Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Justice, Chapter 2

There’s one word that summarizes this chapter.bland

These books have two speeds: terribad and bland with some almost not bad sprinkled on. This chapter is the latter. It is short but manages to be boring AF at the same time. We’ve reached the point in the story where Gryphon is so clearly trying to pad the narrative to fill a fourth book. As a result, she spends time on a couple of things, like building character relationships, that would have been important two books ago, and avoids any actual plot action.

Gillian et. al pick up Cassiopeia and Helmut at the airport, because we definitely needed to see them do that. The narrative tells is that Cassiopeia, who’s a vampire (and whom I forgot because she’s only been named in passing thus far), had to ride in the cargo hold in the airplane to avoid sunlight. We’re told that most major airlines have developed ways of accommodating supernatural passengers who can’t do sunlight. Kind of an interesting glimpse into the larger world that’s way too rare. Cassiopeia is gorgeous, of course, and she and Gillian are really good friends. Really really. We’re told this a couple of times before we hop halfway into Cassiopeia’s head.

Gillian and Cassiopeia talk about Perrin, who was able to overwhelm Gillian’s empathy shields or something with his gargoyle magic, so when Drangal came along, she was vulnerable to him. Okay, I’ll accept that. Cassiopeia says, “We gain a certain level of power and the skill to wield it through the centuries if we are Masters to begin with. Otherwise we simply top out, if you will; gain quickly and then stabilize.”

a confused pug with question marks around it

Masters to begin with? Isn’t master vampire more like a rank than an innate level of power, like every other damn master vampire in fantasy books? I don’t have a problem with books breaking the meta-norm of a particular fantasy race or whatever, but if you do, you have to do some internal explanation. Then again, I don’t need another couple of pages in which the story grinds to a halt to explain something that should have been explained in the first book.

lower your expectations

Now, Gillian and Cassiopeia’s relationship seems genuine, which is nice. It’s much less forced than her and Kimber or her and Jenna’s (remember Jenna? I barely do). I would love to believe Gryphon has learned how to develop strong relationships between characters that don’t involve everyone sneering at Gillian or telling her what to do, but I don’t believe that for a second. I’m just waiting for Cassiopeia to become yet another Gaslighting Gremlin.

Cassiopeia helps Gillian with her shielding, then Gillian heads off to read the newest Harry Potter book.

baby rolling her eyes

Boy, I really am starting to question the wisdom in finishing out this series, because I am so fucking bored. At this point, the ostensibly menacing threat of Dracula should be coming to a head. Gillian et. al should be terrified for their lives and trying to find a way to stop him, not reading fucking Harry Potter. I’m not such a fan of J.K. Rowling anymore since she decided to dip her toe into the festering pool of American settler colonialism, but at least she knows how to tell a fucking story.

Aleksei comes in, they cuddle, and we’re injected into Aleksei’s POV without warning. He does some internal monologuing about how she smells, including her “virgin scent.”

No! That's not how this works!

What the fuck does a virgin smell like? Don’t worry, I googled it for you and got this internet gem.

Even while in Aleksei’s suddenly introspective head, we have to read about his appearance. In case you forgot, he’s tall and raven-haired, his features are breathtaking, and he’s strikingly handsome and elegant. I can only surmise he either carries a mirror around or there’s a mirror on every vertical surface in the house so he can constantly admire himself.

I have to give Gryphon some credit for Aleksei’s introspection here. He recognizes that how he behaved when Gillian first started banging Perrin as part of Perrin’s therapy was inexcusable, etc. etc. It’s way too little way too late, but it’s something. I can see two ways this character goes: either he goes back to the  horrible misogynist Puff the Magic Vampire, or he reverts back to Bland McLargehuge, as he was at the beginning of the first book. Either way, I’m sure this scene was written specifically so we know how lucky Gillian is to have her very own Sex Behemoth who Loves Her So Much.

A man saying "Shall I compare thee to a summers--" then gagging

Gillian wakes up to Jenna calling her from Egypt, where she and Tanis have been visiting Osiris, if I recall. We’re told she and Gillian talk for two hours–thank Christ we escaped that conversation–then Gillian gets ready to have a couples counseling session with Samuel and Esi. Who the fuck are these people again??

