Tag Archives: #Abuse

Bishop, Anne; Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels I) (1998)


Anne Bishop‘s Black Jewels trilogy is one of my favorites and I have read it four or more times. One of the reasons I like it so well is that  it is NOT a romance. Well. I don’t think so. Daughter of the Blood is book one of that trilogy.

In the gray world above, I hear myself howling with laughter. Far below me, in the psychic abyss that is part of the Darkness, I hear another howling, one full of joy and pain, rage and celebration.

Not just another witch coming, my foolish Sisters, but Witch.

We move between the three realms of the Blood: Kaeler, Hell and Terreille. Kaeler and Hell are considered dark realms, places where old rules of protocol still rule. They share the main site of the Queen of the Dark Realms’ seat, The Black Mountain, also called Ebon Askavi. Hell is a Realm of forever-twilight, a realm for the demon-dead who are not yet ready to go to the Darkness and their Guardians. Kaeler is for the living.

Once, the Blood had ruled honorably and well. The Blood villages within a District would look after, and treat fairly, the landen villages that were bound to them. The District Queens would serve in the Province Queen’s court. The Province Queens, in their turn, would serve the Territory Queen, who was chosen by the majority of the darker-Jeweled Blood, both male and female, because she was the strongest and the best.

Back then, there was no need for slavery to control the strong males. They followed their hearts to the queen who was right for them. They handed over their lives willingly. They served freely.

Back then, the Blood’s complicated triangle of status hadn’t leaned so heavily on social rank. Jewel rank and caste had weighed just as heavily in the balance, if not more. That meant control of their society was a fluid dance, with the lead constantly changing depending on the dancers. But in the center of that dance, always, was a Queen.

Terreille, while supposedly not a dark kingdom, has no honor any longer due to the influence the High Priestess of Hayll has had on the Realm for centuries. Rules of Protocol no longer apply and Queens do exactly what they want no matter how depraved.

Just once, I’d like to serve a Queen I could respect, someone I could truly believe in. A strong queen who wouldn’t fear my strength. A Queen I could also call a friend……………..

She was a scrawny little thing, about seven years old. Calling her plain would have been kind……………

“I-I heard you. You wanted a friend.”

Lucivar Yaslana is the first of our main characters who meets Witch, the one whose coming was prophesied. He was given to Queen Zuultah to do with as she wished as long as he was kept alive and whole. She is typical of Terreille Queens, Queens who do not show care for their subjects or for the people in their courts. It is a dangerous realm to be male or female with dark birth jewels or even to be landen (those without jewels).

He was tired and old, and the loneliness he carried inside him all his life had become too heavy to bear. He no longer wanted to be a Guardian, one of the living dead. He no longer wanted the half-life a handful of the blood had chosen in order to extend their lifetimes into years beyond imagining. He wanted peace, wanted to quietly fade back into the Darkness………..

This girl was alive! ….. She couldn’t be more than seven years old………

Then she turned and looked at him. As he watched the summer-sky blue eyes change to sapphire, the surf swept him away.

Ancient eye. Maelstrom eyes. Haunted, knowing, seeing eyes….. Witch.

Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, the High Lord of Hell, the High Priest of the Hourglass is another main character. He becomes Jeanelle Angelline’s father of the heart. His highest wish is fulfilled almost 50.000 years after its foretelling. Through that meeting, Witch finds a person who promises to teach her to the best of his ability and to never lie.

Daemon let out a cry as the jar slipped from his hands and shattered on the bathroom floor. He sank to his knees, hissing as a piece of glass sliced him, and stared at the powder, tears of pain and frustration welling in his eyes. Without the powder to help heal the wounds, he might still be able to heal them to some extent, still be able to stop the bleeding … but he would scar. And he didn’t need a mirror to know what he would look like.

*No!* He wasn’t aware of sending. He was only trying to relieve the frustration.

A minute later, as he knelt on the bathroom floor, shaking, trying not to vent the sobs building in him, a hand touched his shoulder.

Daemon twisted around, his teeth bared, his eyes wild…..

The touch, when it came again, was hesitant, cautious. He shivered as it gently probed his back. Shivered because along with exhaustion and dismay, that gentle touch was filled with a cold, cold anger……….

