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Friday, May 16, 2014

Narcissus in Chains Chapter Six

Dottie's review is here

Do you guys think these are too long? Should I break them up in to two parts? Here we go:

They go to Narcissus' room. It is all black. Like, everything is black. Bed, sheets, walls, floor. The only color comes from all the silver bondage implements. LKH is trying SO HARD to make this seem sexy and mysterious, but I think it's rather silly. Never once have I encountered a room like this. The local club where I live does have a backroom with dark purple walls and one of the bed frames is painted black, but all black? Maybe it's because it's black like Narcissus' evil soul! Symbolism, you guys.

The bed is the standard bondage bed, made of sturdy wood and covered in o-rings and chains. Now that is a bit more accurate. I have seen many a bed like that. Anita remarks on how if she were on a date and being lead to this room, she'd turn and run. Assuming this fictional guy she's on a mind date with just springs all this on her, then yes that would certainly be grounds to walk out. But this is book ten and she's still acting like a blushing virgin about everything even slightly BDSM oriented. Another thing about Anita I just do not understand.

"My understanding about most people who were in to D and S was that their bedrooms were separate from their "dungeons." Nearby perhaps, but not the same room. You needed to go somewhere to actually sleep. Maybe Narcissus just never rested from the fun and games." 

Obviously I can't speak for every single kink scene out there, but most people do not have the space or resources to have a separate dungeon space. If you have a lot of gear it makes sense to have a room for it. Say you have a couple of pieces of fucking furniture, a bondage swing, and a spot for suspensions. In that case, sure, have at making a dungeon. But I'd venture to say that most people use their bedrooms for both bondage and sleep. How is this weird? It's accepted that vanilla people who like sex tend to both fuck and sleep in the same bed.

"There was a door on the opposite wall, and the drapes were drawn over the middle of one wall. Maybe his real bed was behind door number two or the drapes. I hoped so."

You hope so? Why? Because you're judging him for being in to kink and you hope he still has a shred of 'normalcy' ? That's messed up, Anita. Not everyone needs to compartmentalize their sexuality the way you do.

Richard, Jean-Claude, and Anita are offered space on the bed. They accept, because the only chair is a bondage chair. (the local club has one of these too. Most notably a woman strapped to it had so many squiring orgasms they went through twenty towels, which I then had to launder. Don't expect to see something that explicit or honest in an Anita Blake book though, nosiree).

So Richard is surprisingly comfortable with all of this, and Anita only now notices that his wrist cuffs and collar have rings on them, so that they can be attached to a leash or restraints. This doesn't necessarily tell us anything about Richard or his kinks, since the vast majority of cuffs and collars have rings and even Anita notes that the accessories might just be an attempt to blend in. Anita tells us once again she's not comfortable. Again I am confused about why she's so repressed and why she treats sex like a nasty medical procedure.

She admits she wants to have a threeway with J.C. and Richard. Good! Then of course, though, J.C. and Richard are so comfortable with the surroundings that she must doubt herself AGAIN. How many times do I have to read about Anita having the exact same problems and hang ups? She never evolves. I think LKH is actually incapable of writing emotional change.

Look, I don't like it when people call her Lala or deride her for being out of touch with reality or otherwise comment on her personal life, but given my experiences I can tell you that this whole novel and consequently LKH herself--since she can't keep herself and Anita separate--reads as intensely narcissistic. It's like LKH has the faint notion that change is a required story element, but it's like trying to teach a person with no eyes to see. A necessary part of the process is inherently missing.

Oh, Asher is in here too. Asher is the Two Face of the AB world. One half "perfect" one half disfigured by holy water. Anita marvels that he too seems comfortable. Of course he does! This entire series has more or less evolved around bondage clubs. I mean, really, this is not news. Narcissus and one of the other werehyenas, Ajax, come in.

Richard assures Anita that nothing in this room can hurt her unless she consents to being hurt. Hey Richard is being a good guy. I am sure he'll experience a complete character shift in a couple of pages, because not one person in this story is consistent.

"I used to believe that truth was good, but I'd begun to realize that it is neither good, nor bad. It's just the truth. Life had been simpler when I believed in black and white absolutes."