This couple has apparently only been together for a few weeks but are already needing counseling. That speaks well for their relationship. Esi is guilt-ridden over her lost husband, whom she feels she’s betraying by banging Samuel. They initially fucked because of Perrin’s sex magic piano playing at the end of the last book. “Instead of cementing their relationship, Esi had been plagued by guilt over behavior she couldn’t have controlled if she’d tried.”Woman shaking her head and saying "I don't like it"

Welcome back, Rape Culture Vulture! It took me a couple of times of slack-jawed re-reading to realize Esi wasn’t guilty over being forced by magic to fuck Samuel but over ostensibly betraying her dead husband, but Jesus fucking Christ, when you end a sentence with “behavior she couldn’t have controlled if she tried,” it sure comes out that way. Her guilt over something she couldn’t control is fucking horrifying, too. The fact that their relationship basically began with forced sex ought to be the reason they’re in therapy.

For some reason in the middle of describing the conversation, we’re reminded that Samuel was ugly but is now gorgeous (of course). Ooohhh, that’s right, he’s the Frankenstein’s monster, and she’s Bullwinkle. So glad I cleared that up before we never see these characters again.

Gillian’s part in this therapy session is minimal; Samuel tells Esi that although he didn’t know Dead Husband, he’s sure Dead Husband would want Esi to be happy and bang him, and he really wants to marry her and they should get married.

woman waving her hands as if saying ew

OMFG. “Don’t worry, baby, now that I’m gorgeous, you shouldn’t feel bad about the two of us being forced to have sex by magic. Forget your dead husband. We should get married instead! It’s been weeks, you know.”

And that’s where the chapter ends. Why we needed that fucking scene I don’t know. We just keep getting more and more characters shoehorned into the narrative rather than focusing on character development for the heroine and her inner circle or, heaven forbid, on plot.

Dr. Evil making air quotes around the word "plot"

I glanced through the Goodreads reviews of this book and saw several complaints about the lack of plot. Since the previous books have been quite short on it, I wasn’t that deterred, but holy shit could this be more boring? I know how it needs to end: Rape Culture Vulture and Gaslighting Gremlin are defeated by a time-travelling hero who rips the manuscripts out of Talia Gryphon’s hands, burns them, systematically shreds any backups, and rescues the poor editor who had to deal with this shit. The end.


Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Redemption, Chapter 13

Are we finally going to get some action and real conflict? Are we really?? Brings a tear to my eye, it does.

Gillian tells everyone there’s another body nearby. What? How the fuck does she know this? I flipped back several pages to try to figure it out, but I can’t. Is this a publishing error or has Gillian randomly developed prescient powers?

James Franco shrugging

Gillian asks Aleksei to summon someone who can track “blood spoor,” by which I assume she means just…the smell of blood? Aleksei says he’ll do it and they argue pointlessly because she wants him to look after Perrin and presumably keep him away from, you know, the dead body. Aleksei ignores her and he and Perrin show up. Aleksei is worried because she’s clearly freaked out. He doesn’t know why, and she won’t tell him.

She won’t fucking tell him. She sidesteps the question. Are you serious?

Remember when she was a liar liar pants on fire for no goddamned reason? Well, no, let’s be fair. She often lied because she was afraid of the reaction of the abusive motherfuckers that surrounded her. Other times she lied just because she fucking wanted to, like when she lied in the first book about…I don’t even remember what it was at this point, but it was a lot of shit. I do remember that when she lied about it, she put people in danger. She’s doing the exact fucking thing now.

In the midst of people randomly moving around, arriving and leaving, it occurs to Gillian to wonder where Jenna is. Tanis goes, “Dio caro!” because he can’t even exclaim in Romanian. He “mist[s] out, streaking back toward the castle.” Uh…does anyone remember whether any of the vampires have turned into mist before? I don’t, but then…

i don't give a shit

Ivan, who’s apparently a coroner or crime scene tech or something, shows up, and there’s some crime scene chatter that belongs in a much better book. Gillian asks if this woman’s uterus has been removed. I guess this is a Jack the Ripper thing. Ivan trundles over, lifts the cloth she’s under, and says yes immediately. Okay…admittedly I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, but can you tell if a uterus has been removed just by looking at a body? Even if it was torn open, you’d think…

Oh, god, whatever. I know, I’m asking way too much.

lower your expectations

Gillian quizzes Ivan on the series of bodies that have been found recently. Why doesn’t Aleksei know about this already? He’s the worst majordomo ever. Also, we still don’t know how the fuck Gillian knows there’s going to be another body or what the fuck this has to do with Jenna being missing.