The reason for the 50 whiplashes was that Daemon augmented Saetan’s power to save Witch. Using power for anything is forbidden without his owner’s permission. As far as he remembers, his entire life has been in the ownership of Dorothea, the High-Priestess of Hayll. Daemon is know as the Whore of Hayll and The Sadist, due to how he reacts to continuously having his body rewarded to Queens or Ladies loyal to Dorothea.

……….. Two black leather books appeared, floating before her. She took one, leafed through to the last written page, called in a pen, and made a notation.

That contract was finished. It hadn’t taken the fool as long to die as she would have liked, but the pain had been exquisite. And the money had been very, very good.

She vanished the book and opened the other one, checked the entry she needed, wrote out her menu, and with a flick of her wrist sent it to the kitchen………

Surreal’s mother was murdered when she was 12 years old. After that she survived as a street-walker. Sometimes she killed her clients. Daemon saved her from her brutal life by taking her to good Red Moon house where they could teach her how to be a better paid whore in a safer environment. Daemon taught her how to hide bodies and kill discretely. She owes him a great deal.  Surreal is the fourth main character of Daughter of the Blood.

POV in Daughter of the Blood is everyone’s but Witch’s. What we learn about Jeanelle Angelline is what they share. Anne Bishop managed to make each of the four POV different from the others. Daughter of the Blood is a dark story that does not pander to those who need people to be simple. Instead, it shows us how differently people handle horrific experiences and how fragile our hold on reality is. Some of the story bears the mark of a first novel.

I’m fairly certain this is a serial you either really like or dislike. Some call it fluff and superficial and others call it magical and amazing. It is representative of the 1990’s and early 2000’s fantasy literature, before urban fantasy and glossy vampires became the rage.

Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)

Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.

“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”

In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.

In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.

One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.

I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.

“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”

“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”

While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.

Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.


Reviews:

Edghill, Rosemary: Speak Daggers to Her (Bast Mysteries 1) (1994)

I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (Hamlet: III,ii)

 More than twenty years ago Rosemary Edghill was caught by the mystery of the sudden death of a healthy young woman in her 20’s. Add to that the ethical violations within the New Age Community that were not taken seriously and Speak Daggers to Her was born. (FM Writers)

“Miriam’s dead.”

It was Lace on the phone, which meant that Miriam was Miriam Seabrook, and Miriam was my age. People in their middle thirties don’t just up and die.

“Bast?” Lace sounded half-a-step away from hysteria. “We were going out to dinner and I used my key and she was lying there on the bed and I thought she was asleep–” Lace took a deep breath and started to cry in high weepy yelps.

“Did you call the police?”

I thought I was fine — after all, I wasn’t the one who’d walked in and found my lover dead — but my jaw muscles ached when I pushed the words out. Not Miriam. Not dead. I didn’t even know her very well, I plea-bargained.

“I can’t. You know I can’t. You know what they’ll do to me — oh, please, please, can’t you come over?” Lace started to cry in earnest, a real Irish peening for the healins.

New York City, like many large cities, is a place people go when they seek others like themselves. Sometimes “The Establishment/ Society” frowns upon the existence of certain alternative lifestyles. Bast, Miriam and Lace belong to the 1990’s neopagans and Witch community in New York. Or as Bast describes themselves:

“overeducated ex-hippies trying to unscrew the inscrutable, trying to make sense of life through ritual and gnosis.”

When Bast arrived at Miriam’s apartment and saw that, yes, she was definitely dead and Lace was gone, Bast called the police. Before they arrived she removed an occult necklace from Miriam’s body.

a mummified bird claw of some kind, with the stump wrapped in silver wire so she could string it on the chain. The nails were painted red.

That claw freaked Bast out, as did Miriam’s message on her answering machine:

“… There’s this weird stuff, and I’ve got to see you. … It’s too weird. I’m scared. I think they’re going to – ” The voice stopped abruptly, …

Miriam had been the kind of person who wanted desperately to be part of the occult society. She wanted “The Truth” yet never found it. Each failure brought her into contact with stranger and stranger pagan traditions. She and Bast had eventually become semi-friends, so there was no real reason for Bast to involve herself. Except for that claw and the message from Miriam. Those factors worried Bast and would not leave her alone. Then Bast finds a book of spells with a picture of Miriam being torn in two. Add to that a mysterious phone call and Bast wants to find out if there was anything suspicious about Miriam’s death. Because nothing about the body indicated there would be. But guilt has its own way of gnawing at us, and guilt was Bast’s entry into the world of detection.