You STILL believe in absolutes.

Oh wait, Anita isn't on the bed yet. Richard has to coax her, and draws her down between him and J.C. Anita doesn't like this either!

"But it still bothered me that Richard had put me between them, not simply beside him. The warm, fuzzy feeling I'd had from the marriage of the marks seemed to be receding at an alarming rate. Magic did that sometimes." 

What is Anita's problem? Seriously. This is so weird. Last chapter she was dying for J.C. to pound away at her holes-physical ones this time--and now she doesn't want to be next to him? She didn't want to invite Richard, who turned up anyway, but now she'd prefer to be next to him only? She's bonded to both of them but doesn't want to be here and is already regretting her decision to marry the marks?

Who is this person? I don't understand her at all. Her motivations such as they are make no sense. She's hot and cold in the way that indicates a serious personality disorder, yet she's treated as if she's the best at everything.

Even J.C. is like, what's your problem? And she's like, boo I don't like this room. How sweet of her. Narcissus has taken the step of allowing these people in to one of his private spaces, and all Anita can do is insult his decor.

Here comes Narcissus the creep again. "Jean-Claude liked this room very much, once." Hang on to your hats, people, we're about to get rape-y.

J.C. explains: "Once, I submitted to unwanted advances because I was told to do so. But those days are past." Narcissus protests that J.C. always seemed willing to him. Basically, Nikolaus traded J.C. around as if he were a sex object rather than a person. This is a common theme in the A.B. universe and it could be done well, except the protagonist regularly indulges in this same reprehensible behavior. How am I suppose to sympathize with Anita? She condemns others for treating people like toys, but then she does the same thing. Oh but it's different if Anita does it, because she's perfect. 

I want to call bullshit on Narcissus here, but he seems genuinely upset about J.C.'s unwillingness. J.C. admits he never told Narcissus that he wasn't willing. So again, everyone has been victimized and no one wins.

Anita natters on about how she killed Nikolaus, allowing J.C. to become Master of the City. "I hadn't planned that. How much of it Jean-Claude had planned was still up for debate. It is not just prejudice on my part that makes me trust him less than Richard." 

True, no one likes to feel manipulated. But the guy is a master vampire trying to retain control of his territory, which is fit to burst with unpredictable, violent, xenophobic monsters with powerful magic at their finger (paw?) tips. And Anita expects him to be perfectly transparent at all times? That is naive, pure and simple, and a teensy bit unfair.

We learn that Nikolaus was trying to get the werehyenas to ally with her, and to "sweeten the deal" she offered J.C. up as Narcissus' permanent play thing. Narcissus is crawling across the bed towards J.C. as he explains all of this. Richard and Anita can both sense J.C.'s abject terror over the idea of being belonging permanently to Narcissus.

This scene makes my heart legit break for J.C. Anita gets scenes from the rapes he's suffered, including being sexually assaulted by a rotting vampire. J.C.'s emotions include deep despair and fear. This is awful and I feel for the guy. No wonder he's manipulative and abusive. I'm not sure the guy knows anything else. Of course he still has to atone for the wrongs he has done, but if the only thing you've ever learned in your entire life is this kind of bleak, joyless torture, it seems normal to you. It even seems like how you might show favor, or affection.

J.C. cuts Anita off from his memories once he realizes what's going on. That's good of him. He's doing it partly for himself--it's a rare rape victim that wants other people to see what happened--but also one assumes he's doing it to avoid burdening Anita with secondary trauma.

Even Anita is forced to admit that what she just say had "nothing to do with seduction." 

This is where I start frothing with rage because I do not understand how Anita can see and experience this and then go on to rape people indiscriminately. Me:

Richard is actually crying--in a MANLY way mind you, because cis men are only allowed one or two tears that must silently track down their faces--over J.C.'s memories. This makes me like him immensely. I'm not excited though because god knows in the next chapter he'll probably turn in to a dick again.

Narcissus loses all points he might have acquired earlier in this scene by coming on to J.C. even after being told that J.C. never wanted anything they ever did together. 

"Richard grabbed his [Narcissus'] wrist. "Don't touch him. Don't ever touch him again."