She takes off, Aleksei tells her to stop, she doesn’t, and Perrin fucking grabs her. Because OF COURSE HE DOES. She considers breaking away from him but doesn’t want to hurt him because “he’d been abused enough” oh god here comes the heartburn.

here we go again

“He’s physically restraining me, but I COULDN’T POSSIBLY tell him to stop because he’s been ABUSED and I don’t want to hurt him!”

Perrin even orders her to tell her what they know–orders her–“in a voice that said he expected compliance.



I am no longer surprised, but still horrified, at the continuous abuse she receives from every fucking cock-wielding motherfucker in these books. It is seriously like these books were written just to abuse her. I sincerely wish I could believe these books were written as a satirical commentary on systematic, institutional sexism, but it’s more like the Simarillion poster child of said same.

Anyway, Gillian complies (ugh) and tells them she thinks it’s Jack the Ripper. Aleksei and Perrin have no clue who she’s talking about. I can’t decide whether this is plausible given reality or worldbuilding, since yes, Jack the Ripper was an English serial murderer, but it’s been, you know, a few minutes since then, and the name has made its way into the wider Western culture. I could buy that Perrin would be ignorant, but presumably Aleksei could be aware of a) a serial murderer and b) a fucking dangerous vampire.

Wait, though. Jack was in the same house as Tanis. Presumably he tortured Tanis. Why doesn’t Aleksei know about him???

i want clarity specificity and consistency and i want it now

At least Tanis recognizes the name. That’s…something.

Gillian gives a little treatise about Jack the Ripper’s kills, which she studied in college. Okay, I’ll bite, given that I have a partner who studied serial murder as part of a degree in psychology. I guess we’re meant to figure out that Jack is re-enacting his original kills for Gillian.

mildly interesting

She tells them this is the Catherine Eddowes kill and that she’s worried Jenna is going to become the Elizabeth Stride kill, which was done on the same night. This is some advanced Mentalist logical leap shit, but okay. I’m just going to be a smug asshole here and note that Stride was found before Eddowes, so if Jenna was Stride, she’s already dead. Just saying.

She immediately comes to the conclusion that she needs to “[use] herself as bait and [take] a major potshot at his ego.” This is bog standard “hero offers themselves as sacrifice” plot and I have no problem with it, but I don’t get the potshot at his ego thing. Is she just going to annoy him to death? She’d be good at that.

Tanis is freaking out that they won’t have time to save her and sweats blood (gross). There’s some argument about who’s going to go with Gillian because what you do when you’re worried you won’t have time to save your friend is dicker over who’s going to go save her. Send ALL THE PEOPLE, for fuck’s sake, if he’s so dangerous.

Perrin also freaks out, and there’s a genuine moment where he grasps the reality of what’s actually a sincerely awful situation. If this were consistent with what I knew about the character, who is by turns shy and sheltered and abused and streetwise, I’d appreciate it more.

bored, gesturing blah blah blah

Gillian says, “Jenna is going to be dead soon, hell, she may already be dead while we’re standing around discussing.” Comma splice aside, YOU ARE INDEED CORRECT STOP FUCKING TALKING OKAY

I’m skimming at this point because they are still fucking talking. Is this finally over?

Perrin: “What I ought to do is spank you until you promise that you will not do this insane thing, but I will pray for your safety and support you instead.”

What a guy. Isn’t he the greatest guy? So great. Terrific. Believe me.

But oh, Aleksei means it; he’s going to spank her as a “disciplinary measure, not foreplay.” I ask again, what is with the spanking?

During her goodbye to Aleksei, it should be noted that they get handsy and flirty with each other, then she “flipped her hair, then sashayed away for his viewing pleasure, waving backward as if she hadn’t a care in the world.” Have I mentioned her best friend is presumably in danger?


