Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn’t quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers — and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.
Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric’s heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means — magical or mundane — so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.
Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions — Aubrey, Eric’s devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities — Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she’ll have to learn the new rules fast — or break them completely….
Oh fucking shit, even the synopsis is terrible. “A self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities”?
Jeane Smith is seventeen and has turned her self-styled dorkiness into an art form, a lifestyle choice and a profitable website and consultancy business. She writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and came number seven in The Guardian’s 30 People Under 30 Who Are Changing The World. And yet, in spite of the accolades, hundreds of Internet friendships and a cool boyfriend, she feels inexplicably lonely, a situation made infinitely worse when Michael Lee, the most mass-market, popular and predictably all-rounded boy at school tells Jeane of his suspicion that Jeane’s boyfriend is secretly seeing his girlfriend. Michael and Jeane have NOTHING in common – she is cool and individual; he is the golden boy in an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. So why can’t she stop talking to him?
The first thing that struck out at me before I got to the racism is that this sounds insipid beyond all belief, because the summary makes this book sound like “the trials and tribulations of being a straight middle-class white girl who against all probability is making awesome money and famous at seventeen: let me tell you world how HARD it is to be her,” which you would have to be fairly vacuous to come up with for a start. The other is, well, Jeane sounds like a fucking weeaboo, doesn’t she? A Japanese teen magazine would take in a white girl to do their column why? Does Jeane even speak Japanese? Does Sarra Manning have a brain?
Icky, rapey situations follow after the cut. No, the text of course doesn’t question or challenge them in any way. What did you expect? This is Planet Gor. I must say, by the way, that whoever designed these covers must’ve really Not Given a Shit. Just look at them: not a single shit is given. Less tacky than these, sure, but damn that’s a lot of ketchup spillage.
Spoilers: it’s still full of disgusting misogyny and racism. Hope you weren’t expecting anything else. Poor Johanna Parker, whoever she is: imagine having your voice associated with bigoted dreck. I find it telling that on this cover art they appear to have used a mannequin that’s made of some kind of fabric. Unintended implication: white people don’t look quite human.
Last time I forgot to include this little gem:
The chauffeur shook my hand gently, as if he didn’t want to break my bones, and then he nodded to Amelia. “Miss Amelia,” he said, and Amelia looked angry, as if she was going to tell him to cut the “Miss,” but then she reconsidered.
Tyrese Marley was a very, very light-skinned African-American. He was far from black; his skin was more the color of old ivory. His eyes were bright hazel. Though his hair was black, it wasn’t curly, and it had a red cast. Marley was a man you’d always look at twice.
We have a black character, and what is he? A white man’s chauffeur. He is a good-looking black man too, but a light-skinned one. “Red cast” on his straight hair. “Bright hazel” eyes. “Old ivory” is unhelpfully inexact, but aged ivory tends to be yellow. In short, the only way for a black man to be attractive to Sookie (and presumably to Charlaine Harris) is that he must be “far from black.” Marley takes care to be careful about shaking a white woman’s hand, “as if he didn’t want to break [her] bones.” A physically imposing black man who must take caution not to threaten a white woman. In the US south. Hmmmm.
Let’s start off with this: while it’s possible to like things that are problematic, I genuinely don’t understand what there is to like about these books. Is it the shitty writing? Is it the misogyny? Is it the jingoism? Is it the rampant, raging, explicit and relentless racism?
I’m not talking about the show, which I understand is slightly less racist than the books. This isn’t some “reading too much into it” thing; this isn’t even social justice crusading stuff. The racism in these books is absolutely obvious, undeniable, and constant. There is nothing redeeming in these books. There’s nothing good about them. All they do is confirm that barely-literate fiction that affirms and endorses popular bigotries will enjoy great popularity and commercial success. Well done, America.
Trigger warning: rape and rape apologia.