Richard is very close to breaking Narcissus' wrist, but Narcissus informs him that if he does so it will be essentially an act of war. Narcissus is a complete douchebag in this scene but he's also right, unfortunately. J.C. and Anita both point this out. As unseemly and gross as these rules are, they did agree to them when they walked in the door. Plus if they actually start a fight, all the people in the club are at risk and most of them have nothing to do with this.

J.C. also points out that hurting Narcissus won't undo all the horrible things that have happened to him.

"For the first time I wondered if Richard and I had gotten the same memories in that flash of shared insight. What I'd seen had been horrible, but it hadn't affected me like it had him. Maybe it was a guy thing. Maybe a white, Anglo-Saxon, upper-middle-class male like Richard would take memories of being abused and raped harder than I would. I was a woman. I knew things like that could happen to me. Maybe he had never thought they could happen to him." 

Shut the fuck up, Anita. You don't know shit about intersectionality and you are one of the most offensive characters ever committed to paper. Don't you dare lecture Richard over getting upset at his close friend and bond mate being raped. She does have a point in there about men and their reactions to rape, but we've already proved in this very scene that men can indeed be victims of rape and sexual assault. She's also slagging off and misidentifying Richard.

First, Richard has Native American ancestry, though admittedly he doesn't have much cultural connection. He's also a teacher which in most parts of the U.S. would in no way make you upper middle class. Even if he's tenured, he's probably looking at less than three grand a month. And as for it being a guy thing? Maybe it's a decent human being thing, you emotionless narcissistic waste of space and paper. Also notice how Anita's ethnicity only comes up when it's convenient for her or puts her on supposed moral high ground? Also she only brings up being vulnerable to rape when it's convenient because at all other times she's constantly telling us how she's not afraid like an icky average woman would be.

I can MORE than understand Richard's anger but he's just managed to cause an unfortunate political incident by hurting Narcissus. Narcissus threatens to remove his protection from Anita's leopards, and LKH pulls telepathy out of her ass because apparently the hyenas can do that.

Narcissus prefers to be "the power behind the throne" letting the wolves and rats take the spotlight. This is a smart move on his part, and it means everyone is constantly trying to get his favor due to his strength in numbers and wild card status. Raina and Marcus, previous leaders of the werewolves, made a deal where Narcissus couldn't have more than fifty hyenas. Still, fifty hyenas is a lot of bone crushing death. Richard and Anita are idiots, because neither of them have been trying to curry favor with Narcissus despite being Ulfric and Nimir-ra respectively.

I know I am pretty weird over being prepared, but you'd think if Anita were about to commit to a position like Nimir-Ra she'd research it a little first.

More points in the Narcissus is a vicious creep column as it is revealed that Gabriel, the former wereleopard leader, was giving him leopards to abuse. The only intersex character in the whole book, and he's a rapist asshole.

He's also the shrewdest guy in this whole novel, because he points out that Richard hasn't been sending the agreed upon gifts. Guess what, if you don't keep up your end of the bargain it becomes null and void. Narcissus now has four hundred hyenas at his beck and call, all because Richard is one of the dumbest leaders ever. Now Richard is in a very bad position, a position he entirely deserves because he doesn't care enough to pay attention to wereanimal politics despite being the fucking wolf king. 

J.C. tries to smooth things over. Narcissus wants creepy sexual things as appeasement. He tries for J.C., he tries for watching the three of them fuck, he asks for Nathaniel, he asks for another leopard when told he can't have Nathaniel. Richard won't give up his wolves either.

This again seems reasonable and it's one of the only semi-decent things anyone has done so far. But it also strikes me as odd, because they could very well have leopards or wolves with extreme tastes who are healthy enough to consent. Of course Narcissus is a terrible creep with no boundaries, but so is everyone in this series. That aside, why not ask the wolves if someone is willing?

Narcissus asks to be included in the shapeshifter conferences that make decisions for the St. Louis were community. That's quite reasonable. Richard says he didn't know Narcissus was interested in politics, or he would have invited Narcissus already. That's because you're an idiot, Richard, and have no business being Ulfric.