As the chapter shambles to a close, we find out Perrin doesn’t know Aleksei is a vampire. Whut?


Like…there are a few moments of potential in this chapter, as if the author’s interest in the plot was rekindled for about 30 seconds before the flock of thought pigeons started shitting again. But it feels like I’ve seen the rest of it before, many times: lying for no reason other than to create more conflict, casual physical manipulation by men, casual references to physical abuse that she blows past without seeing a problem, everyone dragging their feet instead of actually doing things, inappropriate moments of humor in what is actually a dire situation. This chapter is really just a microcosm for this entire series.

56% of the way through the book. Fuck, really?

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 12

Random thought: I wonder what the hell the titular conspiracy is, or is the title just supposed to be nifty-sounding?

Team Shit for Brains just escaped into a tree, and they’re in a chamber inside that’s carved from the wood. Gillian is apparently claustrophobic and freaked out that Jack might have Fey at his disposal who could open their little tree hideaway. Wow, is it just me, or are these little flashes of wisdom getting more frequent?

McNeill (and presumably Claire, who hasn’t had fuck all to say in several chapters after trying to hump Trocar) expresses confusion about what’s going on, and Gillian informs them that she’s in trouble with Dracula.

Bill Murray looking confused

…wait, they didn’t know this? I mean…I guess it’s possible they didn’t know (and I can’t be arsed to go back and look for the specifics), but it still seems odd. They also weren’t aware that Gillian is also on Jack’s shit list. McNeill makes a very astute point:

“You insulted a sexual sadist Vampire serial killer and you didn’t think that was an important detail to share with Scotland Yard?”

Yeah, you’d think, wouldn’t you? But we all know Gillian doesn’t share important information unless it’s forced out of her. Jenna jumps right in and says, “Hey, it’s not like you would have believed her.” Well what the fuck wouldn’t they? What’s so unbelievable about “Volatile incompetent person pissed off a dangerous vampire?”

Now everyone is acting like there’s no way Gillian could have known Jack was after her.

Tim Curry with a disbelieving look on his face

Are you fucking serious right now? There was no way to predict that the murderous vampire who chased you out of the hospital, the reason you fled from London, might follow you? I am actually kind of insulted that I’m supposed to suspend my utter, contemptuous disbelief long enough to think Team Shit for Brains is just that terminally stupid.

Apparently McNeill still has his BlackBerry (I am totally judging him for still having a BlackBerry), and everyone sends off emails to their respective superiors plus Aleksei. Because apparently they still get cell reception in a tree cave in the middle of nowhere, France.

Everyone passes out for a while, and when they leave the tree, the cavalry, which is in this case Interpol and Scotland Yard (they must have made excellent time from England) has already showed up and secured the manor-fortress. Charles and the Kenyan vampire are dead as well as some other faceless enemies. Dahlia is understandably upset, and we’re told what a good grief counselor Gillian is. Oh, yes, I’m just sure she is.

Dahlia is apparently to be carted off by her Fey brethren so she doesn’t “die of a broken heart.” Because OF COURSE SHE WOULD. She had no purpose in life other than to be Charles’ stage dressing, so she has to be shuffled offstage before she wilts away.

eyeroll cersei lannister

Gillian gets to go back to Romania and “resume her cover.” Uh, excuse me, what cover is there to resume? If a thief stole all the towels from a nudist beach, there would be more cover there than Gillian has, by the narrative’s own admission. Remember (you probably don’t because I barely do) when she was sent to Russia for the child trafficking thing? Team Shit for Brains was ostensibly sent because they were high profile.

Gillian et. all wander off to rest at a hotel. Apparently Jenna has been exchanging “salacious and sordid” emails with Tanis. Gillian, you fucking hypocrite. You fucked Tanis within days of meeting him after he fucking SPANKED you, and then you got hot and heavy with his brother. I’m not judging, but neither should you. If the woman is fool enough to get on that abusive asshole’s dick, that’s her business, not yours. She claims she wants Jenna to be happy, but

She just didn’t want to examine her own feelings for Aleksei too deeply at that particular time and Jenna’s single-minded sexuality toward his brother wasn’t helping her keep her own thoughts in check.

