Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 33

Instead of grading student papers or posting depressing trans-related thoughts, I will instead…post about the truly depressing last chapter of Key to Conflict.

If only it were depressing on purpose.

Gillian, Trocar, and Aleksei are going back to “Oscar Gray’s” place to fetch Tanis and Luis. Aleksei is all pissed off. Gillian tells him off, but he doesn’t respond, presumably because he’s too occupied with his jealousy boner. This is exactly what I want from a romance book, a hero who is a 400-year-old petulant child.

Tanis and Luis are apparently being guarded by two people or creatures or something. Gillian and Trocar prepare to attack when…

Aleksei grabs her arm.

What the actual fuck? Not only is he a petulant child, he’s just as much of a tool as Gillian, grabbing someone with a fucking firearm.

special kind of idiot

Before they can make a move, the vampire in front of them gets set on fire, and yet another one of Gillian’s team members pops up: “her former arsonist, or rather demolitions expert, Jenna Blaise.” Hurr durr, Blaise, get it?

Jesus fucking Christ. Has Gillian made a SINGLE move on her own? I’m trying to remember the last time she actually did harm to an enemy, much less killed one. Has that happened in the entire goddamn book? She’s been pinned or otherwise out of commission for every single fight that I can remember. Every fight with her is like

lazar

Only, unlike Leia, Gillian stands behind everyone waving her gun while they actually do shit.

Jenna and Gillian re-unite rather loudly in the middle of a dark forest while on a goddamn rescue mission until Gillian suddenly remembers Trocar is off by himself. Ah, but don’t worry, because Trocar appears with Tanis and Luis, completely unharmed. We needn’t have worried about them at all, it seems, because they’re totally back to normal.

Aleksei seems to want to tell Gillian something–oh, could it be something important??

probably not

So everyone goes back to the hotel, blah blah, absolutely nothing of consequence. Then Gillian’s other boss, Daedalus, who she calls “Daed.” He tells her the Marines want her to get her merry band of psychos together to deal with a Russian earthquake and a child-trafficking ring–

what1

what2

what3

Earthquake? Child trafficking? Russia? AM I READING THE SAME BOOK??

Daedalus gives this excuse:

“The Feds, the Corps, the Joint Chiefs and Interpol are concerned about the bad PR that Paramortals are getting lately with all the deaths and kidnappings. It looks like some sort of a turf war is going on, wouldn’t you say? It will be bad for the economy if folks start revoking the new laws and talking PMs out of the global economic pool.”

I…what… what the fuck does this have to do with anything paranormal? Is he implying that people think paranormal people are behind the earthquake and child trafficking? HELP ME UNDERSTAND

trying to confuse you

Gryphon, while cackling maniacally.

PS, apparently Daedalus is also hot. This book is just chock full of mutual sexual objectification, innit?

The team is apparently “ready to rumble.” The detectives (remember them?) still want Gillian to answer questions, but she refuses on the grounds of being special forces, and she flounces off smugly. They go off in search of Daedalus again and ask him why they were picked. He says it’s because the team has become so high profile….because it totally makes sense to send in a special forces team that’s well known in an attempt to be sneaky.

don't make sense make dollars

Gillian basically says, “I DO WHAT I WANT,” but she agrees anyway. Apparently she hates Daedalus, which we haven’t been given any indication of in the whole damn book.

Aleksei offers his help with the situation and Gillian says, “It would help if you could take Tanis and organize some sort of a grass-roots campaign back in Romania. Make the people aware that even Humans they know can be monsters.”

Aleksei replies, “I will contact Osiris and determine if there is any way we can better establish who is ‘on our side,’ as you say.”

Dude, that reeks in an unintentionally frightening way of McCarthyism. And the protagonists are advocating for this shit? FORESIGHT, YOU HAVE NONE.

Tanis says goodbye to Gillian and calls her some more Italian endearments. The others leave Gillian and Aleksei alone. We are at 98%. Am I missing like half the book here?

Aleksei grabs her. She’s not sure she wants to start a relationship, but “good thing he was decisive, even if she was hesitant.”

GOOD THING, RIGHT?

Aleksei assures her he respects her, which I assume is meant to erase every act of disrespect throughout the goddamn book. Then he kisses her: “his lips warm silk, his tongue a hot wetness flicking over her mouth.”

wriggling eel

I’m with Tiger–don’t describe kissing. Presumably most adults know what kissing is like. Especially don’t describe what tongues are doing. UGH.

Yeah, so they’re making out. Apparently he “[fits] perfectly against her despite the difference in their height.” Now, he’s 6’7″. She’s 5-something. Probably the same size as Anita–so we’ll say 5’3″. That’s 16 inches’ difference between them. To give you an idea of how much that is, the average adult’s forearm (elbow to wrist) is about 16 inches. Now lift your arm straight above your head. Look up to your wrist. That will give you an idea of Aleksei’s height in relation to hers. The only way they fit together “perfectly” is if his behemoth dick is crammed against her diaphragm.

Now they’re dry humping, and I’ll spare you the play-by-play, though I’m happy to inform you that he’s “rock hard, large, thick, aggressive, his blood surging to completely fill the erectile tissue

disgust dexter

Protip: if you can find it on WebMD, don’t use it in a sex scene.

Aleksei and his erectile tissue are being all romantical.

“Open for me, cara mia. Open your mind and your heart. Let me in, Gillian.”

She felt his deep, urgent whisper in her mind like an erotic wind.

I’m imagining a hurricane of dicks awash in a monsoon of pussy juice. How about you?

That’s…wow. That’s enough of that.

She comes and he doesn’t, so she offers to get him off. He refuses, and she says, “I can’t leave you like that, it’s not right.”

Oh, here we go, some pseudo-selfless bullshit where Aleksei is supposed to be a good guy because he wanted to “give [her] something before [she] left.” That means she can stay a good girl, because she doesn’t have to do something filthy like blow him or anything. Ain’t he something? Gillian says, “Men. Jesus. I will never understand men.”

No, honey, it’s not men you’re confused by. It’s your author’s hideous construction of gender and gender politics.

And…

…uh.

