Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 11

You guys. I had a revelation. I suddenly understand Gillian so much better now.

I’ll explain that in a bit.

Gillian wakes up crying, and Trocar is comforting her. For some reason, which I thought I would have to chalk up to her emotional constipation, she shoves him away. He calls her “Petal” and “Gillyflower.” I had almost forgotten about these particular charming pet names. Now, I’ll remind you that Gillian was/is Trocar’s commanding officer. You know, in the Marines. If Gillian is close to their team and they’re a bit impertinent as a matter of course, fine. But calling her ridiculous pet names is not only wildly inappropriate, it just makes Trocar one more of a sea of mudfish flopping around in the overflow of a septic tank that is the gender politics of this book

mudfish with their mouths open

You know, these ones.

Literally everyone in these fucking books, the author included, has some sort of diminutive for Gillian. Literally no one respects her boundaries. Literally everyone smothers her with “concern” and “protectiveness,” by which I mean abusive restrictive behavior. Is it any fucking wonder that she does stupid shit when she finally manages to wriggle free of these fools, when it’s probable she never EVER absorbed decision-making skills? Is it any wonder she flips her shit at the slightest provocation and can display no emotion other than anger for more than thirty seconds at a time? Whenever she does, someone runs over to dry hump her with concern to assert their dominance.

dog humping a little girl's leg

I still despise every fiber of her being, but I don’t think she’s malicious, just completely ridiculous. And now I get why.

Anyway, so we’re in Trocar’s head now. He goes outside and spots Dahlia and Charles, and they have a short conversation–for what reason I don’t know, other than to establish that Charles knows Trocar is a drow Grael and apparently that Grael use daggers. And then we go back to Gillian. What an exciting way to spend a page.

Apparently Scotland Yard is trying to track down the “African tribe” responsible for Charles’ family’s curse in hopes that they’ll release it somehow. Well, given that Africa’s a big place and there are over 3000 tribes, not to mention the fact that it’s now been 200+ years of devastating colonization between then and now…godspeed, moon cats.

We’re taken through a play-by-play of Gillian’s counseling session with Charles, because this is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in a whatever shrug

I won’t comment on the effectiveness of Gillian’s therapeutic technique since I know fuck all about dealing with an actively suicidal person, except to say that the whole time in my mind I’m thinking of Gillian’s voice as displaying less emotion than Siri. She finishes up the session by saying, “I’m not trying to [change your mind], Charles….I’m trying to help you change your own mind.”

Because that doesn’t sound creepily manipulative at all.

Gillian decides she needs to consult others about the situation. This is literally the first time in either book that she’s decided she can’t make a decision on her own. My nanosecond of appreciation for the character growth is stymied by this sentence: “Gillian wasn’t so egocentric that she would make a judgment call on something this complex all by herself.”

a woman making a disbelieving face

ooooorly?

Though, I really can’t decide if her ego is inflated like a tick about to pop, or if it’s just terrible chronic insecurity and an inferiority complex.

During a conference call, ostensibly about Charles’s case, she starts to daydream about Aleksei again. There’s some inane discussion about how to handle the case, and she admits she “can’t help Charles, not with the time frame [she has].” Wait, what time frame? And why the fuck did you drag me through two chapters of stilted therapeutic dialogue if you can’t help him.

Helmut (the mentor, who’s been about as useful as a wall hanging this whole time) tells her to go and rest and she has this weird thing to say:

“Separating the characters in the movie is a sure sign the person off by themselves is going to get butchered by the axe-wielding maniac. Are you trying to get rid of me?”

what3

Here’s another gem that pretty much sums up the delightful gender dynamic of Charles’s and Dahlia’s relationship: “Charles was characteristically stoic….Dahlia just as typically cried and clung to Charles’s arm.” Literally all this woman has done is cry and beg Charles not to kill himself. Never was there a more appropriate characterizing gif:

A girl in a cheerleader outfit crying in her car

My name is Dahlia and I’m a crying cheerleader!

Four dudes who are apparently Interpol agents show up ostensibly to take Charles into custody. Because he’s apparently the killer they’re after, you might remember. There’s yet another oddity:

“Good evening,” the Vampire said, eliciting rolled eyes from Gillian and Jenna.

Why did they do that? It was so stereotypical, Gill thought to herself, watching the procession file into the house.

what, what?

 I…I….what the hell? Greeting someone with a “good evening” is stereotypical? I am so confused. This book tries so many times to be clever (at least, I assume that was supposed to be clever) and just completely biffs it. It’s like Gryphon is swinging for the bleachers and instead

a little boy trying to swing at a wiffle ball and hitting another boy in the head

Apparently the shapeshifter Interpol agent is Egyptian and the vampire is Kenyan. This seems awfully specific given the narrative’s rather sweeping mention of an “African” tribe earlier in the chapter. I’m not sure why the hell this is even relevant except maybe as a quarter-assed attempt to shoehorn some racial diversity into the book.

