If you're new to either Exiles or the blog, or both, I've made the first part of the first book (the Silver Bullet part of Silver Bullet, Black Hounds) free on Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble, and basically everywhere except Amazon, because Amazon is uncooperative and behaving badly ATM.
So yeah. Get caught up, kids. It's gonna be a great ride.
Meanwhile, back at the (bunny) ranch....
Doyle is writhing on the ground screaming, and covered in blood. He's randomly shape-shifting into a dog. Because LKH needed something to happen and actual plot is too damn hard.
It amazes me how utterly plotless LKH's writing is. I mean, I get not having the entire thing written out. One of the issues I had with ISIB was realizing I needed to put about 15K more words into the middle to get the ending to work, and that it didn't matter what plot elements needed to go there (I mean, it did, but there wasn't any one thing sticking out) as long as the energy at the end didn't get diluted. I spent two days brainstorming, came up with a couple things that fit the theme (one of which was REALLY cool) and filled it in. But there is nothing in this book. There's no theme. There's no plot. There's no consequences. Right when we start really considering one of the new plot elements--the boys' "godhead", the magic cup, Sage's transformation, Merry's possession by goddess--something new comes up. There's a hissy fit, or a sex scene, or yet another new power is introduced, and everything else is forgotten.
LKH describes the pool of blood around Doyle--because shape-shifting is violent and scary--as "spreading wetness"
For a woman guilty of continual thesaurus abuse, she sure uses the same damn words a lot.
Doyle then randomly shape-shifts into a horse. Because fuck if I know.
Then we take a break so that we can let Merry rub against Frost's penis. Because that's more important than actually stringing events into a logical and interesting narrative.
Doyle then turns into a random eagle, which is new because he's never been an eagle before. Apparently the horse and dog are two forms he locked away in the Nameless, but the eagle came straight out of the Magic Vag.
Oh, and he's a man-sized eagle with an eight foot wingspan. This bedroom is really fucking small because he can't open his wings. Guys, my bedroom is bigger than eight feet wide and my bedroom is a tiny fucking shoebox. Also, you know what else has an eight foot wingspan? The first few birds on this list. Most of them have longer wingspans. One of the notable ones is the Golden Eagle. Which is not man-sized. The biggest wing-span is an albatross's eleven footer, and that isn't man-sized either.So Eagle!Doyle had better never fly, ever, or LKH's prized biology degree should be returned for a refund.
Doyle changes back into a man, completely naked. But his hair is still ankle length and is still braided.
He turned himself inside out shape-shifting, but LKH wants us to know his braid remains undisturbed.
It is so nice to focus on these meaningless fucking details when we're halfway through the book AND WE STILL HAVE NO PLOT.
Doyle collapses. Frost picks this moment to physically restrain Merry from going to him because he's jealous.
WHY CAN'T THESE PEOPLE BE HAPPY? Why do they have to CONSTANTLY bicker and fight and bitch and whatever about who gets to sleep with whom? The only person in this group who shows any capacity whatsoever for polyamoury is Merry, and that's iffy. The rest of these guys are ripping each other to shreds every time she turns around. And while it's nice to be fought over, and that's probably the fantasy driving Frost's transformation into an Asher clone, it makes NO SENSE in the context of this series, these characters, and this competition.
And then this gets really, really disgusting.
See, it's not good to have jealousy issues, but it is normal. Lots of people have them. When you have them, you communicate them to your partner and come to some kind of agreement in which you deal with your issues, they deal with theirs, and the relationship continues apace.One way to manage jealousy issues is open, honest communication in a closed relationship. You're not comfortable sharing, but as long as your partner is cool with sticking to you and only you, that's not an issue. The flip side of that is respecting your partner enough to just end the fucking relationship when it's obvious neither of you can make it work.
Merry does not do this.
First she calls Frost on his jealousy. That's not the wrong part. The wrong part is that instead of saying "Let's talk about it" she blames Frost for creating the circumstances that have lead to his jealousy.
I shook my head. “Frost, it is not Doyle being in my bed that’s made me pull back from you. It’s you who’s made me pull back.”
Look, up until this point the Merry/Frost situation is just two people in a relationship that neither party can accommodate. Frost can't share, Merry can't be monogamous, and the stress of it is tearing the relationship apart. But when you're talking about something irrational, like jealousy, it's nobody's fault. It becomes an issue when the person with issues uses said issues to justify something cruel--picking fights, getting violent--but an honest expression, a sort of "Hey, I've got this big issue and I'd like your help working on it" which is more or less what Frost is doing here, is good. It's in the open. Now they can work on it.
But then Merry turns it around so that it is ALL Frost's fault. If he had been more perfect, Merry wouldn't have gone to other men and he'd be fine. Which is patient bullshit because Merry is sleeping with all her men and will have to continue to do so.
Frost shuts down on her. So she hits him. In the chest, because she can't reach his face, but it's physical violence in a relationship where she holds all the power. He cannot respond to her or defend himself because the other men will kill him. He can't leave because he will never have another relationship--Queen Anadais's celebacy rule--and he can't express himself honestly because he gets victim-blamed and bitch-slapped.
Merry tells Frost he needs to stop pouting. SHE JUST HIT HIM. She then drags the other men into the arguement and gets them to agree with her. This is basically the cultervention all over again and it's ugly. It's being played as a woman standing up for herself and her body, but the dynamic is utterly wrong. Merry is not standing up for herself. She's abusing Frost verbally and physically because he just told her something she doesn't want to hear.
“That’s not true. I love you when you are yourself, but you have to stop letting everything hurt your feelings. You have to stop pouting.” I stepped back enough so I could look up into his face without straining my neck. “I spend so much energy worrying how you’re going to take something. I don’t have the energy to spare to tiptoe around your feelings, Frost.”
These are the lines an abuser would use. These are lines that my abusers have used on me. Stop being so sensative is abuse-speak. It's like punching a victim in the groin and asking them why they can't handle pain.
The only way Merry could say this and not be full of shit is if Frost had the right to leave. She doesn't want to tiptoe around his feelings, he doesn't want to share, he should get to end the relationship and find someone else. But he can't. If he leaves the relationship, he goes back to Anadais. He goes from a moderate abuser to a horrible one who will probably punish him for sleeping with Merry, for failing to protect Merry, and for kicks because she feels like it. Frost has no support system outside of Merry and the fairy mound. He has no recourse, he has nowhere he can go. Merry could kill him if she wanted to and there'd be no consequence for her. He cannot leave.
And the thing is, he starts to. Maybe he's just leaving the room, but a withdrawal right now, with Merry belittling his feelings, creates the kind of void that can end abusive relationships. An abusive relationship is an excercise in mind-control, and the best moments to break out are when the abuser takes things just a little too far.
So having hit him with the stick, it's time for the carrot.
“She doesn’t want you to leave,” Rhys said. “She loves you. She loves you more than she loves me.” He didn’t sound hurt; it was more a statement of fact. Since it was the truth, I didn’t try to argue. “But every time you pull the cold, arrogant act, Merry pulls away . When you pout, she pulls away.”
“I am not the queen, Frost,” I said. “I don’t want a toy in my bed. I want a king at my side. I need you to be a grownup.” It should have been silly to tell someone hundreds of years my senior to grow up, but it was necessary. Sadly.
Doyle spoke from against the pillows, and his voice held the effort that speech cost him. “If you could curb your emotions , she would love you and no other. If you could but understand, there would be no contest.”I'll love you if you change for me. I'll love you if you do everything right. I'll love you if you quit having feelings, if you'll ignore it when I hurt you, if you'll play my games right. This is the classic ploy. And again: there is nowhere for Frost to go. Unlike Anita during her wake-up moment, Frost does not have gym buddies who will beat the everloving shit out of Merry and company, he does not have an in with the cops, he does not even understand human society. These people have trouble understanding television sets. The ins and outs of the social safety net are well, well beyond them. So what Merry is doing right now is saying "This will not change. This will never change. But if you try to change--nevermind that it's to a standard that I will never explain--I'll love you."
Stop feeling and I'll love you.
Frost asks Merry what they can do. She says the most awful thing anybody has ever said in any of these books:
“Let’s do this,” I said. “Every time you start to pout, I just tell you to stop. You try to stop when it’s brought to your attention.”It sounds nice and light and fluffy, and it sounds like a good compromise IF You ignore all the shit that just happened. Frost can't leave this relationship. Frost's emotional stability is highly challenged by the polyamourous lifestyle dictated by Anadais's challenge. Merry has absolutely no interests whatsoever in trying to help Frost adapt. Instead of actually dealing with his feelings, Merry is telling him that she'll gladly patrol his emotions for him and help him stuff them back in the box when she doesn't like that look on his face.
LKH might as well write "Keep sweet" in there. This is a concept that has damaged many many many lives and it's being presented here as a good compromise. But there's no compromise here. Frost's feelings are not being addressed. Instead, they're being hidden so Merry won't ever have to deal with them and so Frost can never fully express them. No one should ever be shamed for crying, or for expressing dissatisfaction, or even for anger. These emotions exist. Getting them out and into the open means you can start dealing with them and working on healing them. Saying I feel this way without blame is an important step. You cannot deal with your emotions if you do not admit you have them. Of fucking course an abuser is going to make you bottle it up and do everything they can to stifle that expression. They don't want you to deal with your emotions.
Everything ends with Merry and Frost sharing a hug.
And speaking of the cultervention from Danse Macabre, I got curious and checked the copyright pages for both DM and Seduced by Moonlight. The emotional context of this scene is so similar to what happened to Anita that I wanted to know. Aaaaaand it turns out that the Danse Macabre scene is Cultervention 2.0. DM was published in 2006. So for some reason LKH really, really likes writing about abuse victims being manipulated into staying in their abusive relationships.
I really, really, REALLY dislike this book.