Apparently that’s the end of the book.

wait what

Takeaways

A while back, I glanced through the publication dates on the first three Gillian books. They were all published the same year, within months of each other. (IT SHOWS.) I can only assume this is a ploy to get people to read the next one, because God and all the angels and saints know the author has provided absolutely no motivation to do so for any other reason.

This is sincerely the worst ending to a book I have ever read. NOTHING. HAPPENS. There’s no sense of climax, other than Gillian’s “shining orgasm,” no tension, no satisfaction whatsoever. I’m actually disappointed because the last chapter didn’t even give me anything to giggle or roll my eyes about. I just kept staring and scratching my head and being faintly confused as to why the progress marker on my Kindle kept rising but absolutely no forward momentum was being established.

Also…Russia? Earthquake? Children? What?

Where the fuck is Dracula? Why were they allowed to escape? What happened to Jack?

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

My reaction as this book slithered to a close:

just shittier

And yet…I find myself strangely compelled to read the next one, if only because I’m morbidly curious to see how much worse this could possibly get. Will I fall into a bottomless pit of character and author incompetence, random uses of the wrong language, repulsive sexual politics, world building ripped off from everyone under the sun, and occasional famous author ass licking?

LET’S FIND OUT.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 32

So now we’re going to hang with Aleksei.

oh boy

Of course, Aleksei promptly reminds us that Gillian is oh so itty bitty and blonde and “too delicate looking to be a soldier” Jesus Christ. If I went around informing every small woman I know how delicate she was all the time, I would get throat punched to death. I expect no less from this asshole.

Aleksei apparently has amazing “legendary” powers now that Dracula’s shields have been destroyed, so he’s basically a walking  talking deus ex machina sex behemoth. Honestly, how do you move forward with a story like that? Characters who are immensely powerful right off the bat leave no room for growth or challenge or development…which I guess means this entire series will be a long trail of Gillian doing idiotic shit and the author constructing reasons why she succeeds or fails according to the phrase of the moon and the direction of the midnight wind.

We’re given some information about vampire masters, which is not only boring, it’s completely misplaced, not that that should be any surprise by now. 92% of the way through the book, your world building should be more or less complete and whole so you can actually use the shit you set up, not pull more shit out of your slippery asshole as it occurs to you.

Here’s a good paragraph:

Then there were a few…a very, very few, that [were] blessed with almost godlike power. Those gifts took time to manifest over the centuries. The rottweiler would suddenly evolve into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, becoming a true Vampire Lord.

unstoppable

As far as actual action goes, Aleksei gets on the plane and thinks about Gillian and then falls asleep. Sounds like every plane ride I’ve ever taken: shuffle on, be annoyed by some screeching mouth-breather, then eventually drift off.

Cut to Gillian et. al, who are…fuck, they’re going to talk about the pile of bodies they found. You know. The “tranny hookers.” Give me a minute to breathe deeply before I continue reading. I really wish I had a print copy to set on fire right now.

“He’s targeting what in his mind is worse than a woman selling her body. A lot of those bodies were trannies. He must have a real beef against men masquerading as women.”

rage bird

An open letter to Talia Gryphon’s editor

Dear editor,

WHY THE FUCK DID YOU LET THIS BLATANTLY TRANSPHOBIC BULLSHIT GET PAST YOU?

Love,

Avery.

Please. Tell. Me. This. Is not. Going. To. Become. An actual. Plot point. My blood pressure is just fine the way it is, thank you.

On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s any better if it were a throwaway point. Ugh.

Their conversation about Jack limps to a close, Kimber and Pavel go off to fuck or something, leaving Trocar laying on Gillian’s bed. He keeps watching her like a creeper. There’s some stupid back and forth about whether she’s going to fuck him, but of course she doesn’t because she’s only allowed to fuck Aleksei now.

She checks her email, which apparently she’s been neglecting again like a responsible special forces operative. Her friend-mentor-whatever fills her (and ostensibly the reader) in on what’s happening.

look at all the fucks i give

This would actually be somewhat interesting if I weren’t counting the minutes until this goddamn book is over. It would have been really interesting way earlier in the book. This kind of world building is the only thing that has genuine potential: the conflict between human and paranormal law enforcement agencies and how that makes it difficult to solve crimes.

Gerhardt, the mentor-friend-whatever, tells Gillian to be careful blah blah and reminds her she’s a soldier and “not a police officer.” He’s absolutely right, though I’m honestly not sure why that matters here. It seems like this particular situation actually does warrant a soldier. What could a cop do differently or better?

They talk about Jack’s sexual sadism and whatnot because they’re both psychologists. I assume this is Gryphon’s effort toward showing off that professional knowledge of mental health she apparently has (*sob*), though it really reads more like a scene from Criminal Minds, slapped with some long “as you know Bob” monologues.

JESUS CHRIST it is 94% of the way through the book and THIS is what is going on?

what kind of bullshit is this

Now they’re talking about the paper she’s going to write when this is all over. Holy fuck, I’m going to write a paper after this is over about the repulsive sexual politics in PNR as illustrated in Gillian Fucking Key.

Gillian goes back into the room and Trocar is still hitting on her. He tells her in depth why she’s so attractive, namely because “Human females generally manage to become simpering, clinging fools around an Elf’s beauty. That you do not, makes you particularly attractive.” See, y’all, Gillian is SO STRONG-WILLED AND AMAZING, that’s why everybody shatters their kneecaps to lick her asshole. She puts him off and he reminds her that he’s lawful evil (close paraphrase, ain’t even making that up). Oh my god. I’ve never read a book that was this boring this close to the end.

She falls asleep and he wakes her up hugging her oh my god

no darth vader

NOT THIS AGAIN OMG

Oh. Apparently he’s just going to hold her?

ugh bored

She wakes up and Aleksei is standing in her hotel room. Apparently this cuddling Trocar thing is a weak-ass attempt to fabricate more personal tension, because obvs Aleksei is jealous about the mostly-naked elf in her bed. SIGH.

Gillian rightly tells him it’s none of his damn business what she was doing and he’s making “fuckwitted assumptions.” In this case, she’s absolutely right. While Gillian is in the bathroom, Kimber makes fun of Aleksei: “You’ve been cut off at the knees just like the rest of them.” I have no idea what the fuck this is supposed to mean.

