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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Narcissus in Chains Chapter Ten

Dottie's break down here

Anita is in a shower like the kind you find "in a health club." It hadn't occurred to me before now, but where the hell are they? Narcissus in Chains still? If so what kind of fetish club has the money or space for such extensive showers? I'm over thinking this again, I'm sure, but my BDSM club has a single shower. For the whole club. Granted my club isn't as big as NiC but damn.

Anita is seriously crying in the shower, Lady MacBeth reference and scrubbing herself raw included. You're supposed to cry in the shower after the rape, Anita. Though either way god this is cliche. Again, possible to do this scene well. Is this an example of said same? No. This is a way to inform us of how smart Anita is because she knows bog standard Shakespeare trivia.

No one likes to be hurt, of course. I once saw a criticism of the Mercy Thompson book where she is raped that went like, I don't understand why it had to be rape. Couldn't she have been beaten instead? Well, frankly, a serious beating is a similar violation. It ruins your sense of ownership over your body, destroys your autonomy, and often leaves you with acute stress disorder. So, Anita having a hard time makes sense, and yet it also doesn't; she has so many scars and gets beat up so much, you'd think she'd be more thick skinned about this.

However, I have to give LKH some points for trying to make her seem vulnerable, when usually she's just this bull headed automaton barreling her way through every situation the exact same way, regardless of the particulars.

Cherry shows up and we must again hear about how Cherry is naked, despite Anita having mentioned it and why the leopards like to be naked several times now. This is another editing issue that again tells me she turns in her first drafts. I don't know how she does that. I don't even mean on a professional level, I mean on a personal embarrassment level. I would die of shame if anyone ever saw the rough draft for NDT. My god. It doesn't resemble the end story in the slightest and it's terrible. I actually have a scribbled note halfway through that says MY GOD I DON'T NEED THIS CHARACTER AT ALL followed by a lot of cross outs.

She doesn't want Cherry to see her cry.

"I was her Nimir-Ra, her rock. Rocks did not cry."

She has done nothing to justify being Cherry's rock. She simply is because LKH has dictated that it be so. This is one of the greatest pieces of writing advice ever. It changed the way I thought about writing and how I approached my projects. LKH could stand to read it. Simply by following those guidelines this book would be a million times better.

Cherry kneels down in the water and hugs Anita. That's a nice moment, actually, and is more in line with show don't tell. It tells us a few important things:

1). Cherry cares more about Anita's pain than she does about being wet and uncomfortable
2). Cherry knows her affection might be rejected but is trying anyway because her friend is in need

It's pretty basic, but at least it gives me a glimmer of genuine emotion.

She actually let's Cherry hold her and cries in Cherry's arms.


Who what? Is this Anita? The most unpleasant person ever put to paper? Anita, who can't accept comfort or love or sex, ever? This is one of those weird flashes of character development that LKH sometimes hits on. I suspect it's completely by accident; you know what they say about monkeys and typewriters. I'd give her more credit if she had the instincts to realize when she does it, to capitalize on it, but she doesn't.

Anita has to assure us that "There was comfort in the touch of flesh that went beyond sex." 

I think Dottie mentioned (or one of the comments) that if you have to assure me that something is not sexual, I immediately think it's sexual. Imagine you went to a supermarket and you see a big sign over the produce section that says, "WE ABSOLUTELY DO NOT FUCK THE VEGETABLES!" What would you think? Would you buy a pumpkin from them without blinking?

Anita realizes it's almost morning and that she ought to find out why J.C. is in jail. She and Cherry dry off and she finally has the bright idea to just ask why the bloody hell J.C.  is locked up.

Turns out law enforcement thinks he murdered Anita, because he carried Anita out of the club all covered in blood. Where the fuck are they then if they're not at NiC? What place has private rooms AND a multi person shower? No DAMMIT I will NOT let this shower thing go!

Anita protests that she in fact alive.

"And how would you explain that in less than a week you were healed of wounds that should have killed you?"

