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Methinks I Need to Safeword

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Family, Reading | Posted on 05-09-2008


I'm about 3/4 of the way through The Devil's Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow—3rd of 5 or 6 books in the Dante Valentine series—and I don't think I can take any more.

I want to know how the story ends. I really like some of the characters. I just can't stand the main character! She's a total harridan. I'm starting to think that Saintcrow is incapable of writing a female protagonist who isn't set to the highest bitch levels at all times, especially with anyone who is nice to her. What are this woman's personal relationships like, I wonder?

When I was in 10th grade, a new girl moved to my neighborhood. We quickly became close friends. A few months into our friendship, I remember her saying something about me and my friends being "so passive." What? That is not an adjective I had ever imagined anybody had ever used in reference to me or the people I hung out with. We were all pretty opinionated, intelligent, talented, and most of us were somewhat prickly in one way or another. Not doormats, pushovers, or "passive" people.

We didn't fight, which, to her, meant passivity. I tried to explain that we could disagree without fighting, and knew the difference between debates and arguments, but we never did see eye to eye on that issue. I'm sure that a major difference in our family backgrounds had a lot to do with her perceptions. In her family, screaming was a daily occurrence, after which the air was cleared and all was well. In mine, raised voices meant physical violence. If someone raised his voice anywhere near me, I expected violence, and the whole fight-or-flight thing started. I never considered wasting energy by yelling back. If she heard yelling, she'd wade right in and yell back fearlessly. (I'm pretty sure that she wasn't ever hit in anger, probably not ever hit at all by a family member.)

I'm not going to be friends with someone who is constantly picking fights with me or anyone else. I have zero interest in argument for the sake of argument. What's the point? I value my peace too much for that, so combative, aggressive people quickly get an invitation to the world when I encounter them.

I think that friend might relate to Saintcrow's female characters. Valentine sure as hell isn't passive. She can't manage assertive, either, though—she's unhealthily aggressive.

Comments (5)

I read the first of these books, Work­ing for the Dev­il, and I agree with you that Valen­tine isn’t the most lik­able char­ac­ter, but the main rea­son I didn’t con­tin­ue reading(yet) is my wor­ry that this series will be anoth­er that is nev­er-end­ing, since so many writ­ers of urban fan­ta­sy seem to be imi­tat­ing LKH and see­ing how far they can string their read­ers along with­out any res­o­lu­tions. I sup­pose some peo­ple like that, or soap operas wouldn’t be so pop­u­lar, but I kind of pre­fer that books either work as stand alone nov­els in a series, or that the author wraps things up in 3 – 6 books, at the most.

I’m with you there. If the books of a series stand alone and main­tain my inter­est, that’s good. If you have to read all of them to under­stand what’s going on, that sucks.

I do believe all the Saint­crow stuff is going back to the library. I have oth­er authors I can read with­out near­ly as much frustration.

Oh – nice to meet you! I was con­fused as to who you were at first, because we have a friend who goes by “amqueue” or “AMQ” most of the time. Anoth­er Geor­gian, cool!

Thanks! Nice to meet you, too. I’m in Decatur. Small inter­net, eh? =) I guess I’ll just swap the Saint­crow books. It’s not like I don’t have plen­ty to read! I hope this trend of ser­i­al nov­els doesn’t last. I’ve already quit on four or five writ­ers whose worlds and sto­ries I liked, but I lost patience with them. I’ve stopped read­ing Rachel Caine’s Weath­er War­den books, Char­laine Harris’s South­ern Vam­pire books, and I’m unde­cid­ed about Kim Harrison’s Rachel Mor­gan books. I’m two or three books behind and not feel­ing any strong desire to pick up again, even though I loved the first two books.

Yeah, I’m with you there. I don’t think the indus­try agrees with us, though — I just read that one new author was giv­en a con­tract for SIX BOOKS of a new series! Six!

I gave up on the Weath­er War­den books a cou­ple of years ago. I’ve read the most recent South­ern Vam­pire book, but felt like Har­ris was sor­ta done. I hope she doesn’t beat a dead horse. The oth­er new series she start­ed, about Harp­er Con­nel­ly, just didn’t real­ly grab me. I haven’t seen a new vol­ume in over a year, so maybe they didn’t sell well at all.

At least peo­ple do seem to grow and change in the Rachel Mor­gan books — unlike so many oth­er series — but yeah, I think that’s fair­ly “done” as well. I could eas­i­ly see Har­ri­son mov­ing on to focus on oth­er char­ac­ters in that uni­verse, though.

I like the way Kel­ley Arm­strong moves around with her Women of the Oth­er­world series, instead of stick­ing with the same one or two peo­ple as the focus of every book. It’s like a show with an ensem­ble cast, instead of some­thing with one or two stars and a bunch of char­ac­ter actors.

I’ve not read Arm­strong yet, though I do have Bit­ten on the shelf, wait­ing for me to get to it. 

I’m not sure I can put my fin­ger on what exact­ly turns me off in these series. I agree that watch­ing a char­ac­ter make the same mis­take over and over is irri­tat­ing, and that if a series moves around dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters for each book, it’s eas­i­er to stay fresh. I think, though, that I just get this sense that the author is both padding, and delib­er­ate­ly putting in things that will have to be resolved lat­er just to make you want to buy the next book, instead of it being impor­tant to the sto­ry you are read­ing or the char­ac­ter devel­op­ment. That doesn’t express it quite as well as I want. I guess I could say that there are only so many cliffhang­ers I’m will­ing to put up with before I get ticked off, par­tic­u­lar­ly if there’s no up-front indi­ca­tion of how many books there are going to be.

I’m still hap­pi­ly read­ing the Har­ry Dres­den books, and the Mer­cy Thomp­son books. My off-the-cuff the­o­ry is that Brig­gs and Butch­er are still writ­ing the nov­els tight enough to work as stand alones. You might not catch every­thing if you start­ed one in the mid­dle, but I think it would be sat­is­fy­ing, in that the prob­lem set up in the begin­ning would be resolved at the end, and the prob­lems ongo­ing or intro­duced wouldn’t be urgent. So to speak. One ele­ment that will turn me off is the ‘Gone With The Wind’ end­ing, where char­ac­ters have a big breakup at the end of the book, and you know there will have to be a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the next one. I hate that. I hat­ed it in GWTW. I threw the library book across the room.