As I stepped onto the caboose of this bullshit train and considered all that had come before, it hit me. I always assumed Key to Redemption was a reference to Perrin until I re-read the biologically impossible and in all ways offensive last chapter, in which Gillian regains her virginity.
Gryphon is talking about Gillian.
Welp. Here we go.
She felt like a virgin on prom night . . . except it wasn’t prom night. It was nighttime in the Carpathian Mountains and she had just been turned down for sex by her ex-boyfriend— if that was what she could call Aleksei— because he had some ridiculous notion of taking her out for a dreamy weekend, romancing her and seducing her gently. In short, he wanted to take her out and treat her like a lady instead of the hardball soldier he’d been sleeping with for the past few months. Inconsiderate bastard.
Okay, so I teach writing. I teach students that a reader generally expects that a paragraph will follow the lead of the first sentence. This one…does not. Or maybe it does? Maybe Gryphon is reliving her prom night, in which she was turned down by her ex-boyfriend for sex because he wanted to treat her like a lady? TMI, Gryphon. TMI.
“Gill”–I guess we’re back to calling her after an aquatic animal’s body part–has the same tired introspective thought train she’s had countless times already. She’s afraid of commitment, she doesn’t want to fall in love, etc. etc. and she’s afraid that if Aleksei pops her cherry, she’ll fall in love with him. I’m not discounting the fact that the intensity of sex can lead to feelings, and that maybe someone’s first time is more likely to lead to feelings, but I just want to point out that it’s not her first time. Her hymen regrew like a starfish’s lost limb, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this has happened:
SHE WHO HAS BEEN FUCKED CANNOT BE UN-FUCKED, ergo it does not make goddamn sense that she would fall in love with him from this one time because he happens to break her hymen.
But you know, sometimes you just can’t fight this shit or you’ll go insane. Let’s say, “Sure!” and go along for the ride. On a Puff the Magic Vampire.
I know it’s standard fare for the beginning of the book to recap what happened in the last book, so I can’t fault the next few pages too much–I mean, I can, but I’m so used to this shitty writing that most of it doesn’t register. But it’s SUPER telling that what Gryphon chooses to recap here is only the last like two pages of the book, where he discovers her starfish leg has regrown. Not the whole rest of the lot, which…
You know, stuff happened. I guess.
Here’s some more of Gryphon’s stunningly beautiful character description:
He was remarkable. Powerful, but he
refused toused it carelessly and was unwilling to force control or to bring fear. Aleksei was as he always had been even after coming into the full power of a Lord: noble, aristocratic, honorable, honest,stubborn, intractable, chauvinistic, opinionated . . . gorgeous, passionate, tender and bossy.
I would dearly love to believe this is not Gillian’s description, and that it’s attempt #1566759 by Gryphon and Gaslight Gremlin to make us think Aleksei’s actually a really great guy and worthy of Our Dear Heroine’s heart and refurbished hymen. But in all honesty, I think Gillian really does believe this shit at this point.
They go back to the castle, Gillian falls asleep and we hop into Aleksei’s head. I can already feel my teeth gritting at the patronizing bullshit that’s sure to assault my eyeballs. Indeed, it’s about what you and I both expect at this point: he insists she needs looking after and makes statements that are true but also horrifying, like this: “Trusting him with her life came naturally to her, as did trusting him with her body.”
The fact that she does indeed trust him with both of those things is horrifying. I’ve said this a million times, but it is so fucking gross that she is portrayed at the liberated sexual female ideal, but whenever she does make her own choices, sexual or otherwise, she makes stupid choices that then have to be “corrected” by Sex Behemoth or some other swinging dick in these books. But she keeps letting them make those choices, and these fucking books keep insisting that they were hers all along. Just like the “no I won’t fuck you until I’m good and ready to you” bullshit we just saw.
Gillian wakes up the next morning to Kimber asking her wtf just happened. Kimber is apparently also a starfish and was “‘healed’ in the worst possible sense of the word.” Oh, thanks, Kimber, for bringing up another dimension of this fuckery. The idea that re-virginizing is “healing,” as if having sex causes a permanent wound a la Henry VIII’s chronically ulcerated leg (you’re welcome), is the most puritan thing in these books so far. I mean. I could write a fucking book on this point of analysis alone.
Pavel, Kimber’s werewolf boyfriend, had the same reaction Aleksei did and wants to be romantic and gentlemanly about breaking her refurbished hymen. I actually sort of liked Pavel, but at this point, all the penis-owning creatures are starting to morph into a backwards misogynist monolith.
