Now we’re over in Roswell’s mind as he’s chewing through the demon.
I involuntarily licked my mussel (loc. 783)
Just because spell check doesn’t flag the word DOESN’T MEAN IT’S THE CORRECT WORD HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MISTAKE MUSSEL FOR MUSCLE?
Apparently Harlow looks curious and amused, which is odd, since she just was just splattered with the blood of a creature born in hell. But maybe that turns her on? Apparently, because she says that it’s “wicked” and that she’s never seen anything like it. Then she says it was fun and she wants to do it again??? What? Run through a forest and then watch a werewolf chew up a vampire demon? What the hell is happening?
Roswell turns back into his human form, and then…
I walked over to where she now stood, brushing of earth off her, completely aware I was naked. She didn’t seem bothered so I didn’t bring it up (loc. 788)
Ahahhaha “bring it up” I see what you did there!
They introduce each other and Roswell thinks that “Harlow Grimm” is a title which doesn’t make any sense. Roswell says that the vampire was a Penanggalan which is a total rip-off of existing mythology, but whatever. He suggests they head back to camp and a sentence later they’re there. Breeanna really has no sense of how to correctly portray the passage of time. This is figuratively how most scenes go:
“By Jove, Arnold, I do love Chicago! But it’s time to catch the train back to New York.”
“Quite right, Quince!! By the way, your beard is attractive!”
“Thank you,” said Quincy, as they walked past the Statue of Liberty.
It doesn’t make any fucking sense. You can’t transport characters across miles of terrain during a single line of boring-ass dialogue.
They go back to the camp and to Roswell’s tent and he gets dressed and grabs a cigar. Apparently he can conjure a flame by snapping his fingers, which is impressive. Harlow asks him to tell her about his people.
“Well, first, we aren’t people. People are humans. We are Wulver. If you can look at it in such a way, we are not people per se, that’s like saying your pet dogs are people. See it sounds ridiculous, does it not?” (loc. 821)
No. He’s clearly an intelligent, humanoid-shaped creature, that is nothing like saying a pet dog is “people”.
There’s some boring dialogue which tells us nothing, and a few misspelled words. Eventually he picks her up by the back of the neck, which sounds painful, and takes her out to the rest of the pack to request to keep her as a pet. The elders are fine with this, even though just a couple pages ago they were flipping their shit because she’s an outsider. They tell Roswell to keep her away from the pack and that is that. They go back to the tent and Harlow relays her life story.
A sudden thought spontaneously combusted within my mind. “Are you hungry? You have eaten in a while.” (loc. 880)
He wonders if she’s hungry and that thought “spontaneously combusts” in his mind. And it says “have” rather than “haven’t”.
…I literally do not think I have ever encountered writing quite as bad as this.
The night passes, or rather it’s suddenly morning since time doesn’t actually pass in this world. Roswell borrows a comb so Harlow can comb her hair, then they head out to some sort of training ground where Roswell cuts a stick and fashions what I can only assume is a wooden sword? Apparently he’s going to teach her to fight. Why? I have no idea. There has been absolutely no in-text explanation or really any logical reason why he is doing this. Roswell says she has to address him as Master, and henceforth, she will be known as “Chepi”. Harlow isn’t happy about that and suggests “Blair” instead which he agrees to.
They fight. It’s not described at all. Then suddenly Harlow uses her sword to vault over Roswell and poke him in the back, because she’s actually a ninja/Olympic pole vaulter, which we never knew about.
They keep practicing for half a day while Roswell thinks about how he needs to find Harlow a sword and the grammatical structure of these sentences makes me wonder if this book was written in another language and they just ran the manuscript through Google translate and immediately published it.
…probably not. Google translate has better grammar.
We move to the POV of the All-Knowing who is talking about Blair and Roswell eating stew. She’s calling him Master like the good subservient she isn’t. The rest of the vampires are hovering around being quite racist. Eventually they go to the Elder’s hut to request to go to the city to get a weapon for Blair/Harlow. The Elder says no. And suddenly they’re back in Roswell’s hut. Roswell packs up and they leave town. Roswell lights a cigar incoherently. How do you do that? I don’t know.
As they walk, Harlow/Blair thinks about life. Eventually she takes her wedding ring off and chucks it into the bushes.
Pondering love, war, and her own humanity, Harlow Grimm, now known as Blair, headed into an unknown land with a menacing creature of the night puffing on his cigar all the way to Dibujar (loc. 1035)
That is possibly the most interesting sentence that humankind has ever written.
Back to Darian. He angsts about Harlow as he lights a fire and starts carving up a rodent he trapped and is planning on eating. The wind makes eerie noises. Then a voice says it is behind him, and suddenly a branch from the willow tree reaches down and picks him up by the back of the shirt. Holy shit, we’re ripping off Tolkien now?
“Yeah! Ya wanna fight or somethin’?” I challenged, trying furiously to appear as though I were calm. Calm, right, I’m only being interrogated by a grammatically confused plant!
“Ha ha he he har har ho. No fight does I.” (loc. 1069)
So…Darian is dealing with a tree that talks like Yoda. A Yoda plant. A Yodant. I guess ChrissyPao isn’t the only one who self-publishes books that simultaneously rip off Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
There’s even a picture:
Darian argues with the tree to let him go so he does right about the time Darian realizes he’s fifty feet in the air, so he falls screaming and then the tree catches him and argues with him. Darian calls the tree a buffoon but the tree thinks Darian just gave him a name and now they’re going to be best friends forever! Buffoon agrees to help Darian find Harlow but says that they need to go seek the help of Lady Rowan, who is wise and magical and shit. So kind’ve an exact copy of the scene where Merry and Pippin are lost and need to find the rest of the Company and encounter Treebeard who then sets off to find the White Wizard.
We bounce over to Lady Rowan the Wise:
Mid-Epoch sun blazed in the creamy sapphire sky. Peering into the massive brass-framed mirror, I combed through my fiery golden carmine hair with a porky pine quill brush (loc. 1126)
She does her hair, musing about how long it’s been since she’s seen anyone, and throws some powder into the fire, which conjures up an image of TreeYoda carrying Darian. Rowan starts making soup / witch’s brew while thinking about how cute Darian is and how she hopes he likes her. I’m getting the vibe that Rowan might be mildly insane.
After a bit TreeYoda and Darian arrives and Rowan goes out to greet them. Darian gets down and TreeYoda pats him on the back which sends him flying. She bends over to see if he’s okay and Darian stands up and then suddenly Rowan is on the ground and Darian offers his hand to help her up. Okay, Breeanna forgot who was standing and who was sitting; it’s the kind of thing you could easily miss if you didn’t bother proofreading your book even once.
Buffoon says goodbye and goes skipping off down the lane. Rowan invites Darian inside to eat soup and explain what is going on. Rowan’s hopes are crushed when she learns Darian is engaged. Eventually, Darian gets to his point: Harlow has vanished and to find her…he wants to learn magic. Wait, what? When the hell did he decide this? He’s been searching for what, a couple days, and he’s already given up to the point where he decides he needs to learn magic? I…honestly need to stop being surprised at character motivations changing without rhyme or reason; we’re still early in this book.
Darian talks about his deep love for Harlow which makes Rowan break down crying so she runs off into the woods to the creek, sobbing, and suddenly sees an Aigamuxa.
Aigamuxa are large, man-eating, and mostly human-looking creatures with eyes on the soles of their feet (loc. 1222).
And also lovingly stolen from the mythology of southern African bushmen. And – you know what, rant time.
I really don’t have a problem with things being borrowed or stolen from mythology, or hell, even from other sources. All I truly ask is that they are A) treated well, and B) packaged with plenty of the author’s own creativity. If I’m reading a well-written, interesting novel with three-dimensional characters that’s putting a thoroughly fresh spin on a genre, I’m on board, even if the novel includes references or homages to other works. But an author has to earn that. If you can show that you’re a creative writer who can actually come up with your own characters and ideas, I’ll accept that you’re offering homage to the work you’re referencing, or you’re borrowing from mythology because you love the original mythological work.
There is none of that here. The Penanggalan and Aigamuxa aren’t here to be explored in any interesting or meaningful way, they’re here to die (spoiler alert) and neither of them will ever be referenced again for the rest of this novel. What’s more, there is nothing interesting or remotely unique about this book, it’s a stitched-together patchwork of things stolen from better authors with absolutely no redeeming qualities. So when these creatures pop up, it doesn’t feel like it’s a clever reference to southern African bushmen mythology. It feels like Breeanna realized there needed to be a monster so she picked up her copy of Weird-Ass Monsters From Mythology sitting next to her desk, picked one at random, and stuffed it in the story.
That, I hate.
Anyway, Rowan calls upon the god of the waters – Poseidon – to fight and conjures the water into ice and throws a bunch of ice daggers at the Aigamuxa but they don’t penetrate the skin. Rowan turns to run but it catches her in a moment, picks her up, and licks her cheek as she struggles to free herself. So, like most people do in life-or-death situations, Rowan flashes back to the last time she’d fought an Aigamuxa, and she had to be rescued by…Alexander the Great. That one time she was sent to 323 BC.
Turns out Alexander the Great was poisoned by the Aigamuxa and that’s why he died abruptly at age 33.
It bites her and she feels the poison start coursing through her veins and then Darian leaps into the fray with a dramatic “Release her, fiend!” The Aigamuxa drops Rowan in the drink and the fight is on. It’s very dramatic:
A strange brightness shone around his silhouette; a sort of sorcery was being played here. His sword cut into the beast, causing it to expel a horrific cry. He kicked the hellish creature and began stabbing it viciously as if he had been possessed. Cuss words spilled from his mouth (loc. 1258).
Anyway, Darian kills it, no problem, and carries Rowan back. She’s feeling much better, so apparently the poison wasn’t actually a big deal. Rowan decides that she’ll make some “cleansing teas” for herself. Whew, good thing the poison wasn’t something that would have some impact on the plot!
They get back to the house and Darian faints from exhaustion. Rowan thinks about it and decides that she’s going to help him, because
he is the type of person that the world needs; he is a true savior (loc. 1273).
Okay. To recap: Harlow, code name Blair, is married to the psychotic, rape-happy Prince Jafar and is currently on the run with Roswell, a sexy vampire-killing werewolf that is developing a kinky master/slave relationship with her. Meanwhile, Harlow’s fiancé, Darian Archer, is trying to find her by befriending Treebeard/Yoda hybrids and learning magic from a time-traveling witch who wants to bang him, and once killed Alexander the Great.