Aleksei is a jealous dick. Gillian for once is completely in the right because she doesn’t want to get distracted with his bullshit. That doesn’t mean this isn’t some fuckery, though. The “man is an unreasonable green-eyed dick-swinging monster” trope is just as fucking tiresome as the bitchy jealous female trope. Aleksei apparently gives no fucks about his own brother because Gillian was sleeping in the same bed as someone else and he doesn’t want to believe her when she says nothing happened. In what fucking universe is this attractive in a potential mate? To ANYBODY?

inquiring minds

They all go downstairs and there are detectives waiting for Gillian. Gerhardt sent them to help and to give them leads on Jack’s murder victims or something. Gillian says she doesn’t have anything for them, but the detectives try to insist that they can detain her. There’s some back and forth about whether Gillian will give up information or not, blah blah. I’m starting to see where Gillian got her certified incompetence from, if this is Gerhardt’s version of help.

96% OF THE WAY THROUGH THE BOOK YOU GUYS

back and forth

The detectives decide to detain Kimber and Pavel while Gillian, Aleksei, and Trocar go off to fetch Tanis. Oh, good! Maybe everyone else will die and the only two intelligent characters will be left!

Fin.

Takeaways

Oh my god, are we fucking serious right now?

Seriously serious?

Jesus Christ.

Chapter 31 here. Chapter 32 coming soon.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 31

First things first! I’m 90% of the way through the book (HALLELUJAH) and I’m looking for my next hateread. I’ll probably review the next Gillian book at some point, but I might need a break before I beat my head against that wall some more. Want to see me get angry on the internet for something new? Leave me a comment with your suggestions.

Now back to the cesspit of Gillian.


 

I’ll start the way the chapter starts:

Rule number one in the United States Marine Corps was that you left no one behind.”

And then I’d like to point out this exchange, two flips of my Kindle pages back:

Tanis’s skeletal hand on her arm stopped her. “They have another, Gillian. I heard his screams.” [….]

 

“Well, that’s great. Look, we are not stopping to rescue everyone that could possibly be held captive in this palatial shit-hole.”

rdj shrug

I’ma just leave that there. I think it speaks for itself.

They decide to go off and rescue Luis, with the critically injured Tanis along, for whatever reason. Tanis doesn’t want to leave Grace, the ghost. Apparently she was his…lover? Or something? I don’t know. Grace says she can’t leave, but Trocar comes up with the idea of Grace possessing the dead Fey’s body. OH MY GOD WHO CARES.

i don't give a shit

Blah blah, Grace has a body now, they finally start moving. They find Luis unguarded, and the rest of their weapons are also in the same room. Jesus CHRIST can we have ONE obstacle or inconvenience here other than stumbling over pointless exchanges and awkward diction?

Tanis is so weak he doesn’t react to Luis’s blood, except he does, and he fights Pavel and Trocar. So Gillian and Kimber, objectively the weakest people in the room, drag him out. I don’t fucking know.

Trocar and Pavel offer to cart the vampires into the forest to hide them. Trocar feeds Tanis some blood, which is apparently a surprise because Grael always have “ulterior motives.” It would be more meaningful if I knew more than the BAREST information about the Tolkien/Forgotten Realms-esque elves, for fuck’s sake.

The vampires have to be buried and there’s some dumb exchange about who gets buried and how the others will come back to them blah blah. Tanis wants to know why Gillian came after him because “I cannot imagine Aleksei allowing such a thing, piccola.” Because every action a woman makes in this goddamn book is either by permission of a man or in defiance of his displeasure, like it’s the fucking nineteenth century. Tanis informs them that Aleksei is on his way to rescue her, and they wonder why Dracula et. al decided to let them escape.

good question

Trocar goes off to find Tanis “prey,” not a “victim,” as Tanis helpfully informs us, because victim is apparently an offensive word dear god is this over yet. “He melted into the trees. No small trick for a six-foot, two-inch Elf wearing a red leather slutsuit.” Oh yeah, I forgot Trocar is all goth-bondaged out and Pavel is wearing his porn extra loincloth and Gillian and Kimber are still Lisa Frank characters covered in gore. This image has potential as grotesque and kind of darkly funny, which means of course it’s not mentioned.

Kimber points out that Dracula probably let them escape because “they knew we’d take a spy with us,” which of course means Grace. Smart Kimber for pointing that out. Why oh why isn’t SHE the protagonist? She thinks it must be either Grace or Luis, the latter of which isn’t likely. Gillian doesn’t think it’s Grace because that’s “too obvious.”

The discussion never gets finished because Trocar comes back with two joggers who are apparently “Elfstruck,” whatever that means. We’re given a paragraph of the feeding ritual and habits of vampires that belonged at least 15 chapters ago.

So Tanis is apparently going to be fine, much to my grievous disappointment.

disappointed gordon ramsay

Gillian turns right around and it’s all of a sudden assumed that Kimber is, in fact, correct, despite Gillian dismissing that idea two seconds before.

Grace is in love with Tanis. Apparently she’s into hideous Misogyny Monsters, too. She promised Dracula she would help Tanis stay alive “so he wouldn’t despair and Face the Sun” before Aleksei showed up to rescue him. I guess that’s…kind of clever? Anyway, she’s doing it because the person who killed her is Dracula’s servant and Dracula said he’d kill the servant in exchange for her help, which seems needlessly complicated.

Gillian is pissed and she holds Grace over a pile of dog shit to torment her. Grace is basically Tinkerbell at this point, remember, and is apparently so horrified by the idea of being covered in dog shit that she starts wailing. Gillian tells her to change back to human size and she can’t figure out how to. Trocar binds Grace blah blah and now they’re going back to the hotel to figure out what to do next. Pavel “lead the group of Daywalkers back to their temporary digs.” Wait, what? Isn’t a Daywalker a type of vampire? CONSISTENCY WTF

Takeaways

This is a necessary chapter, I suppose, but because it’s this book, it’s fucking boring. I don’t care about the squeaking, fluttering throwaway character Grace, I don’t care that Luis needed rescuing too because I don’t know him as a character at all, Tanis is a smug asshole even now, Trocar is just as bad, Pavel says nothing, and Gillian is…Gillian. The only intelligent thinker in this group is Kimber, and her idea is dismissed out of hand for some dumbfuck reason and then when she’s proved right, Gillian acts like it was her idea all along.

