Almost halfway through this sucker. Time to put on my shitkickers and wrap-around Ray-Bans and dive into the next set o’ chapters…
Chapter 21: This chapter brought to you by TBS, and by Sam Adams, America’s World Class Beer™
“I’m Tohrment, a friend of Wrath’s. You can call me Tohr.”
Yup, Tohr’s stopped by to keep Beth company and to keep an eye on her. (For those of you who are fans of the Western-footwear-whose-name-shall-not-again-be-written: Tohr’s rockin’ ‘em.) Wrath’s most comfortable with Tohr keeping tabs on Beth because Tohr’s deeply entrenched in a multiple-century relationship with a vampire named Wellsie, whom he mentions briefly now and whom we get to meet in a later chapter.
“Does Wrath have a shellan already?” Beth asks Tohr.
“I think you’d better talk to him about that,” Tohr tells her. Uh oh. Now it’s Beth’s turn to feel a jolt of jealousy.
Not much else to this chapter, except for the revelation that Tohr likes oatmeal cookies, roasted garlic, and Godzilla movie marathons.
Chapter 22: Chicago Manual of Style? We don’ need no stinking Chicago Manual of Style! Escríbamos!
We’re all over the place in this chapter.
We begin with a tender morning moment with Butch, who’s recovering from the mother of all hangovers. José gives him a wake-up call and lets him know he’s in deep doo-doo for roughing up Billy Riddle.
Then it’s back to the Caldwell Courier Journal, where Beth is griping to herself about the sloppy work her colleagues are putting out: “Dick’s big boys were getting sloppier and sloppier as they relied on her. And it wasn’t just background mistakes; now they were making grammatical and structural errors. As if they’d never heard of the Chicago Manual of Style.”
God, I love the smell of irony in the morning.
Beth can’t concentrate on work, though: she’s got too many questions, which she’s adding to a list as they come to her. “Will I be able to go outside during the day? How often will I have to feed? How long will I live? Who are you fighting? Do you have a…What was that word? Shellan? She typed wife instead.”
Her work’s interrupted first by her boss, and then by Fritz, who calls her up to arrange a date between her and Wrath. It’s off to the Galleria to find the right dress!
Finally, we close out the chapter with Wrath, who’s mentally replaying his episode with Marissa the night before. “My lord, I release you. From the covenant. You are free of me.” Marissa dumps him to save face, for “if she made it clear she didn’t want him, she would still be able to hold her head up in the catty aristocratic circle she was from. In her class, a shellan who was rejected by her mate was perceived as damaged goods.”
Well, that’s convenient: there’s now one fewer obstacle to love’s requital.
Chapter 23: Assorted scenes
Butch is now officially off the force, or at least in suspension for inappropriate use of force. Of course, rough ‘n’ ready rogue that he is, he’s not going to let a little suspension keep him from browbeating criminals. He’s off to follow up on whatever little leads the police had on the throwing stars. “Just don’t push your luck, detective,” José tells him.
We do get a tiny glimpse into Butch’s befogged past in this chapter: it seems he had a sister who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and he’s always half thinking of her, raging against injustice as though injustice itself is what had taken her away from him.
One of Butch’s social calls is paid to Mr. X, of course, who’s lost in a torture-filled reverie involving dental drills and melon ballers (“for the eyes”) when Butch drops in. According to our past-tense treatment of the meeting these two shared, Mr. X put on a good show, but Butch didn’t buy any of it.
Butch’s last visit of the evening is to Beth’s apartment. She doesn’t have time to talk, though, as within minutes after Butch’s arrival she’s off on her date with her new honey. Butch does not approve. “You’re protecting a killer, and there’s a serious chance you’re going to get stuffed into a pine box. Do you understand what that guy is?”
“He’s not like that.”
