Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blood Prophecy (Blood Hunters, #4) by Marie Treanor

Janine is a  a descendant of the ancients, recovery addict and prostitute.  A faithful meeting with the vampire Dmitriu in which she almost dies, causes her to rethink her life.  Janine gets clean and joins the hunter organization determined to ensure that no vampire will ever make her feel cheap and used again. Janine finally feels that when and if she meets Dmitriu again that she will be able to settle a score.  What she does not know is that she is part of a prophecy given by the last ancient prophet Luk, "The junkie whore shall save the trinity in the first hour."  For his part, Dmitriu is determined to help Saloman as he prepares to welcome a child into the world and this means finding Janine and assuring that is at Elizabeth's Silk's birth. Can he convince Janine to put aside her distrust of him to help him on his mission.

Treanor takes care to introduce characters we are familiar with along with storylines from other books in order to make this story based on essentially unknown character fit into her larger narrative.  Unfortunately some of this felt repetitive as the birth of Saloman and Elizabeth child, along with the threat that Konrad represents  was aptly covered in Blood Descent.  It made the prophecy, which reads large in this novel feel redundant.  

The characterization of Janine is this book is hopelessly problematic.  I lost count of the times that she is referred to as a "junkie whore".  Janine is essentially the good girl who has gone bad and ultimately saved, or rather made clean by the love of a vampire and his magical penis.  He of course isn't like any other John that she serviced because he made her come.  It reads as though Janine has no value during her stage of addiction and prostitution and that is a dangerous line of thinking to promote given the enormous amount of violence faced by sex workers.  The plot also follows the typical line of making a sex worker a tortured person.  Not all prostitutes are drug addicted and suffering.  It seems inconceivably to the media that there are women who not only actively choose this line of work but enjoy it. 

Part of Janine's reformation is a change in her style of dress.  Moving away from clothing which reveals her body is a signal to the world that her body is no longer for sale.  Can we say slutshaming?  A woman's clothing is not a signal of anything other than she likes what she is wearing.  Several times, Janine talks about wearing a burka.  So now we have slutshaming and outright appropriation.  Burka is a complex garment and should never be used in this way.  For some women it represents a rejection of Western imperialism and a sign of liberation. For others, it's a cage and a symbol of patriarchal Islamic control.  Either way, it is a garment that does not belong in this story and most certainly not as a supposed symbol of Janine's metamorphosis from"junkie whore" to brave, chaste warrior.

To help cleanse Janine, we are given the story of the spurned woman - Antonia.  Antonia is the vampire who Dmitriu turned when he felt alone and abandoned.  We are given the typical hell hath no fury like a woman scorned plot line for her.  Of course Dmitriu is patient and forgiving and Antonia's rage is unreasonable.  Unlike Janine, Antonia refuses to acknowledge her place and act accordingly. This is juxtaposed to Janine's rage which essentially is written as misplaced and a source of failing to understand Dmitriu's motives.  Dmitriu did after all leave Janine money and kill her pimp.  What else could a woman possibly want from a lover. 

For his part, Dmitriu is equally problematic.  He forces himself on Janine but denies this because he can smell her arousal.  I wish paranormal romance would move away from this line of reasoning as it justifies sexual assault and let's be honest, it's disgusting. He can smell her vagina therefore he has the right to access it?  Really? Just ewww. Janine knows that she cannot stop him, so all she can do is fail to respond to Dmitriu's sexual advances and we are supposed to find this sexy?  Janine has to tell Dmitriu no several times before he finally stops his supposed seduction (read: assault). No means no the first time, not continue the assault in the hope of changing the woman's mind. Suggesting that because Janine finds Dmitriu attractive that sex is inevitable and right, is the typical rape culture nonsense that works to devalue women.  

Once again, Treanor is gives us a highly erased word.  There are no characters of colour and certainly no GLBT people. Keep in mind that Blood Prophecy literally traverses Europe. Since when is Europe a White, Cisgender, Heterosexual enclave? It's ridiculous and makes the story unbelievable despite the obvious work that Treanor has done in world building.

The Blood Hunters series continues to disappoint me.  The world is fascinating and I love the idea of vampires being on the verge of revealing themselves to the world. I love thinking about the confusion, fear and religious fanaticism  which would occur.  There is so much potential to this series, yet Treanor continues to let it down with her trope laden characters and storylines.  The few times Treanor actually writes something subversive and interesting, the story line quickly reifies itself and quickly asserts norms/stereotypes which are both discriminatory and harmful to historically marginalized people. I keep reading in the hopes that Treanor will recognize this and follow through with her subversive tendencies but at this point, I am unhappy to report that this has not been the case.