Oh I don't know, maybe because they live in a world full up with FUCKING MAGIC. Are you telling me that there's not a single magical creature that could heal her in that time, that people wouldn't know about? Tell them it was the vampire marks, for god sake. Tell them some witch turned up and made some kind of super salve. Something, anything. This is just bullshit 'foreshadowing' for omg Anita might be a were now. Spoiler: she isn't. That would be too interesting.

This is incidentally what made me decide to try and handle this in the next few Twisted Tree books, so when they come out hopefully you guys can tell me if I succeeded.

Hey guys? CHERRY IS NAKED AND SHE DOESN'T FEEL WEIRD ABOUT NAKED. This is mentioned so often, I can't help but think it's just Anita's way of claiming she has loose morals.

Cherry hints that Anita might be a were now but before they can resolve that Micah asks to come in. Oh boy, here we go. Strap in everyone.

Anita presses Cherry for answers. Cherry confesses that she's scared to tell Anita what's up because she's afraid Anita might hurt her. Anita responds to this admission by grabbing Cherry and yelling at her. 

This just reinforces my belief that the leopards have simply traded one abuser for another. This is unfortunately very common.

Micah comes in even though Anita asked him to wait a minute. He's also naked which is apparently worth comment even though he's coming in to take a shower.

One thing I don't get. If his dick is so tragically huge and if he's so embarrassed by it, why the hell is he just showing it around? I get that the leopards love to be naked, but they still have human sides, along with human insecurities.

The description of Micah is interminable. Anita calls Micah out on ignoring her when she said he ought to give them a minute, which he deserves. However, it then comes out that he showed up because he can tell Cherry is afraid of Anita. Okay, my sympathies are with him again. He's Nimir-Raj, albeit of a different clan, but he should intervene if he thinks a leopard is being hurt. Considering Anita is an abuser, this isn't a poor decision on his part.

Everyone is making such a big deal about Anita maybe being a were. Why is this such a big deal? There's a lot of discrimination against weres in this world, yes, but people don't exactly have warm fuzzy feelings about vampires, either, and she has vampire marks. Marks from the Master of the city, no less, and she already operates on the fringes of society. Why would being a leopard be so bad? She's in a precarious position as a Nimir-Ra who can't shift, so acquiring true 'lyncathropy' (correct me if I am wrong, but it's only lycanthropy if the subject is a werewolf) would actually be a good thing for her.

Pretty cool thing to be, huh?

Oh NOW they explain that being a weresnake isn't communicable and that's why she doesn't get snake. Anita is decent enough to ask about the swanmanes they rescued and it turns out they're okay. Nathaniel shows up because apparently there needs to be a group intervention. Turns out this is all because Gregory nicked her with his claws while trying to save her fucking life, so they all think Anita is going to go apeshit and kill someone.

That is not healthy. Even in the face of very bad (?) news you shouldn't be worried that your partner or boss or leader will explode and hurt you. That's one of the classic signs that you're in an abusive relationship. There is so much abuse in these books though that I don't even know who to blame.

Here comes Zane. Jesus how many people need to be here to explain this? Zane has green hair. Everyone in this novel is a reject from a shitty punk video. Anita protests that she can't shift blah blah. Micah pities her for probably being a were now.

"Pity? I did not do pity. Not as the object of it, anyway."

Okay so it's fine to pity and thereby demean other people? Of course it is. You're Anita and you can do anything you want without consequences. I wish I was a character in an LKH book, so I'd never have to answer for my actions again.

Maybe this is because I'm a therian, but this conversation is making me ask something I often ask when reading fantasy: why doesn't everyone want to be a were or a vampire? Super strength, health, a rad other form (in the case of weres), magical powers...and the downsides aren't enough to convince me that people wouldn't want it. So you can't go out in the day time, who cares? If it were me I'd be seeking out becoming a werecreature, another thing I'm trying to do in the next Twisted Tree book, inspired by this question.

