile wilting flower. I tend to write character-focused stories and sometimes struggle to encompass the bigger picture, but fuck, every time we do have some insight into the scope of the bad guy’s threat, it’s put across in this completely half-assed, nonsensical way. Not to mention the tension of Tanis’s kidnapping is completely undermined by the stupid chapter-long argument on whether Gillian gets to go rescue him. If this goes on any longer, it’s going to start resembling the interminable “how do we heal Gregory” chapters from Narcissus in Chains, which Tiger so eloquently reviewed.
Chapter 21 here. Chapter 23 coming soon.