Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review of Green Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells Book Three of the Sabina Kane Series

This book could really be described as the evolution of Sabina.  She is forced to consider her true feelings for the mage Adam, confront both her grandmother and her magical powers as well as the fact that despite her shoving everyone away from her, she is really a member of a team.

When last left Sabina, her sister Maisie had been kidnapped by Lavinia and the mage society was nearly destroyed thus making it difficult for them to go on the defense let alone offense in the coming war.  After making a deal with Tanith, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl head off to New Orleans to save Maisie.  There they meet with Zen a Voodoo priestess who is part mage and her friend Brooks a crossdressing fae.  Sabina begins her search for Maisie but like all things in which she is involved, this journey is not simple.  She must deal with werewolves, mage politics and even ghosts from her past.

To make matters worse, Sabina realizes that her grandmother intends to release Cain, the father of the dark races.  This revelation forces her to realize that everyone she has come to love is at risk.  Though used to anger and hate, love is a brand new emotion to Sabina and she is uncertain of what to do.

As with the other books in this series, Green Eyed Demon is fast paced and hard to put down.  More than ever, this story makes one root for Sabina and a happy ending that she deserves.  Along the way, Wells introduces us to a unique cast of characters though there are quite a few problematic portrayals, as well as extremely problematic language.

One of the most interesting characters in Green Eyed Demon is Brooks/ Pussy Willow, a fae cross dresser who was raised by human parents.  Wells goes as far as to suggest that Brooks fae identity was closeted, which is highly problematic and that coupled with the fact that Brooks later chooses to identify solely as the feminine Pussy Willow rather than a male makes him a part of the GlBT community.
"He said, I'm a changeling.  My fae parents left me with humans right after I was born.  I was raised as a human kid until it became obvious I wasn't like the other children. I tried to hide it for a while but then I couldn't deny it any longer.  Unfortunately, my human parents weren't too thrilled when I came out of the faery mound, so to speak.  They kicked me out when I was fourteen." [page 69]
 Right, so Brooks faces discrimination not because his identity blurs the gender binary but because he is fae.  This amounts to appropriation and it makes no sense that Wells would choose to go down that road when she is writing about a character who would have experienced at the very least cissexism along with perhaps some homophobia.  It felt as though Wells was not really committed to Brooks.

Brooks spends much of the books flirting with Adam who is clearly uncomfortable with the idea. This sets up the reductive meme of gay men as predatory.  The only one receptive to Brooks is Giguhl.  When Sabina expresses shock by this the following exchange occurs:

"Sabina, I'm not gay."
"Bisexual then?" I said.
"Another snort. "Noooo. I'm a demon silly.  I squinted at him, trying to follow that logic "And?"
"And to demons sexuality is a fluid concept, " Ada chimed in.
Obviously my attempts to keep this conversation failed miserably.
Giguhl pointed at the mage and said, "Ding-ding-ding. Give the mage a cookie"
I held up a hand. "Wait, really"
"Oh sure," Giguhl said with a shrug. "We'll fuck just about anything." [page 107]
Brooks is not granted a love interest and in fact only a demon with a forked penis can be attracted to him because he will do anything.  That again sets up Brook as less than the other characters in the story. It is only when Brooks is beaten and almost dies that Adam becomes more accepting of him.  After almost dying, Brooks claims that this identity is dead and only wants to be referred to as the feminine Pussy Willow.  Pussy Willow demands that only female pronouns be used henceforth. 

When Pussy Willow is called a man despite identifying as female she reacts by murder [pg 173].  Pussy Willow justifies this act by saying that Alodius was being disrespectful.  The truth of the matter is that Alodius is responsible for Pussy Willow being beaten almost to death.  That was the real impetus behind her actions.  It is further troubling that neither Sabina, Adam or Giguhl bother to acknowledge this and instead accepted that the impetus to act was the slur. 

There are two disabled characters in this story, a deaf drummer and a little person.  We don't even learn the name of the man of short stature, as Well only refers to him as "the midget" repeatedly:
He worse assless chaps ad a zippered mask  The ball gag prevented any protests as the midget slapped at his haunches with a whip, like a miniature jockey. [page 87]

With each step, my horrified amusement over the midget porn gave way to darker musings. [page 87]
First, Wells uses a slur and then she makes a joke of a disabled character by using sex to demonize him.  In popular media, the disabled are often constructed without any sort of sexualize agency or sexual desire and by her mockery Wells established this meme.  She even went as far as to shame an able bodied person for enjoy sex with a disabled person.  This makes it seem as though the disabled are a perversion and naturally less than their able bodied peers.

Finally, for the first time in this series we are introduced to a character of colour though the series has thus far been set in New York and Los Angelos.  They had to come to New Orleans to find a woman of colour and surprise, surprise she is a voodoo priestess;  how stereotypical.  In their first exchange, Sabina realises that Zen is human and an argument breaks out. 
"Oh I get it." She crossed her arms. "You're a darkrace supremacist."
My mouth dropped open.  "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"Really? How may mortally challenged individuals do you count as friends?"
My chin came up. "Please. I've known lots of humans."
"Sabina, I don't think it counts if you ripped their throats out" Giguhl said.
"Hey!" I glared at my disloyal minion
"Vampires are the worst." Zenobia screwed her lips.  "Immortalists, the lot of you." [page 34-35]
Seriously? A darkrace supremacist?  In a word appropriation.  To make matters worse, Sabina and Zen then go onto to discuss blood quantum which leaves Sabina feeling vindicated because she is only a half breed.  Really?  With all of the issues people of colour face today because of hueism, this conversation was not necessary.  

It almost felt while reading this book that Wells was trying to fill a bingo card by introducing as many historically marginalized characters as possible; however, the problem is that once these characters were introduced, Wells had no idea how to write for them.  If these marginalized characters had been as fleshed out as her CIS, TAB, straight, White characters, this would have been a phenomenal book. In so many ways Wells missed the mark and I ended up liking the story in spite of its shortfalls rather than because of Wells attempt to be inclusive. I guess in this case, less would be more.  I always appreciate historically marginalized characters in books, but at the same time, faux inclusion is not better than erasure.  I wish that Wells had done more research before deciding to run amok with our experiences.