What the fuck does Jenna’s email porn have to do with Gillian’s feelings for Aleksei? They’re brothers, yes, but if my best friend wanted to bang my partner’s brother (sorry for that image sweetie and Christina), I can’t say it would inspire me to consider my relationship with my partner. Also, why shoehorn a relationship (or whatever) between Jenna and Tanis into the story? It’s like every woman who drifts into the story must immediately be paired off with one of Gillian’s awful circle of acquaintances, probably so they can be shuffled off stage.

I mean, I write books with a lot of romance in them and people do tend to find partners (usually multiple partners because that’s just me), but there are some truly random matches here. What is the point?

what is this? I don't even

By the way, tell me you don’t picture Gaston when you think of the Rachlavs.

Well, I guess that’s it for this chapter. I should have known after a couple of chapters of halfway decent pacing, we’d stumble back into the quicksand pit of Fuck All Happens.

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


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?”


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.


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.


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?


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.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 10

Surprise, y’all! I’m back for more hatereading. When last we left Team Shit for Brains, they had just bumbled around a high-walled fort of some kind and been accosted by a terrible Manbearpigasaur. Pavel and Trocar tried to fight it and everyone else was generally useless, and they were saved by a woman who comes bursting out of the fort. It seems Manbearpigasaur’s name is Charles, and he’s the owner of the fortress-manor-house-thing. His wife is Dahlia.

Everything else further in the past is so fucking random and nonsensical it almost doesn’t bear recounting.

So at the beginning of this chapter, we’re introduced to Charles the Manbearpigasaur, who bears a Curse (again with the random capitalization) passed down through his family, who is “descended from the original Beast of Gavaudon [sic],” by which I can only assume she means the Beast of Gévaudan, a legendary maneating wolf creature in France. I understand spelling errors happen, but seriously? Gévaudan was an actual place. Like on a map. Presumably, Gryphon did enough research to at least read the first three lines of the Wikipedia article (like I did), but she couldn’t be arsed to spell it correctly, and her editor was so blinded by bitter tears and self-hatred that they couldn’t be bothered either. Lest I seem like I’m getting pedantic about a small error, I’ll remind you that such an error would be way more forgivable if these books didn’t already aggressively suck sweaty monkey balls.

At any rate, the curse on Charles’s family came from their involvement in the slave trade, when one of them kidnapped the grandson of a shaman. For whatever reason, the curse only affects male descendants every second generation. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff (if a bit random in places), but why the fuck is it here?

James Franco shrugging

How much do you want to bet this has zero bearing whatsoever on the plot? Every time there’s something mildly interesting, I get my hopes up and then I’m cockblocked by the author’s complete inability to follow through. WHEN WILL I LEARN.

Gillian is already super invested in Charles’s plight, and it looks like we’ve stumbled into another situation where Gillian gets to be the worst therapist in the world. You know, I’d be fine with this, because I’m pleasantly surprised when Gillian actually gives a shit about anyone who isn’t herself, except that THEY’RE STILL BEING CHASED BY JACK THE RIPPER.

As a side note, Gillian and McNeill (the stick-up-his-ass fey-blooded detective who’s also there for no reason) apparently grok each other about this issue. I hate that I immediately wonder whether Gillian is going to end up in an awkward and unfulfilling UST situation (because she’s a One Vampire Woman now and she can’t bang anyone else because she Belongs to Aleksei) with him like she is with 90% of the men in this shit show.

I forgot that Gillian is actually injured, and holy god, she’s actually feeling it. And there are actual emotions. Could…could it be…she’s actually evolving?

I don't usually get my hopes up, but when I do, people normally fuck it up for me
…and by ‘people’ I mean ‘Gillian.’

She notes that “everyone [was] depending on her decision skills.

