Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 17

93% of the way through the book. What do you want to bet it’s going to end right in the middle of a plot point?

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

It’s a safe bet.

Gillian and Trocar go off to investigate the dampening field, whatever the fuck that is. I’m starting to wonder if it has something to do with Gillian’s personal humidity index from the first book. Just a whole field of wet pussy. That’s an attractive thought, isn’t it?

Gillian brings her gun “just for shits and grins,” though that seems more like a wise move than a whim. It just goes to show you that any time Gillian does something intelligent, it’s completely without thought or by accident. Then there’s a few weird paragraphs that seem to serve to emphasize that Gillian, as a human, is completely inferior to Trocar’s elfliness.

They stumble across part of the dampening field, which was apparently done by “several lesser magic users,” which I assume rules out Dracula as the perpetrator. What the actual fuck IS this thing?a man looking confused and text that says "I have no idea what's going on"

The scene also bounces between Trocar’s POV and Gillian’s, sometimes sentence to sentence, so I can only assume the author has abandoned the idea of third-person POV and has just gone full omniscient. One thing I will give this scene is that it contains some halfway decent forward momentum and description. They can both tell something is up and go to investigate.

Then they’re accosted by goblins. How fun, another species we’ve never seen before that’s introduced as an afterthought. And…wow, you guys. Gillian actually tries diplomacy. Diplomacy. That doesn’t involve knives or guns. And she’s actually polite! Who are you and what have you done with our Gillian?

a movie style poster for invasion of the pod peopleThe goblins want to know what they’re doing lurking around. Gillian can’t come up with a response because, as history has shown us, she’s an inept liar. This has always seemed really concerning to me considering she is/used to be Special Forces, but I think we can make an educated guess that there’s an extremely low bar for competency in Special Forces operators in this world.

Trocar steps in and basically says they’re out in the middle of the woods to fuck, but he says it in the creepiest way possible: “I think the reason should be obvious to such connoisseurs of Human delicacies.” Did he really have to refer to her like she’s a slab of fois gras? I liked him all right for about 30 seconds, but he’s doing his damndest to paint himself as just as big a dickbag as every other penis-wielding sentient being in this world. The goblins know they’re lying and start grabbing their crotches (????), which is apparently a signal to attack.

Trocar acquits himself well with his various s00per assassin weapons, and Gillian apparently fights with her gun. In the pitch-dark. Ah, there’s our Gillian. Welcome back from Pod People Land. She doesn’t hit anyone she doesn’t mean to hit, of course.

plot armor

What follows is a short but actually halfway decent fight scene that’s interrupted when the werewolf pack comes in and saves the day. Because of course we can’t have a fight scene that Gillian actually wins without any help. I’m increasingly convinced that everyone but Gillian is the protagonist in these books. It’s like an extended volleyball game and she’s the ball. She’s just a fuckable prop, and everything else is either abusing her or saving her.

So after the needless deus ex lupus machina, Gillian and Trocar go to Aleksei’s meeting with the Fey. There are some general exclamations as they show up, and Trocar tells them they’ve been investigating the dampening field. There’s a weird exchange between one of them, who Gillian calls the Purple Prince, and Trocar. Purple’s response to this announcement is to say, “And how might we have prevented this, Grael?” I had to read this several times to make sure I wasn’t somehow missing something. Maybe this is a reasonable response, but not knowing fuck all about the dampening field, I don’t know what “this” is or what needed to be prevented.

Aleksei tells them to STFU, and Purple asks whether they want war with the Twilight Court. What? This whole conversation is like talking to a Tea Party member, just half-baked nonsensical accusations that are only tangentially related to anything that’s going on.

“Hey, maybe we shouldn’t cut Medicare funding–“


“…what? Dude, no, Medicare doesn’t have anything to do with–“


There are apparently some brownies (the Fey kind, not the kind you eat a whole pan of accidentally on purpose) there, which the other Fey don’t appreciate. Gillian preaches at them all about cooperation, etc. etc. Apparently the pod people have reclaimed her. She talks about stopping evil and one of the Fey asks her how evil is defined. Apparently this is now a Philosophy 101 class? Philosophy 101 with the Tea Party. Sounds exciting.

I’m pretty fucking bored right now. Here’s the short version.

teal deer (tl;dr)

All the Fey sign the so-called Osiris Doctrine, that thing from a couple chapters back that Helmut said could start a war, but it probably won’t because these books have absolutely no follow-through. Just like the last book, entirely new characters show up. Apparently Purple Prince is actually a prince and his name is Finian. New dude is named Dalton.

After the whole business with the doctrine is concluded, Gillian and Aleksei go back to Rachlav Central. Aleksei has a new name for her, angelina. When she falls asleep, he reflects on how awesomely awesome she is and how she’s conflicted between her “nurturing side and her confrontational side.”

Gillian wasn’t domesticated; she was restrained for the moment by her own volition. When he left her, she was muttering in her sleep–growling orders to someone or something.

And…on that weird note…the book is over.


If Gillian wrote a book, this is exactly how it would be, unplanned and poorly executed while trying to explain and justify itself every step of the way. I’m more and more convinced that this was all written in one long narrative and someone chopped them up into books blindfolded with a machete. Do all of them end in such random, nonsensical fashions? The main action has been over for a few chapters. At least, I think so, because I’m still not sure what the main action was even supposed to be.

Rather than closing the book there, we have to squeeze in some unrelated forward motion in the last couple of chapters that should really be in the next book. I can only assume that this is some kind of attempt to draw the reader in for the next book. Oddly, it’s effective if only because now I’m frustrated and kind if pissed that the story has been cut short and I want to keep reading because I think, this time, maybe this time, the book will actually carry through a plot to its conclusion.

a picture of a beach with text that says "dream on, dreamer"

Fine, I’ll fucking shell out the eight bucks for the next book. You got me, Talia Gryphon. You got me.


Expect radio silence from me for the next few days. The new Dragon Age DLC releases tomorrow, and complete silence will descend over our household while we play, only to be punctuated by shrieks of dismay as Bioware inevitably fucks us over. I don’t plan to surface until I’ve had enough of that beautiful abuse.


Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 16

Aleksei turns into a dragon again to carry Gillian back home, basically just to prove he can.

Gillian was entranced and not the least bit worried. Trocar was right. She did feel safe with Aleksei. Safe with a Vampire. How far had her standards fallen?

That’s an excellent question! Here’s your answer.


Though it’s definitely because he’s an abusive prick rather than because he’s a vampire, but at least she’s onto something.

I wonder how big he is at this point. Is he regular dragon size? The narrative doesn’t really say.

They arrive back at Rachlav Central, and strangely no one is all that concerned that Puff the Magic Vampire is flying in with Gillian. Tanis just tells him he shouldn’t have turned into a dragon where everyone can see him “Because now everyone will want a dragon.”

puff the magic dragon

Like…as a pet? Does he mean everyone will want to be a dragon? I don’t get it.