But at least there’s no transphobic bullshit?

That’s the level of discourse here. At least there’s no transphobia.

Chapter 30 here. Chapter 32 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 30

When last we left our dear Gillian, she was about to get killed by Jack the Ripper.

i wish

At least she has the sense to be scared, but it takes her like six pages to realize he’s Jack the Ripper. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, this one. He helpfully informs her, and the reader, of his “conventional” name after she’s already figured it out, just in case the reader is as dumb as Gillian is.

And there’s a little head-hop paragraph wherein Jack is an even bigger straw misogynist than the others:

They were all the same no matter what century they were in. All of them were in need of guidance and purification from a strong men, especially these modern ones who dressed and acted like men. Sluts.

Three things here. First, I fail to see how dressing and acting masculine = slut. I suppose it’s just a straw misogynist insult that makes him Baddy McBadderson. Second, I’m pretty sure they’re actually not dressed “like men,” unless they’ve changed from their Lycra leopard print marabou feather Lisa Frank outfits from before. Third, why the actual fuck is every male vampire in this book hopelessly entrenched in the era in which they were born? Is part of being a vampire the complete inability to adapt to new situations? I hate this trope. If anything, a vampire ought to be highly adaptable, or they wouldn’t survive for centuries.

don't make sense make dollars

Gillian opens her mouth again because she possesses not an ounce of fucking sense but a very heavy suit of Plot Armor. Jack points out that he’s a sexual sadist and not just a serial killer, and he knows this phrase because he “keep[s] up with [the] world’s current events and terms.” But not its views on gender, I suppose.

Jack has been twirling a scalpel this entire time to threaten them, but then he goes to leave the room without touching them because that scalpel isn’t enough to cut through all that Plot Armor. Gillian decides to kick Jack and there’s an awkward fighting scene that ends in “her alarmed eyes meeting a pair of rust-brown orbs.” Jesus Christ, did the author not get the memo that using the word “orbs” for eyes went out with junior high fanfic? And it gets even better because his “fangs [slam] down.”

body slam

This is a slam.

This is a slam.

This is a slam.

These do not slam.

These do not slam.

frustrated tim gunn

Gillian keeps calling him a “sick twist,” a phrase I’ve never heard used in reference to a person before. This book is certainly a sick twist on someone’s idea of a vampire book.

Jack doesn’t even hurt her, though, because Dracula doesn’t want her to. Fucking punch her in the face for me, Jack. JUST DO IT.

He’s dropped his scalpel and Gillian nabs it as he skips out of the room.

Kimber asks whether that’s really Jack the Ripper and Gillian says,

“I think so […] His clothing was not quite period, but close enough to the nineteenth century.”

Because apparently Gillian is a historical fashion expert and Jack has owned the same clothes for two hundred years.

“Did you notice how unobtrusive he was? Even now I can’t remember what the hell he looked like.”

Well, I can’t say someone who threatened you with a scalpel and “slammed” his fangs and his “orbs” on you is unobtrusive, but okay.

Gillian and Kimber have a calm little chat on how his general unobtrusiveness made him a good serial killer, and they get out of the ropes. The vampires are apparently hilariously incompetent and neglected to strip them of their guns, so they’re armed now and they’re going to try to escape.

And here’s Kimber, who’s now my hero, coming in to say,

“Some fucking therapist you are, pissing off a sick bastard like that. As an operative, you know better than that! What the hell is wrong with you?”

hat-toss

praise the lord

Gillian admits that was stupid, but we’ve seen this before and we know she never goddamn learns, probably because there’s never any goddamn consequences for her stupidity. I’m all for characters making mistakes, even stupid ones. I have a character who is belligerent and has a hard time shutting his mouth when he needs to, but it’s not a good thing, the reader is not meant to appreciate his pluckiness, and he isn’t universally adored and admired for it.

Gillian is forgiven, of course, and she and “Kimmy” have a semi-genuine friendship moment that I’d appreciate if I didn’t think Kimmy was just as much an idiot for following Gillian around.

Gillian spots a false wall…

deus ex machina

…and somehow Kimber produces a mini crossbow from her cleavage.

Now, I have a lot of cleavage. I mean like, a lot. But I know for a fact I could not conceal six inches of crossbow in it without it a) being monumentally uncomfortable and b) painfully obvious, especially if I was hauled around and tied up for who knows how long.

God. Whatever.

They open the hidden door, walk out, and there’s a bunch of

oh my god

…………………………………..

Transvestite streetwalkers. Some looked as though they had been very feminine looking in life. There must have been fifty or more slaughtered bodies in that room. There were indeed a number of female bodies as well, but the ones with the most damage to them, however, were the males. Wondering who had a beef with the local tranny hookers, Gill jumped when Kimber poked her and looked up.

Tranny hookers.

TRANNY HOOKERS.

TRANNY. HOOKERS.

OH BOY NOW LET’S HAVE SOME INTENSELY TRANSPHOBIC SHIT THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE WORLD

rage flame

sobbing

You know what will make this really grotesque? If there’s a bunch of dead hookers, only they’re really men ISN’T THAT GROSS ICKY BAD?!

I’ll assume you’ll all be familiar with the many reasons why that paragraph is unbelievably fucked up.

but wait there's more

  Gillian and Kimber climb out through a basement window and are found by Trocar and Pavel, who remarks that they smell icky. Gillian points out that there are a bunch of “male transvestites” down there and it

“probably pissed [Jack] off to no end to find some of them were not of the correct gender; that’s why their bodies are so much more mutilated than the females.”

I know I said I wouldn’t resort to ad hominem attacks on the author, but Dear Ms. Gryphon, THIS IS SOME ILL-INFORMED TRANSPHOBIC SHIT. If this is your fumbling way of representing trans violence (the notion that trans women are trying to “trick” cis dudes into fucking them), I have this to say to you:

stop sign

The fucking idea that “male transvestites” (how do you know they aren’t trans women?) are “not of the correct gender” is some basic How Not to Talk About Trans People 101. Though I suppose I should know better than to expect sensitive treatment of gender variance from a book that oozes misogyny like the world’s worst jelly donut.

