Dramacon 5: A Little Problematic

This one gets pretty heavy. Content warning here at the bottom of the page. Click here if you want it.

My original plan was to combine the final two chapters of Dramacon into one post, since they both cover the climax of the book. But in writing this post, it turns out there’s a lot to discuss, so I’ll just be sticking with the penultimate chapter here.

And what a climax it is.

Christie got a huge, much needed lift from meeting Lida Zeff, and it helped her enjoy the con a lot more. The night ends in a J-pop dance, which was also one of my favorite things to do at a con. Christie’s having so much, until Derek starts flirting with other girls in front of her again. She joins up with Matt’s friends instead, who she got to know over the course of the con.

Christie goes to speak with Matt, and this ends up happening:

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Squee~!

I’ll admit it: I squealed when I read that the first time. And when I read it through again this time.

Yes, Christie is technically cheating, which is generally frowned upon. But because Derek has no redeeming qualities, I doubt anyone really cares. I certainly don’t. And while Matt has been rough around the edges, he at least tries to apologize and improve his behavior.

Derek catches them kissing, and back at the hotel he and Christie have an explosive fight. Christie stands up to him and doesn’t back down this time. Her courage isn’t rewarded, though. Drunk and infuriated, Derek attacks Christie and attempts to rape her.

Yeah, you read that right. Romantic comedy Dramacon, full of jokes and pop culture references, just had an attempted rape scene.

One of the reasons I was a little nervous to read Dramacon was because I really liked the series and I wanted to continue liking it. I’ve grown up a lot since I first read Dramacon, and my understanding of sexual assault has changed over the years.

I’ve written about other books that use sexual violence as a plot device in the past here. I’m still never sure how I feel about sexual assault in fiction in general. Personally, it’s not something I like to see in books and movies, but it’s something that unfortunately happens in real life. And art is supposed to reflect life, right? At the same time, it’s also supposed to be an escape from our everyday lives. Is there a middle ground between these two things? Does there need to be?

I’ve mentioned before that I personally feel that sexual assault in fiction needs to be handled carefully, and with purpose. If a character is assaulted, then it either needs to bring out something new in the character, add something to the plot, and not trivialize the survivor’s experience.

Christie does get away from Derek, but the scene is scary and tense. It doesn’t play into a common rape myth that rape is only perpetrated by strangers. In fact, most rape survivors know their assailant.

But Dramacon doesn’t do a great job dealing with the aftermath. There’s only one chapter after this, so we don’t see much of Christie’s long-term reaction. I always wondered if Derek and Christie go to the same school. Does she still have to see him every day, even after they broke up? Is she scared to change classes, knowing that she might see the man who hurt her in the hallways?

In the final book, two years after the events of the first, Christie sees Derek again. She’s stunned to see him and probably scared. To make the situation even worse, he’s with his pregnant fiancée.

Put yourself in Christie’s shoes for a minute. You’ve just seen your abusive ex with another woman. What do you say to your ex and their partner?

A couple years ago, I found myself with a chance to confront my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. And good God, I seized upon that chance. All the pain and anger inside me, all the damage inflicted on me came pouring out. I’d been a toy to him, but I made sure he knew how small and pathetic he was. If I had a chance to talk to his partner, I would sure as hell tried to warn them about who they were dating.

Christie doesn’t do any of that. She chat amiably with Derek’s fiancée and they even exchange emails. She just acts like nothing had happened. There’s no warning, just a joke about how Christie must have some stories about Derek when they were teenagers. This whole scene is so problematic for me.

Maybe this is to show that Christie’s matured, or forgiven Derek. It’s been two years, after all. But being assaulted doesn’t just go away in real life. Something like that can stay with you and follow you throughout your life, affecting your mental health, self-worth, and relationships for years to come.

Dramacon is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy, so spending the rest of it watching Christie recover from trauma would be totally opposite from the tone of the series. Since it brings out nothing new in the character or story, this momentary dark shift is just unnecessary. We already knew Derek was a bad boyfriend. I don’t think that the story needed to go as dark as attempted rape for Christie to run away from him. If Chmakova wanted to show that Derek was violent, he could have hit Christie, or pulled her hair, like he does in the following chapter. Any sort of physical violence should have been enough to prompt Christie to run away from him, and trigger Matt to beat Derek to a pulp. All of this could have happened without creating a huge problem for readers like me, and the tone of the story as a whole.

National Sexual Assault Hotline (US): 1-800-656-4673
RAINN Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and Their Loved Ones
Rape Crisis Network Europe

Content warning: Discussion of rape and sexual assault in fiction. No graphic descriptions or images.