Everyone is licking Aleksei’s asshole about his “elevation in status,” but he wants to talk to Gillian. He says “Good evening” to everyone and she protests because, “Hello? Hammer Horror Films? B-movies? Bela Lugosi? Dracula?”

what the fuck am I reading?

Another stupid obscure reference to pop culture that could have been explained a couple chapters back when Gillian and Jenna were rolling their eyes at the other vampire saying the same thing. This shit is so disjointed I don’t even know what the hell anymore.

Aleksei picks her up, again, and runs up to the bedroom before “tossing her unceremoniously onto the bed.” This is what I picture, minus the smiles at the end.

girl bouncing off bed

Who the fuck does that to someone they’re ostensibly in love with? If this is the tone for the sex that’s certainly about to occur, I’m not sure I’m on board.

Oh, but of course it is. We have dancing tongues

dancing tongues and text that says, "Every day I'm shufflin'"

And Aleksei has suddenly developed the ability to light candles with a wave of his hand. In contrast to the narrative’s clumsy efforts to make Gillian seem more like a person and give her limitations, Aleksei is quickly leveling up into Grandmaster Gary Stu territory.

NSFW below because sex.

So she’s going to blow him. His dick apparently has a “velvet tip” because he’s fancy like that. “Aleksei thought he would explode when her mouth closed over him.” Are we going to see more hot jets?

willy wonka scene with cream spilling over everyone

Also, is he circumcised? It sure seems like it, even though 400 years ago in Europe he would have zero reason to be unless he were Jewish. But why should I expect any sort of attention to detail at this point?

lower your expectations

Scenes like this make me wonder two things: 1) how some of my characters would describe sex acts, especially the prudish ones, and 2) if I could write a scene like this just for the hell of it and manage to make it as ridiculous as these. I don’t know if I could match the majesty of some of these descriptions.

Aleksei can’t take it because she’s blowing him too good and he “drag[s] her up his body, trying not to be brutal.” I don’t know, that sounds pretty brutal. Like, did he grab her by the neck, or what?

So there’s more fucking, lots of velvet and canals. The only time it is appropriate to describe the vagina as a canal is when someone is giving birth. He wants to bite her and she decides to let him. Apparently Aleksei thinks this means they’re going to exchange blood and that this is Serious Yo. As he’s telling her this, “he [is] struggling not to roll her under him and plunge into her furiously as he felt fresh wetness bathe him.”

man singing "can you feel the love tonight" in the shower


Anyway, he at least has the grace to tell her this is a commitment, which of course makes her freeze up. She asks if he can just take her blood, and he basically laughs at her and talks her into it. I’m sure this would be a more romantic scene in a different context. God knows in my future books there will be blood bonds and whatnot. I love that shit. But I am still completely unconvinced that Aleksei is even someone you’d want to spend the weekend with, much less the rest of your life. And now she’s going to bind herself to him permanently?

road sign that says "don't do it"

Apparently his tongue is made of rough velvet, which makes me think of how a cat’s tongue is barbed. One of my cats likes to lick ears, and a rough tongue sounds like the least sexy thing I can think of at the moment.

What follows is pretty decent description of sex and blood exchange. If you’ve ever read another vampire novel, you’ve probably read this scene, so it’s nothing extraordinary, but nothing that makes me giggle or gag for like three whole pages.

She says she thinks she loves him but he isn’t sure, and he laughs at her again. The narrative, which I assume is in his voice now (though it may well be the author trying to insist despite her having zero reason to) that she actually does love him and she’s just too scared to admit it. Seriously, what an overconfident dickbag. Could it be that she is actually not sure, either because you’re a complete twatwaffle or because she has commitment issues or for some other reason? No, of course not. You know her better. You fucker.

god, I hate you

She falls asleep, but he’s still horny. This angelic soul decides not to wake her up to fuck her again. Isn’t he such a nice guy? For whatever reason, he decides to leave rather than spend the night/day/whatever with her.

Gillian wakes up sore the next day, which is a pleasant surprise considering it’s not often you read about the aftermath of a hard dicking from Sex Behemoth Puff the Magic Vampire. Aleksei swings by and wants her to take her pants off again because his saliva has healing properties. Okay, that’s…actually kind of clever and sexy.

So they go down to meet Trocar, who asks if they’re ready to go. Wait…go where? Only now is there a vague paragraph of what they intend to do. I guess Aleksei is meeting some of his people and Trocar wants to “diffuse the dampening fields.” I’m confused…I thought the wards that were keeping Aleksei’s power locked up were already gone? If not, what the fuck is a dampening field? Who even knows.

Now Gillian and Trocar are…back in Dante’s castle?

am i the only one around here who doesn't know what the fuck is going on?

Oh, JOY, Dante shows up and wants to apologize to Gillian for raping her. He swears he’s never done it before and he’s Really Really Sorry and I think I might be physically ill just reading this shit. It seems Trocar has done something to him…? I don’t know what, but now he wants to make it right. Which she agrees to. Oh sweet Christ.

I honestly don’t know what to say about this. My personal philosophy is not one of revenge, and I don’t believe that many people deserve to be locked up forever based on their crimes. But as a victim of sexual assault, myself, I have a very hard time saying yeah, she should totally give him a chance to redeem himself. There is no “making it right” when it comes to rape or murder. He obviously had violent intentions toward her from the first time they met. It’s not something that just happened. Shit was premeditated, repeated, and happened over a period of time. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced his stupid rocks should have been dropped in the bottom of a lake.

Please do not tell me he is going to be redeemed and will become a fucking hero later on or something.

on a scale from one to even, i can't

I don’t know why this is happening.


Oh my god.


Dante claims he was being controlled when he raped her.

animation of a person having a freakout and knocking a computer off the desk


Oh, and Gillian claims there was a “violation of [Dante’s] confidentiality” when Aleksei came in and that it’s her fault. IT’S HER FAULT BECAUSE SHE TOLD SOMEONE HE RAPED HER.




She has ZERO fault in this. NONE. Absolutely NONE. What confidentiality does this motherfucker have about the rape he committed against her? What fucking provider-patient privilege does someone have when a violent act takes place against the provider? I’m no expert, but it seems like common fucking sense that Dante shattered that privilege all on his own.

gollum yelling

We’re 92% of the way through this book. Thank god. My heart can’t take this.

Remember that thing where just when the book tries to kill me with a rage heart attack, it takes a swift turn into ridiculous and stupid?

road sign saying "hairpin turn 4000 feet ahead"

Grace, the other ghost, wanders in and instantly wants Dante’s ghost dick. This is also SUPER gross in its way, but I’m worn out from rage and all I can do is roll my eyes.

I’m so confused. Gillian is letting them have “Ghost peer therapy” all of a sudden despite the fact that Dante is an admitted rapist and Grace is enchanted with him or what the fuck ever. Every time I think Gillian could not possibly be a worse therapist, she proves me wrong. She has a paragraphs-long thought train about how he’s a narcissist and he’s looking at Grace “as if he’d devour her.”

