Friday, February 21, 2014

Blood Descent (Blood Hunters #3) by Marie Treanor

It is finally time for Elizabeth Silk to give birth to her baby.  The vampire and hunter world is on full alert because this is the first child to be born of a human and a vampire.  For Konrad, this is a day he has been dreading.  Though the other hunters have managed to strike an accord with the vampires, he is convinced that despite Saloman's promises, the vampires represent a huge threat to humanity.  With that in mind, Konrad travels across Europe in an attempt to find hunters who will rally behind him.  What Konrad does not expect is to ally with a vampire named Maggie  but when her goals seem to be the same as his and he finds himself lacking the hunter back up he would like, Konrad decides that he has no choice. It's a race against time but Konrad keeps finding himself distracted by Maggie.

Once again, Treanor starts subverting gender norms for this genre by having a female vampire and a human male.  Konrad is also incredibly damaged having been tortured nearly to death by vampires and witnessing the death of his parents at the hands of vampires.  Woman as victim, in need of saving, is often the theme in paranormal romance which makes Konrads back story really challenging to the ridiculous gender tropes too often normalized in paranormal fantasy.  Unfortunately, this is were subversive plot ends.  It quickly becomes clear that despite being a vampire, Konrad is stronger than Maggie.  Maggie's only real strength lies in her telepathic ability. To make matters worse, Maggie's mission for almost the entirety of this novel is to save Konrad, who is supposedly a good man gone bad.  Could it be any more trope laden?  The idea that a woman should fix a damaged man is extremely problematic and leads far too many women to abusive relationships.  

We do get the requisite declaration of love at the end of Blood Descent but it is highly problematic given the abusive nature of the interactions between Maggie and Konrad.  For the majority of the book, Konrad repeatedly threatens to kill Maggie and when he is not holding a weapon to her heart, he is verbally abusive. Maggie spends her time being passive, sure in her conviction that her goodness will cause Konrad to change his mind about vampires.  Where do I even begin with how problematic this message is?  The very idea that if a woman is good enough that a man will stop abusing her is victim blaming and sick.  The relationship between Konrad and Maggie is not a whirlwind romance but the story of a woman being abused over a lengthy period of time supposedly in the name of love.  Konrad gives a weak apology and is of course forgiven because Maggie loves him.  There is no discussion of counselling to deal with his abusive tendencies; it's a ridiculous narrative about  the love of a good woman saving  damaged man.

Treanor continues to write a highly erased series.  So far, there is only one character of colour - Cyn.  Cyn isn't even a fully realised character the way others in the series are.  We know nothing about her background and in Blood Descent, Treanor doesn't even bother to reveal how it is that Cyn, who was adamantly anti-vampire suddenly comes to guard Elizabeth during the birth of the hybrid child. Treanor never lets us forget for one minute that Cyn is African-American, as if that is the only relevant fact about her.  She is a cardboard cut out who clearly exists for weak inclusion points.  LGBT character don't fare any better because this is the third book in this series and despite the story spanning quite a bit of Europe, this series is extremely erased. Since when did Europe turn into a homogeneous heterosexual society?  At this point there is simply no justification for the continued erasure.

I went into this novel expecting the typical paranormal romance, prepared to judge it on that basis but what I found instead was a novel dedicated to reifying tropes that justify intimate partner violence.  It was bad enough when Treanor decided not to subvert the gender binary by having Konrad be physically stronger than Maggie but when you add to it that Konrad uses his power for abuse and Maggie still loves him and dreams of a life with him, it is one hot mess for which there can be no excuse.  This is not the stuff of romance but the stuff of horror, violence, patriarchy and sexism.  Blood Descent should come with a huge trigger warning to protect survivors from the harmful and dangerous message that it sends.  Love and abuse do not go hand in hand.

Editor's Note: A copy of this book was received from Netgalley