Methinks I Need to Safeword

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, and 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 assertiveness, either, though—she’s unhealthily aggressive.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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5 thoughts on “Methinks I Need to Safeword

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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