We rejoin Harlow who is changing into a fresh dress. Suddenly a voice says that he understands why his son desires her, which is a little sketchy, and she’s embarrassed because he’s seen her naked. It’s an old man who reminds Harlow of the statues and paintings she’s seen of “our fair King Abaddon”, but older.
I’d like to think this is just some horrible coincidence, nearly as much as I hold out hope that Breeanna is a huge fan of the Maradonia series and named him Abaddon as an homage.
“I believe my son has made a misjudgment. He is quite the womanizer, but he has never gone after someone so very young.” He sat in a satin-lined chair. “Did you know that he is twenty-six?” (loc. 264)
First of all, she’s nearly twenty-one. She isn’t young, at all. Girls have been getting married off in their early teens for an extremely long time, and there’s no reason why this world would be any different. Second, twenty-six means he’s thirty-eight in real time, so why isn’t Jafar married already? He’s the next in line for the throne, which means he’d likely be forced into an arranged marriage and popping our heirs as soon as humanly possible.
Of course, who knows, maybe there are really compelling reasons for all of these things and later on Breeanna will reveal there is much more to this mystical land than meets the eye, but I doubt it.
The king tells her to get some rest, since she might not have a chance to that night, and leaves. Harlow wonders what that means, but we find out a paragraph later:
I was woken up once by Jafar, late in the night, and that is a time I do not wish to remember, though, I am sure that I will never forget (loc. 275).
She was raped, in other words.
The next morning she wakes up and her ladies-in-waiting get her ready:
I was dressed in a long pine green dress with gold trim that flared out at the bottom. I felt like a hot-air balloon. And my boobs were pushed up uncomfortably. My long sun-kissed vermilion copper hair was in a neat French-braided bun (loc. 278).
Okay. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Breeanna glossing over the rape and Harlow’s reaction to it here, although I’m going to have significantly more of a problem if this is never addressed at any point in the book, because rape is not something you sweep under the rug. That being said, this writing is detestably bad. It’s perfectly reasonable that Harlow doesn’t want to think about what happened, or try and block it from her mind, but this was an incredibly traumatic event – and a paragraph later, we’re still in Harlow’s first person, talking about her sun-kissed vermilion copper hair. If you’re writing in first person, you are giving us that person’s point of view. Everything has to be filtered through their mind, and their emotions, and how they are feeling at that time. Think about how powerful this scene is if the entire writing style changes and things are described in clinical, numb terms, or filled with horror or revulsion. That is what good writing does; it puts us inside the mind of the character and enables us to understand what they are going through.
We’re not far into this book, but it doesn’t have that. At all. There is no discernible difference between Jafar and Harlow’s POV, and the prose is appalling.
Finally, does France exist in this world? Because if you don’t have France how do you have French braids? Unless this is an Enza de June braid and it was translated into French braid to help modern readers understand it in which case great but then why are there Epochs and Zapatos? Consistency, please.
Harlow is escorted to breakfast and Jafar is there eating. He asks her to eat, and she refuses, even though the aroma of cinnamon toast and Eggs Benedict is delicious. Wait…they have eggs Benedict here?
“Oh, Harly, please eat something,” came a surprisingly pleading voice. “Your performance last night was less than impressing, even for a virgin.” (loc. 286)
So first he’s pleading…and then he switches into straight asshole? I have to say, though, Breeanna is doing a fine job of making me hate this fucking douchebag. Harlow picks up a bowl of oatmeal and throws it at him, which shatters in a spray of porcelain and food. Jafar gets up and slaps her across the face, drawing blood, and then drags her by the hair through the castle into the ballroom, where he orders her to get up.
“What’s the magic word?” I mooched sarcastically (page 296).
He kicks her and stomps on her and then locks her in the room. Eventually a woman comes with some food and some warm water so Harlow eats and cleans the blood off her. The next morning Jafar wakes her up. He takes her up to his room, rips her clothes off, and rapes her again. Then the narration tells us that he continues to do this for many nights into the future.
Next morning at breakfast he asks how she slept and then explains that they’re engaged, as she eats an omelet. A few bites in she comes across a ring that’s been cooked into her omelet which sounds like a really bad idea, but I am getting the vibe that Jafar isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
He asks if she accepts and she asks if she is allowed to deny and he says no and so she says she accepts, for some reason. She hasn’t had much of a problem denying everything so far, why the sudden change? Plot reasons?
Anyway, they’re getting married in four days.
Jafar gloats to himself as he pours liquor into a Chrystal glass. I don’t know what that is. He orders his butler to bring him some entertainment so Jenkins ushers in a court jester. Jafar is pissed because this fool sucks. The fool introduces himself as Bo-Bo. Why is he introducing himself to someone who clearly knows him and has seen him enough times to know he sucks?
There’s a little bit of conversation which establishes that Jafar and Bo-Bo used to be friends and then Jafar orders him to leave.
Sweet, new POV! And…it’s the jester! He is pissed. We get backstory. He and Jafar became friends when they were around four and they grew up together, riding horses and having fun, until one day Jafar abruptly stopped coming to see him and then when they next encountered each other he was a jerk who demanded to be referred to as Your Highness and kicked Beauregard out. So, pretty standard. Also, Breeanna uses the word “board” instead of “bored”.
Bo rolls through the castle and suddenly hears sobbing. Turns out it’s Harlow. They talk and Harlow explains that she’s crying because she’s engaged to Jafar but she hates him and this place. Bo smiles at her and she smiles back and then things take a sudden…turn:
It was dangerous, but I trusted her, for no real reason (loc. 408)
So you admit that there is no logical reason for these events to be happening?
Bo slips her a pouch full of powder, explains that it’s lethal poison, and to wait until the festival and then slip it into Jafar’s drink to kill him.
Holy shit! You’ve been talking to this girl for roughly two minutes and already you trust her enough to let her in on your treasonous regicide plot? For that matter, it’s been clearly established that you have to do things like serve food, why haven’t you poisoned Jafar yourself already, if you hate him so much?
Bo tells her that he’ll be back to continue their plan, and peaces out.
We switch POVs over to King Abaddon, who monologues to himself about how he’s disappointed in Jafar, who “cannot resist the fine bosom of a young beauty” which is an interesting way to describe it, if nothing else.
Then we’re back with Darian, Harlow’s boyfriend. Apparently the military has moved into Dash and things are bad. They’re burning homes and raping and murdering women.
I have to leave. I have to get Harlow. She is in the imperial city now (loc. 428).
Here’s a tip, Breeanna. Characters need reasons for why they do things. Darian has been hanging out in his city while things go to shit, and he has not pursued Harlow until now. Why not? And now he suddenly decides to go rescue her. Again, why? What is the inciting incident that makes him decide to leave right now? You can’t just arbitrarily have characters wandering around to fulfill the needs of the plot. It’s lazy writing and it doesn’t make sense.
Darian packs his stuff into a duffel bag, because they have duffel bags here, and grabs his sword, Zandra, which means defender of mankind. That’s at least two drinks.
Back to Bo, who monologues about how he used to be Jafar’s friend, but now he’s going to kill him. Which we already knew. Well, it filled up space!
Harlow gets ready for the festival. We get an enormous block of text that describes what she is wearing in exhausting detail, and then a quick mention of the poison pouch in her cleavage. Wow. You know what would be a lot more interesting than tedious description of her clothes? Harlow trying to figure out how she’s going to poison the crown prince. You’d think that would be on her mind a bit more than her dress.
For that matter, where are her ladies-in-waiting?
She meets Jafar downstairs and they head out into the festival, where they immediately separate and wander around by themselves, interacting with random people, without armed bodyguards or anything. Which seems odd. Harlow dances with some random guy in a mask. It’s nice.
Beside us was a prisoner being flogged for entertainment and to this I also paid no heed (loc. 466).
Because she’s more interested in this cute masked stranger. She’s kind of a sociopath.
I ran in a frenzy of excitement, laughing merrily among many who did the same. There were children playing under a tent. I entered and played along (loc. 468).
Okay, let me see I get this straight. You are at a festival, where you will soon be forcibly married to a man who has been alternating between brutally raping you and beating the shit out of you on a daily basis. You also have a bag of poison hidden between your boobs that you are going to try and poison the heir to the kingdom with. And if you get caught you are almost certainly going to be horribly killed in a very long and drawn-out way.
What the fuck is wrong with this woman?
Eventually things move into the courtyard for a ceremony and Harlow and Jafar sit down in golden thrones. Some men open cages, releasing a flock of doves. Then a bunch of hawks are released which make short work of all the doves. At first Harlow is horrified, but then she thinks, why should she care for such “mediocre creatures”?
The night moves on. There are games…toss the squire…bobbing for fish heads…normal stuff, really. Harlow stumbles across Jafar hooking up with a prostitute that has a scarlet “A” tattooed on her neck. A scarlet letter, huh? That’s original.
“A whore?” I was so infuriated for no reason. I cared not what Jafar did, but I ran off in a tumult about it (loc. 480).
Because she’s starting to fall in love with her rapist?
The cute stranger she danced with earlier shows up and they talk for a bit and then he starts kissing her and then they move into a tent:
He unbuttoned the back of my dress and kissed down my spine, loosening my corset and grabbing me in ways I was not fond of. I did not resist though, only to spite Jafar (loc. 487).
Jafar shows up and kicks the man in the face and drags Harlow away. For some reason he doesn’t call for his guards to murder the guy hooking up with his fiancée, though. He drags Harlow into the castle and beats her and then goes to pour himself a drink. And she realizes it’s Time. She heads into her room, pretties herself up, puts on a slinky night dress, and rolls out to start seducing him, which probably threw up some major red flags right there. Anyway, she manages to get some poison into his glass but Jafar doesn’t want any more to drink, he’s more interested in sex. They go upstairs, and…well, more rape.
I’m guessing that Harlow’s emotions will never be explored.