Okay, I’ve lost count of how long Beth and Wrath have known each other, but I’m pretty sure it’s well under a week. Are we to believe that she’s already overcome all of the cognitive dissonance she’s liable to have felt upon (a) being beaten and nearly raped, (b) having been awakened in the middle of the night by a titanic (and apparently very scary-looking) man who proceeds to have sex with while she’s under the effect of a narcotic, (c) finding out that that sexual partner is likely a killer, (d) watching said sexual partner nearly kill her good friend, (d) finding out the said sexual partner is a vampire, (e) learning that she too is half-vampire, and that she will soon likely go through a terrifying coming-of-age ordeal, and (f) coping with the jealousy that hit her when she began to suspect that her new lover is already promised to another, and is now ready to press on with her new relationship, full speed ahead?
If this were a movie, I’d demand at least a montage in which we see Beth and Wrath racing to the bottom of a shared milkshake, running hand in hand on a surf-smoothed beach, and choosing novelty prizes from the ring-toss booth at a boardwalk carnival.
The chapter ends at home with Marissa and Havers. Havers is excited that his sister has joined him for dinner, as he so often dines alone. He explains his medical breakthrough to Marissa enthusiastically. “I transfused myself with blood this afternoon, and I feel fine.” This is a slight exaggeration; he’s not feeling the oomph that he’d normally get from a proper feeding, but you know how it is: we’ll often believe what we want to believe. His temper flares when he learns that Marissa’s been thrown over for a “human? Now the warrior had done away with her honor.” Them’s fightin’ words. Of course, Havers is pretty much a pencil-neck, so he’s going to have to hire someone to fight for him. Whom might he find who’d be willing? Hmmm…
Chapter 24: Sibling rivalry
While there’s a little bit said about Wrath’s preparations to receive his dinner date, the better part of this chapter is devoted to a pissing match between Wrath and Tohr. Wrath’s putting up one last fight against falling in love, and he ain’t doing too well.
“You’re way into her,” Tohr notes, “and I think she feels the same way.”
“I’m only hanging in until she goes through the chance. That’s it.”
After a bit more give-and-take, Wrath drops a bomb on Tohrment: “This coming from a male who’s dumb enough to love his shellan? You gotta be kidding me.”
A half-page later Wrath insinuates that Darius’s death could be attributable to Tohr’s lack of vigilance: “If you spent half the amount of time defending your race that you do chasing after that female of yours, we might not have lost Darius. Ever think of that?”
Harsh, bro. Way harsh.
A few lines later, Tohr’s out the door with a parting “fuck you,” and Wrath is left alone with his own self-loathing.
But not for long. Beth soon arrives, dressed to kill in a low-slung black number. Fighting back his masculine urges, Wrath insists that they betake themselves to dinner with this welcoming line: “let’s get this over with.”
Not exactly a people person, this Wrath.
Chapter 25: My Dinner with Andre this ain’t
We spend this chapter in the company of our hero and heroine as they enjoy their first repast together. How’s it start off? Not so well.
“Beth watched Wrath saunter away as if he didn’t give a rat’s ass whether or not she ate with him…she followed because she felt she had no choice. There were so many things she wanted to know, things only he could explain.”
For his part? “ ‘Why are you afraid of me now?’ Wrath’s voice was sardonic, as if he were bored by her fear.” Mostly, and understandably, Beth is peeved because Wrath nearly beat Butch to death.
And it’s downhill from there for a while. There are about two pages’ worth of back-and-forth banter that lacks any sort of spunk or spontaneity, and then Wrath launches into a world-building lesson on being a vampire.
Who are you fighting? The lessers.
Where did they come from? The Omega.
Is the Omega like the devil? Kinda. Only without the cheesy red suit and the pointy fork.
Who’s this Scribe Virgin of whom you speak? Kind of like a goddess, only more down to Earth, as we’ll find out in a later chapter. And the vampires are the Scribe Virgin’s beloved children, and the Brotherhood are their protectors.
And Wrath’s their king, supposedly, but he’s a reluctant ruler.
As you might be able to pick up from my review of this chapter, it’s pretty much a snooze. It’s mostly exposition, but nothing explain is anything we haven’t already picked up from earlier chapters. The most jarring moment comes when Beth first begins to suspect (as we’ve known all along) that Wrath is for all intents and purposes blind.
So that’s where we are now: the plot is slow and plodding, the characters uninteresting and artless. Cheer up, though!: our next chapter will bring another sex scene.