Thursday, May 8, 2014

Chosen by Fate (Para-Ops #2) by Virna DePaul

(spoilers ahead)

After returning from Korea with the para-ops team, Wraith isolates herself from everyone else.  Though she has always been moody and standoffish this increases.  Wraith knows that her undead life is running short. Finally, she decides to be proactive and demands to know who she was but with three felines being raped, Wraith's needs are put on the back burner.  Though Wraith agrees to work on the rapes, she cannot ignore the changes to her body.  Suddenly, she is becoming more human and it's no longer painful to be touched. Still the pain of who she was haunts her and though she manages to hide it all from the team, she cannot hide it from Caleb.

For a paranormal romance, DePaul crams Chosen by Fate with a lot of world building, mystery and spirituality.  The Goddess Essenia is still very much considering the annihilation of every single living creature and as Mahone works to stop it, the weight of the responsibility is beginning to wear on him. There is a secret organization that is attempting to end the peace between the humans and the Otherborn. Even the Para-Ops team who is trying desperately to bring about a balance is struggling with their own issues.  For all of the things happening in the book, it never feels confused.

Chosen by Fate's largest problem is that DePaul piles fail upon fail into the story and absolutely none of it is necessary.  It's so bad that I almost don't know where to begin.

Caleb is the main love interest in this story and he is half Indian and Half Irish.  This makes the relationship between Caleb and Wraith subversive because inter-racial relationships aren't often portrayed in this genre. What ever gains DePaul made in this regard were lost when she made Caleb a drunk. He even snarks when Mahone finds him in a bar, "Didn't you do your intel? I'm half-Indian and half-Irish.  You had to know the chances of finding me shit-faced was esp ... est ... extremely high."  Of course he's an alcoholic, everyone knows that if you're Irish or Native you cannot control your drinking.  Yes, I'm rolling my eyes.

Then we have the problems with GLBT portrayal. The problem begins with the felines who are bisexual, which is explained by their high sex drive.  Felines are also promiscuous because if they don't have sex, they experience pain.  Yes, promiscuous bisexual beings which is justified by story reasons. Further problematic is that one apparently needs "training in the art of feminine love." Feel free to dish out the side eye.

There is also the issue of the trans character who is referred to as a "transsexual".  Just from the use of that word, you should have an idea of the horror I'm about to relate.  Wilma is having a night out and when she is asked if she is scared because of the feline rapes, Wilma responds, "I've got a dick and I'm not afraid to use it."  Really?  When she looks at the Caleb, the male love interest, Wilma quips, "Hon, if I could get a dog like that to bang me, I might even consider getting some surgery done, if you get my meaning." So, trans women don't get surgery to align their bodies with their internal gender but to get a piece of dick.  Not to worry though, Wilma does get hers because men are always looking for an available woman and she sometimes get lucky. What is this but a kinder version of the familiar, "the girls all get prettier at closing time." Thankfully, Wilma does not have a huge role in the story.

As aforementioned, the felines are being raped and this a huge plot line in the story.  First we have felines being slut shamed for their promiscuity by the humans.  Then we learn that the felines aren't really being raped.  That's right, three felines report being raped to the police but it's only a cover to get sterilized. The hope apparently was that the rape would explain away why they stopped having children. A feline apparently is prized within her community for her ability to procreate.  I absolutely hated this plot line.  Women do not run around claiming to be raped when they haven't been, and as a matter of fact, a high percentage of rapes go unreported.

Wraith has spent her life trying to find out who she was and how she died.  It turns out that Wraith and her sister were gang raped.  Wraith fought back but when she saw her sister die, she stopped fighting and died. For this, she was sentenced by the Goddess Essenia to become a wraith.  Really? Having to suffer ongoing pain for ten years for daring to stop fighting while you're being raped?  Apparently, Essenia believes that Wraith gave up to easily.  Isn't it nice to know that there is proper protocol for how to behave if you're being gang raped? Not to worry though, Wraith is redeemed by falling in love with Caleb. Wraith who has something to say about everything passively accept this.
Wraith couldn't be blamed for Annie's death but clearly the Goddess blamed her for her own.  "I stopped," she continued. "I let him rape me. Kill me."
The very definition of rape means that Wraith didn't let her rapist do anything and further, idea that a rape survivor needs to be redeemed is just beyond offensive.

DePaul also seems to have some sort of issue is BDSM and is incapable of believing that not everyone has to share the same kink. Wraith feels pain with every touch and so she has gravitated to BDSM as part of her sexual release.  Of course, Caleb the half Native, half Irish Shaman cannot tolerate it. It's wrong I tell you, just wrong.

The fail in Chosen by Fate was absolutely unrelenting and it made me feel like I was trying to float in quick sand.  I don't understand why DePaul chose to go there given how many nuanced ideas were in this story. For instance, at the end of a war, does one have the responsibility to aid those who have suffered near annihilation to forge a peace? When it comes to torture, even if you refuse to do it yourself but don't stop it, are you still culpable? These are weighty questions for any book, let alone a paranormal romance; however, they fought to stay a focal point because offensive tropes kept over running them. The best way to describe Chosen by Fate is to say that it didn't live up to its potential due to the authors ability to pack so many offensive tropes in her story.