 

Dramacon 4: Meeting Your Heroes

I’ll admit it: reading this makes me miss anime conventions. I loved the energy, the camaradiere, the panels, and meeting people as dorky as I was. I stopped going in part because they’re so expensive, but mainly because I lost interest in anime over time. But I have plenty of good memories at Anime Boston and Anime North when I was still in college.

During my second year at Anime North, I met Dramacon‘s creator, Svetlana Chmakova. It was my second year at Anime North, and she’d just put out a new series, Night School. I bought a print for her to sign, entitled, “The Writing Process (as Explained by a Kitten in a Box)”. It was as cute as it sounds. I still have it hanging above my desk.

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When I met her, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed her work. I also wanted to tell her that when she referred to herself as a writer in the bonus pages, she made me feel like one day I could create comics too.

I was so nervous waiting in that line, and when it was finally my turn to meet her, I was too starstruck to say anything. I smiled and she greeted me and signed my print. I thanked her and walked away, feeling shaky, but elated.

Since then, I’ve had opportunities to meet one of my favorite actors and a personal hero. I learned from my inability to say anything meaningful to Ms. Chmakova. I decided on what I wanted to tell those people that I admired days in advance, and practiced it. When I finally met them, even if I was shaking or so overwhelmed I cried, my God, I said it.

I mention this now because in this chapter, Christie has the chance to meet Lida Zeff, her favorite manga creator. Unlike me, though, she didn’t totally blow it. I know firsthand how scary and exciting it is to meet someone you look up to. For most of the book, Christie is pretty meek and let Derek walk all over her. I would have thought she’d be like me, too nervous to say anything to her hero.

Instead, she embraces the chance to meet Lida Zeff. Who, as luck would have it, read Christie’s comic and wants to talk with the author about it. Christie’s pretty surprised by this. The day before, Derek had shown Lida the comic at a panel for a critique. According to him, Lida had said the comic was trash and that they needed to go back to school.

When Christie meets Lida, the manga artist clarifies the situation. She gave him an honest critique of his work, saying that he has promise, but would need art school to work at a professional level. Derek doesn’t know how to take a critique, and focused on the most negative aspects of it. But to be honest, I understand his perspective. I think it takes time to learn how to take a critique and not be totally wounded from it. Derek’s probably eighteen, and this con is his comic’s big debut. Until the con, the only feedback he may have gotten on it was from his friends, who are pretty biased.  It’s one of the few times in the manga where I have some understanding of why he’s being such a jerkass.

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Christie takes her chance to ask Lida for an honest critique of her writing. It’s a brave thing to do, and it shows a level of maturity that her boyfriend doesn’t have. Come to think of it, there’s plenty of creators – from amateurs to seasoned professionals – who don’t want to be critiqued at all. That willingness to learn, even if it hurts, puts her a head above other young writers. If you don’t take any critiques, if you don’t learn anything new, you’re going to be stuck in the same place as an artist. Or, as sci-fi and fantasy author Holly Lisle put it:

“If you assume that the words that flow from your fingertips were dictated to you by God and are thus sacred and immune from revision, only you and God are ever going to read them.”

Dramacon 3: Big Eyes, Big Mouth

In the last post,I talked about how Christie grows as a character throughout the series. At first she’s a shy girl who lets everyone walk all over her. By the final volume, she’s a self-confident young woman taking steps towards a writing career.

She’s not there, yet, though. When she and Matt go for a coffee, she shows more of the “real” Christie. She’s witty and teases Matt, and it’s totally out of character of what we know of her. So much so that Matt calls Christie out on it.20190204_1128112218555465877020755.jpg

It’s kind of a jarring shift that gets hand-waved off. I interpreted it as Christie acting like her true self, a side of personality that gets subdued when Derek’s around.

We also get more information about Christie and Matt’s life outside the con. He’s a freshman in college, she’s a barely legal high school junior. I’m glad that the manga makes a point about Christie’s age. Otherwise, I’d just be too weirded out by the age difference to enjoy the story. Christie’s age also works well in terms of her character. It offers an explanation for her naivety, and reflects in her relationship with Derek. She’s in an unhappy, floundering relationship, but is still trying to make it work. She holds on to Derek too long because when you’re young and in love, you think you’re going to be that way forever.