But wait, Narcissus wants to keep receiving gifts. Richard tells him no. There's a bunch of bullshit posturing between him, Anita, and Richard. The culmination of this is Narcissus looking at J.C. and saying, "Are they really such children?" 

"They are not like us Narcissus. They still believe in right and wrong. And rules." 

HAHAHAHA. I mean, that's supposed to be funny, right? it's not? Well, fuck beans.

Narcissus calls up a bunch of power. "It slammed in to my body like a giant hand." I am starting to think Anita has a macro/micro fetish, with all this talk of huge hands slapping her around. Richard and Anita touch, and their beasts do some stuff. It's warm and weird, sort of like peeing in a public pool I guess.

"Narcissus's face began to grow longer. It was like watching sticks move behind clay." 

That is hands down one of the worst analogies I have ever read.

"I may be a sadist and a masochist, but I am still Oba of this clan."

What the hell does the first part of that have to do with the second part? Only vanilla people can be leaders? By the way Oba is a Yoruba term. That makes tons of sense considering hyenas are also found in West Africa. Which begs the question why Narcissus is using the term Oba (which I think translates loosely to king or ruler, when it isn't used as the name of the goddess Oba) and yet naming all of his subordinates after Greek myths. It's not that a character can't do these things and have it work, but I am craving some world building here.

Narcissus is insulted and this means him and Richard have to have a bullshit dominance fight. J.C. touches Anita to try and lead her away from the fight and he is overcome with power. This gives LKH another excuse to use "drowning blue" to describe J.C.'s eyes. I like that descriptor but you can't use it over and over and have it stay effective.

Anita says that even though Richard's voice sounds wolf-y, he can do that without shifting. I have a hard time buying that considering how different wolf anatomy is from human.

The power is HOT and SCALDING and HOT and PRIMAL.and it makes J.C. have a fit. The overwhelming POWER that is so HOT and SCALDING is so powerful because Anita is now bound to him and Richard and bridging between the two of them. That too could work, but it just reads like another natter about how amazing and exemplary Anita is.

No one knows what is going on and Narcissus and Richard forget their fight so everyone can stand around and talk about Anita's special abilities and how everyone is so confused and how she has beasts but also death powers and uuuugh.

You can give your MC pretty much whatever powers you want, but if there's no character  there, it's all so much hollow ornamentation.

Narcissus still wants a gift for the insult he suffered. Asher offers to top him. Everyone protests. I have no idea why. Asher is perfectly capable of consenting (as far as I know) and he actually enjoys BDSM. It seems like the best solution they can all come to. J.C. implies he's jealous, but tough titty J.C. You aren't together anymore.

Asher touches Anita so we can talk about her HOT and PRIMAL power again. "...I felt it hit his heart like a blow." Ergh. As opposed to what? Try harder. LKH is the queen of terrible analogies.

Anita worries about J.C. "If you could fill the walking dead with life, should you? And if you did, what would happen to the walking dead?" I mean, J.C. can already simulate life. If he's well fed he can command his heart to beat and his lungs to breathe. Can this really be so much different? Though I give them something of a pass here, since this sort of bonding has never happened before. I think that's another forgivable trope of the genre. Of course it doesn't have to be so inconsistent and poorly planned, but here we are.

Asher implies that switches--people who like to top and bottom in D/s--don't exist. This is another dumb assumption that comes up a lot in BDSM. Suffice to say switches very much exist. Anita says some more crap: "You know my rule, Asher. I never ask of others what I'm not willing to do myself." 

Anita is all omg no Asher, don't engage in BDSM with Narcissus to save us from our own stupid mistakes, that would be just terrible!

"And what if I want to do it?" he asked.

Yes, she'd disturbed and J.C. is worried because maybe Asher's willingness means he's been horribly twisted by the torture he endured to the point where he can only enjoy pain. That might be a valid concern, but Asher is the owner of his experiences, not Anita and J.C. The way he deals with them is his business. And, frankly, plenty of people who have suffered sexual assaults have gained power over those memories by sexualizing what happened, and then engaging in similar scenarios in a consensual manner. On the other, OTHER hand, not everyone who is in to pain has been abused. It's perfectly reasonable, normal, and common for people with wonderful childhoods to grow up and join the kink subculture. We also learn that Asher has endured even more torture and rape than J.C. Why is all of this rape here if LKH is incapable of dealing with it reasonably?

