Whoa, we are already 24% of the way through this book. Or, put another way, only 24%, and the book has already blown its plot wad messily and unsatisfactorily on your face.
So Aleksei just hung up the brain phone and Gillian is having a minor crisis about her feelings for him. This chapter begins…completely differently. I have no idea where they are or how they got there, but they’re confronted with the two detectives who swooped in at the last minute in the last book for no other reason than to be an obstruction. Why? Who the fuck knows. But apparently the detectives, McNeill and Jardin (she’s French, this becomes important in a bit) are going to keep them in London until Gillian answers questions about Tanis’s kidnapping and the dead prostitutes.
Helmut Gerhardt, Gillian’s psychologist/empath mentor, is also apparently in London and wants her on a “Field Operation” (capitalization hers). Oh hey, did you know that England is also a Country and not a country? The random capitalization of non-proper nouns is driving me crazy.
PS, Jardin is a shifter and McNeill has fey blood. I don’t think I knew either of these things from the last book, but apparently I’m supposed to.
Gillian is now a “small, predatory beast: beautiful and deadlier than the two Scotland Yard pros could imagine.”
If you have to constantly make your case for why your protagonist is awesome, you’re doing it wrong. I guess it’s not enough that every character in the book gives Gillian a tongue bath, but the author has to do the same at every turn. She’s tiny and blond and awesome, you guys. TINY AND BLOND AND AWESOME.
So Gillian answers questions, but she honestly doesn’t know anything about who abducted Tanis (uh, did the author forget about Jack, or for that matter, Dracula? Okay…). Oh, apparently she does remember them, except she “had no proof that Dracula was directly involved with their abduction other than the word of Jack the Ripper, it wasn’t a credible enough lead to pass along.”
This is really important information. Regardless of whether Jack is a liar or not, I think it’s a reasonable goddamn assumption that Dracula was in on it somehow, especially given that, as we’ve been told several times, Dracula is starting a vampire turf war. You’d think it would be wise to at least fill them in, given that there is an obvious danger of regular humans getting caught in the crossfire.
She also claims she doesn’t know where Jack et. all took Tanis, except they fucking found him there and rescued him omg. I know she and Kimber were spirited there unconscious, but they managed to leave and get back to London. How can she not at least extrapolate where the place is?
There’s a couple of paragraphs here that indicates that Gillian isn’t being as cooperative as she could because she doesn’t like McNeill.
You petty, irresponsible fuckwad. I mean, what does it say about this whole universe when the protagonist is enough of a dickbutt to withhold potentially life-saving information just because…because reasons. This is not the first time she has lied for no goddamn reason.
And I repeat: this is the protagonist.
Gillian has a ladies’ room conversation with Claire Jardin in which it’s revealed that Claire is an inherited shifter, meaning it runs in her family, and her family sees their animal as a family totem. This is actually kind of interesting. Claire is a cheetah shifter, which, she helpfully points out, means that her family comes from Africa. (Not any specific region or country in Africa, mind you, just…Africa.)
So, like…is she black? I went back to check, but the only descriptions I’m finding of her is “a very slender leggy woman with blond-frosted hair” with a “classic profile.”
Forgive me if that screams “white” to me, considering the population of his fucking series is lousy with white people other than the one Latino vampire who’s gone crazy, plus Maeti and Kimber, who are both reassuringly pale.
Oh, what do you know, I’m right. Apparently her family immigrated to Africa (wherever) a while back, then they moved back to France a couple generations back.
Indigenous means that something originated in a certain place. Like, they’ve always been there. It doesn’t mean “oh, they’ve been there a while.”
It would be so much more interesting if her family were actually indigenous, but they came from colonized Francophone Africa, hence the name, and emigrated to France later on. I love nuanced family history.
But of course we know “nuanced” is the very very last adjective I’d ascribe to these books.
Also, Gillian informs us that Daedalus is also an inherited shifter whose “Minotaur Line traced back to ancient Crete.” Uh, what? She just found out kind of shifter Daedalus was. Methinks the author confuseth her knowledge with the protagonist’s knowledge.
Gillian apologizes for asking such a personal question (I had no idea it was considered a personal question) but “I like you and wanted to get to know you better.” The tone of that whole statement is kind of flirty, especially when we read that “her pheromones [shift],” but apparently it’s not. Sad, Claire is already nicer than Count Sex Behemoth.
The pheromones thing has something to do with Claire’s realization that, “My God, you really are a natural empath!”
HEY GUYS HEY DID YOU KNOW SHE’S A NATURAL EMPATH DID YOU DID YOU
Claire is astonished at Gillian’s powerful empathy blah blah, and Gillian and Jenna have some awkward “as you know Bob” banter. This seems to have been shoehorned into the narrative regularly to illustrate that Jenna, who we basically know nothing about, is Gillian’s BFF. Claire is pleased by their “obvious friendship and camaraderie.”
Did I mention that up until this bathroom talk, Gillian has shown zero interest in Claire whatsoever as a person?
Anyway, they go back out to McNeill, and it’s mentioned, for the second time, that he’s blond. What is with Gryphon and blonds? Gillian, Pavel, McNeill, Kimber, and at least half of the tertiary characters we’ve met have been blond. Blond hair is a recessive trait, yo.
(As you’ve probably gathered by now, I can get a little pedantic about science, but seriously, these are the things an author and editor really need to think about.)