THEN WHY DON’T YOU FUCKING STOP HIM?? Why are you letting him “make things right” at all? IS THIS REAL LIFE?

Grace asks to be released from the body she’s inhabiting and wants to stay with Dante.

i may vomit

Seriously though. Gillian is letting this woman stay with the man who raped her. She is as reprehensible a slimeball as Aleksei. This is not only unbelievably irresponsible, it’s fucking criminal. She even has the gall to admire Grace’s looks in her true form as a spirit and remarks on how she has nice tits what the fuck. Dante and Grace go off together, and Gillian talks to the owner of the mansion about letting Dante have group therapy sessions there.


A rapist hosting group therapy sessions. WHAT IS THIS SHIT

In a summarized phone conversation, which really ought to have been written out, Helmut gives Gillian a pass for the alleged breach of confidentiality because Dante fucking raped her. Good man, Helmut. At least you have some goddamn sense. After a paragraph of drivel about Dante and Grace needing a new therapist, the chapter limps to a close.


The theme in Key to Conflict was that the conflict was generated by Gillian doing absolutely ridiculously stupid shit and the vampires being foam-at-the-mouth sexist. The theme of this book seems to be a scene that’s halfway decent immediately followed by a scene that’s some heinous mix of ridiculous and infuriating. Oh boy, I sure can’t wait to read that third one. I’m going to have to start keeping chewable aspirin next to my desk when I review this shit.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 15

puff the magic dragon

Remember what I said last chapter about not having anything to snark because Aleksei and Tanis were well-behaved?

I should’ve known that wouldn’t last.

TW: lots of mentions of rape plus some absolutely reprehensible abusive behavior.

Gillian is upset and understandably furious about the horrifyingly creepy painting. Once again, I feel for her, and more and more I’m starting to understand her plight. But once again, the narrative treats this situation as if she just needs to come to terms with her feelings for Aleksei, not that he’s an abusive dickbag creeper. Because this is a romance novel, I know she’s going to stay with him, so I know I’m supposed to believe Anubis and Gaslighting Gremlin, not Gillian.


Aleksei comes in and tells her, “You need to stop being afraid, piccola,” to which she tells him to fuck off: “I don’t need some wiseass fossil from the Old World telling me what to think or feel.”

nuns from Sister Act saying hallelujah

GO GILLIAN. But then there’s this. If you’re drinking or eating anything right now, I recommend you set it aside.

The little twerp had just called him a fossil. And here he’d been prepared to be understanding and patient.

“Fossil?” he repeated. “Perhaps Tanis was correct about you needing better manners.”

21 Signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Wow, Aleksei, you’re so beleaguered by Gillian and her completely valid point. Why does she make you treat her like this? Maybe it would be a good idea to fucking SPANK HER AGAIN, amirite?

Oh, no, he wants to “kiss some sense into her” instead, because it’s not abusive if it’s sexual.

ewan mcgregor slamming down a paper in anger

They’re interrupted when Trocar barges in. Thank fuck for Trocar. My digestive system can’t handle any more of this.

Aleksei tells Trocar that he better protect Gillian when they go deal with Dante. Gillian notes that she hasn’t told Aleksei about Dante’s “sexual escapades


Was I Raped? | RAINN


…which might actually have been a good move considering that it would probably just add more fuel to Dickbag Rachlav’s abusive, stifling “protectiveness.”

Trocar replies, “Of course, with my last breath, I will protect her. Not that I have noticed she needs protecting, mind you.”

Now, Trocar is wrong because Gillian is utterly incompetent at everything, but I’m glad SOMEONE is pointing out that she doesn’t necessarily need teh menz to fucking babysit her all the fucking time. I actually kind of like Trocar despite his Darky McDarkerson persona. He’s the least patronizing man in Gillian’s immediate circle (that is a low fucking bar, granted). Why doesn’t Gillian end up with him instead?

Because this is romance and Gillian is Meant for Aleksei. Of course.

Gillian marches out of the room and Aleksei says,

“I love her and want to understand her, but I find myself torn between wanting to cherish her such as she deserves or simply putting her across my knee for how she behaves.”

You disgusting twatwaffle. I hate you.

My goodwill for Trocar evaporates with his next remark: “She has been known to bring that type of confusion to males of many species, Vampire. It is a gift of hers, really.”

Oh yes, because being pissed off about how she’s being treated means she deserves more patronizing abuse.

god, I hate you

Gillian and Trocar are going to “a client’s home,” which is confusing considering I thought they were going to deal with Dante. Maybe they’re going to deposit him back in his castle? I dunno. Anyway, we bounce into Trocar’s head and he’s wondering who could have created a “dampening field,” which I assume was the thing that was keeping Aleksei from his vampire s00p3rp0w3rz. This is an interesting thought that demonstrates Trocar’s knowledge of and interest in magic, though I do wonder why the hell Dracula doesn’t immediately spring to mind as the culprit.

Apparently they are indeed bringing Dante back to the castle he was haunting because “If we disassociate a spirit from their haunt willingly, it’s the same as murder.” Uh…why? Of course we’re not told. There’s a paragraph that mentions debates about whether a ghost can legally be considered a living being, which would be mildly interesting if it actually constituted a reason for why disassociation would be equivalent to murder. Especially since Dante proved he’s not bound to the castle because he followed Gillian around to rape her while she sleeps.

Trocar wants to destroy Dante, but Gillian thinks “the Ghost needed further therapy and a chance to get past his crime.” Okay…fine. If her professional opinion is that Dante’s sexually abusive behavior can be stopped with therapy, that’s fine. But if that’s so, she should be the last person in the universe to continue that therapy. He. Raped. Her. If that is not a fucking conflict of interest, I don’t know what the hell is.

Trocar and Gillian do a ritual to un-bind Dante from the stones, and in the middle we’re treated to some explanation of their professional and personal relationship, something that would’ve been appropriate in the last book. Better yet….

show don't tell

Gillian tells Trocar not to kill or castrate Dante and they finish the ritual. Then, in the book’s words, “everything went to hell.”

And immediately in the next paragraph–no section or chapter break, nothing–we’re in Pavel’s head. We’re reminded of how gorgeous he is. He wants to learn to learn how to use the computer, because why not interrupt the beginning of a tense scene with something as mundane as a computer lesson?

well why the fuck not

Kimber is Pavel’s “lady love,” which I either forgot or didn’t know, but I should have guessed considering no one is allowed to stay single in this universe. While Pavel is getting his lesson, he mentions he’s glad Gillian is getting rid of Dante because he “molested” her


Oh, I see. The purpose of this scene is to incite Aleksei’s righteous anger over the loss of His Woman’s virtue or some shit. He gets taller and more gorgeous, which is apparently meant to indicate that he’s leveled up to his full powers. I’m sure this means he’s going to storm in and save the day.

screen capture of Donald Trump

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

Osiris calls him on the brain phone and shows him how to use his new powers…


He is a dragon. He is a motherfucking vampire DRAGON.

puff the magic dragon

Thank god for the semi-regular bouncing between rage-inducing paternalism and patently ridiculous shit. It plays havoc on my bipolar brain, but at least I’m not forced to sustain bile-producing rage.

Dracula is the next person to call him on the brain phone, and he’s able to sever his link to Dracula (who you might remember is his vampire sire). He’s a Badassy Badass, yo. As I suspected, this scene is solely to let Puff the Magic Vampire swing his giant dick. He lands at the castle and the owner is just like, “Oh hey what up.” Then they hear a scream and Aleksei “blurred with speed” (blur is not a verb goddammit) up to her.

But Gillian and Trocar apparently aren’t actually in any danger because there’s just some ridiculous comedy of errors going on. Apparently Gillian left Grace, the other ghost, in the bag with Dante, and Trocar’s spell released her too. Trocar is yelling at her for the boneheaded move, QUITE REASONABLY I feel, and they’re arguing about whose fault it is.


Aleksei wants to know what’s going on and threatens Gillian yet again. He’s mad at her for not telling him Dante raped her because “You are supposed to share your feelings with me. Not just your body.

rage flame

No. NO NO NO. She is under no fucking obligation to tell you SHIT, you absolute slimeball. She says she didn’t know how he would react, and I bet she was afraid he’d be pissed because he is twice her fucking size and he has been repeatedly violent with her. She’s afraid of him! Jesus fucking Christ THIS IS A ROMANCE NOVEL.

I really do not understand why these situations are set up this way and why Gryphon keeps making Aleksei behave in such reprehensible ways. Is it because she wants Gillian to assert her independence? Are there not a million better ways to do that that DO NOT make the male romantic lead into a terrible person?

Oh my god. Now apparently it’s a violation of confidentiality if she tells him Dante raped her.

bert from the Muppets saying are you fucking kidding me

Let me remind you that Gryphon is apparently a therapist herself. If she thinks a therapist is violating confidentiality by telling someone a client raped her, this is something SERIOUSLY wrong. And now she’s insisting that Dante didn’t hurt her!!

I need to hit something.

Aleksei manipulates the situation by saying he loves her. Die. DIE MOTHERFUCKER. She’s startled as fuck because being pissed at someone for not revealing their rape is the absolute worst fucking moment to say “love” for the first time. Trocar basically shoves her out the door with him and oh my god if my blood pressure gets any higher my heart might give out.

End chapter. Thank god.


At 75% of the way through the book, I suppose we were long overdue for some unforgivable vampire behavior. It sure didn’t fucking take long after the vampires rolled back into the picture, did it?

Christ, these books were written like they took a stock romance novel template and crammed as much horse shit in as possible, then laced it with poison, and reading it is like smearing it on your face and up your nose. Well, gotta have a scene where the hero blows up because he has to save the heroine, so better have him swoop in as a dragon, except he didn’t really need to, and better have him confess his love for her except in the worst moment and the most manipulative way possible. It’s full of superlatives, but all the wrong ones.

that is one big pile of shit

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 starts with what seems to be a resolution (of the legislative kind) regarding vampire behavior drafted by Osiris, basically saying that vampires pledge not to kill anyone when feeding and that all beings are created equal, etc. It draws from the Declaration of Independence, because apparently that’s the only legal/constitutional statement worth making, despite the fact that NONE of the vampire lineages are American. Oh, also, it’s called the “Human Declaration of Independence” rather than American, because apparently humans are all American. Is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks we Americans are egocentric maniacs?

the world according to americans

The document actually reads like an official document, without any “holy gawd” or “fuckadoodledoo,” even. I’m impressed. I’ve no idea why this document is significant or why Osiris drew it up, however.

Gillian and Aleksei are reviewing the document together and she remarks that Osiris is “older than the gods themselves.” Um…did she forget that Osiris is the name of an Egyptian god and therefore ostensibly he’s regarded as a god? I feel like there’s a lot of these boneheaded comparisons in these books.

They’re extremely turned on by each other and Aleksei develops a troubling condition in which his “groin [is] tight and heavy.” I’m really surprised she didn’t say “corpuscles engorged his erectile tissue” or something. She wanders away and Tanis comes in looking disheveled and only wearing one shoe. (???) Apparently Jenna has been banging his brains out. To my utter shock, neither Rachlav makes any dickbag remarks about needing to teach their women lessons or ANYTHING. It’s like they’ve been replaced by pod people. What am I going to snark now?

woman making a disappointed face

But, yanno, they’re still calling her by the obnoxious diminutive pet names, so there’s that.

Gillian is debating what to do about Dante the rapist ghost, who, you might remember, is trapped in some stones in a way that’s still not quite clear to me. She says she “can’t keep him locked up forever,” to which I wholeheartedly disagree. He repeatedly raped you and manipulated the shit out of you. He is clearly, unrepentantly bad. If he were human, maybe I’d feel differently, which makes me conflicted, but then again he is obviously a fucking psychopath, and you can’t fix psychopaths.

They also have to deal with Grace, the ghost who helped kidnap Tanis (or something? Her role was unclear). Tanis argues that they can’t let her go because she was a traitor and she’ll go back to Dracula if they do. Which is a good point, but what the fuck with the double standard? Release the rapist whose affiliations are completely unknown (he might well be working for Dracula too), but keep the ghost who was obviously–at least in my mind–manipulated through her infatuation with Tanis locked up?

does not compute

Gillian calls Team Shit for Brains in to deal with Dante–why she needs all of them, I dunno–and then flits out of the room again. Aleksei and Tanis have brother talk about Gillian still being a “spitfire,” and STILL no paternalistic bullshit. Could it be that someone told Gryphon to knock that shit off, and she actually listened? COULD IT?

This is a very talky scene with a lot of short conversations, which I wouldn’t hate if they actually moved the plot forward. Well.

Dr. Evil making air quotes around the word

In a phone conversation, Helmut expresses concern that Osiris’s declaration could lead to open war if someone violates it, which could be messy. It’s a good point but…isn’t there already a war? Like, right now? The whole Dracula thing? O…kay. Gillian says she knows, dammit, because she’s a soldier. Then there’s this:

“You are a healer. Do not forget that part of yourself.”

That got her attention. “Healing what? What exactly have I done? Helped a Werewolf with a mild neurosis? A Vampire or two with fangxiety? Oh, and let’s not forget the Ghosts. Let me see, the last two Ghosts wound up with one molesting me and one being a spy for the enemy. Yeah, I’m doing just great with that healing thing.” Now she sounded bitter and her agitation was enough to get Aleksei’s attention from downstairs.

“You are an angel, piccola. You have helped me more than you will ever know.”

Jesus and angels

Come on, Aleksei. The one time Gillian has a flash of self-recognition and you have to bend over to lick her ass with bullshit praise. She is the worst therapist, seriously. If she’s having a crisis of confidence, she ought to have one.

Oh, let’s also not forget fangxiety.

gross clint eastwood

Nothing will do but Helmut join Aleksei in licking Gillian’s ass. Since she’s demonstrated nothing but complete incompetence thus far, the narrative has to work extra hard to insist that she’s the most amazing sentient being to ever walk the planet.

Gillian expresses concern that she can’t be a good soldier and a good therapist at the same time, which I’ve been saying from the absolute fucking beginning, but Helmut basically says “get over it, you’re fine, get back to work.” That’s the end of that brief moment of insight.

Apparently she’s still actively working as a therapist despite this whole war thing, and she wants to start a “Ghost Group for Shattered Spirits.” I’ve always thought therapy for paranormal beings was an interesting premise, but in execution I can’t think of it as anything more than fucking stupid. This one in particular is dumb, because it’s been established (as much as anything is established in these books) that ghosts are supposed to be bound to the places they haunt. This is even mentioned on the next page. But whatever, gotta stick something clever in there to show Gillian doing her job.


Gillian mentions needing Trocar to release the spell he used to bind Dante to the stones, and Helmut says, “Be careful, Gillian. He is a Grael.” Motherfucker, you’ve been traveling with him for however long and you’re just now cautioning her? Also, what the hell does that even mean? Why the caution? Who knows.

She’s apparently setting up an office in the guest house she first met Aleksei in at the beginning of the first book. I can only assume this signals another shift away from Dracula toward more boring random therapy sessions.

Scar from the Lion King saying

Kimber reports in and says Trocar’s coming and the head of the Russian sex trafficking/pedophile ring has been caught. Blah blah.

Oh god.



She thought briefly about another woman she’d heard of in America: a legendary zombie raiser from Saint Louis who kept company with another Master Vampire. Gill wondered if that woman ever had doubts about herself and her abilities. Somehow she didn’t think so.

Natalie Portman laughing

Louis CK and Robin Williams laughing

George Takei laughing

hyena laughing

Oh, Gryphon, you are priceless. ❤

Also I have news for you: Anita doesn’t question her actions because she is a fucking psychopath.

Now we’re at mirror gazing and back to patronizing remarks from Aleksei. Gillian is still 30 for now, but she still fills out her uniform “admirably.” Wtf? Now, I’m turning 31 in a couple of months (for real, as I haven’t skipped three years of birthdays like Gillian apparently has), and I don’t think I’d say I still look good for 31 or whatever. I’m 31, not 75. It’s not as though being on the “back side of thirty” is over the hill, and she’s still somehow managing to strap her sagging bits into a pleasing form.

Apparently she doesn’t see what Aleksei sees in her, despite the narrative telling us how gorgeous she is, repeatedly and often. Hey Gillian, I have a book for you.

cover of a book called Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty

Aleksei pops in on the brain phone and says, “Perhaps it is your short temper that intrigues me and your lovely petite body which I desire pressed against me, piccola.” Ah yes, we’re back to this shit again. “Sure, honey, I love that you’re small enough that I can physically control you and you have no ability to regulate your own emotions so I can control that too.”

We’re told again that she’s commitment-phobic and she worries that she’ll get into this relationship and discover she doesn’t actually want this, to which Aleksei responds, “You are thinking too much again, bellisima. We will get through this together but you will not run from it.

a woman looking dismayed

warning warning danger will robinson

21 Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

This is single-handedly the creepiest statement ever made in these books. Possibly even the creepiest thing that’s ever happened in these books, even worse than the spanking. In what way is this not a threat? How am I supposed to read this?


She wanders out into the hallway and finds a painting of herself in the dress she wore in the first book. Here is the description.

What pissed her off was that the image was lying on the bed in the master suite she’d just vacated. The eyes were liquid and filled with need, legs bare of hosiery or shoes, skirt almost indecently draped over her thighs. The painting was of her, of a woman waiting for her lover and knowing beyond doubt that he would come.

I retract my previous statement! THIS is the single creepiest thing that’s happened in these books. IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FLATTERING?

Anubis, who’s filling in for Gaslighting Gremlin, shows up and is like, “Oh yeah, that Aleksei’s a pretty good painter huh?” He tells her, “Little sister, you are not angry about the painting, you are angry about your insecurity in your feelings for Aleksei.” And also, “You look like a woman in love, Gillian. That is what bothers you. That is obvious to everyone but yourself.





dexter making a disgusted face

jim carrey trying not to puke

No no cat gif

a man throwing papers into the air to show he's done with this shit

looks like it's fuck this shit o'clock

End chapter.


My reactions to this chapter ranged from eye rolling to giggling to horrified to shaking my fists at my screen and making the people next to me in the coffee shop give me strange looks. Maybe it’s just because we haven’t had a gratuitously awful statement in a while and my numbness to it has worn off, but what the actual fuck? He painted her without her knowledge in the old-ass vampire version of a sneaky sex photo without her consent, obviously before they were even together, and then had the fucking gall to hang it in his house where he knew she’d see it? That is fucking awful! And then when she gets mad about it, fucking Anubis rolls in to laugh at her and tell her why she’s really mad, like she doesn’t actually have a right to be horrified and livid by such invasive behavior. I can’t. I can’t even.

woman flipping the camera off enthusiastically



But of course you’re not going to.

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

Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs dancing

I did another chapter because the last one was so short.

Fair warning: this is an especially image-heavy post for those on slower connections. It’s also especially NSFW because sex.

Team Shit for Brains–or at least Gillian, Jenna, and Pavel, because who the fuck knows where everyone else went–arrive back at Rachlav Central. Everyone is super happy to see Gillian, god knows why, and Jenna lets out “what could only be described as a fangirl ‘squee’” at seeing Tanis.

Now, I feel the need to mention that Jenna and Tanis have never met. I went back and looked just now. Jenna surfaces in the last 1% of the previous book, well after Tanis has been rescued. I don’t even recall how they first came in contact via email. I’m not one to knock online romances, given that my four-year relationship began online, but when has Jenna even had time to pursue this romance? They’ve run hither and thither across Western Europe for god knows how long doing completely random shit.

God, whatever.

Aleksei vampires over to Gillian, wearing all black, cape included, because of course he is. And… “What he did was take her breath away.” Jesus Christ, this is the kind of nonsensical phrasing I’d expect from my freshman-level college writing students. I don’t even understand why you would write something like that. He took her breath away. THERE.

a paper that's been marked with red pen and text saying
This is what this book’s editor should have done, but apparently they called in sick for the duration of the editing process.

So Aleksei kisses her and

Gillian forgot herself and was soon where she’d wanted to be since she’d met him over two years before, wrapped around him like a coat.

  1. TWO YEARS? What the actual fuck? The narrative gives the impression that it’s been maybe a few months since Gillian rolled into Rachlav Central. At some point toward the end of the first book, it’s mentioned that it’s been six months, and I didn’t buy that either. Now we’re supposed to believe it’s been a year and a half since they went to rescue Tanis? Did Gillian and the rest of Western Europe slip into its own pocket of the space-time continuum?
  2. This is the only thing that comes to mind when I read “wrapped around him like a coat.”

Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs dancing

Aleksei carts her off into the woods so they can fuck. I’m already trembling in anticipation of what’s sure to be a superb sex scene. He carries her up to a “glade” in the mountains, which reeks of that scene from Twilight where Edward and Bella lay stiffly next to each other and stare for hours. I can only hope this will be more titillating.

While undressing her, Aleksei finds her surgical scars and is understandably concerned because “in her unique way of leaving out the important parts of a story, she hadn’t told him how close she’d come to death.” I really have to say that that is the trait I hate the most in her. She must be a compulsive, pathological liar. Half the time there’s absolutely no reason for her to not tell the whole story, and the other half there’s every reason for her to tell the truth because it affects other people: to wit, the fact that she’s on Dracula’s shit list, which she neglected to tell half of Team Shit for Brains.

Anyway, sex proceeds apace, and it’s pretty standard PNR fare. Not bad, not awesome.

Especially NSFW from here on.

He starts eating her out and she tells him to stop because she “owe[s] [him] one.” Can we put a moratorium on treating sexual acts like they’re debates about who’s buying dinner? This crawled out of the same bubbling cesspit as the rest of the gender politics in this book. For one, it implies (well, more than implies) that the relationship is built on debt, where the man demeans himself to give the woman pleasure, therefore the woman owes him something in return. Two, it takes away agency from both of them by prescribing some arbitrary set of rules for behavior. Like, what if he doesn’t care for blowjobs? What if she doesn’t? What if he just wants to eat her pussy and she just wants her pussy to be eaten?

goat wagging its tongue

Thankfully he says, “There is no scorecard.” I give the narrative props for this, but given his long-ass track record of hideous misogyny, it’s spitting on a wildfire.

This happens for a while…

Frodo sticking his finger in a ring

…then plundering tongues…

another goat flapping its tongue

…then stupid Italian endearments. In this scene alone we have carissma, bellisima, and piccola guerriera, which, as you may remember, Tanis called her first. Awkward. She gets on top and gets him into her “silken sheath,” which sounds like something you’d buy with your $40 katana you got from that store in the mall when you were sixteen. We also have “silken channel” and “silken place, past the tight bands of her canal,” both of which remind me more of industrial architecture than sex. But she does say g-spot, so kudos there.

But then comes this.

He felt his [body] empty into hers in hot jets.

willy wonka scene with cream spilling over everyone

The only hot jets in my life are the ones at the gym’s hot tub, and that is not very appealing.

but wait there's more

This takes the cake.

He waited until the last shudders ran through him, the last of his seed being pulled into her with her own sucking caress.

Tim Gunn shuddering

Okay, so if you know a little about how orgasms work for those of us with factory-installed vaginas, this is not inaccurate. It is, however, the single grossest way I can think to describe that bodily function. I actually physically cringed.

So she wants to do it again but is hesitant to say so. He doesn’t have a problem with it and gets hard again but she says,

“My Gawd….How does an old guy like you do that?”

woman making an

Grumpy Cat saying


Also on the subject of the space-time continuum, Aleksei reminds her that he’s not old because he was only 35 when he was turned into a vampire. Okay, one, 35 actually was kind of old pre-modern medicine, especially 400 years ago. Two, he’s now 400! By anyone’s estimation, that’s old.

He thinks she’s also 35 and she corrects him to say she’s 30.

wrong try again

At the beginning of the book, she was 25-26, I forget which. If we’re to believe that space-time has warped repeatedly and it’s been two years since then, she’s now 27-28. That is not 30. Again, where the fuck is her editor? If she can’t be trusted to keep track of this shit (PS, these books were published like five months apart, so it’s not like there was a huge gap where things might have been forgotten), someone should have.

She asks him if he prefers “generationally differential relationships,” which, aside from being super creepy, is pretty fucking obvious, and he replies, “I always prefer to have the upper hand where you are concerned.”

you don't say

 End of chapter.


In some ways, this wasn’t bad. Bog standard sex scene. For the briefest of moments I also don’t despise Aleksei’s entire being.


I just want to gawk for a moment over astoundingly bad this writing is. I’ve been writing most of my life, and I have written some absolute shit, as every writer has. But I honestly don’t think (and I’m not being egotistical here) that I have ever written anything as bad as some of the shit in this book. It’s not 100% noxious, but I have to stop several times in each chapter to squint or shudder or roll my eyes solely at the diction or cadence of the writing. Some of it I think is just a matter of trying to get words on the page and not caring how they come out, which is indicative of the laziest editor in the world. Some of it, though…you have to try to be that bad.



I’ll leave you with that.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 9

And we’re heading off into the wilds of Europe, and Gillian is on elven drugs because she didn’t want the morphine Jenna offered her. I can understand why she’d refuse if morphine makes her violently ill like it does me, but the book of course just says she refuses it. Apparently magic drugs are better. For whatever reason.

Claire gets a call from Scotland Yard, but she speaks French to them because apparently London’s police force is francophone. They want Claire, McNeill, and Team Shit-for-Brains to investigate some murders, since they just happen to be in town.



If you’ll recall, this gaggle of idiots left in an awful rush after going AMA from the hospital with Dr. Jack and Co. chasing after them. How does Scotland Yard know where they are, and maybe more importantly, why does Scotland Yard think, after being in the hospital, that this particular gaggle is in any shape to do investigating?

They’re injured and on the run, but work calls and they gotta get to it?

well why the fuck not

Trocar rightly points out that Gillian is fucked up. “The problem was, in his irritation, his voice came out silkier and sultrier than ever. Claire was suddenly staring into his eyes, completely mesmerized.” Apparently he’s “bespelled” her on accident with his elfly magnificence, which means she’s now in love with him.

i may vomit

Is it worth pointing out that a man “accidentally” causing a woman to fall in love with him by being irritated is kinda fucked up?

Yes. Yes it is.

Claire is, strange racial background aside, presumably supposed to be hip and interesting and competently badass. Of course, like every other female character who isn’t Gillian, she’s only allowed to be competent in short and occasional bursts, but that seems to be the intent, anyway. However, her competence is trumped by Trocar’s elfliness and sex appeal and she’s instantly in love? Why hasn’t this happened to Gillian or Jenna or Kimber? OR, YOU KNOW, THE GUYS? Does getting “Elfstruck” only apply when it’s heterosexual sexiness? Of course it does, because any non-hetero sex in PNR would be super icky.

I might find this less irritating if not for the generally fucked-up tone of these books regarding sex and gender, but let’s just say this is pretty par for the course.

PS, as soon as this happens, Claire is shoved to the background of the scene, and it becomes about McNeill’s discomfort with his elf heritage.

i just realized I don't care

I give zero fucks about this guy. In spite of being tossed into his head now and again, I really have no idea who he is, what motivates him, or why I should even want to get to know him better. I sure don’t know why the book is trying so hard to make a case for him.