C3PO from Star Wars saying we're doomed

Ah, so this moment of vulnerability predictably turns into fantasizing about Aleksei. I actually wouldn’t mind this if the narrative’s attempt to make her more emotionally vulnerable didn’t make her more vulnerable to a Trump-level abusive douchebag.

screen capture of Donald Trump

Long story short here, Gillian is starting to figure out that Charles is responsible for the murders in this region. I had to follow the erratic Hansel and Gretel plot bread trail back to figure out what the hell she’s talking about, and I remembered that they’re supposed take a detour on Scotland Yard’s behalf, because apparently there’s literally no one else to resolve this relatively minor issue in the middle of an ostensible vampire turf war.

Oh, yeah, did you forget about that war that’s supposed to be going on? ME TOO.

Cillian Murphy sighing and taking off his glasses

Gillian suspects that Charles is trying to commit suicide by “death by cop.” Dahlia confirms that Charles wants to die (which is stated repeatedly), and McNeill has this moment of observant brilliance:

“Death by cop?” Brant interjected. When Gillian and Helmut looked at him, surprise on their faces, he supplemented, “I do try to keep abreast of things, you know. It is my job.”

What a genius this guy is! They’ve only been talking about Charles being suicidal for like a page and a half.

captain obvious

Now we’re subjected to a pages-long treatise on Charles and Dahlia’s backgrounds as well as their marriage, because this is exactly what we should be doing and where we should be at 58% through the book. Charles’ family kept the curse a big secret, he didn’t discover it until after he and Dahlia married, Dahlia is a real trooper and a devoted wife because of course she is, and she serves no function except to be the humanizing feature for a bestial male character.

Mrs. Potts from animated Beauty and the Beast
Now all this needs is a fucking teapot.

Dahlia offers them rooms, which they refuse for reasons unknown, and the chapter ends.


You know, this is not a bad chapter. In fact, narratively speaking, it’s not bad at all. If this were a different book.

Let’s review everything that’s happened in the book so far, shall we?

  1. Gillian and her team head to Russia to stop a child trafficking ring run by fucking Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  2. They then end up in London and play in a haunted house for a while for no damn reason.
  3. Jack the Ripper turns up again out of the blue.
  4. Team Shit for Brains detours to France to investigate murders, and now she’s doing impromptu family therapy with a cursed wolf creature.

Jesus Christ, PICK A PLOT. Any plot. I’m starting to think Gryphon is only capable of brainstorming and beginning a halfway decent plot, but she can’t follow through. It’s like the book is a party and Gryphon is having a really good time, but then she leaves and gets carsick, and she has to ask the driver to pull over so she can hurl the plot into someone’s front yard. So far she’s forcefully ejected plots back and forth across Eurasia and shows no signs of slowing down.

Come on, book. We could’ve had something here. Maybe it would’ve been a Hot Pocket instead of a gourmet meal, but it would be something.

NaNo Time and writing news

My apologies for the irregular posting over the past month or so. School starting has definitely put limits on my time. This month I’m also doing NaNoWriMo, so my posts will probably be even more irregular. I might post excerpts from the book I’m working on now and again, though.

In Other Book news, I got notes back from the editor of my second book, The Lost Are Like This. I am very impressed with the editor (first time we’ve used her) and glad she thought well of the book, but now I’m seeing there’s a LOT more to be done on that book. I really, really, REALLY just want it to be done, but I know it will be a better book for the effort.

In the meantime, I need to work on something new. So I’ma do that. If you’re doing NaNo, add me as a buddy on I’m Avery-Teoda.

Guest Post: Internal Identity vs Social Perception vs Feminism

I know, this is post #3 for the day, but it articulates a lot of my fears and thoughts about transmasculinity vs. feminism and gender roles. I’m really glad to find someone else who feels the same way.

Please Excuse My Vagina

Why hello there!

My name’s Eli, and I’m the dude behind My Life Without Tits. Sophia asked for a guest blogger, and so here I am.  I won’t bother you with a run-down of who I am, but if you’re interested you can find my public bio here.

Sophia has been so kind as to give me carte blanche when it comes to topics for this post.  I went back and forth, considering some of my favorites, Chicago (my home), poetry (my livelong passion), trans stuff (for obvious reasons), and 90s music (I was in my teens and twenties then, and so have many fond memories of growing up with that music).

But ultimately, I came to rest on the topic of feminism and the trans man, as it is plainly of interest to me, and presumably of interest to you.  So let’s dig in!

I was at…

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