There’s an awkward scene transition to another awkward info dump about things that ostensibly happened between books but we haven’t seen, even though this book started literally seconds after the last one ended. Gillian is going to see Drangal. Cue another bullshit info dump disguised as a therapy session, this one with information we should have learned at the beginning of the first book while Gillian was busy getting turned over Talis’s knee.
Drangal is the sexist being alive, and Gillian is having trouble shielding herself. This is mildly interesting, but I hate the idea of weaponized sexuality in the hands of someone like Gryphon. It has to be very careful and very intentional to not be terrible, and unless Gryphon has suddenly acquired the world’s best editor, this book isn’t magically going to turn into either of those things.
Weaponized sex aside, there’s some fairly interesting exposition here about how vampires are made and the necessity of having a master vampire to show them the ropes and control them so they don’t murder everyone around them, which Drangal did. This is the kind of shit that ought to sit on a paranormal soul and require a paranormal therapist, not fucking fangxiety.
For some reason, Gillian brings up suicide and goes on to tell Drangal how she had a vampire patient die by suicide in front of her once. So not only does this conversation about her, but she’s telling her ostensibly guilt-ridden patient about another guilt-ridden patient’s tragic end.
Now apparently it’s Drangal’s turn to comfort her after she recounts her traumatic experience. YOU GUYS THIS WOMAN IS LITERALLY THE WORST THERAPIST. I really can’t tell whether Drangal is yanking her chain–not that that’s difficult–or telling her the truth in order to manipulate her. She’s already established that she’s also the most gullible person on earth despite allegedly being brilliant and guarded with her feelings and overly cautious, etc. So it’s not so much that Drangal is a genuinely terrifying villain, but that Gillian is just a blundering idiot.
Drangal observes a couple of times that Gillian’s scent seems “off” to him. I assume this means because she’s been re-virginized.
Well, apparently we’re done with that scene, because too much danger and conflict at once would just be too much. Gillian runs off to take Perrin to the airport, because that is exactly what I’d rather see instead. Perrin and Gillian have some bland but also nauseating banter in which Perrin is sexist enough that Gillian comments on it but everyone seems to think it’s funny. Perrin harasses her about missing him when he’s gone, and Trocar and Kimber join in. They all laugh at her but she’s fine with it because it’s just “gentle teasing.” This is one of those moments where I’m both disgusted by Gillian and honestly pity her, because she has no fucking clue what real friends are actually like.
He puts his jacket over his lap to cover his boner, and she reaches over and squeezes his thigh. Yeah. The dude she’s not supposed to have contact with for a year before she can bang him again.
He is unbearably turned on, like “spill inside his jeans” turned on.
He gets over it, and Gillian, Kimber, and Trocar get him to the airport. They each present him with gifts sweet jesus is this really 10% of the book and one of the gifts is the Phantom of the Opera DVD and soundtrack. This is with no irony whatsoever. GOD I hate this wink wink nudge nudge pop culture reference shit. It is not cute. It is not clever. It is just stupid.
The goodbye scene between Gillian and Perrin is actually pretty good. I actually felt a thing while reading it. It’s one of those moments that show up maybe once in each book, showing me that Gryphon could actually write effective feelings if she bothered to try and didn’t just say “They were sad. It was sad. Also Perrin is super hot and Gillian is super brave and strong and also small and fiesty.”
A woman sits down next to Perrin on the plane wearing an engagement ring and starts nattering away at him about her fiance and the fact that she’s a virgin. I think this is supposed to be a funny moment about an Awkward Seatmate on a Plane and a handy coincidence so Perrin can realize Gillian is a virgin again (because she smells the same, you see), but why does Perrin even need to know that, about Gillian or about TMI Woman? In what way did this chapter (11% of the book) need more padding?
It didn’t. It absolutely didn’t. Nor did it need the short follow-up where Trocar asks Gillian if she’s all right then makes a bad joke about how she’s a liar when she says she’s fine.
Fuck, thank god this chapter is over.
Gryphon is really, really reaching at this point. So far we have a gross, stupid plot device that I’m sure is going to receive way too much screen time during the Romantic Deflowering later, a scene in which Gillian is the Worst Therapist Ever, and some awkward shuffling of characters from one place to another. I realize that I just summarized the entire series, but it’s even more banal and boring than usual, when we’re coming to the end of the series and shit should be Really Serious.
Why am I still reading this? I guess it’s some masochistic form of escapism combined with a little ego boost. I’ve been feeling pretty down about my own writing lately, but all I need is to go back to Gillianland and realize that I should stop being so hard on myself. At least I’ve never described someone coming as “delivering his seed deep against her womb.”