McNeill gets them to shut up about his heritage after a couple of pages. As soon as everyone stops talking, Claire says, “I must have you, Trocar. I will die without your touch.”

a mustard container looks like it's vomiting

This shit is what passes for comedic relief in this book. The woman is “in love” against her will and nobody thinks this is the least bit creepy? I don’t know about you, but it reminds me uncomfortably of the rape scene in Mercy Thompson (big trigger warning; no actual quotes but some in-depth analysis of what happens) in which the rapist gives her a potion that makes her fall in love with him.

Maybe I need to stop here and hunt down a paper copy to throw against the wall so I don’t ruin my Kindle. I can smell a Claire-Trocar hookup coming a mile away.

Oh well, we know sex and sexual assault totally go hand-in-hand on this failboat world cruise anyway, don’t we?

Moving on.

We’re still in McNeill’s head for whatever reason. He’s driving and driving and driving.


He decides to pull over to use his “Global Positioning System” (who the fuck doesn’t know what GPS means these days?) and hears a “howl-bellow-roar” nearby. They have some inane conversation about what made the noise. It turns out to be a “Loup-Garou,” which is apparently not the same thing as a werewolf. It comes running after them, and Gillian is all excited because she figures out that the thing is actually a prehistoric relative of modern carnivores. Manbearpigasaur?



Claire is still out of her gourd, and she goes all squealing-scared about dying before she’s fucked Trocar. Fucking gross. The Manbearpigasaur is trying to attack the car (and failing, don’t ask me how), and Trocar puts Claire to sleep, because why not have something completely pointless going on to detract from the intended tension of the scene.

I just want to point out one thing here. It’s a small thing, but to me it’s pretty indicative of how utterly lame this book is. The narrative remarks about how fast the car is going (in kilometers specifically) and the Manbearpigasaur is keeping up. Gillian is looking at the speedometer, and she notes that it’s in kilometers, not miles (being a European car and all), but 60 kph is still pretty fast. Like, you JUST said how fast they were going in kilometers, and THEN had Gillian realize that the speedometer is in kilometers? This shows a complete inability to manage a fucking paragraph, which is really just a microcosm of the author’s complete inability to manage a book. It’s just one nonsensical, boring, ill-placed, ill-planned, unengaging piece of shit after another, like Hansel and Gretel, only instead of a house of candy, they come across a house made of half-rotted brussels sprouts, warm macaroni salad, tapioca pudding, and cold grits on a foundation of black licorice.

shit rainbow

PS, 60 kph is, according to Professor Google, just over 37 mph. Usain Bolt can run 27 mph. Greyhounds can run 43 and horses 55. 37 does not strike me as all that fast, for the Manbearpigasaur or the car.

The car, laden with all seven members of Team Shit-for-Brains, manages to outrun the moderately fast monster, and they run across “an old fortress of some kind” with 15-foot walls. And of course, they want to take shelter in it.

you are an unstoppable good idea machine

Yes, I’m sure this will turn out dandy, because an old, isolated fortress in BFE, France surely doesn’t reek of Stereotypical Vampire Dwelling.

Nobody answers when McNeill lays on the horn, so Trocar suggests they climb the 15-foot walls.

Now, I’ll let that sink in.

They intend to shelter in this fortress with high walls that are apparently not too high for humans and shifters to climb, but high enough that they expect them to deter the Manbearpigasaur.


don't make sense make dollars

Everyone gets over the wall, and Pavel shifts to his wolf form to confront the creature. I swear to Christ, if one of the only halfway decent characters in this series dies.

Okay, here’s another fun one. The creature rams Pavel’s chest at a dead run. The creature has been described as six feet at the shoulder and built like a brick shit house. Jenna noted earlier in the book that shifters aren’t much hardier than regular humans. I thought that was actually kind of a good idea. Except that Pavel should be incapacitated and very shortly dead from massive internal injuries of that were the case. Let me put this in perspective: I was at an aquarium the other day where they had a sea lion skeleton. Sea lions are big. This one had several broken ribs, and one of the volunteers explained to me that it had been rammed by an orca’s nose. (Yeah, there’s some badass critters in Puget Sound.) The term the necropsy used to describe the sea lion’s internal organs was “hamburgerized.”

But I’m sure Pavel’s fine.

Trocar jumps in to help Pavel Legolas-style, but they can’t subdue the Manbearpigasaur. McNeill thinks it’s a good idea to fire shots into the air to catch the attention of the inhabitants of the fortress, which has the unintended effect of drawing the Manbearpigasaur’s attention. It charges McNeill and seems about to flatten him when someone someone calls out “Charles!” It stops, of course, and Manbearpigasaur becomes Naked Man when some random woman comes running up to him. Apparently she’s Fey.

There’s a little discussion about how Manbearpigasaur is different from a shifter because his shifting ability is the result of a curse and not a virus. Meh, standard “different flavors of shifter” fare, though it reminds me of Jim Butcher an awful lot.

So Fey lady is Dahlia Chastel, and Charles is her husband. Dahlia brings Team Shit-for-brains inside. End chapter.

phoning it in

That’s how I feel about this book right now. Taken at face value, any one of this Heinz 57 series of plots could make an okay novella or something, if not a full-length novel. But Gryphon is now bouncing from one to the other with absolutely no connection between them other than the fact that they involve the same characters. When you were a kid, did you ever mix all the soda flavors in the fountain together? My older brother called it a Suicide, presumably because it tasted like death. That’s how this tastes. High fructose, heartburn-causing, tongue-coating death.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 8

Well, here we go. Jenna and Gillian are escaping from Dr. Jack’s hospital. Jenna gets Gillian outside, and they meet with McNeill and Claire. And apparently Helmut and Pavel, who has…

blue, blue eyes.

ugh please

There’s a nice little imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-asslicking moment for you. For those not familiar, Laurell K. Hamilton simply loves to repeat adjectives for no good reason. The only way this could be better/worse is if it was “drowning blue, blue eyes.”

Jenna tells the group Jack the Ripper is in the hospital. I don’t recall Gillian ever being forthright enough with McNeill and Claire or…any of them except Pavel to tell them about Jack, but nobody has any “whut??” reaction. I choose to believe they’re all rolling their eyes at how stupid that sounds, just like I did.

Anyway, McNeill chooses to handle the situation sensibly and loads everyone into the car. PS, McNeill moves “liquidly,” which makes me think he’s wandering around peeing his pants constantly. He asks Gillian where she wants to go, and she says…


Okay. Whatever. Gillian’s reasoning is that “He’s got informants and spies everywhere, even in immigration.” And she knows this somehow despite only having met Jack twice for a total of probably half an hour in two completely different places. Thanks for swooping in to plant important information through your mouthpiece protagonist, Talia Gryphon, despite the fact that she has no reason to know it.

oh thanks it's very helpful

When McNeill expresses incredulity, Gillian lays out all the information she kept from him for no good reason earlier. Better late than ever, I guess?

Jack comes running out of the hospital, and Jenna wants to shoot him. There’s some ridiculous scuffle in the car, but nothing comes of it.