Speak Daggers to Her is not about magic, although we do learn a great deal about what being a modern witch entails. We also get a look at coercive groups within Neo-paganism. Groups that use the tools that abusive partners and leaders have always used, grooming and secrecy, and regular people doing things they thought they never would.

I bought the omnibus Bell, Book, and Murder and liked the stories so much I gave a friend of mine a paperback copy. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


You may buy Bell, Book and Murder at Amazon

Gaiman, Neil: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

Thank you, to my sister-in-law for giving me a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

In December, right before I turned seven my family moved from Australia to Norway. One of my memories tied to that move is stepping outside the plane into the middle of Norwegian winter. Moving was not something I wanted, and winter did not help.

Soon I was driving slowly, bumpily, down a narrow lane with brambles and briar roses on each side, wherever the edge was not a stand of hazels or a wild hedgerow. It felt like I had driven back in time. That lane was how I remembered it, when nothing else was.

Memory can be triggered by scent, sound and sight. All of a sudden you find yourself re-visiting a time you had forgotten. Neurons spark neurons and whatever filing system you have going for you opens a memory file.

If you’d asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock’s name. But standing in the hallway, it was all coming back to me. Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me. Had you told me that I was seven again, I might have half believed you, for a moment.

As others have mentioned, we never discover what the name of the main character is. For the most part he is called “the boy”, and that is how I think of him. Neil Gaiman’s statement that the story is meant for adults fits my feeling while reading the book. There is enough terror (not violent) for a younger audience to enjoy it as well.

At seven years of age, children have little say in their lives. Moving to Norway was not my choice. Nor does the boy have much influence on his own life. There are a few episodes that illustrate this. To me, the episode with the cat stands out the most. Utter disregard of the possibility that the boy might be devastated shocked me. Yet, looking back at my own life, children were presumably fine with whatever the adults chose. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, adults are judged more believable than the boy. So it is when I look around at the parts of the world I have encountered. My Asperger brain is completely baffled by this phenomenon. When the boy’s enemy states

“And what can you say to her that will make any difference? She backs up your father in everything, doesn’t she.”

I am reminded of many family situations that have crossed my life-path. No matter what one parent does or says, they have the backing of the other. Utterly incomprehensible.

Being without power to decide anything about their lives is something children come to semi-accept. At the same time there is a continuous battle between adults and children to have the ability to decide. We see some of that in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The boy does not give in to the powers that be, although it might, at first, seem that way to the adults.

The Hempstock women became a safe haven for the boy. For me that is hilarious because some of the most dangerous episodes happen while together with one of them. But they sought to protect him and make his life safer by fighting for him with the means at their disposal. These means aren’t exactly regular ones.

I loved the Hempstock women. I want to be like the Hempstock women.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Ocean at the End of the Lane can be found at biblio.com


Adaptations:


Trivia:


Translations:

Jackson, Ros: Diabolical Taste (Kenssie II) (2014)

Cover art: Laura Hollingsworth
Cover art: Laura Hollingsworth (really like this cover)

Diabolical Taste is funny, sad and exciting. Satire often seems to bring out those feelings in me. The relationship between Rak and Kenssie is definitely an abusive one. Kenssie is the only one who can walk the painful journey of accepting that her illusions are just that. The whole demonic thrall system reeks of abuse.

Rak and Kenssie perfectly illustrate the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves and the people we have chosen to love. Coming to realize that one’s relationship is a destructive one must be excruciatingly difficult. As with all addictions, the first and most difficult step has to be acknowledgement.

Kenssie’s power to “eat secrets” seems to be an incredibly powerful tool. She is only 16 years old and still trying to figure out the powers she began fully utilizing in The Secret Eater. This eating of emotions and thoughts to nourish themselves is a great way of getting across the importance of our inner lives.

We meet some cool and dangerous characters in Diabolical Taste. Otis the human is particularly interesting. Toward the end of the story we discover something funny about him. Seneb, the love demon, is another character I enjoyed. Feeding on love as a demonic power is fascinating yet perhaps strange. Grief, on the other hand, is a perfectly understandable demonic meal. We also have a fear eater in our story. Both made me take a closer look at myself.

I loved reading Diabolical Taste. It left me with a sense of sadness and pride for the demon Kenssie had become.

Ros Jackson provided me with a copy of Diabolical Taste in return for a review.