(PS, don’t ever google “oozing.” Just don’t.)

I’m absolutely sure all these bodies are meaningless to the plot and are used purely for sensationalist gross-out value, too, which, you know, for trans people, feels JUST AWESOME.

Fuck.

Anyway. I’m going to try not to become entrenched in rage and just go back to rolling my eyes and scoffing.

A Revenant (still don’t know what that is) comes shuffling toward them and Gillian shoots its head off, because blasting a gun while trying to escape quietly is a fantastic idea. Pavel smells something not human back inside, and they all head back down.

To no one’s surprise, they find Tanis. He’s been “nearly drained dry” but is apparently still alive. The narrative tells us that Gillian is horrified, but only in like three sentences, and everything else remains in the same goddamn monotone it’s been for the past like fifteen chapters.

Then a ghost shows up (??) and starts screaming at them to get away from Tanis and stop hurting them. What the fuck? Gillian manages to calm the ghost (Grace) down, and yet another side character shows up: a tiny little fairy telling them to step away from Tanis. Gillian is getting on my last fucking nerve at her complete inability to be anything but utterly rude and disrespectful, and she says, “We’re a little busy here and I’m not going to debate what we should do with a being the size of Peter Pan’s wiener.”

jesus you are a fucking idiot

The Fey turns full size and attacks Gillian, which she completely fucking deserves. She chops Gillian in the throat and moves toward her again, but the rest of her Plot Armor Posse take the Fey down.

Blah blah, let’s finally get the fuck out of here.

But oh, Dracula has Luis too.

Sigh.

Takeaways

This chapter could actually be decent in concept, but as usual, the execution turns it into a giant pile of shit crowned in a frosting of offensive throwaway sensationalism. Not to mention the constant punch-pulling. Yeah, let’s throw Celebrity Vampire at them only so he can scuttle off without touching them. Let’s throw some random bad guys at them next, but they don’t actually pose any threat other than causing Gillian some momentary discomfort. (This is the first actual combat injury she’s received, by the way, 90% of the way through the book.)

Gillian has faced absolutely no consequences for her bullshit. This is nonsense. Your protagonist ought to have a giant target painted on their back just because they’re the protagonist. They’ve got to suffer. They’ve at least got to earn what they achieve. She’s had to make no sacrifices whatsoever. I’m just waiting for the Anita Blake style climax scene where she gets knocked out and other people handle her shit for her.

I HATE YOU GILLIAN.

Chapter 29 here. Chapter 31 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 29

Before we get back to the thrilling non-action, I have an offer of relief!

My publisher is offering my book, The Wicked Instead, and Tiger Gray‘s book, No Deadly Thingfor free this week! You can download the Kindle .mobi version or Nook ePub version (or both, ain’t nobody stopping you) from the links above. These books were written separately but are in a shared world, and even better, THEY’RE NOT GILLIAN KEY.

For more info on both, check out my Twisted Tree Universe page.


 

Now, brace yourselves, because it’s back to our favorite heroine.

The first words of this chapter are:

The darkly handsome Vampire surveyed his prey with eyes of glacial pale green, crystalline and icy.

For a second I thought this was Aleksei, since he and Tanis are the only “darkly handsome vampires” we’ve met thus far, and I wondered when his eyes turned green. But then I realized she meant Dracula. Holy shit, are we finally getting to meet him?

Apparently Gillian and Kimber (oh, there’s Kimber) are both trussed up “like a Christmas goose.”

roasted christmas goose with stuffing

Does she have herbs in her ass, too?

Blah blah blah, Dracula wants Aleksei out of the way. Apparently Aleksei is “powerful enough to challenge him for control.” We’ve seen no indication of this, since Aleksei has done nothing but panic and flutter around or six months, but okay. Dracula is actually kind of clever in that he

had made sure Aleksei was at all times surrounded by those who could dampen his powers. Some of the Dark Fey had been allied to the voldevode and had blanketed Aleksei’s lands with spells to ensure that he did not come to full power while Dracula was indisposed.

If only I knew what the fuck this actually means. For one, does anybody remember what the fuck voldevode means? I sure don’t and I can’t be arsed to find out. Second, did the fey just now do this or has Aleksei been bound by these spells for a long time? How is Dracula indisposed, exactly?

i dunno

Blah blah blah, Dracula fey whatever, oh, apparently Aleksei has been bound all this time and “[his] world suddenly began to hum with ancient magic once again.”

isnt-that-convenient

Osiris pops in like the Voice of the author God to inform Aleksei that yes indeedy, he’s more powerful. Tanis conveniently pops in too, to tell Aleksei he’s in England.

Tanis was near death. The fact that he had managed contact with Aleksei, via the newfound powers, was nothing short of miraculous.

deus ex machina

Aleksei decides to run off to England to fetch Tanis and Gillian. He talks to Sekhmet and Anubis, and they decide that yes, Gillian is very brave and yes, they’re proud of her and yes, she needs saving now. Sekhmet and Anubis note privately that the no-touchy timeframe of one year between Gillian and Aleksei is over now.

Wait, what? Gillian dicked around Aleksei’s place for only six months. How has it been another six months since she fucked off with Pavel? Did the stupid plane to Finland hit a gap in the space-time continuum?

THROW ME A BONE HERE FOR FUCK’S SAKE

Fade out to Trocar and Pavel hanging in the hotel room. Gillian, Kimber, and apparently Luis are missing. Pavel is cranky about his loincloth being small even though presumably he could fucking change if he wanted to. Pavel is jelly because Trocar likes Kimber, but no worries, he isn’t banging her anymore. Pavel can apparently track Gillian and Kimber, so, for whatever completely bizarre reason, they leave the hotel with Pavel still looking like that Ancient Roman porn extra on a leash.

And then, for some other incomprehensible reason, we’re given a treatise on Dracula, meaning the legends surrounding Vlad Tepes. Blah blah he’s really bad yo. Oh, apparently the whiplash-worthy switch in topic is meant to indicate a scene change.

Cats-watching-tennis

Dracula is apparently hanging out with Oscar Gray, aka Oscar Wilde. Oh Jesus fuck. Just in case you’ve never read Dorian Gray, there’s a nice summary right there for you, too, along with some pointless description of Oscar’s character and his general usefulness.

And now we’re going to meet someone else? We get lots of “he so pretty and deadly” description but no name. Let’s pile some more shit into this book and call it tension!

Gillian and Kimber wake up to find Mr. Nameless creeping on them. He and Gillian have a “hey who are you, I’m Nameless Creepy Guy, fuck off Nameless Creepy Guy” exchange that is seriously not even worth reading.

Oh.

Jesus.

Fuck.

The vampire is Jack the Ripper.

eyeroll cersei lannister

Gillian is her usual sparkling self and taunts him because she’s a complete fucking idiot. Kimber helpfully points that out because everyone in this book is smarter than the protagonist. Fuck.

Takeaways

Another very short chapter, but as I’m working on another blog post, I’ll leave it here for today. Wow, what a shitshow. I feel like a hypocrite, since I kind of have celebrity supernaturals (though significantly more obscure on the whole), but I hate the way celebrity vampires are used here, mostly because it’s so trite. Hurr durr, Jack the Ripper is a vampire hurr. The more this book wears on, the more gimicky it becomes, as if it weren’t horrendously gimicky to begin with. This book cannot end soon enough. I might have to go find a copy at Half Price Books or something so I can rip it apart and feed it to my cat.

horatio

Mr. Big hates this book too.

Chapters 27-28 here. Chapter 30 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 27-28

Chapter 27

After Maeti’s brush with death, she and Dionysus decide to jump ship.

That seems…rude.

Okay, so Maeti got mauled, whatever. There’s nothing saying she’s still grievously injured, just that Dionysus got “spooked” and needs to Protect His Woman, Y’all.

“Maeti wanted to stay with Gillian, but realized that she needed Dionysus as much as he needed her. She couldn’t bear to see the fear in the eyes of her mate.”

Whatever, I guess I could buy such lameness if it weren’t, you know, this dire rescue mission that the entire “plot” hinges on. Why bring these two along in the first place? It’s not like they’ve actually done anything of significance except Dionysus set people on fire, which Kimber could apparently also do with her flamethrower.

totally pointless

Here’s a telling quote for you.

“She had known that Dionysus was reporting back to the Romanian Count, and didn’t relish the thought of either Aleksei’s worry or his anger.”

So Maeti can’t stand Dionysus’s upset, and Gillian is scared of Aleksei’s. Seriously and sincerely, what kind of backward bullshit is this?

Their human pilot is black HOLY FUCK IT’S A BLACK PERSON IN THIS MONOCHROMATIC BOOK oh wait just like every other brown person (which is like two), he’s acceptably light-skinned.

There’s some needless description of their trip to England aboard the cargo plane, and when they get there, Trocar has to tell her what to do to locate Tanis. She claims she’s “not thinking clearly,” but given her behavior so far, all I can think of is this:

derpina

Kimber says, “Whatever it is, Cap’n, you need to snap out of it and get your shit together before we walk into something we can’t handle.”

audrey hepbern smile

Oh, Kimber! For the moment, I sure do like you.

We’re given a review of Gillian’s accomplishments again with a mishmash of information that would have been more relevant at the beginning (like the fact that she’s retired–up until now I thought she was active duty). She essentially does a Google search to look for “any establishments in London and the surrounding areas that might be Vampire-owned or at least affiliated.” How does one know if a place is vampire-owned? Is there some kind of hint or registration system? This might actually be interesting to know, so of course it’s not explained.

And then we’re told over the course of a full page how this paranormal war could be bad because reasons.

Chapter…ends? wat?

Okay, so I guess I’ll be doing two chapters today.

Chapter 28

Blah blah blah, she checks the news and finds out there are more vampire attacks, and the human media is starting to pick up on the fact that some paranormal shit is going on. They think it’s werebeasts and blandly assure the perpetrators will be caught and dealt with. Meanwhile, Dracula is creeping up on people still. See, this I like. It creates tension (actual real tension, for once!) when the protagonist knows or realizes something that most people don’t.

The plan is for the group of faceless side characters to split up. Apparently they’re going somewhere with a dress code, so Gillian and Kimber have to dress up “as something from Dial-a-Slut and Tawdry Togs for Tasty Trollops.” They’re wearing shit I don’t think I’d associate with sluts OR trollops, including marabou feathers, sequins, and leopard print, and they’re both packing more gear than a fully-outfitted soldier in a combat zone. Between them, they have an uzi, a sawed-off shotgun, two crossbows, grenades, a dartgun, and three handguns. Jesus Christ, they must have Mary Poppins bags. Who needs all this shit, and exactly how does this make them s00p3r s3kr1t operatives? I’m sure this is some kind of show of badass sexiness that they can dress up like “sluts” and still be awesome because they can handle all these weapons, y’all.

The guys show up dressed as Jean-Claude from Anita Blake, someone’s goth-convention idea of a bondage outfit, and an extra from a porn set in Ancient Rome.

Trocar and Pavel (goth bondage and porn extra) are apparently going to a bondage club, and Jean-Claude Luis is going to a nicer part of town. Let me just pause and wonder what the fuck kind of party in a “classier neighborhood” would welcome someone wearing “a black silk shirt laced at his chest and wrists, very tight black linen pants, boots and a black cape lined with emerald green silk.”

sale at hot topic

Here’s more thrilling description of what’s happening:

Trocar promised to make arrangements at the Park International Hotel near Knightsbridge for the next few days . If they found Tanis they could always check out early; if not, they’d have to adjust their strategy. They’d all meet there at dawn. All except Luis. He’d find a place to rest in one of the many parks around the city. Vampires didn’t need coffins to sleep if earth itself was available.

how interesting

Aren’t you glad to know they could check out early? And what a shame they’d apparently have to make other arrangements if their hotel reservation ran out. I HAVE SUCH EXCITE

Gillian and Kimber go to the Tower of London, and mysteriously Gillian’s empathy, which was apparently unfazed by watching vampires get torched earlier, is now making her hesitate because of the Tower’s violent history. She acts as a tourist and asks one of the guards to explain the whole fucking place to her, just in case you were wondering. One wonders what the guards think of two women dressed like they’re going to an anime convention showing up with giant lumpy bags that couldn’t possibly contain weapons.

