Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 26

All of a sudden we’re getting attacked. It’s actually not a badly-written attack scene…at first…except for the general clumsy sentence structure that’s pretty typical of this author.

clumsy infomercial gif

Gillian can apparently see everything that’s going on despite having near-normal night vision and previously-stated extreme darkness. It’s really easy to retreat to third person omniscient when writing an action scene so the reader gets a full view of the fight, but I can’t credit Gryphon for making that conscious choice here, given the general ineptitude of the narrative.

Maeti gets attacked and mangled first. Gillian gets tackled by a vampire and is basically pinned there for the rest of the fight. Luis, the helicopter pilot, starts swinging at the vampire. This is about as effective as a little kid taking punches at a bodybuilder. Keep in mind that Luis is also a vampire, which makes me wonder why the fuck he’s so weak here. There’s also a bad case of Power Ranger-Buffy Syndrome. You know, where the protagonist is surrounded by bad guys who politely wait on her and take their turn to get their asses kicked individually?

power-rangers fight
Fuck, I used to love this show.

The attacking vampire does absolutely fuck all to her while Luis is impotently hammering at it. It’s just…sitting on her chest or something, with no apparent ill intent. Just saying hey.

Dionysus…sets other vampires on fire? I think? “Nonliving torches,” she calls them, as if there’s another kind of torch. “Cerulean blue lights [glow] from Dionysus’s face.


What follows is one of the more incomprehensible sentences in the book thus far: “This was the power that separated him, Osiris and, unfortunately, Dracula, from the Vampires under their lineage.” Wait, what? Does that mean Dionysus et. al can set people on fire and other vampires can’t? Or only Dionysus can? In that case, why would that be unfortunate? At any rate, why are we just learning about this now?!

what does it mean bear

Kimber, the plucky sidekick, whips out the flamethrower that’s plastered on the cover of the book. So is that Kimber on the cover? Why isn’t she the protagonist? She actually does shit. Apparently the flamethrower is called a “veloci-candle,” whatever the fuck that means.

Gillian is still pinned by the vampire. “Already the creature’s arm was shattered and raw from continually fending [Luis] off.” Two things I don’t get: 1) why is the vampire being referred to as a ‘creature’ when all the other vampires are, presumably, people? 2) If Luis is a vampire why is he having such a hard time with this one?!

Dionysus swings by and makes the vampire look at him. The vampire keels over dead. So apparently Dionysus has the ability to kill people with a look as well as set them on fire. So remind me again why the fuck the vampires have been so reluctant to go after Tanis, and why they need Gillian to lead the way on the rescue mission?


don't make sense make dollars
The sign on Talia Gryphon’s editor’s door.

Fight’s over, Gillian’s done fuck all. Kimber is happy, Dionysus runs over to Maeti, who’s being tended by Trocar, who’s apparently a healer. She’s lost blood, but apparently will be fine. “Dionysus cradled Maeti to him, opening his shirt and lifting her mouth to his chest to feed her.” That’s…a strangely maternal kind of gesture, not to mention a nonsensical one. If you don’t have tits, what’s there to bite on the chest that you can get enough blood from?

Kimber is still pretty lighthearted. Gillian calls her a “resident near-sociopath,” which I might actually believe, given how merrily she seems to have skipped through the fight, but it still makes me roll my eyes. Oh look, and here’s some more offensive racist shit:

“‘Bad man with pointy teeth, Kemo Sabe, very bad man?’ Kimber’s humor rarely missed a beat.

Oh no, my dear, that is most definitely missing a beat. Yes, let’s use the exoticized character to make references to the patently offensive Tonto. What makes it for me is what follows: “The two of them had a friendship that transcended any race or any disrespect. They’d been the Lone Ranger and Tonto in the field before, as well as a dozen other famous hero pairings” so in other words, IT’S JUST A JOKE Y’ALL DON’T GET IT TWISTED

I’ve said or alluded to this before, but I don’t find it offensive when the character makes racial remarks or jokes, but they require a lot of confidence in the author and verisimilitude for me to believe it’s not just racially ignorant and insensitive fucktardery.

not saying it was racism but it was racism

Gillian wonders who knew they were coming here to send the attackers. Pavel makes the sensible suggestion that it was probably Dante. I like Pavel. Gillian says, “No, he’s an ass, but I don’t think he would have deliberately misled us.”

Um, why not? He’s been pretending to be your therapy client and dream-raping you for months. Isn’t that like the definition of intentional misleading?

Gillian wants Trocar to look at Dante’s rocks and tell them what’s going on, despite the fact that she dismissed Dante’s involvement out of hand. Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t question an actual sensible suggestion straight from Gillian’s mouth.

Trocar tells her that Dante is a Grael ghost, and Gillian wonders “how an Italian mercenary swordsman [is] a Grael.” Good question! Would be nice if I understood the fucking significance!

keep calm and don't expect too much

Trocar calls Dante an “abomination” because he’s mixed Grael and human, which Kimber, being multiracial, finds offensive. But no, it’s cool, because it’s actually really bad to cross a Grael with a human because elves have really strong magic that presumably a human’s “frail willpower” can’t handle.

Christ, the worldbuilding in this book is like this:

infomercial cabinet

infomercial taco

infomercial shelf

infomercial paint

Blah blah, mixed-blood Grael are bad. I find it manifestly troublesome that the black-skinned elves are the potentially dangerous evil ones and their mixed-blood children are always dangerous monsters (see the one-drop rule). If you’re going to have a type of supernatural creature that tends toward violence and bad behavior, maybe reconsider making them black. It doesn’t matter here that they’re more Drow than African. If you’re writing an urban fantasy that, in all other ways, appears to adhere to our world’s (admittedly Western) conceptions of race, you have to put some fucking thought into how you present supernatural race politics.

Trocar wants to know how Dante attacked Gillian. Pavel pipes in to tell Trocar Dante raped her. On the one hand, I’m glad someone finally used the word “rape.” On the other hand, it is totally NOT OKAY for Pavel to blurt that out, especially when Gillian doesn’t want to tell him. Why does fucking Trocar need to know, anyway? It matters fuck-all what kind of attack it is, and blurting it out in front of the whole damn group is making her relive the experience. But oh, what the fuck, boundaries are for reasonable books.

personal boundaries

Trocar promises vengeance upon Dante. But of course, we see no actual reaction from Gillian other than turning away, so basically we just have Rape as Plot. Not even the plot, but a minor one to show us how Baddy McBad Dante is. This is fucking nauseating, especially since it matters not at all to the actual plot and doesn’t seem to actually affect Gillian in any way.


This is an impressively boring action scene, which reminds me of a good many of the Anita Blake action scenes I read (when I was still reading the first three books): protagonist gets knocked out or otherwise incapacitated and everyone else does the cool shit. I mean, even Kimber got to wield the flamethrower we see on the cover.

But what would a chapter in this book be without some race and sexual politics that give me heartburn? The more I read about Gillian, the more she seems to exist purely as a) an axis around which the universe turns, but b) an inanimate object everyone else wants to protect. As much as I actually love Titus Andronicus as a very black comedy, I can’t help but see parallels between Gillian and Lavinia in the link above. They’re both violated and threatened not because these are terrible things to happen to them, but they’re terrible things to happen to the people around them, who then must stir to action in revenge.

And this from a book that, within the first few chapters, (vainly) tried to establish itself as feminist.

justin timberlake wtf

Chapter 25 here. Chapter 27 coming soon.


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