Saturday, October 25, 2014

★★ The Demon of Darkling Reach by P.J. Fox

Well, now, this book really sent feminism back to the Dark Ages...perhaps not in how you'd assume, either. Spoilers are so engrossed into this review; you may want to skip it. I likely won't be reading the sequel, in fact, the idea of a novel cutting off in the middle of nowhere, even without a cliffhanger, just irks the fuck out of me.

I'm at liberty to say that at first, found this book to be semi-delightful, but no - it's definitely not written with a Dark Ages heroine mentality. The Demon of Darkling Reach, in essence, is the longest, modern feminist rager I've heard tale of. Authors nowadays have this tendency of writing from their own perspective, than the era in which they choose to write-in. All of the fine tuning, Medieval, era appropriate touches were in place; the writing technically accurate, but the heroine, Isla, was in a modern crux. She was more modern than any other Historical Fiction or Historical Romance heroine I've encountered; in all of my life. All of the pretty extensive collection of some odd 700-800 books. Most of my reads have been Historical Fiction. Even compared to Medieval timelines, Victorian, WWII women working and single parenting; the 1960 gothic heroines running from houses, women fleeing the French Reign of Terror; even Viking women in their swords blazing and masculine mindset, were not as pretentiously feministic as this heroine. I agree that their dialogue and thought process, could have likely been relative to modern times, however, it felt seemingly as if the heroine had been a modern day woman transported into the Dark Ages. EVERY woman pretty much the very definition of Medieval chattel, except for the heroine. At best, the heroine was bipolar, one moment enraptured by someone to take care of her, to be rescued, then the next seeking independence. She never quite had a real, solid opinion about anyone; all of her relationships were shaken and fragmented, and the one person she should have truly defied--she loved. She excused the hero’s savagery against women, who did little but threaten Isla's security; which had a tendency of yo-yoing from scene to scene, when it was convenient. I wouldn’t have pointed out that tidbit, but I felt the tenor was so modern, it irked me. A modern mindset + abusing women = no, in my book. The only true crime for the hero's victim was that she was loose with her favors. That's all. For a feminist injected into the Dark Ages; that was pretty much slut-shaming, IMHO. Furthermore, Isla's complaints pertaining to women being little more than walking vaginas for men's interests sort of backfires because she condemned a female victim's life for expressing herself in the manner that Isla would perceive as independent. Isla absently chalked it off as the hero being at the top of the food chain.  She held no remorse for the woman who died, eaten alive, in-front of her, staring into her eyes as she died. Also, the anti-religious crusade in this novel is apparent and I felt it WAS justified because the clergy were rat-bastages who deserved whatever befell them. They were a terrible lot. But the promiscuous maid who mainly sought a roll and tumble with Isla's beau; her life was to be done away with, like the clergy, out of sheer jealousy? It's hard to preach Dark Age feminism when you watch milkmaids die & laugh because your boyfriend ate them, relieving you of that worry that he’d bed her. It sort of validates that Isla, too, considered women to be worth no more than sexual activities, if the woman’s biggest crime was having random sex. Isla believed a woman’s virginity was viewed as the price-tag value of a woman. Apparently the maid’s sexual exploits somehow degraded that worth, then? It’s difficult to create an already ‘independent’ minded heroine, who is gradually just devolving, instead of learning and growing as the story progresses. Essentially, a man is the heroine’s only means of leaving that terrible terrible, backwater life. A <i>man</i>. Feminism isn’t working out too well for her, is it?

Isla's hate for nearly everything; literally everything, filled her inner monologue moreso than anything else. Have a voice--have the wit to comprehend wrongs of the church and Dark Age mindsets, but it eventually grated my nerves. Choose and pick your battles, honey. You cannot crusade EVERYTHING.

I’ve made a quick list of modern implementation, inconsistencies and contradictions that were carried on far too long, when it could have been a slow budding thought in the heroine’s mind:

- Hatred of the church (understandable, but a long crusade)
- HATE - too numerous to count. It was a grocery list of heroine's dislikes.
- Heroine preaching about the importance of contraceptives
- Everything was backwards thinking to the heroine
- Constant boredom with everything/everyone; even so far as describing and addressing said boredom. Really?   She was reckoned for a workhorse on the manor. When do you have time to be bored?

- The inability to accept the hero had duties and business elsewhere, the heroine doubted, I mean, PAGES upon PAGES of doubt, every time the hero was out of her eyesight. Where is this strong woman mouthpiece? She couldn’t function without the man who had called her beautiful.  The one person who had ever. This is apologism of toxic relationships. Let’s see how long this little fantasy world would last, if the heroine actually stood up to the hero. My best is that he’d make her into his next meal.

- Fuck this, and fuck that inner monologue.
- Lots of cock sucking & ripping off references.
- Secondary heroine considers heroine a whore for dallying with the hero, but it's glossed over as "OK" because they're betrothed. Isn't that ironic that her marriageable status clears her of sexual activity, but the maid was slut-shamed for wanting to fuck the hero? It's totes church idealism, methinks?

-The endless underlinings, undercores and mocking tone that carried over: Hey, I'll bet you didn't know women did thissssss...and were recognized as thissssss waaaaay back thennn. SO UNRECOGNIZED. SO UNDER-APPRECIATED. They were, but write me a story about the circumstance; this wasn't supposed to be cue cards or fun-facts or sneering statistics on women's influence & role in the Dark Ages.

This book wasn’t a Dark Ages book, to me; no matter how many dyeing tannery lessons and superstitions that were commonplace.  It truly felt as though it was a modern mind looking back INTO the Dark Ages, dispelling and pointing out the wrongs, faults and injustices, instead of the women who had to endure and experience them firsthand. Were women’s hardships through the course of history ungodly and a fucking crisis? YES. YES. YES. But frankly, I prefer a heroine who makes the best of bad situations. Roll with the punches and learned her lessons as the book progressed. A woman who eventually stood up for herself in a mad world of religious crazies, bestial men and treated like vessels for pleasure & breeding. This book badly needed a heroine from its own time to champion their causes. Not someone rewriting history. Sadly, I felt it was a history lesson & Powerpoint Project at a Code Pink pow-wow.

It was a slow forming opinion, but as I said in a status update:
I think the narrator demonized everyone; the heroine’s family and friends, to normalize and humanize the hero and his dark affinity.  Sure, her family treated her like an unwanted burden and allowed the church to harm her at their own leisure, but other evil is to be tolerated and laughed off, because that evil is protecting you—under the guise of care? When it was all admitted that love/care is purely obsession and jealousy and that “you’re mine,”  in the hero’s own words. It seems the heroine and hero are definitely made for one another, if that’s the case.

One star for the tolerable descriptions in the beginning and the witch in the woods who told the heroine to fucking lie in the bed she made. Matter-of-factly and without a bit of sympathy, which, of course--gave the heroine the idea that she was no longer her friend. I got this feeling that the heroine could dish out all of this negativity, but if someone dare(even a friend) point out her own faults or responsibility, she couldn't tolerate it. That's not a strong character, in my book. :)

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