Asher alludes to J.C. wanting some question answered regarding his body or his sexuality. I know that J.C. is desperate to know if Asher's dick still works.

Seriously, some things in these books are so preposterous only a reaction GIF will do.

Just a little note. We are at 12% in according to my Kindle copy AND WE ARE STILL NOT RESCUING ANYONE. EVEN I HAVE STARTED TO FORGET ABOUT THE LEOPARDS.

"He stood in one graceful movement, like a liquid puppet on strings."

There's a lot of power and spilling. Asher steps in to the manipulative sexual creep role, a thing all of these characters share between themselves far more readily than all of this nebulous power I keep hearing about.

Oh, so now it comes out that J.C. has been turning Asher down romantically and sexually because he thinks Anita will break up with him over it. And it's not because Asher is Asher. Oh no. It's because Asher is a man. The text even says so:

..."he fears that you would...what is the American word...dump him, if you knew was sleeping with a man. Would you?"

"I had to swallow before I could answer. "Yeah." 

You complete homophobic shitbag. J.C. and Asher have been in love for several of Anita's lifetimes. They have a history she can't possibly hope to comprehend. And yet she keeps them apart, holding J.C.'s feelings for her over his head, because she doesn't want to get Asher's man cooties all over her precious little triad.

This is one of those times where I'm just furious. Anita, you do not understand how being poly works. You are also a disgusting narcissist and I hate you with every fiber of my being.

Asher strips so Narcissus can see if he'd like to accept Asher as payment for Richard's insult. Asher is perfect on one side and scarred on the other.

Anita can feel all of J.C.'s lingering emotions for Asher, yet nothing about those emotions makes her realize she's being a homophobic self absorbed shitheel who fails at poly, empathy, and frankly, at life.

But it's all about her you guys, because all she has to say to this is how complicated this makes her life.

Asher asks J.C. what level of pain Narcissus likes. Uh, Narcissus is sitting right there. Why don't you ask him? But that would be too sensible and consensual, I guess. Granted he asks Narcissus for confirmation but why ask J.C. at all, unless of course Asher wants J.C. to relive all of that rape. I wouldn't put it past him because the only consistent thing about these books is that everyone is terrible.

Asher slaps Narcissus across the face till he bleeds. FINALLY. Someone do SOMETHING, please. Asher is so violent and scary looking and Narcissus loves all these things so much that Narcissus now owes favors, rather than being in a position to receive them. Narcissus mentions the "safety word" which is a term I've never heard. Safe word would be more accurate. Asher then has to explain to Anita what a safe word is. WHAT. "Am I the only one in the room that doesn't understand how the game is played?"

She has no excuse for not knowing this. She works on the fringes of St. Louis society, and the fringes in the AB verse are very BDSM heavy. Shifter and vampire politics are also all over the place and frequently include dominance fights. Yet she's so ignorant of both it's like she just escaped from the FLDS or something. She cannot possibly be that sheltered. The life LKH has detailed for her in no way matches her attitudes. Plus, if LKH wants me to believe that Anita is capable, she needs to know the appropriate things. Knowing the bog standard basics of BDSM should be an obvious part of her job, if not her personal life.

They discuss Raina, one of the werewolf alphas Richard replaced. Her whole character was being a violent rape machine. It's as if she is a vending machine crafted in the darkest level of hell, and when you put sex coins in all that comes out is rape. And you're just standing there like, what in the hell happened to my Snickers bar? And then the goddamn Cynobites come out with the cube and you're screwed.

 It's implied Raina raped Richard repeatedly, plus some of the leopards and probably all of the wolves. It's like rape is the only thing LKH can think of to add drama. It fails. Horribly.

Admittedly, I write about rape a lot. I don't agree with those people who say it shouldn't be written about at all. But if you're going to do it, my god, you have an obligation to do it well.

They call Raina a sadist. No. She was a rapist. You can be a sexual sadist in a criminal sense, yes, but this isn't a given. The use of that word is confusing and inaccurate. You can be a sadist and understand the boundaries of consent.