ShootSelf

They go into a chapel to summon a ghost. Gillian, for some reason, isn’t particular about which one. Given the Tower’s history, I’m just certain that’s a wonderful idea. As much as I would dearly love for, say, an enraged Anne Boleyn to sweep in and kill them both, the best we get is Margaret Pole and Walter Raleigh, who give them no useful information. Christ, now I’m convinced Gryphon is just dumping words into the word bucket to make it weigh heavier.

bucket

They go to Highgate Cemetery blah blah. “The cabbie’s accent was of the lower class but he’d been friendly and polite.” Because why not a little classism while we’re at it?

why the fuck not

And now they’re in the cemetery, because heaven forbid there’s a modicum of originality in this gigantic pile of horseshit. They come across a gang of vampires who are tormenting a human, one of whom is wearing some kind of faux-Satanic outfit. Because of course he is. Gillian informs us of who/what the Horned God actually is and then proceeds to talk about religion and supernatural people for four paragraphs before returning to the action. Remember the vampire who was tormenting the human? Every time this happens, I always picture everyone stopping completely and staring at each other while the protagonist monologues in her own head.

The vampire is a combination of 21st century goth and Victorian here:

“Bitch.” The Vampire hissed again. “I shall feast on your sweet blood, then tear out your throat.”

Aren’t you glad he’s informing her what he’s going to do? God, this shit is getting so I don’t even have to make fun of it anymore.

So Gillian and Kimber beat the shit out of the vampire and Gillian utters these sparkling lines:

“Let me tell you something, asshole. I am your worst fucking nightmare. I have contacts all over the city and I will be all over your ass like the black plague if you abuse another Human.”

 

“You tell your master to tell his master , that I am gunning for all of you.”

Seriously! I don’t even have to try!

 you're making this too easy

Gillian continues torturing the vampire in a way that I’m sure is supposed to seem badass but does absolutely nothing but halfway convince me she actually is a sociopath.

They don’t get anything from Vampire Lackey either. Suddenly “there was an immense whirring overhead as though a plague of locusts was descending upon them.” Ooohh, I wonder who’s going to show up to the Pop Culture Supernatural Party next.

There’s like two paragraphs of some halfway decent action where she’s running from this locust cloud, which, as you can probably guess by now, falls utterly flat when she realizes they’re pixies.

PS, where the fuck did Kimber go?

Action stops again so she can tell us about pixies. They’re “the cannon fodder of the Fey world,” which means we’re going to have yet another talky scene that will be pointless.

filler

Oh, well, maybe not. One pixie bites her–apparently they’re poisonous–and they carry her off like a crowd of lavender Ewoks.

Takeaways

Well, I wanted something to happen, but now that it’s happening, it’s even more stupid and boring holy fuck. This is like an endless pod racing scene.

We jump from pointless descriptions of travel to pointless descriptions of London to pointless encounters with throwaway characters that show off some basic knowledge of British history to motherfucking pixies, which are only half a hair more palatable than the fucking mummy. I don’t even know why Gillian and Kimber are here or what the fuck they’re trying to do other than poking around trying to see what shit they can stir up. Instead of pixies, I sincerely wish she actually had been mobbed by locusts, or, even better, by wasps. The poor stunted plot has wandered off to find someplace dark and cool to die a lonely, agonizing death.

Chapter 26 here. Chapter 29 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 25

You know, the more I type that title, the more I hate it. Any series that’s a stupid play on the titular character’s name makes my eyes roll out of my head.

Anyway.

I shall dub this the Ripoff Chapter.

The first paragraph lurches from semi-casual Gillian voice to pseudo-poetic author voice between one sentence and another:

Gill’s night vision was stellar for a human, but she wouldn’t have been able to see dead ahead in the darkness. The moon was but a silver sliver in the sky and while the stars turned the velvet black into a wonder-land of sparkling fire, the landscape wasn’t viewable.

It’s like if I suddenly switched from the voice of one of my barely-literate redneck characters to my highly-educated character who has a poetic bent.

We’re given a weird description of Gillian’s Special Forces team, of which both Luis and this elf guy were apparently a part, and assured that Gillian was the best leader ever because of her “unique style of command.”

You’re gonna love this. I do.

When two members of separate Elf races refused to cooperate with one another during a recovery mission and threatened to munity…

– 10 to Gillian already, since if your highly-trained team members are that undisciplined in the field, you’re a shitty leader.

Gill told them point blank that they would get along under her command or she’d shoot them herself before they ever got a court-martial.

Gillian = hammer. Problem = nail.

[The team members] had laughed at her demeanor and audacity, verbalizing disbelief that a U.S. Marine, and a female at that, might employ such tactics.

1) Who the fuck chooses people who don’t respect the chain of command for Special Forces?

2) Sweet Jesus the straw misogyny in this book, what the fuck.

he-man_8674

Gillian had calmly turned, drawn her Glock and shot him through the kneecap. As he writhed on the ground before his shocked comrades, Gillian had put the heated muzzle of the gun against his temple and asked if he wanted to restate his opinion, her green eyes icy.

what jennifer lawrence

So, what was that about the dudes being court-martialed?! If the USMC in this world gives its officers free rein to shoot the people under their command, I sure am glad I don’t live in that fucking universe. A fighting force that lets that go on has to be symptomatic of some despotic oppressive leadership shit.

This incident, like the one about how Gillian got into Special Forces in the first place, is meant to assure us of her “phenomenal intuitive judgment” and leadership skills, and how her team respected her and “more than a little love[d]” her.

are you kidding me obama

Luis lands the helicopter and they get out. Gillian notes that in fact, Tolkien was “an observer and trusted friend” of the elves, so he was completely right about them. In other words, the author was too goddamn lazy to make up her own elf society and thinks plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Except ideas can’t be copyrighted, so I guess it’s just aggressive imitation. Who the fuck let this get published?

PS, Tolkien apparently lived out his days in Elfland.