My review of The Secret Eater

Allison, P.G.: Missy the Werecat (2012)

Missy the Werecat - PG Allison

The cougar works a powerful magic on the human imagination. Perhaps it is envy. This majestic feline personifies strength, movement, grace, stealth, independence, and the wilderness spirit. It wanders enormous tracts of American wilderness at will. It is equally at home in forest, desert, jungle, or swamp. An adult cougar can bring down a full-grown mule deer in seconds. It yields to few creatures, save, bears and humans. (Mountain Lion Foundation)

Now take a look at one of the descriptions of Missy from Missy the Werecat. Missy has just come back from the wild, rescued a family and is thought to have been kept a prisoner for two years:

She moved with a smooth grace but also exuded strength and power, somehow giving an impression of greatness in spite of her only being a teenage girl. …

entering the room in full command of herself, alert and aware. Fearless. With depths that could not be penetrated. This Missy was not at all a victim, in any way …

Pretty similar, don’t you think?

After Missy comes back down from the mountains, having learned to control her changes, she befriends a girl called Alice. Alice was being sexually abused by her step-father and Missy stepped in to stop it. Stepping in while Alice was still so young, in addition to giving Alice the support she needed, helped Alice work her way through the sexual abuse as much as possible.

During a period of my life I went through some sexual abuse periods myself. To have had a Missy in my life at that point would have made a great difference. However, the norm in such cases is to have them explained away or denied. It’s simply too difficult for non-pedophiles to think that there are people out there who get turned on by such things.

Throughout her whole story of Missy the Werecat, P.G. Allison was carefully open about the darker sides of life. At the same time she made sure we understood the importance of people like Missy in the lives of those being affected by predators. Sometimes it takes a predator to hunt down other predators and, as most of us come to know, not all predators are out to hurt people.

Missy the Werecat is very US in its style. It is definitely written for a younger audience. Some violence was explicit and some sexual content was also explicit, yet it was explicit in an age-appropriate manner. I was surprised by the balance between sexual and violent content as I am not used to that from US authors. To make up for that there were the standard moralistic teachings found in US stories. In the end that did not matter to me and I for one was glad that such a person/mountain lion blessed the lives of so many people (and frightened the ☠@✴# out of others).


Missy the Werecat on Amazon US

Zamin, Mira: The Puppet Queen: A Tale of the Sleeping Beauty (2012)

The Puppet Queen
Cover image: “Sweet Nothings”:
John William Godward (1861-1922)
Cover design by Mira Zamin
800px-Sweet_Nothings_by_Godward
Dolce far Niente (1904)
Gorgeous painting

Various versions of the Sleeping Beauty tale have been around since the late 1600’s. The Puppet Queen adds itself to that list and keeps itself somewhat bleak in the tradition of folk-tales.

Twins, fraternal ones, can be as different from each other as any other pair of siblings. Selene and Auralia are like night and day. Auralia is the serene and proper one while Selene is the dark-haired girl in fine, torn tunics, tumbling into trouble any day of the week. Auralia is ready to embrace adulthood while Selene thinks the whole thing sounds like a bore. For a girl growing up in a society such as the one described in The Puppet Queen adulthood could be very constricting, and for a girl like Selene adulthood would probably have been excruciating to adjust to.

Life in the world of folk-tales tends to be fraught with danger. Curses, wickedness, murder, rape, and abuse of various sorts seem to trail through them all. There is always a way out, but that way tends to carry a high price and the “hero” must find it in them to pay it. If not – well …

The curse of Sleeping Beauty and of The Puppet Queen is one of sleep. Sleep for a castle in Sleeping Beauty and sleep for a whole country in The Puppet Queen. The only one to escape the curse in The Puppet Queen is Selene, and Selene it is who must save the day.

I think what I liked most about The Puppet Queen is that it stayed true to the spirit of folk-tales. People in the middle-ages knew how to tell stories. That these stories are used as a base for modern tales only shows the quality of the stories and their value as teaching tools.

I like the way Mira Zamin showed how difficult it was for Selene to withstand Gwydion. Their relationship was clearly an abusive one. But for Selene to break out of that relationship just wasn’t done in the days portrayed in the story. Perhaps she manages to do so and perhaps she doesn’t, but her experiences are the experiences of many women in relationships today. He who was once Prince Charming might well turn into King Terror. I appreciated Princess Selene’s resilience and the way she kept on going no matter what. Her main goal was to break the curse and she would endure what she must to reach her goal.

So, yeah – I enjoyed The Puppet Queen.


Reviews: