You know, the more I type that title, the more I hate it. Any series that’s a stupid play on the titular character’s name makes my eyes roll out of my head.
I shall dub this the Ripoff Chapter.
The first paragraph lurches from semi-casual Gillian voice to pseudo-poetic author voice between one sentence and another:
Gill’s night vision was stellar for a human, but she wouldn’t have been able to see dead ahead in the darkness. The moon was but a silver sliver in the sky and while the stars turned the velvet black into a wonder-land of sparkling fire, the landscape wasn’t viewable.
It’s like if I suddenly switched from the voice of one of my barely-literate redneck characters to my highly-educated character who has a poetic bent.
We’re given a weird description of Gillian’s Special Forces team, of which both Luis and this elf guy were apparently a part, and assured that Gillian was the best leader ever because of her “unique style of command.”
You’re gonna love this. I do.
When two members of separate Elf races refused to cooperate with one another during a recovery mission and threatened to munity…
– 10 to Gillian already, since if your highly-trained team members are that undisciplined in the field, you’re a shitty leader.
Gill told them point blank that they would get along under her command or she’d shoot them herself before they ever got a court-martial.
Gillian = hammer. Problem = nail.
[The team members] had laughed at her demeanor and audacity, verbalizing disbelief that a U.S. Marine, and a female at that, might employ such tactics.
1) Who the fuck chooses people who don’t respect the chain of command for Special Forces?
2) Sweet Jesus the straw misogyny in this book, what the fuck.
Gillian had calmly turned, drawn her Glock and shot him through the kneecap. As he writhed on the ground before his shocked comrades, Gillian had put the heated muzzle of the gun against his temple and asked if he wanted to restate his opinion, her green eyes icy.
So, what was that about the dudes being court-martialed?! If the USMC in this world gives its officers free rein to shoot the people under their command, I sure am glad I don’t live in that fucking universe. A fighting force that lets that go on has to be symptomatic of some despotic oppressive leadership shit.
This incident, like the one about how Gillian got into Special Forces in the first place, is meant to assure us of her “phenomenal intuitive judgment” and leadership skills, and how her team respected her and “more than a little love[d]” her.
Luis lands the helicopter and they get out. Gillian notes that in fact, Tolkien was “an observer and trusted friend” of the elves, so he was completely right about them. In other words, the author was too goddamn lazy to make up her own elf society and thinks plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Except ideas can’t be copyrighted, so I guess it’s just aggressive imitation. Who the fuck let this get published?
PS, Tolkien apparently lived out his days in Elfland.
So Elf Guy Mirrin shows up and they rattle off some Tolkien Elvish to each other. Mirrin brought along Kimber Whitecloud, who is also apparently a friend. She
“was a glorious combination of several Human races to their highest compliments. Her hair was golden bronze and braided all over her head; it hung in plaits down her back, under the cloak. Grass green and golden hazel warred in the slanted eyes that were full of mirth and ringed with black lashes.
Her skin was silky bronze, a shade or two darker than her hair; her lips full and dark pink.”
I’m really conflicted about this racial representation, and I don’t know how to feel about it.
I read a fascinating article a while back from National Geographic about what Americans will look like in the mid-21st century. Basically, white people will no longer be the majority, and in fact, most people will be multi-racial, as Kimber apparently is. In other words, people will be varying shades of brown. But I feel like Gryphon is trying to present the whitest multi-racial person possible here.
Now, I’m a light-skinned multi-racial POC. I get eyeballed because nobody can figure out what race I am, especially since I have very black hair and non-white features. I have cousins of the same mix of heritage who are natural blondes, like Kimber. So I’m understanding, to an extent, about what Gryphon is trying to get at. I think what bothers me about this description is twofold:
1) the fact that Kimber is “a glorious combination of several Human races to their highest compliments.” So in other words, she got the best of all light-skinned races: blonde hair, light eyes, light skin. Blonde hair is actually a recessive gene and is, all things considered, relatively rare in the grand scheme of the human species. As you’ll note here in this gallery of multi-racial people (which corresponds to the previous article), light hair does not occur frequently, so shoe-horning in the blonde hair and heavily implying its superiority (it’s the prettiest) is troublesome. The “silky bronze” and slanted eyes parts are token, objectifying gestures toward brownness, like she has a lovely permanent tan.
2) Her name is Kimber fucking Whitecloud, which further reinforces and encourages the image of this woman as white- or light-skinned.
I’m very cautious of being a hypocrite here and saying that Kimber isn’t brown enough to be multi-racial (because god knows I hate when people pull that shit on me), but I really take issue with the way she’s presented: white enough to be acceptable and brown enough to be exotic. Sometimes, it’s a reality. In my personal experience, I’m irritated by the fact that most people assume I’m white because they can’t figure out what race(s) I am. But the fact that the author’s choice is to present her character’s light-skinned looks as superior is offensive.
Pavel thinks she’s the Most Gorgeous Ever and immediately wants to fuck her.
Kimber introduces Gillian to an elf named Hierlon, who looks exactly like this:
Down to the dark brows. Yep.
More Elvish, more introductions. The elf she shot in the kneecap, Trocar, is also there. He has “ebony” skin, which I sincerely hope is actually black black and not African black, and…oh, get this…white hair.
MS. GRYPHON PLEASE STEP OUT OF THE FANTASY SECTION OF BARNES AND NOBLE
There’s some more aimless milling around. Apparently Trocar is a Grael and nobody likes Grael. Hierlon, who is a
Legolas High Elf, especially doesn’t like him. Kimber and Pavel have the hots for each other. Dionysus and Maeti are all but forgotten and have nothing to say.
Mirrin then tells them that he thinks Tanis has been taken to England. Oh sweet fuck, can we please pretty please just get to the fucking rescue?!
Apparently, someone “spirited” Tanis through the elf lands, meaning I guess that they opened a doorway into another world or something. I don’t know. It’s confusing. Gillian wants to know who opened it. Apparently the time to introduce a completely new concept is slightly after it becomes necessary. Christ. I do this in my first drafts, because something will occur to me and then I’ll use it, but then I go back and make an effort to at least introduce it earlier so my reader isn’t completely lost.
Gillian tells the elves about Dracula and Trocar does this confusing mini-lecture about why the fey would be valuable to Dracula because they would be the muscle for the vampires (presumably because they have more powerful magic) while the humans would be food and chattel. Well, an excellent point, but for whatever reason, Kimber finds this really offensive and yells at Trocar.
Blah blah, Gillian observes that if Tanis was taken through Elfland, Dracula must have some alliances among the elves and it wasn’t a “random kidnapping.”
Such smart! Much clever!
Mirrin says something about the Dark Wizard returning WHO THE FUCK IS THE DARK WIZARD ARE WE CHANNELING HARRY POTTER NOW?! There’s also some mention of a godhead and the Fey Court. I feel like we’re reading a completely different book all of a sudden.
Is she trying to do Merry Gentry now?!
After several rounds of discussion that go nowhere, Gillian finally says they need to go find Tanis in England. Mirrin wants to help, but Gillian sends him packing back to his bitchy redhaired wife, and Trocar gives an oath, which binds him to help. There’s a paragraph about what a scary badass he is, but Gillian wants a scary badass with her.
Kimber is also coming with. Kimber is, naturally, the plucky sidekick with no personality thus far other than being cheeky.
Now that that’s finally decided they head off to England.
What a pointless chapter. The introduction of new characters and especially the brand-new exposition 70% of the way through the book shows you just how bad the pacing is. Why couldn’t Gillian this kind of exposition and ally-gathering happened like, I don’t know, during the six months Gillian spent doing fucking nothing? And seriously, the flashbacks about Gillian’s time in the service do no favors for my already abysmally low opinion of her.
Pardon the video game reference here, but in some ways, Gillian reminds me of Renegade Shepard from Mass Effect. The conceit behind the Renegade conversation option in those games is that Shepard is basically supposed to be ruthless but still a hero (because the entire series is based on Shepard being a hero). Instead of adhering to that spirit, you’re able to be a complete dickwad to your squadmates. This defeats the entire purpose of the game, which is that Shepard is a badass but has loyal allies who help him/her. S/he’s not supposed to be a foaming, violent psychopath–his/her enemies are. You can’t win a war with a bunch of beaten-into-submission followers. That’s why the bad guys can’t win. It’s basic fucking storytelling.
But then, Shepard is competent and Gillian is not only unhinged and violent but also a complete tool. There the similarity ends.