Anita actually takes the time to consider whether she really is a wereleopard. This is why I am obsessed with this book. She shows these brief self insights, these moments of clarity, only to have them subsumed by the general suckitude of the narrative. She gets all faint but has to assure us that she never actually faints, despite knocking out at least once every book.

Elizabeth is a bitch and hates Anita, as everyone informs her when she asks where Elizabeth and Gregory are. Elizabeth has every reason to hate Anita. Anita isn't a wereleopard. Anita is bound to a vampire, and vampires have a long history of abusing their animals to call. Anita is an abusive nasty bitch who manipulates everyone around her, the leopards foremost.

Oh no but the reason Elizabeth hates her is:

"She hates that you're a better alpha as a human that she is as a wereleopard. You make her feel weak." 

Anita deigns to forgive Gregory for possibly infecting her. My, how good of her. How magnanimous. Except she's only forgiving him because he saved her life. Everyone and everything in this world revolves around Anita. Do you ever get the sense that these people have lives of their own? Every secondary character you create MUST have a life of their own. In fact I recommend doing some character sketches on all of them. Your heroes have obvious story arcs, but everyone is  the hero of their own story.

Oh crap, no one will tell her why Gregory isn't here. Richard took him as punishment for making Anita a wereleopard. What the fuck. If that isn't an act of war I don't know what is. Why in the hell would Richard do such a stupid, stupid thing? All the leaders in this dumbass world don't deserve the title. ESPECIALLY if you want to write a high protocol world, the way LKH apparently does. This woman need to crack open a White Wolf book.

This is taking place because essentially, Gregory turning Anita in to a wereleopard means she can't be the werewolf leader anymore and Richard is pissed. God I don't care. I would care if this felt intentional, if LKH had taken the time to really write out and refine the shifter politics in her world. You can have all the good ideas in heaven and earth but if you can't execute them, it doesn't matter.

Richard has turned his pack in to a democracy which makes him stupid and naive. He is stupid and naive, but not necessarily because he doesn't want to rule with an iron fist like Raina and Marcus did.

All of Anita's wolf friends helped kidnap Gregory. Sense, you make none. Even Sylvie helped do this, after a big deal was made out of her owing Anita. (which let me remind you is because Anita helped her get revenge against her rapists). This is completely out of character and is just here because LKH can't figure out how to add drama and yet maintain consistency.

WOW. So actually, Richard hit Sylvie until she agreed.

It's one thing to have a dominance fight. It's another to belt someone out of anger, in human form, because they don't agree with you committing an act of pure stupidity. 

"I looked at him and felt my eyes go cold."

Shut up. You are not badass. You're stupid. A woman in her thirties should not be posturing like this. Even when I was a teenager, I thought this sort of thing was stupid. You know how we always had that one guy who would insist he was teh dangerouz martial arteest, and not to sneak up on him because omg, his fists of death would act on their own? Anita is that guy.

This stuff could be handled in a couple of paragraphs. I know I have a tendency to condense too much in my own writing, but this isn't condensed enough. If you force your characters to stand around nattering, the tension drains out of the scene.

Anita makes some obvious bog standard decisions (If Gregory is being hurt, rescue him first. If not, get J.C. out of jail) and Micah licks her asshole about it for at least a couple of paragraphs because Micah's whole purpose is to give her a tongue bath at every opportunity. Anita calls Richard and Richard is a dick. I actually don't know why he cares about her being lupa so much if whether or not she's lupa has nothing to do with their personal relationship. He's in a weakened position by having a human lupa, anyway. White Wolf. Get you some.

Wah, this means Richard and Anita can't date anymore. Well she doesn't seem that interested anyway and they've barely spoken in six months, so who cares? Anita complains that he's just throwing her away and he points out--rightly--that he's sick of her getting scared off and leaving him in the lurch. Anita tries to manipulate him by telling him he's fucked up by making the pack of a democracy, because if he were still the dictator type he could just declare Anita his lupa anyway and they wouldn't have to break up.

Basically Anita can't intimidate and belittle Richard in to doing what she wants him to do, so she switches to threatening him instead. This doesn't work either. He blames everything on his third in command, Jacob.