We learn more about Matt, too, but not the full story yet. He wears sunglasses at all times, which Christie finds disconcerting. When she takes them off, she apologizes after seeing what he’s hiding. The audience doesn’t know exactly what she saw, but it’s enough to make her understand why he’s always wearing his trademarked sunglasses. Their banter and flirting come to an abrupt stop when Derek returns to the hotel and catches them in the act. He’s not happy with her, but she finally stands up to him. For a minute. 20190204_1130395556471477410251673.jpg

But when Derek says that he came back to the hotel to check on her – the bare minimum of what a good boyfriend should be doing – she instantly caves. It’s fair, I guess. I can’t get mad at Christie for not having a total change of character in a span of only a few pages.

Derek’s real motivation for returning to the hotel was to sleep with Christie while they had the room to themselves. It’s established earlier in the book that Christie lost her virginity to Derek, which is one of the reasons she’s holding on to him longer than she should. But she’s also expressed discomfort about sex throughout the book so far, to the point where she can barely say the word “sex”. Her blush when Derek pulls her close and general hesitation about sex  lead me to believe that she was pressured into sleeping with him for the first time.20190204_1133072403960851287740108.jpg

One of the things that’s disappointing to me reading this now is that Derek is just flat, flat, flat. He’s a bad boyfriend, and at no point is he given a shot at redemption. He’s manipulative and an all around antagonist. I would have liked to see more nuance from him, other than, “he’s a jerk.”

Well, I think Matt is right about this one.

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Dramacon 2: Tentacles~

First of all, I apologize for the late post. Two big life events over the last week left me with not enough time, energy, or focus to work on this blog. I got engaged last week (yay!), which was shortly followed by my brand spankin’ new fiancé having knee surgery. His recovery is going well, but it also means I’ve had to step up a lot more around our home. Fortunately, things are settling down, so I’m going to try to keep a regular schedule again. Just don’t be alarmed if, instead of a normal post, you see a long, confused rant about color palettes and guest lists.

But we’re not here to talk about how planning my wedding scares me shitless. Instead, we’re here to talk about Dramacon, and pick apart a fictional character’s romantic relationships.

You see, Christie has a type. Unfortunately, her type is “snarky jerks”. She’s found an ally in the mysterious cosplayer Matt, but he’s also a total heel to her, too. He and Christie have chemistry, though, and he has a single advantage over Derek. Matt actually listens to Christie and wants to hear about her problems. Derek’s a pretty flat character, and he doesn’t get much development throughout the book. Matt at least has more facets to his personality, even if they’re hiding under mean one-liners.

I think there’s another reason that Dramacon appealed to me when I first read it at age eighteen. Apart from fantasizing about a con romance, Christie and I are similar in less than ideal ways. She’s a writer who creates comics, which is still an aspiration of mine. But she’s also a pushover who doesn’t always communicate her desires well. Like Christie, I’ve held on to relationships for too long, and put myself in uncomfortable positions to make a guy like me more. I’m glad to say that I’ve learned from those mistakes and I’m happier for it. Christie has a voice and a mind of her own, but right now, she’s holding herself back from speaking out.

Dramacon isn’t just a series about a girl falling in love at a con. As the series progresses, Christie finds her confidence and learns to advocate for herself. But she has to go through a lot of pain to gain that confidence and say what she really needs to. As someone who had a hard time with this for years – and still struggles on occasion – I think seeing Christie grow and change was something that really drew me to Dramacon.

To my credit, though, I at least knew what hentai was.

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To be fair, that’s how I feel about hentai, too.

Girl, I know you’re supposed to be an innocent character, but you’re at an anime convention. How do you not know what hentai is?!

The rest of her friends are going to the hentai screening, but Christie’s not into it. Instead of just saying she doesn’t want to go, she lies about having a headache. She goes back to the hotel, and runs into Matt in the elevator.

And Christie totally has a crush on him, even as she reminds herself she has a boyfriend. But it’s so cute! She and Matt don’t end up together by the end of this book, and that’s probably for the best. Apart from both characters’ need to mature, sometimes a romantic fling is as much about the setting as it is the person.

I developed a couple crushes at cons myself, one I even tried to follow up on by trying to friend the guy on Facebook. I knew I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, with him living in Canada and us only having known each other for a few hours. He never responded to my friend request, and I went on with my life. No pining or lovesick sighs. When I did send that (ignored) friend request, I was trying to capture that moment. I wanted to extend the time we spent together, re-live the thrill of clicking with someone I’d never met before. It was all the potential of a relationship – romantic or otherwise – that would never become anything.

Christie’s crush is just that. A chance meeting and a bit of chemistry with someone who’s marginally nicer to her than her boyfriend. They become friends over the course of this book, but as of right now, their attraction is based purely on those fleeting moments.

