89% of the way through the book, and the plot, having blown its wad a hundred pages ago, continues to be flop flaccidly around like this poor guy’s trunk:
This chapter begins with some supremely awkward writing. Aleksei needs healers, so Gillian runs off to find some, meeting Luis, Oscar, Trocar, and Finian along the way. It’s two pages of “hey, I need healers! Oh look, healers!” that could be summarized in about two sentences. She picks up “two or three spriggans, it was hard to tell” along the way. More Jim Butcher-style raiding of the D&D Monster Manual, I see. She recruits Perrin to use his magic, minus the erotic part, to help with healing. This is actually kind of interesting.
Gillian makes a shitty joke about not wanting “a bunch of bloody, dismembered people trying to screw each other,” which upsets Perrin. She tries to excuse herself by explaining gallows humor, but he’s unamused, saying he doesn’t like joking about pain. Which Gillian ought to have picked up on. She just goes,
“Dammit, I keep forgetting he’s not used to us.” She raked her hair back. “He just fits in now, you know?”
“Yeah, he does, honey, but you know you can’t think like that.” Kimber was right, as usual.
Yes, indeed, Kimber is right. Maybe Kimber ought to be the therapist, since she seems to have more emotional maturity on the whole. Rather than calling her on her shit, Trocar is like, “Oh, it’s fine, you just made a boo boo,” like she couldn’t have just damaged Perrin’s trust in her by being an insensitive asshole. If my therapist ever made a joke that implied I might cause someone pain by trying to help them (on her suggestion), I would never go back to her.
Team Shit for Brains gets a makeshift infirmary ready. One would suppose, being in the middle of a war, they might already have an infirmary, but whatevs. Gillian suggests to Finian et. al that they use Perrin’s music to bind their magic together, which is a decent idea. Perrin seems surprised, somehow, that she wants him to play his piano (which Pavel and another werewolf carried in, just to make things extra ridiculous).
Aleksei comes back with a bunch of wounded magical people. I think this is the first time in 2.9 books that we’ve seen the aftermath of a battle, though we don’t know what actually happened. Aleksei explains that he’s going to link everyone to Gillian. O…kay? She’s not an actual healer, but…okay.
Perrin starts playing and Aleksei mind-links everyone. The description is decent, though a bit like this:
Here’s an example of this shining prose:
Aleksei felt the surge through their own link and reached for her free hand, putting his other on the piano beside hers, and completing the circuit. Mentally he reached for Perrin, drawing the masked man’s phenomenally brilliant mind to him. He couldn’t waver his concentration from the vast array of life forms whose thoughts and abilities he kept. There was no way for him to shield either Gillian or himself or warn her away from what she was gathering her strength to do.
Listen, writers. You don’t need to use more or fancier words to get your message across. Aleksei touches the piano, links their minds, and he can’t shield Gillian from whatever she’s about to do. It doesn’t have to be that dry, but it does need to be that clear (or clearer, since I have no idea wtf Gillian is trying to do). This reads like the kind of writing I’d expect to see from my teenage English 101 students. No judgment on them; purple prose is one of those things you have to get over when you’re learning to write. But this clumsiness does not belong in a published book.
Gillian does…something…and “the two hundred or more occupants jerked and rebounded in a cataclysmic paroxysm of absolute ecstasy and warm bliss.” So everyone has a simultaneous orgasm? Everyone flops to the ground, and “there was a deep, throbbing warmth between her legs that she couldn’t explain.”
I’m…pretty sure we can all explain that, Gillian.
So everyone’s piled on top of each other like a snake mating ball, but Perrin is in agony and is clutching his mask. The healing spell is healing over his fucked-up face. Astonishingly, he still has scar tissue. Oh my, will we actually have a less-than-physically-perfect character?
Well, yeah, but he’ll still wear the mask in public because heaven forbid he actually show he’s less than physically perfect. Perrin thanks everyone, everyone loves him, he leaves. Now everyone has to pledge fealty to Aleksei because he’s The Best Vampire Lord Ever for healing them. They all kneel to him and Gillian says, “Good grief, it’s fanged obsequiousness!”
Aleksei is The Best because he’s so humble about this, y’all. He wants to be partners and shit. Presumably he just saved everyone’s asses, so maybe he ought to be like, “Yeah, you should be on your knees, motherfuckers.” Even another vampire in the group points out that in the vampire world, they’re supposed to pledge fealty rather than be equal partners. Gillian pressures Aleksei to accept their oaths but won’t accept them herself, saying she just works there. Aleksei says,
“While Gillian does work for the Institute in her capacity as psychologist, she will continue to be an invaluable resource in tactical and military matters. I encourage all of you to seek her out for her wisdom and advice should you require it. You may speak to either her or myself if you wish to organize any offensive effort. I trust her and so should you.”
- What an asshole. He’s basically volunteered Gillian for a position she didn’t ask for or expect.
She’s understandably pissed about this, so he backs off and says she’ll be there for however long she wants and do whatever she wants. The crowd eventually pledges their loyalty to Aleksei and the chapter ends.
Despite the potentially-interesting magic stuff here, this chapter is boring as fuck. I thought everyone was pretty loyal to Aleksei already, so none of this has any significance because there was never any tension or uncertainty.