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Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
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Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Ann Aguirre
Blackveil - Kristen Britain Warning: Spoiler-filled ramble ahead. Also - Trigger warning for rape, victim blaming, slut-shaming, misogyny and just some general WTF.Wow. Fans are insane. Not that I didn't know this already, but even so, I'm still sometimes struck by their ability to turn rational, insightful thoughts into complete bugfuck insanity. Something disturbing happens in Blackveil. I mention it in my status updates but until today hadn't intend to say anything about it. After all, it was a contrived situation, poorly chosen and poorly handled. Here's what went down:There was an assassination attempt. It sorta kinda succeeded, in a sense, in that it killed Lady Estora's father and injured and poisoned King Zachary. While Zachary lies delirious, the most powerful men in the kingdom hatch a plot for a "deathbed" wedding. While Estora is struggling with the grief of her father's death, all her advisors (even her own mother) insist it's for the best of the kingdom that she go through with this wedding. The one person who is against it, Captain Mapstone, is drugged by these powerful men to keep her out of the way. Britain consistently wrote Estora as someone who wanted to do what was best for her people (though she goes a wee stupid in the 3rd book). It's pretty clear that Estora is convinced that not going along with the marriage could lead to civil war, which, if you've been reading these books up to now, I shouldn't have to tell you would be utterly disastrous.The most idealistic choice she could have made? No. But it was likely the smart decision. That smart and "angelically perfect" aren't often the same thing is a consequence of, you know, existing. And I don't think Zachary would have wanted his future queen to let his country devolve into civil war, despite his extremely out of left field dreams of democracy. (Really, Britain? Really?)The contrived part comes when Britain decides her world needs the tradition of witnessing the consummation part. Richard Spane, Estora's cousin, advisor, and Evil Mustache Twirler Extraordinaire (no, really, he rapes little girls, ffs) threatens, harasses, and blackmails Estora until she agrees to go through with it -- with the caveat that it's symbolic and all she has to do is sleep. I don't even want to quote some of the shit Spane says to coerce her because it's all so "Mwahahahaha! *crushes rat*" it hurts. Since this is all supposed to be symbolic, I'm not sure why it's necessary for them to give it to King Zachary. I suppose I could make some speculation that Britain did it because she wanted the dramatic tension, without having to worry about how her fans might react to Zachary wanting to sleep with Estora. But that wouldn't be terribly generous of me. Still, here's a bit of phrasing I think is important:Very often the wine was laced with an aphrodisiac or an herb to promote fertility. She supposed Zachary had gotten his ritual wine as medicine. She sighed and drank. If the wine was dosed, it was very subtle.A couple of things make this important. One, it's made clear that the wine could be laced with nothing more offensive than an herb for fertility. Two, Estora gets the impression that if the wine is laced, it's not laced with much. Naive of her, I suppose, but on the other hand she has reasons to think she should trust most of the people involved. And let's not forget the grief, the pressure, the emotional blackmail...This is where things really start getting bizarre. It turns out there is an aphrodisiac in the wine and holy hell. I remember at the time of reading thinking something very like "What the hell did they give her? E?" (Ecstasy, for those of you playing along at home). Her reaction to it seems horribly disproportionate for a Medieval level aphrodisiac. Something so strong that merely touching her fingertips to Zachary's arm "sent such waves of pleasure flooding through her that she almost cried out." What the hell is this stuff? These people drugged both their King and Queen with an aphrodisiac this strong. Nothing in Estora's thoughts about the potential aphrodisiac give even the slightest hint that she knew it could be this strong. So essentially what you have is two people who've been given a date-rape drug. A hentai style date-rape drug, no less. Seriously: they took advantage of a man who was poisoned and a woman who was under every conceivable emotional pressure and gave them a viciously strong aphrodisiac. WTF?But Zachary is sick and injured and sleeping. Estora lies there. For a while she thinks about what she's learned about Spane. Learning that your cousin--someone your late father loved as a son--is an evil, traitorous SOB that would spill harmful, hateful shit to completely destroy your family has to be painful. Eventually she falls asleep, dreams about her father, and wakes up crying at the memory of his death. "She surfaced to wakefulness with tears burning her cheeks, at first disoriented." She soon discovers that Zachary is awake, his eyes "open, aware". Zachary is mumbling about arrows, so Estora tries to soothe him, discovering from a simple touch to his cheek that even though it appears hours have passed, the Evil Hentai Date-Rape Drug From Hell is still in full effect. I reiterate: what the hell is this stuff? Estora considers getting the healer, but the healer has already told her that if Zachary awoke, "it would be all right". The bloody healer was in on it too! And well, from Estora's point of view, is it any wonder that things seem fine?When he responded, he touched her in kind, the agony of need rolling over her like a molten wave. She could feel it taking him, too."Do you love me?" he breathed into her ear.Stunned, it took her a moment to respond. "Yes. I believe I do. Yes."He levered himself above her. "Good. I've never stopped loving you."No, Estora doesn't know that Zachary is in love with Karigan. She only finds out afterwards, when Zachary cries out Karigan's name. The whole thing is disturbing on so many levels. I don't think I've ever read a rape scene with two victims. In reality, it really shouldn't have been written, as it makes no attempts whatsoever to handle the issue with any seriousness or sensitivity. A man was injured and drugged, a woman was emotionally blackmailed and drugged, hey, that's just par for the course! Both people were exploited by people they thought they could trust, leaving them both in a horrible situation. Zachary thought he was dreaming about Karigan. Estora thought she was giving consent to a man who loved her. What was done to both of them was reprehensible.Today, I made the mistake of looking at a thread on Amazon and that's where the fans and their batshittery come in. You would think that them acknowledging the rape could only be a good thing, wouldn't you? Look, two people were done serious emotional harm, that's awful! Except apparently what actually happened was that Zachary was raped by an evil, selfish, leg-spreading whore who should die in a fire!How about she fulfills her role as brood mare, the one time consummation results in triplet boys (an heir, two spares - the drugs she and Zachary were given have side-effects), then wastes away from the rigors of childbirth? I may like her again as she's dying.