Anita tells Richard that Sylvie can't protect him against Jacob's ambitions to be Ulfric, because:

"Sylvie is good, but she's five six, and slender, and a woman."

SHE TURNS IN TO A GODDAMN WOLF MONSTER. Why in the fuck would her being a woman matter in the slightest when she's a werewolf, and dominance fights presumably take place in wolf form? Yes, the average woman does tend to be smaller and weaker than the average man, but this is by no means a universal truth.

Like I've said, I don't i.d. as a woman but I have estrogen in my body, not testosterone (in great amounts, anyway). I'm also 5'9 and I weigh 200 pounds. I know plenty of men smaller and shorter than me, and I would venture to say that I'm also stronger than some of them. Granted Sylvie is a lot shorter and smaller, but if Anita can be so kickass at 5'3 and a buck twenty sopping wet, then Sylvie can do the same.

Richard is 100% winning awards with me at this point, because he is standing fir, and calling her on her shit hardcore. I find it interesting that the guy who wants to give his pack a voice, who wants to treat them like people, is being portrayed as the naive stupid one.

Jacob gets on the phone and tells her she's nothing to him.

Anita tells him, in essence, I'm the mighty Anita Blake and I will fuck your shit up. They go back and forth and Anita says one of the most cringe worthy things ever:

"Do you like John Wayne movies, Jacob?"

He was quiet for a heartbeat. "I guess, I mean, what does that have to do with anything?"

"Your fault, my fault, nobody's fault, if Gregory dies, you die."

"Am I supposed to get that movie reference?" He asked. He sounded angry now.

"I guess not..."

Blah blah stupid empty threats. Anita is not threatening in the slightest. She's just an idiotic bully running on fumes and I hate her.

"...but I can't promise that the vote won't go against Gregory. He was the one that Raina, the old lupa, used to help punish some members of the pack. There's more than one woman here that he helped rape."

So no, actually Raina raped both Gregory and these women. Not that if I were one of them I'd want to have Gregory round for tea but that is not the same as a normal rape where the rapist makes a choice to devalue another human being.

Why must everyone be either a dominant or a lesser? That isn't how animals work, including humans. Sure there are alpha types and omega types, but the range of human complexity is much greater.

This whole chapter has been nothing but talking. Imagine how much more effective it would be if Anita were doing all this threatening in person, with a detailed sensory backdrop and her leopards at her back.

I don't even get why she's bothering to threaten Jacob. Just go there and handle it in person. That would be much more engaging than these endless phone calls.

It's finally over. Everything in that chapter was a waste. She has the ideas but she doesn't know how to make them engaging.


  1. I didn’t read the same review so I can’t at all make remarks on what the author intended, but I know at least for me I’d have preferred the beating option not because I perceive it as less traumatic but because I have just had it up to here with rape in urban fantasy. AB is one of the most obviously bad offenders, but it seems to be a plague in UF in general.

    Yeah, the mention that it’s not sexual with Cherry totally ruins it for me, for exactly that reason. Your pumpkin analogy is spot-on.

    The leopards have indeed traded one abuser for another. That would such an interesting story if LKH saw it that way too…as with many things in this series.

    Human insecurities? Piffle! It’s stated canon that all therians become happy nudists once they become were-whatevers, and what’s more, they also become kinky. No, really. I’m not making that up, that was seriously stated in Kiss the Dead. Becoming a rat or whatever once a month changes your sexuality, your boundaries, all of it! Because that’s being more like an animal somehow. Yeah.

    Part of the reason vamps and weres want to stay secret in my novel idea is because they know everyone would want to be one, and they don’t want to be letting in riff-raff and spreading their resources thin.

    Ugh, Anita is totally that guy

    No, only Anita can be small, female, and kickass. No one else. Ever. At all.

    …John Wayne movies. The fuck. What even just happened there in those lines?