"I didn't look at him [J.C.], or Richard. I'd pretty much promised that if dawn stayed at bay we'd have sex tonight. But somehow staring at Asher's naked back, with Narcissus gazing up at him with a look somewhere between adoration and terror, I just wasn't in the mood anymore."

How convenient. Every time Anita wants sex, the text has to come in and interfere. WHY ISN'T ANITA ALLOWED TO WANT SEX? This is not a series written for or about a woman who lives her life the way she wants to, who owns and appreciates her sexuality. And god forbid adults want to have a kind of sex Anita doesn't approve of. Then she's scared and unhappy and angry, because the actions of others only exist in Anita's mind in relation to Anita herself.

Someone make me a narcissism reaction GIF. I have a feeling that thing will get quite a work out.


  1. But you don't understand! Rape is what makes this work so serious! Otherwise it'd be a bunch of children arguing about nothing for six hundred pages!

    Anita just doesn't want the cooties that come from hot, sweaty man sex. Why won't people keep the cooties away from her?

    You have a lot more sympathy for JC than I have. I... I can't. He's just such an asshole - although I would never think a character deserves what happened to him. It just makes me ask why the frick he did the same to Anita and is totally remorseless.

    1. Well honestly, I've only read Guilty Pleasures and that was many years ago, so I might not know enough about J.C. to feel that cynical yet.

    2. He is pondscum. In fancy pants.

  2. I wanted my room like that when I was in high school (the black everything, I mean). Which I’m not convinced LKH is out of.

    When I read that line on Dottie’s about keeping the bedroom and dungeon separate, I thought she meant metaphorically, like keeping regular life separate from the scene, hence my comment there, but reading it again she does seem to mean it literally…Why does she think this is Narci’s “real” bedroom anyway? Like, it’s at his club, I sort of assumed it was part of it and not where he actually lives and sleeps.

    “I hoped so.”

    God what an asshole.

    …twenty towels? I…I didn’t know that was physically possible, goddamn.

    “She never evolves.”
    Yup. One of her biggest problems. I kind of worry about that with my own characters since I want to use the ones I used in RP for a long time cuz I know them so well…but that also means they’ve all now fully-evolved starting out.

    “I don’t understand her at all”
    Yeah, she ended up being a much harder nail to hit in my parody fics than I thought. She’s just so…nonsensical.

    I am absurdly relieved that Narci didn’t know JC was unwilling.

    The idea of exploring JC as being as manipulative as he is because of what has been normalized for him would be a fascinating direction to take things but LKH tends to ignore just how bad he is and what he does is and so it doesn’t happen, which is a shame.

    Wait, JC and Narci are all “lol u believe in rules” when…rules are clearly what they’re running on? With the whole breaking my wrist is an act of war and appeasement gifts and things?

    1. I'll admit it, I write about rp characters. The trick is to just rewind them to where they started. Having played them for so long can work for you in that regard, since you have a better idea of where they're going to go and why.

      I totally agree that J.C. being manipulative for those reasons would be a great thing to explore. This is part of why I am so obsessed. She does things I would do and then messes them up horribly. I love to write about the dark side, complex morality and all that. LKH almost does the same, but because she can't comprehend human emotion it turns in to whatever the hell I'm reading now.

  3. Even the first time I read this book, ages and ages ago, the whole "I can't be with Jean-Claude 'cuz Anita is unabashedly homophobic" pissed me off. I understand she must have been a sheltered child (or raised by similar-minded parents), and thus is uncomfortable with two men having sex, but seriously? She herself has apparently no problem with multiple male partners at one time, but to not allow Jean-Claude to be with his LONGTIME LOVER after so many years of separation and finally reconciliation was just....fucking fuck FUCKING ARE YOU SERIOUSLY THAT DAFT. I was so pissed at a fictional character in a fictional book it was amazing. Anita doesn't have to watch them, take part, or do anything much outside of simply giving them her blessing, but no; male on male is icky, and no one else can have sex with multiple partners than her.

    1. oh no you are preaching to the choir here. that shit is ridiculous.