Monday, February 4, 2013

Caress of Twilight--overview and chapter one

The difference between Anita Blake and Merry Gentry is night and day.

Don't get me wrong, kids. They both suck. They both are frustrating mashups of really shitty porn and an episode of Buffy. But the primary difference between Anita Blake and Merry is, Merry Gentry was never actually any good. The sex in Merry Gentry was there from the beginning. The first book is the same as the latest book.

Exactly the same. The only difference between Kiss of Shadows and Divine Misdemenors, the latest Merry book, is that the so-called "plot" has evolved a little bit, a couple plot points have been resolved, and the number of people in Merry's bed has expanded exponentially. Also, Merry Gentry and Anita Blake might both collect men like the crazy cat lady does kitties, but at least Merry Gentry's men aren't actually cats. 

But because you're not expecting anything good? The books are actually enjoyable. It's like when you pick up a Paladin of Shadows book. You are not exactly expecting respectful represenations of women. (...actually if you are sensative re: rape and women's issues and you pick up a John Ringo book you're pretty much doomed to downing scotch with a bleach chaser. It's just that he's probably going to be sitting there with you muttering "I'm sorry" over and over again that makes the whole thing kind of redeemable) So you know there will be painful sex scenes, bad descriptions, and "plot" that got attacked by the porn-moths when LKH left the thing out to dry. 

The first chapter opens with Merry in bed with two men.

We're not wasting any time with this one.

The men are Rhys and Nicca. FYI most of the Sidhe court nobles are Welsh and/or Celtic gods that LKH read about on wikipedia. Neil Gaiman she is not, folks. (...I could be reading American Gods. Or better, Anansi Boys. I need to stop overthinking this). Merry then describes her bed, the moonlight, the moonlight's effect on the bed (...moonlight bleaches things.) the ocean, how much she's missed her home, and how she's more famous than Elvis.

Yes, folks. LKH's main character is a fairy princess who is more famous than Elvis. We are not even pretending this isn't self insert porn. Also: Bondage Disney Princess, we meet again.

Rys is a white person. Nicca is brown. He's brown. Did you get it, yet people? He's Brown: 

Most of Nicca was shades of brown. His skin was the color of pale milk chocolate, and the hair that fell in a straight fall to his knees was a rich, dark true brown. Not brunette, but the color of fresh turned leaves that had lain a long, long time on the forest floor until when stirred they were a rich, moist brown, something you could plunge your hands into and come away wet and smelling of new life.
This is a prime example of the Overly Specific Romantic Descriptions we're going to be bombarded with. It's not enough that the character has red hair. No. It's red like rubies spun out into hair. Everything gets this super-uber-ducky cutesy wootsy treatment that would work for the magical folk if the entire fucking main cast were not magical folk. The fucking weather gets the melodrama spooned on. It goes way past bad writing, through annoying, and all the way back into "MY GOD ITS FULL OF STARS"

Also: I do not like LKH describing anything as wet. Ever.

And then we get a description of the uber-special magical wing tattoo Nicca has, which we can't see because the dude is sleeping on his back.

And then Doyle comes into the room.

Guys, I do have one tiny little confession to make. I could have cared less for shape shifting kitty cats but there is a reason I've spent four years working on a fairy urban fantasy thing of my very own. Suffice to say that this time around, most of the guys in the room are my type.

And the sex is still unsexy.

Anyhoo, Doyle is a big black man. Not black as in human brown, black as in pitch, tar, and outerspace. He can heal things with his tongue, and he has a braid that goes down to his fucking ankles, I shit you not. He's a warrior. With a convenient six feet of rope dangling from his scalp begging to be yanked on.

All I can hear is the costume designer from the Incredibles ranting about why capes are out. Specifically, the part where a dude gets sucked into the intake on a jet engine.

Doyle's other nickname is "Darkness", he served the batshit insane Unseelie queen as her guard for a thousand years, and because the Queen is batshit insane, he hasn't had sex the entire time. His two purposes in life are to keep Merry alive, and to get her pregnant. Folks, I do not understand how this man can walk. There are a bunch of other men here to try to get her pregnant, and whoever does it gets to be her future King and they'll be monogamous for all eternity and we're going to stop the ride right here.

Apparently the big crisis for the Faerie is infertility. Which is good, because they are immortal fuck machines. Seriously. That's all they do, care about, think about, talk about. That and sadistic power plays, but more often than not these involve sex. So if these immortal fuck machines could also reproduce effeciently, non-magical humanity would be utterly fucked. So apparently love matches that don't produce children are out, and a young faerie is to cat around until they either impregnante or become pregnant, depending on if they're tab A or slot B...and then they are to get married and fuck only each other for the rest of their long, long, long, long lives.

This is not how you manage an infertility crisis.

The way you manage an infertility crisis is, once someone is proven to be fertile you have them screw as many people as possible. The men should be making the beast with two backs with a different chick every night, the women should have their cycles timed down to the second, and there should be either massive orgies or prolonged uses of turkey basters. Or IVF, which saves us all from the porny, messy part. But the people with functioning ova and testies should be doing everything they can to make absolutely sure their genes get passed around to as many people as much as they possibly can.

I have the same issue with Save the Pearls, a deplorable book that fails to do anything other than suck. If the problem is your species is dying out, then the fertile members of it cannot afford monogamy. You cannot even afford to let them limit themselves to two kids, because that just replenishes the population, it doesn't help it actually grow. You can apologize to each other and buy each other flowers after the species-saving orgies. Or the IVF treatments, which would save everybody a lot of hassle.

Back to book.

Doyle spends a few minutes sex-talking to Merry about how he could kill all three of them right then. The other two men react by pulling guns out. Merry does not do the obvious Mae West imitation involving pockets, and instead tells them to knock it off.

They do not. In fact, the "I'm a bigger badass than you" shit goes on for several more pages, until Doyle points out that somebody has tested Merry's magical wards around the place and has probably roasted its poor little hand. Then we get exposition about how Merry's cousin Cel wants to kill her, but he's being punished for his last attempt (the punishment is being coated in the Magical Potion of Sex until his eyes melt, and then being locked away from every woman ever for six months.) and he won't try to kill her until he's done being sexually deprived. They have six months to get her pregnant and secure her safety and the throne.

And they are sitting around talking.

Logic. We do not have it here.

Finally Merry points out that Doyle only found the handprint because he saw the unidentified Fairy Object test the wards himself. Doyle implies strongly that somebody might be trying to wipe out Cel, Merry and the Queen of Crazy herself, because why the fuck not? Merry insists that anybody trying to kill her will just be her cousin. Everybody kind of stands around looking at the window while Merry has a cool-sounding inner monologue, and the chapter ends.

Next chapter: Merry goes to work. And you know what? Much as I hate Sookie Stackhouse (I HATE Sookie. Everybody else in Bon Temps is cool but I have a passionate utter loathing for Sookie) at least she had a real job.


  1. ...her description of Nicca...she's talking about ROTTING leaves, wtf.

    Ugh, the hair bugs me so much. They are GUARDS. Sure, their fights might well be more magical than physical, but who is to say you couldn't magically turn someone's stupidly long hair against them?

    Oooh, what do you hate about Sookie? I've never read that series, but I know of it.

    1. Oh, God. Buckle in.

      I think most of it is her "voice". She's very self righteous and pure, VERY judgemental. TruBlood toned her down a lot for the first season, but Second Season Sookie is basically what she is through the entire series. The events and the other characters of the series are WONDERFUL but it's like every time Sookie opens her mouth situations get worse and everything becomes All. About. Her.

      Basically, Sookie Stackhouse is a slightly toned down post-Narcissus Anita, sans the violent gun-pointing bit.

      Also, the Revolving Door of Boyfriends. Bill, Eric and Alcide have all taken turns, sometimes one right after the other, and given the way the last book ended its looking like Sam Merlotte might wind up getting thrown into the mix in the Search For Sookie's One True Love. It's kind of hard for me to buy a rant on betrayal when I know Sookie's going to drop the current boyfriend for one of her exes halfway through the next book.

      Admittedly the breakups are usually because Sookie got shot at by "Insert Boyfriend Here's" enemies, but it feels like Sookie just hovers in this state of emotional adolescence because she neither drops Dangerous Asshole nor chooses to ride out the bad part of the relationship. She continues to make the same mistakes in each romantic relationship, often with the same guy. I like characters with multiple bed partners when the character is learning from the relationships. When they're not, all they're doing is bedhopping, and (if you can pardon a little possibly -ist language on my part) if I wanted to know the ins and out of unhealthy white trash relationships I'd go talk to my neighbors/co-workers/blood relatives (I technically would count as white trash, trailer park and all, but I don't have a relationship rollarcoaster to draw on)

      It makes me yearn for Laurie R. King's Mary Russel books. Sure, she was self-righteous, and had a lot of the same tendancies, but she's a 1920s feminist married to Sherlock Holmes. There is a lot of romance, but there is more mystery solving, and the mystery never gets shelved in favor of "Gee, who am I going to fuck tonight?" level romance. Also: Stable realtionship FTW. You CAN have romance without having near-constant breakups for fuel.

    2. "...her description of Nicca...she's talking about ROTTING leaves, wtf."

      Yeah, that's kinda... Bad. Still, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

      I think the Starbucks Skin Tone descriptions are boring and lazy, but it's hard to get away from them without treading into dangerous territories. I mean, I've seen dark skin-tones that were claylike or earth-like, but trying to describe them as such treads dangerously close to old tropes about 'dirty' dark-skinned people. Even if you personally like those earth-shades and describe them favourably, the cultural baggage can drown out what you try to say.

      I'm working on an SF story right now where the protagonist comes from a world that was settled predominantly by western and northern Europeans, and the sun has a slightly lower UV-output than ours. There were blacks in the original population, but that skin-tone got bred out of the population fairly quickly due to health pressures. They also don't have chocolate, tea, or coffee, because they had severe terraforming problems early on and those plantstocks were lost. The protag doesn't have a vocabulary to describe black people, or really anyone darker than 'heavily tanned white' or 'light-skinned hispanic'. She does know brewed chicory, and she does know suede, and I don't know how well either of those will work as descriptors. I'm going to cheat a bit by having the first dark-skinned person she encounters be an attractive (To her) and fairly cheerful male, and that positive reaction will effect her description. Hopefully it works, but I can sort of understand LKH's problems here in searching for something other than 'skin the colour of black coffee'.

      Still, choosing rotting materials wasn't the best way to go.

  2. Soooo... The bodyguard walks into the room, gets into an argument with the person he's supposed to be protecting, lectures and threatens her and her boyfriends, and then eventually gets around to mentioning that 'Oh yeah, we had some sort of security incident or something last night'?

    Yeah, this series is off to a fine start.

    As for the long-hair on guys thing - Celtic warriors, vikings, samurai, bikers, and other cultures have never had problems with it. Even in ages when practically all fighting was at close ranges or melee. Modern soldiers are clean shaven and keep their hair short because it has to fit under protective gear like gas masks.

    So Nicca is brown - But not too brown. Pale milk chocolate brown. The tasty light-coloured brown. And he has straight hair that's about as dark as mine. He could probably pass the paper-bag test.

    And Dorkness Doyle is black. But not like 'Black'-black, certainly not African. No, he's black like tar. Not-human black.

    Got it, LKH. You are edgy and cool and your author-insert bangs dark-skinned guys as long as they're not actually African.