Lissa is back trying to stop the evil vampires and their terrorist minions doing nefarious things for reasons (it would be nice if they actually explained a little of why they’re doing this beyond EVIL AND EVIL SPACE ELVES)
She has her bag of tricks and super powers to stop them – but she has to do that with her leash constantly being pulled by the men in her life. Her fathers, her husbands, they all have plans for her, they all have an agenda and they all have uses for her. Whether she wants it or not
Ok, I’m going to write a lot about the toxic trainwreck that is Lissa’s relationships in this book so I’m going to cover everything else briefly before diving into that cess pool
The writing/plot in general –lazy lazy lazy. We have aliens dropping in for no other reason than to be ridiculously powerful and scatter deux ex plot-solvers in their wake. We have alien worlds that are still less alien than Ohio – seriously, Lissa would have more culture shock travelling to China than she would have going to these worlds. We have a species of proto-vampires which in any other book may have been an interesting way to develop an actual culture and a way for vampires to exist as an independent species – but no, this is a useful slave species who are also useful food. This is about it.
Which applies, pretty much, to Lissa’s powers of well. Super misting that lets her kill everyone. The actual power to smell evil to render any kind of tracking, investigation or questioning or any actual work completely moot. Every encounter is just resolved by throwing super powers at it.
We have the same minimal diversity – another world with almost no female supernaturals because REASONS, gay characters who lurk in the background and POC largely being absent (but we have a sinister Middle-Eastern terrorist)
Now the cess pool. This book continues on the series’ habit of having one of the worst relationships I’ve encountered. And, ye gods, that is saying something considering what I have read
Lissa’s history of abuse actually exacerbates everything because all of her reaction to the terrible way everyone – and especially Gavin – inflicts on her is all blames on her past and being such a delicate fragile female, bless her little dainty heart. Him screaming and breaking things in a raging snit because she dares to not obey him causes her to collapse in terror – and it’s because she’s fragile, not because he’s abusive. And everyone’s supposed to accept that his behaviour isn’t abusive because he won’t hit her – that’s the toxic message of this book; if he doesn’t hit her, it’s not abuse. He can scream and yell. He can swear and rage for hours. He can refuse to listen to her and berate her. He can be a constant reminder of the fact he once imprisoned and threatened to have her killed. But it’s not “abuse” if it’s not violent… apparently (and the constant underlying threat of violence doesn’t count?).
And all of this is doubly clear by how AWARE Lissa is of his disapproval, of his emotions – it’s the hyper-aware reaction of an abuse victim constantly worried about his reaction. She’s constantly worried about how Gavin will react – even when defying him and doing her own thing anyway it’s with full acknowledgement of the fact that Gavin will disapprove and there will be consequences.
This doesn’t just apply to Gavin – just about every relationship she has with the men in this book (and they are ALL men. There are two teeny tiny female roles that barely appear otherwise it’s all men men men) is toxic. In fact, except for one FBI agent and some tiny side characters, they all slot into 3 categories:
Servants: people exist entirely to be servile to Lissa (almost amusingly to make sure these men cannot possibly be love interests they’re either gay or lack genitals. That’s what it takes in this world not to be sexually attracted to Lissa and even then they fawn incredibly over her. Again, it’s toxic).
Love Interests: By love interests I mean men who continually infringe on Lissa’s life and demand her affections regardless of her wish. Gavin and Khirfin have both become her partners basically because they said so – with minimal fighting against it from her. And everyone else? Tony, this random werewolf who keeps coming in, most of the random vampires – they’re nearly all interested in her and none of them have even the slightest sense of boundaries or giving her space. She runs a constant gauntlet of innuendo, unwanted touching and reminders of the man who ejaculated all over her against her consent (yes, that happened). All, of course, in front of her abusive, super-jealous husband.
Fathers: so many fathers. And, yes, this is also beyond dubious – pretty much all of these men have swooped in on the very adult Lissa’s life and declared themselves her daddy. Morrill is the vampire who adopts her and she becomes utterly dependent on under vampire law. He’s adopted her, she has no real choice in the matter. Then there’s Wlodek who, because he helped revive her after she nearly died by suicide (driven to that by, yes, Wlodek) has now declared he’s also her father. Daddy relationship formed, her choice not consulted but she instantly starts calling him “dad.” No, really. Then there’s her actual biological father who arrives after decades of absence and now it’s all “behold my beloved daughter, let us create a father/daughter relationship whole cloth from nothing”
Let’s top this off with her being completely dependent. She’s allowed to own no property – even if she earns money it goes to her husband or father. She has no independence. She is treated as both an extremely useful and dangerous tool and weapon (which she is) but also as a child who cannot possibly make her own decisions. No-one seems to see the contradiction here. I mean either she’s lost and young and new and needs someone to hold her hand and to do as she’s told for her own good OR she’s a super-powerful lethal vampire who they can ship around the world killing ominous Middle-Eastern terrorists who are working with vampires because who needs a motive for your ominous brown people, right? She cannot be nothing!
Everyone slots Lissa into roles with regards to themselves and she has little real objection. And we see it from her point of view – we’re in her head all the time, we can see her thoughts and she doesn’t have even a shred of the outrage she should have over any of this. Oh she gets mad. She gets mad often. And everyone treats her as having a little tantrum there-there probably because she’s super-delicate and female and abused so bless her little cotton-socks we’ll humour her for a little while. And then she’ll get over it and be called Wlodek daddy and Gavin her love and everyone else she will be all happy with everyone again. I mean this book even ends with her in a towering rage with everyone – and rightly so (but only for ONE reason rather than the 10 billion other reasons) – but it doesn’t matter! Because she ended last book angry and the book before that angry – she was even so furious and hurt she tried to commit suicide. But it never ever lasts. Her outrage dissipates by the second chapter of the next book meaning everyone treating her like a silly delicate female who will just get over her irrational upset seem to be proven RIGHT.
To top it all off if she DID have any actual negative thoughts it still wouldn’t be private because they continually read her mind and SHARE those thoughts with anyone. Ho-ho did you know that Lissa finds you very sexually attractive? Ho ho ho ho!
Really, the only way the next book could redeem the whole series if is it says “and Lissa murdered everyone. MUAHAHAHAHAH!”
In fact, I don’t need a book. I just need that line. 5 fangs for that line.