    LKH has even crappier understanding of how animals work than most were-beast writers, and this from someone always bragging about her research and biology degree

    1. I get that point because there is a lot of rape and it seems as though a lot of writers and readers believe that being raped is just something that WILL happen to women at some point in their lives, as if the natural state of a woman is to be raped.

      I...that makes no sense. Why does being a were change all of those things? You can do whatever you want but you have to make me believe it for it to work!

    2. Because ultimately this is all about LKH's author avatar getting to hang around lots of attractive naked men all the time, while still being able to claim some kind of moral superiority.

  2. You just seem so awesome, and I wish you lived closer, because I swear we would get along so well. Also, I noticed this: "Maybe this is because I'm a therian..." Key word" I'm. Spiritual beliefs? If so, I am completely interested.

    1. Thanks! Where do you live?

      In my case I view being a therian as being a spiritual shapeshifter. I don't talk about my beliefs much here, but suffice to say that I believe there is a spirit world and that different forms make it simpler to travel through it. Some people also believe their souls are part animal...I suppose I think that too, though I go back and forth on that one.

  3. Granted Sylvie is a lot shorter and smaller, but if Anita can be so kickass at 5'3 and a buck twenty sopping wet, then Sylvie can do the same.

    That was more or less my exact thought. Seriously, the misogyny in these books is so horrible. It seems like any woman who is not Anita is automatically weaker and deserving of nothing but scorn. And you just know that if LKH were a guy everyone would have pointed this out a long time ago.

    Some people complain about the Dresden Files not being great with female characters, but at least they're all capable. Most of them actually pretty badass, too.

    1. I am no fan of the dresden files but at least the women have actual agency as a general rule. Hell Karrin's story in Side Jobs was awesome. Great example of how to make a woman, and a mundane woman at that, kickass and capable without resorting to making her act in accordance with stereotypical cis masculinity .

  4. "Sylvie is good, but she's five six, and slender, and a woman."

    I’m about to go on a rant here, so be warned.

    I fucking love Sylvie, and tbh these books should be about HER. She's POC, she's a lesbian and she isn't just "good." She is stated IN CANON (in her first real appearance, if I remember correctly) as strong enough to be able to TAKE Richard’s position as Ulfric from if she wanted to, but doesn't out of respect for him as her alpha, and because Richard earned it by beating Marcus following their customs. And, you know, because she has the decency to let him try to get his shit together instead of taking him out just ‘cause she can. However, she's would not let him hurt their pack with his stupid ass decisions, so she basically threatens Richard to be better OR ELSE, and he takes her so seriously in that book that he and Anita commiserate about how to handle it.

    tl;dr: She is MORE THAN POWERFUL ENOUGH to take on whatever is thrown at her, and to do it better and with more respect for all involved than most everyone else.

    Her being beaten into submission by Richard and then dismissed so readily (and by such misogynistic bullshit terms) not only pisses me off, but is completely inaccurate. But, heaven forbid she be able to be as badass as Anita or a big, burly MAN (only Anita can be one of the men and any other woman who is close to that has to go, be evil, or be violated in some horrible way to tear her down).

    This right here makes me see that in Anita's fucked up mind, Sylvie is now suddenly so weak and delicate because she has been properly "punished" for her crime of being a strong, gay woman-who-isn’t-Anita and is now in her “rightful,” victimized place beneath her alpha and Anita’s (four-inch) heels.

    I can't tell if the urge to puke or punch something is strongest. Perhaps I’ll do both to really get the point across

    1. You know, I think AB suffers from the same thing Twilight does which is that the side characters are a thousand times more interesting than the mains. Like for Twilight I feel as though it should really be about Rosalie and Leah, but for some reason we are supposed to care about Bella and Edward instead who are literally the least interesting people in the whole series.

    2. ^^^^THIS.

      I am always of the habit of liking side characters more than the main characters (perhaps it's because they get too little screen time and I want to know more, perhaps because the MCs are so damn Suey half the time I just don't CARE) but this one suffers in that the side characters are interesting because they're DECENT HUMAN (sort of) BEINGS and the MCs are festering piles of rape, violence, whiny wangst and more rape.