So Elf Guy Mirrin shows up and they rattle off some Tolkien Elvish to each other. Mirrin brought along Kimber Whitecloud, who is also apparently a friend. She

“was a glorious combination of several Human races to their highest compliments. Her hair was golden bronze and braided all over her head; it hung in plaits down her back, under the cloak. Grass green and golden hazel warred in the slanted eyes that were full of mirth and ringed with black lashes.

Her skin was silky bronze, a shade or two darker than her hair; her lips full and dark pink.”

I’m really conflicted about this racial representation, and I don’t know how to feel about it.

I read a fascinating article a while back from National Geographic about what Americans will look like in the mid-21st century. Basically, white people will no longer be the majority, and in fact, most people will be multi-racial, as Kimber apparently is. In other words, people will be varying shades of brown. But I feel like Gryphon is trying to present the whitest multi-racial person possible here.

Now, I’m a light-skinned multi-racial POC. I get eyeballed because nobody can figure out what race I am, especially since I have very black hair and non-white features. I have cousins of the same mix of heritage who are natural blondes, like Kimber. So I’m understanding, to an extent, about what Gryphon is trying to get at. I think what bothers me about this description is twofold:

1) the fact that Kimber is “a glorious combination of several Human races to their highest compliments.” So in other words, she got the best of all light-skinned races: blonde hair, light eyes, light skin. Blonde hair is actually a recessive gene and is, all things considered, relatively rare in the grand scheme of the human species. As you’ll note here in this gallery of multi-racial people (which corresponds to the previous article), light hair does not occur frequently, so shoe-horning in the blonde hair and heavily implying its superiority (it’s the prettiest) is troublesome. The “silky bronze” and slanted eyes parts are token, objectifying gestures toward brownness, like she has a lovely permanent tan.

2) Her name is Kimber fucking Whitecloud, which further reinforces and encourages the image of this woman as white- or light-skinned.

I’m very cautious of being a hypocrite here and saying that Kimber isn’t brown enough to be multi-racial (because god knows I hate when people pull that shit on me), but I really take issue with the way she’s presented: white enough to be acceptable and brown enough to be exotic. Sometimes, it’s a reality. In my personal experience, I’m irritated by the fact that most people assume I’m white because they can’t figure out what race(s) I am. But the fact that the author’s choice is to present her character’s light-skinned looks as superior is offensive.

Pavel thinks she’s the Most Gorgeous Ever and immediately wants to fuck her.

Kimber introduces Gillian to an elf named Hierlon, who looks exactly like this:

legolas

Down to the dark brows. Yep.

More Elvish, more introductions. The elf she shot in the kneecap, Trocar, is also there. He has “ebony” skin, which I sincerely hope is actually black black and not African black, and…oh, get this…white hair.

MS. GRYPHON PLEASE STEP OUT OF THE FANTASY SECTION OF BARNES AND NOBLE

There’s some more aimless milling around. Apparently Trocar is a Grael and nobody likes Grael. Hierlon, who is a Legolas High Elf, especially doesn’t like him. Kimber and Pavel have the hots for each other. Dionysus and Maeti are all but forgotten and have nothing to say.

Mirrin then tells them that he thinks Tanis has been taken to England. Oh sweet fuck, can we please pretty please just get to the fucking rescue?!

please

This was our orange cat when I took her to the vet.

Apparently, someone “spirited” Tanis through the elf lands, meaning I guess that they opened a doorway into another world or something. I don’t know. It’s confusing. Gillian wants to know who opened it. Apparently the time to introduce a completely new concept is slightly after it becomes necessary. Christ. I do this in my first drafts, because something will occur to me and then I’ll use it, but then I go back and make an effort to at least introduce it earlier so my reader isn’t completely lost.

Gillian tells the elves about Dracula and Trocar does this confusing mini-lecture about why the fey would be valuable to Dracula because they would be the muscle for the vampires (presumably because they have more powerful magic) while the humans would be food and chattel. Well, an excellent point, but for whatever reason, Kimber finds this really offensive and yells at Trocar.

why would you do that

Blah blah, Gillian observes that if Tanis was taken through Elfland, Dracula must have some alliances among the elves and it wasn’t a “random kidnapping.”

?!?!?!?!

derp dracula

Such smart! Much clever!

Mirrin says something about the Dark Wizard returning WHO THE FUCK IS THE DARK WIZARD ARE WE CHANNELING HARRY POTTER NOW?! There’s also some mention of a godhead and the Fey Court. I feel like we’re reading a completely different book all of a sudden.

Wait.

WAIT.

Is she trying to do Merry Gentry now?!

After several rounds of discussion that go nowhere, Gillian finally says they need to go find Tanis in England. Mirrin wants to help, but Gillian sends him packing back to his bitchy redhaired wife, and Trocar gives an oath, which binds him to help. There’s a paragraph about what a scary badass he is, but Gillian wants a scary badass with her.

Kimber is also coming with. Kimber is, naturally, the plucky sidekick with no personality thus far other than being cheeky.

Now that that’s finally decided they head off to England.

Takeaways

What a pointless chapter. The introduction of new characters and especially the brand-new exposition 70% of the way through the book shows you just how bad the pacing is. Why couldn’t Gillian this kind of exposition and ally-gathering happened like, I don’t know, during the six months Gillian spent doing fucking nothing? And seriously, the flashbacks about Gillian’s time in the service do no favors for my already abysmally low opinion of her.

Pardon the video game reference here, but in some ways, Gillian reminds me of Renegade Shepard from Mass Effect. The conceit behind the Renegade conversation option in those games is that Shepard is basically supposed to be ruthless but still a hero (because the entire series is based on Shepard being a hero). Instead of adhering to that spirit, you’re able to be a complete dickwad to your squadmates. This defeats the entire purpose of the game, which is that Shepard is a badass but has loyal allies who help him/her. S/he’s not supposed to be a foaming, violent psychopath–his/her enemies are. You can’t win a war with a bunch of beaten-into-submission followers. That’s why the bad guys can’t win. It’s basic fucking storytelling.

But then, Shepard is competent and Gillian is not only unhinged and violent but also a complete tool. There the similarity ends.

Chapter 24 here. Chapter 26 here.