They get in the car, and McNeill is just rigid with disapproval and discomfort of everyone and everything. He’s forced to sit next to Pavel, but he’s also right next to the door, which is apparently a bad thing? If I didn’t like werewolves, I’d be grateful to be right next to the door.
Anyway, to annoy him, Gillian takes out a cigarette and starts to smoke. Did you remember that she was a smoker? I barely did, if only because in the first few chapters of Conflict, she manages to annoy me and Tanis both with her smoking. Man, if I started keeping track of all of the inconsistencies in this series, it would be a full-time job.
So McNeill and Claire take Gillian, Jenna, and the still-silent Pavel to Picadilly Square, where Gillian’s mentor, Helmut Gerhardt, is waiting for her. Apparently they’re heading to most haunted house in London, which Gillian is upset about because she’s a NATURAL EMPATH GUYS and haunted places are bad for empaths. Gillian bitches McNeill out for not warning her beforehand, and he acts like he has no clue why that’s important. He’s apparently read her file, which details her magical ability, but “I simply did not focus on that particular detail.”
Wouldn’t you suppose someone’s magical ability is more than just a minor detail to be glanced over? If he were being a dick to her because she was resistant to answering questions, that would make sense from a story perspective, but he’s supposed to be genuinely contrite when she expresses her upset, which I guess just means he’s a fucking idiot.
They get out and Helmut is there. Helmut, by the way, is another beautiful Aryan man. His “blue eyes [crinkle]” when she approaches, which gives me an unfortunate mental image:
Hemlut calls her “schatzi,” which Professor Google tells me means “sweetie.” Only mildly creepy, considering he was Gillian’s teacher and is still her mentor and her boss, but I suppose I should really have learned not to expect professional propriety from these books, considering the way they started.
Gillian is Gillian and calls him a shithead, also in German. He is apparently the world’s worst prophet, because he says,
“One day, someone will not be flummoxed by your charms, my dear, and you will find yourself on the receiving end of a long overdue reprimand.”
I say the world’s worst because he’s predicting basically three quarters of the first book.
We’re informed that Helmut has “no trace of sexual interest” in Gillian, which I guess warrants a mention because every other male-identified creature in this universe has it bad for her tiny diminutive delicate petite blondness.
Helmut has a gaggle of “Spiritualist practitioners” who sound like fluffbunny Wiccans, and a group of nondescript grad students. What the grad students are studying or what they’re even doing there is beyond me. He tells them she’s there because her empathetic abilities aren’t limited to humans and that she can use them on supernatural people, ghosts included. We’re not told why this matters or why the fuck they’re here except to say, “I know most of you think you know why you’re here.”
WOULD YOU KINDLY FILL THE READER IN?
Instead of telling us the fucking purpose behind this fucking scene, we’re given another patented self indulgent Gryphon history lecture, this time about the Black Plague. Apparently lots of people were buried around this house, blah blah, and then there’s this:
Ghosts are the product of the deepest, most primitive emotional responses in a Human being at the moment of death.
I kinda like that idea even if it’s a bit cliche; at least it’s a half-hearted stab at world building. Don’t worry, that’s about as interesting as this gets.
There’s lost of ghost in this house for various reasons blah blah, Gillian is claustrophobic WHO CARES. Helmut says, “Now you all understand why we asked the esteemed Dr. Key to join us.”
Oh, wait, now we’re told, after two rounds of “So you guys know this already”: the owners of the building want it cleansed, and the Spiritualist-Wiccans are supposedly there to help the spirits move on. Apparently Gillian can let them know if anything really bad is coming.
So Gillian agrees and immediately removes her weapons.
Why…is this necessary? We aren’t told. McNeill and Claire take Gillian’s weapons and are surprised to see them; apparently they are utterly incompetent and didn’t know she was still packing a gun, knife, and garrote. Pavel could smell them, but Claire, who is also a shifter, didn’t. Keystone Kops.
Gillian addresses the Spiritualist-Wiccans and the grad students, telling them she and her “staff,” meaning Pavel and Jenna, will go first. Nice, Gillian, nice. She opts out of calling them “friends” because…reasons.
And so now that she’s needlessly harangued these poor people, she’s ready to go inside. For reasons.
End of chapter.
30%. Almost one third of the way through the book.
What the fuck.
The complete lack of consistency and verisimilitude in these books is shameful. The prose is graceless and so are the characters, but this is basic shit, yo.
Tangentially related: I’ve read The Mists of Avalon several times. I loved it when I first read it in high school and occasionally went back to look it over again. The more I read it, the more wild inconsistencies and repetitiveness I noticed. For example, in one of the earlier chapters, the Merlin’s voice is compared to the tolling of a bell at least three times within as many pages, and IIRC, the same comparison is made of Viviane. Igraine’s alignment/relationship with spirituality also vacillates wildly, from “maybe I should try to be Christian” to “I’ll never ever be Christian” to “I’m super Christian” to “whatever, I was never Christian, I just pretended” throughout the book. There’s lots of stuff like that, and I always wondered how that made it past an editor. I mean, I guess if you’re a powerhouse like MZB, you can get away with “don’t touch my shit” clauses (I’m looking at you, LKH). The lack of editing in these books is really the fault of the publisher in any case, but especially in the case of a nobody like Gryphon, who obviously does not have her own editor.