Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blade Song (Colbana Files #1) by J.C. Daniels

Kit Colbana is a member of the Aneria - a race descended from the Amazons. Because she is half human, her people don't fully recognize her, leaving Kit essentially alone in the world. As a trained assassin and killer, Kit is more than able to make a living.  When Kit is contacted by the werecats to help find a missing kid, Kit cannot resist taking the case.  As someone with a history of being abused, Kit cannot help but get emotionally invested in the case, even if it means she has to deal with the Cats main enforcer Damon.

Blade Song is a PNR/UF which means that while this story could very will exist without the romance angle, it is weaved into the plot.  Unfortunately, at times the romance feels quite forced.  From the very first meeting between Damon and Kit, it's clear that they are going to move from hating to each other to loving each other.  It makes Blade Song extremely predictable as far as that storyline is concerned. It's one thing to portray the dislike between two characters and another to make the love interest actively abusive.
No fear, damn it. I could still breathe…barely…and he wasn’t trying to kill me. He just wanted me afraid while he yelled at me.My blood is noble. My heart is strong. My aim is true. I am aneira…my heart is strong—No fear, damn it. I could be drowning in it, and he damn well could smell it on me, but I sure as hell wouldn’t show it.
This above passage is very heavily framed as saving Kit from her own stupidity but it sets the tone of things to come. There are several times in the story where Kit asks Damon to back away and give her space. At one point she becomes so desperate, she hides in the bathroom and sleeps in the bathtub. Then there's the fact that Damon simply refuses to respect her wishes when she asks him not to touch her.
His hand spread open over my neck and despite my intention to ignore it, I almost groaned at how good that felt. I was tempted to lean into—And then I realized I was—“Damn it,” I snapped. “Would you stop? I thought I made it clear, I’m a little freaked out by the fact that you keep touching me even though just an hour or so ago, your Alpha was telling you that you might be killing me soon.” (pg 46-47)
Damon spends much of the time in the book trying to convince Kit that he is not going to hurt her and with good reason. Because Damon bruised Kit's neck so badly, she could barely swallow.  He claims he didn't know how fragile she was and that is why he didn't hold back his strength but the fact still remains that he hurt her so badly that he bruised her.

One of the things that irks me about the relationship between Kit and Damon is that she spends so much time saying that she doesn't want a relationship and that he wouldn't be good for her. Since Daniels was determined to force these two together, we never get to see Kit follow through on this. Given the fact that Damon physically hurt her, violated her trust and didn't respect her enough to stop touching her, this all should have been reason enough for Kit to refuse a relationship, particularly given her history of abuse.

Much of Blade Song is filled with Kit being triggered by different events. The descriptions of her abuse are quite graphic but it makes sense given that she is remembering what happened to her and trying to find a way to put it behind her. The years of abuse not only place Kit into a position to be triggered, they effect her daily life. Kudos for Daniels for actually portraying PTSD rather than having her character live through horrific events and remain untouched by them.  After being told repeatedly how dirty she was as a child, Kit showers almost compulsively.  Not only does she want to wash the past away but any suggestion that she might be less than.  Often in this genre we see that a protagonist has a troubled past but rarely do we see the follow through with how said protagonist deals lives with the pain. As much as this was difficult to read, it made the story feel real to me and made Kit relatable.

My biggest problem with Kit is that she seemed to have no real plan and sort of fumbled her way through one dangerous situation after another.  At the end, when Kit goes after the humans at the park, she does so after being warned how dangerous it will be without any real plan.  Kit seems to just leap into anything without looking first and then depend on her sarcasm to get her out of trouble. We are told at the very beginning that Kit is an assassin but I have difficulty believing that she can tie her shoes on her own, let alone hunting someone down and killing them.

In terms of marginalized characters, there were several problems.  The Queen of the cats is a vicious woman and focuses her hatred on Kit for reasons.  I have to say reasons because Daniels never really makes it clear why exactly the Queen hates Kat.  Daniels goes to great length to let us know that the Queen is unstable, violent and abusive.  Her nephew ran away rather than living with her.  It's the perfect marriage of insanity and violence and it all amounts to an abelist trope. When you marry this to the fact that Daniels repeatedly called the queen "crazy" the ableism is obvious and overwhelming. I am getting tired of saying that mentally ill people are more likely to hurt themselves than others but it needs to said because the media repeatedly presents the opposite, in spite of the facts.

We did get a brief introduction to T.J. a shapeshifter whose legs were cut off by her alpha.  She is tough and rules her area with an iron fist.  Unfortunately, because her role is so small, we didn't really learn much about her.  At best T.J., is a side character whose limited role couldn't hope to combat the ableist portrayal of the Queen.

People of colour are basically minor one off characters in this book.  It would be generous to call them side characters at all.  Daniels has different kinds of shifters, vampires and witches but somehow couldn't be arsed to give us some decent racial inclusion.

Finally, we come to the sole gay character, who unfortunately is subjected to the dreaded gay death. Kori is a powerful witch whose magic is earth based. She is assigned to help Kit hunt the humans when Kit foolishly decides to just simply go off and kill them (once again without a plan).  Shortly after Kori admits that while she's bisexual that she prefers women to men, she is shot with an arrow and killed.  This isn't proper inclusion. This is throwing in an GLBT character to avoid accusations of erasure.

There are a lot of problems with this book.  I am forced to weigh its excellent portrayal of PTSD against its near erasure of POC and LGBT people, coupled with the ableist treatment of the alpha Queen.  Then there's the issue that Damon, the male love interest whodoesn't seem to know what consent really is.  The story itself just seemed to plod along without any sort of surprises whatsoever.  At best, Blade Song is meh.  It's something to read and then quickly forget.  I have read things that are certainly more offensive but that doesn't make this a winner.  My suggestion, is if you are really interested, try borrowing it and keeping your money in your pocket.