McNeill sensibly asks why Gillian wants to go to France. She says there aren’t many vampires. Claire–you know, the one who grew up in France?–say she thought there were a lot, but Helmut says that’s “Hollywood myth in action.” How many French Hollywood vampires do you know of besides Lestat? Is she making another stupid Anita reference?

Again rather sensibly, McNeill is trying to make plans for what they need to do next and when they get to France, especially because, “I have no clue as to where we are going to locate a doctor if your alleged Vampire Army has spies stationed in major medical facilities.

This makes complete sense to me, which of course means Gillian thinks he’s an idiot for worrying about it. She says, “You haven’t done this before, have you?” Well no, you smug fuck, he’s a detective, not a S00p3r L33t Sp3c1al F0rc3s Marine Captain Therapist of the Stars. Apparently McNeill is going to be the scapegoat to make fun of for the rest of the book because he’s slightly uptight but mostly completely fucking reasonable.

Dear Gillian:

i said you were an asshat, not an asset

Pavel says he can smell vampires “waiting in ambush to attack the car.” Jenna, because she’s also a smug fuck, informs him that the word is “hijack… If you are going to hang with us, you should know the right terms.” I mention this solely because of the tragically stupid shit that follows. Pavel, who I actually like a fair bit as a character, is made out to be stupid enough to think Jenna is saying “hi” to Jack. Gillian reminds Jenna of the “language barrier.” Now, I work with a lot of international students. I would venture to say over half of the students I’ve taught at my current school grew up somewhere other than the US. But not once has any of them made a completely illogical mistake like this. Why make my poor buddy Pavel look like a complete idiot?

Well, that probably won’t get resolved, because now we’re jumping into McNeill’s head. He’s upset because Gillian told him she knows he’s part Fey and he’s really ashamed of the fact. He wants to be normal. Why?

Male Fey had a problem with Humans assuming they were all gay due to their incredible, almost feminine beauty. Brant was straight and a bit of a homophobe. It pissed him off to no end to have someone question his orientation.

This is apparently what passes for nuanced character development: equating femininity with homosexuality and insisting that while McNeill is holyshit amazeballs beautiful (like every single male in this book–are there no average-looking dudes?), he’s totally straight you guyz. Don’t worry about those attractive but yucky gays. You won’t find any here.

no homo

Something lands on the car hood, and they all freak out. McNeill stops the car. Don’t worry, it’s just Trocar.

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

He’s just popping in to heal Gillian, so she’s not injured and inconvenienced for the second half of the book. Because the other characters exist solely to smooth the way for the protagonist.

Trocar comes along with a couple of pages’ worth of awkward exposition about how loyal he is to Team Shit-for-Brains and how he caught up with Gillian in London when, last we knew, he was going to Finland. La la la la words words. Time, you are killing it.

ticking clock

I almost wish I had a print copy of this book so I could tell you how many pages are being wasted here. Jack is still after them, and we’ve halted everything to tell the reader about Trocar and have Trocar explain his extradimensional travel ability. This is stupifyingly boring and you should thank me for reading it so you don’t have to.

They finally (finally) leave for France, traveling by Channel Tunnel because it’s “probably the least obvious way for them to get into France.”

what, what?

They left in a car. Jack knew enough to have vampires in place to ambush them. But going through the only land route between the UK and France doesn’t seem obvious?

Oh Gillian.


Ah, okay, they’re going to drive all the way to Romania. From France. From the standpoint of someone whose country is about as big as Europe, I guess that’s not such a long way–it’s about the same distance from Minneapolis to Seattle, which I drove a few years ago. But it was hell on earth. By the way, there are seven adults in this European car: Gillian, Jenna, Pavel, Trocar, Helmut, Claire, and McNeill. Well, Gillian is tiny-dainty-petite-diminutive-little-delicate, so maybe it’s more like six and a half people. Regardless, that sounds like the worst road trip ever.

And so it is; Gryphon ostensibly tries to inject some humor into the situation by telling us how annoying everyone is. Jenna mentions she needs a “bio break.” Normally I would just say this is a characterizing detail telling us she’s a gamer, but given my general lack of confidence in and annoyance at Gryphon’s style, I’m just going to say this is Gryphon thinking she’s clever at using gamer-speak.

Trocar calls Aleksei, who wants to bring “the petite blonde” (notice how she’s never objectified like that unless it’s around the vampires?) back to Romania immediately, since she’s still injured. Amazing–can it be that Trocar the miracle maker actually didn’t just fix everything? Trocar, for some reason, says Gillian is fine where she is. …Okay. She’s injured and you’ve told us how useless she is at the moment, but…okay.

Jenna wanders off by herself to buy a magazine because she’s a complete fool, and predictably, she gets ambushed when a vampire sneaks up behind her.

Well, apparently Gillian’s penchant for going off by herself and getting into trouble rubbed off on her.

special kind of idiot

My god, the level of stupidity just keeps rising. For all your talk about being ambushed, you just chill at the gas station and grab a magazine? Yeah, remember how she and Gillian made fun of McNeill for not knowing how Speshul Forcez does things?

The vampire drinks her blood and vanishes. She has absolutely no reaction. Like, none. She just sets the magazine down and goes back to the car.

And then we’re told the “tall, darkly cloaked figure” wander over and sit down at one of the tables of a nearby cafe. Apparently nobody thinks it’s weird to see some dude dressed in a cloak and leather gloves chilling at a street cafe. They must be in France’s version of Seattle. He says, “Soon, cherie…we will discover whether or not you can truly help a monster like me.”


The waiter calls him “Monsieur Garnier.” Since Garnier is not the French analog for any of the vampires we’ve met so far, I’m led to believe Helmut’s statement that French vampires are Hollywood hype is bullshit.


End chapter.

This book had promise for at least five pages. I was okay with it. Alas, it went off the rails so quickly. I’m convinced Gryphon does not give two shits anymore. Is it that she can’t figure out what to do without Aleksei there to put his massive Sex Behemoth wang in her? Presumably, this book is supposed to show us Gillian at her finest, when she can operate without the vampires, but she’s just surrounded again by asslickers and people who smooth the way for her.

Not to mention, the writing got even stupider. Everyone writes a lot of shit that doesn’t end up in books. It could be that your scene has stalled and you’re writing through it. It could be that you were trying to do something with the scene and it just didn’t happen. But that shit is not supposed to end up in the bookI do not need a glimpse into the cesspit of your first draft brain, just like nobody needs a glimpse into mine.

This is part of what’s wrong with traditional publishing. You sign an author for a series and you abandon them to the mercy of maybe one editor who clearly does not give a shit. They don’t try to push the author to do better, they just shit out books that are hard little painful turds that make you regret eating popcorn. And then because they have a vague, neutral blurb from LKH and a mildly attractive cover, people buy them.

Bitter? Yep. But not just because this shit gets bought by thousands of people and mine does not. But because this shit gets bought by thousands of people. It’s hard as fuck to compete with when this is the standard of urban fantasy, and it’s what people consume.


louis ck shakes his head