(In case you weren't sure, yes, that person did just wish deformities on two of Estora's children.)Estora reminds me of that popular girl in the work place (or school) who is relatively nice, likable and quite pretty but then when you get to know her you realize she's a complete bitch.(Because pretty women will inevitably turn out to be evil bitches, y'all!)Estora gets pregnant after using Zachary as an unwilling stud. Captain Mapstone becomes her trusted counselor since Zachary is still under the influence of the poison. Because Estora has shown herself capable of running the country without Zachary, he will (with a little help from Estora) die peacefully in his sleep. ...Zachary and Estora's son (from the rape), reaches his majority, finds out his mother killed his father, sends his Mom to the gallows, and banishes Captain Mapstone from the Kingdom for her part in the conspiracy. He becomes a kind and just ruler beloved by all.Captain Mapstone finds her calling at the Golden Rudder, and become Stevic's favorite courtesan. (I like Stevic, he deserves a good ending).(Because hating on one woman simply wasn't enough! Incidentally, from this angle I can see why fanfiction might bother a writer.)Oh she was in tears while she decided with mommy to go forward with the deathbed marriage. But those were gone while the counselors turned Zach into a human puppet. Then she takes the wine, and admits "its usually drugged" but I'll drink anyway. Um why you may ask? She had no morals to begin with, oh she pretends to be straight laced and perfect, but she's done nothing but be selfish her whole life. Her dating F'ryan was kept a secret only to save her.(Why that loose, shameless, selfish hussy! She was totes a slut for sleeping with one other man whom she loved dearly.)I really, really, really don't want Zachary to go back to bed with her... ever again. And I felt that way before you guys got me thinking about the whole rape aspect. Now I sure as hell don't want him to touch that floozy (even though I agree that she's a pawn, yadda yadda - I still don't like her).(I agree she was taken advantage of! But she's still a slut!)Also, to Estora bash for a moment.(Yep, really. Also, lots of "I hate Estora" and "Estora should die horribly" going around, too.)Also, I'm convinced Estora is not IN LOVE with Zachary, every time she talks about him it is "he's so kind, he's so smart, he's such a great king", not "he's so attractive, oo sexy, I feel tingles" well except for when she's drugged.(Because love is all about wanting to bang someone. Why appreciate their good qualities when there's nookie to be had?)Estora, please die in child birth, or embrace your hussy ways and run off with Amberhill (if he ever gets back).(You EVIL EVIL SLUT! You slept with TWO WHOLE MEN in your entire life. You should die. Or at least run off and be a slut.) I think what she really seems to enjoy is the power of running the kingdom.(Because she's also a power-hungry slut. Even though she's already been criticized in this thread for being a whiny little bitch and weeping because her father died and she doesn't believe she can rule an entire kingdom on her own.)Estora was raised to be a peer of the realm and as the daughter of one of the most powerful province seats in the land, she would naturally have the confidence (and arrogance) to assert herself if she was forced into a situation so thoroughly against her moral compass! I can understand she felt pressured by some of the most powerful men in the realm but if she really was in love with Zachary she should have had the courage to respect his wishes and tell them to go to hell!(She's obviously arrogant because she's a noble, so she should have stood up to all the coercion and emotional blackmail right after her father died and while someone she cares about lies dying right next to her.)(do I need to remind everyone she couldn't even keep her virginity intact for her moral obligation to marry for her province's sake? Estora will always choose Estora first when it comes to something she wants)....I had hoped Amberhill was being built up as a character to take her out of the picture but I still like Amberhill and wouldn't wish this selfish floozy on any character I have some liking for. Perhaps Mornhaven can have her?(BTW, she's totes a selfish slut and should be given over to the villain so he can torture and rape and violate her in any way he chooses.)Yeah, I think you get the point. Oh, but in case blaming one victim wasn't enough:The rape scene disturbed me quite a bit, but what disturbed me even more was how forgiving and okay with it Zachary was. He's supposed to be a man of power.Of course, there was a great deal of self-righteousness in the thread, with a lot of people patting themselves on the back for recognizing the rape and going on about how if people would be outraged if the rolls were reversed, but no one bats an eyelash 'cause it's a man. They're so proud of themselves for thinking of this.Sorry, but I think that's bullshit. If the roles were truly reversed, as in Estora was sick and injured and both characters were drugged, these people wouldn't have an issue with what their precious Zachary sleeping with Estora. But they uniformly agreed that they didn't like Estora--some even hated her. This afforded them a perfect opportunity for an outpouring of typical fandom misogyny, while making it look like they were saying something good.They hate Estora. She stands in the way of their precious Karigan/Zachary ship. It's like Snapewives and their treatment of Lily Potter. We have a serious issue of two people being seriously violated, and once again a fantasy author and her fantasy fans fail to look at the issue with consideration. It's either a convenient plot device or a convenient excuse to call for the brutal death of a hated female character. To call her "hussy" and "floozy". This scene should never have happened. And on further reflection, I find my inner feminist (who is growing quite cranky these days) can't tolerate this shit. Hence I've dropped my rating to two stars. Hey, that's still two -- one for each character who was taken advantage of, drugged, and violated.