Oh, well. Jack just turned up. I’m almost impressed that he’s clever enough to insert himself into the investigation and gain access to Team Shit for Brains this way, but given the astoundingly low bar for cleverness in this book, I’m not that impressed.

Trocar tells Gillian et. al to run and decides to be a hero, facing Jack (and presumably the others) down alone. This is actually an engaging moment, so I’m waiting for Gryphon to pull her punch at any moment. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the narrative half-skips, half-stumbles along in a ridiculous mixture of bad cadence and completely stupid, inappropriate irreverence.

Gillian heard the gurgle of blood from a sliced windpipe before she smelled corpuscles spilling. She turned back, hand going to a nonexistent pocket with a nonexistent gun. Damn. Hell….and fuckadoodle doo. She was still wearing Jenna’s jogging pants. No pockets and definitely no gun.

a man in a suit looking annoyed

Jesus Christ I hate her juvenile way of cursing. Again, I’m sure “fuckadoodle doo” is a stupid attempt at comedic cleverness, but it’s completely inappropriate in a scene that’s supposedly trying to be heroic. And let’s talk about that first sentence. For one, what an awkward fucking sentence. Two, I can’t fathom why you’d whip out the word “corpuscles” other than to show off your knowledge of a random scientific term. If you were wondering, as I was, a corpuscle is a cell, like red or white blood cells…so basically she’s saying she heard a gurgle and then heard blood spilling.

IS THAT SO FUCKING HARD?

Here’s the tl;dr version of the rest of this scene:

an entire baseball team stumbling over each other and failing repeatedly

McNeill fires blindly at someone standing in the doorway, which thankfully is not Charles (where the fuck is Charles?) or whoever else is in another part of the house but not in this scene. Then “Claire’s gun joined his in making a lot of noise.” (TIL guns make a lot of noise.) More vampires come skipping in and Trocar apparently can deal with them too. But oh, here comes Charles and…apparently the Interpol agents aren’t a cover for Jack but are actually the good guys? I don’t fucking know.

Another amazing line: “Dahlia was screaming bloody murder since this was an occasion that called for it.” This sounds like the world’s best anti-joke. It reminded me of this:

I don’t even know what’s going on anymore, except that Gillian isn’t fighting, again. This would be okay because the sense of helplessness adds to the terror in the situation–or at least, the terror that’s intended to dominate the situation which is instead completely undermined by the ridiculous prose.

Jack has somehow managed to slip past Trocar and comes over to creep on Gillian. Gillian contemplates negotiating for her friends’ lives and telling Jack to take her and let them go. Holy sweet mother of god, is she actually being self-sacrificing?

a person with coke bottle glasses with an amazed look on his face

This is kind of an amazing moment for me and for these books. This is absolutely the first time Gillian has done anything that wasn’t whiny and self-aggrandizing despite the narrative’s attempts to insist otherwise. I am actually impressed.

Which of course means the air is let out of that satisfaction balloon immediately because Charles shifts into his Manbearpigasaur form and bounces over to rescue them.

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

Zuberi, the Kenyan vampire Interpol agent, gets munched by Manbearpigasaur, who is apparently indiscriminate. Gillian can tell Jack is calling for help, presumably using the brain phone, and a bunch of other vampires and shifters rush into the house. …apparently they’ve been waiting there the whole time? Why they didn’t come in in the first place and zerg the fort? Oh, right, plot armor.

Team Shit for Brains plus Dahlia book it out of the house. Dahlia opens up a doorway in a tree, and they all pile inside. End chapter.

Takeaways

The sad thing is, this has been the best chapter in both books, narratively speaking. There are some spectacularly stupid lines, but shit actually happens, and there’s actual tension. The thing is, Gillian isn’t actually involved in any of it. All she does is lay there. I have to give her kudos for her tough decision to sacrifice herself to Jack, but of course that moment’s teeth were instantly knocked out by the arrival of Manbearpigasaur. How much better would this book be if Gillian actually made the deal and Jack carted her off?

SO MUCH BETTER.

Also, let’s talk about Dahlia. She is a Fey. We’ve met other Fey (Trocar and that Legolas guy in the first book who made an appearance for all of ten seconds) who are objectively pretty badass, yet all she does is wring her hands and cry about Charles. During this scene, I just picture her like this:

bella swan staring blankly

Then literally the only thing she does is give them an escape route.

I have to give credit to Gryphon  here for actually attempting to fit the situation into the larger Jack plot, but it’s a pretty weird, clumsy attempt. We’re steered into this Charles plot as if it’s now the main focus of the book (and after being constantly jostled around from plot to plot, our numbness is understandable), and then Jack inexplicably pops back in. How did they not think this might happen?

This is the book right now:

puzzle pieces in the wrong places

Except Gryphon is using a mallet to violently cram in pieces where they don’t belong.

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