Dramacon 1: Welcome to the Jungle

From the amount of manga reviews on this blog, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I was an otaku when I was growing up. When I got to college, I started losing interest in anime, partly because I was cut off from my steady stream of Adult Swim and weekly allowance to buy manga. There were still some series I liked and followed, though, and Dramacon was one of them. I read this series for the first time only a month before my first anime convention. I was so excited to go, and ended up using it a template of what a con would be like.

It wasn’t exactly like Dramacon, though. I waited in line for six hours for registration, and by the time we were let into the con, all the panels were over and the merchants’ room was closed. We got to see the masquerade show and visit the artists’ alley. It was a fun and tiring time, and I really hoped that my next con would go a little smoother.

That’s the kind of memory that stirs up when I start Dramacon now. The excitement and anticipation of going to my first con, not really knowing what to expect, and at times being overwhelmed with it all.

I like the way the manga starts as well. Christie, her boyfriend Derek, and two friends are going to an anime convention. She and Derek have a booth at in the artist alley to sell a comic that they’ve created together. It’s the first day of the con, and she’s already having a hard time. Along with her friends accompanying them to the con driving her crazy, Derek is blatantly flirting with girls right in front of her. This all gets covered in the first couple pages. There’s not a lot of build-up and background, because it’s not needed.

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  Read from left to right!

The art’s not as good as I remember, and something about the way the artist Svetlana Chamakova draws mouths bothers me. I’m not entirely sure what it is, and complaining that they look “cartoonish” seems silly when I’m talking about a comic. They’re overexaggerated, which is okay for humorous scenes, but the first few pages are all done in this style. It makes Christie’s dilemma look funny, which makes it harder for me to take her seriously when she’s mad at Derek.

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That’s right. She’s mad at him, but she’s the one apologizing.

And rightly so. Derek is a tool, but Christie also lets him walk all over her. Throughout the course of the series, Chriss gets more confident and learns to stick up for herself, but that doesn’t happen here. Frustrated with her boyfriend, she runs off into the crowd, where she meets Matt.

I think this was the real appeal of the story to me: that serendipitous meeting with a handsome stranger at a con. Of course I secretly fantasized about meeting someone at a con and having a runaway 72-hour romance with them. I did meet some cool people, and developed a short-lived crush on one of them, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t keep in touch with the people I met, and never got kissed by a cute cosplayer.

Christie’s story is the one my teenage heart always wanted to have, but following it would come with some serious drawbacks. Other than having a jerk boyfriend, Christie is also dumb in the way she approached the con as a whole. For instance: she didn’t know her favorite manga artist and writer would be there. At the last con I went to, I went specifically for a chance to meet an actor I loved. Christie also didn’t know that there was a program detailing the different panels and events going on. How did she miss this? I’ve never been to a con where there wasn’t a program right at the entrance or registration booths.

If I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty, I guess this could be read as Derek trying to gaslight his girlfriend,  but to be totally honest, I just don’t think he’s that smart. He’s an asshole, though, but Christie is a wet blanket. Until Chriss stands up to him, he’s going to get away with everything.

Tithe 14 + 15

It’s the first post of 2019 and the last one for Tithe. 

In the penultimate chapter, we’re almost at the real climax of the book, with Kaye and Roiben leaving the Seelie Court to rescue Corny. I wouldn’t normally talk about the transition scene here, except for Kaye and Roiben’s conversation as they’re leaving the Seelie Court.

‘I’m here because you are kind and lovely and terribly, terribly brave,’ he said, his voice pitched low. ‘And because I want to be.’

She looked up at him through her lashes. He smiled and rested his chin on top of her head, sliding his hand over her back.

‘You want to be?’

He laughed. ‘Verily, I do. Do you doubt it?’

‘Oh,’ she said, mind unable to catch up with the stunning joy that she felt. Joy, that was, for the moment, enough to push the other sorrows aside. Because it was true, somehow, that he was here with her, and not with the Seelie Queen.

This is the first scene in the book that makes me think that their budding relationship is based on something more than lust, and the allure of the mysterious stranger you met on the side of the road.

When Roiben and Kaye get to the Unseelie Court, they learn that Spike is dead, and Nephamael has made himself king. I don’t think anyone feels bad about Spike getting killed. He never made himself likeable in the first place, and he wasn’t an important enough character to pay attention to.

They don’t really have much of a plan to get Corny back from Nephamael, but pretty soon Roiben’s opinion is moot. Nephamael learned Roiben’s name and uses it to take control of him. Kaye escapes, but Roiben remains in Nephamael’s command.

There’s a lot of situations in Tithe that are pretty intense. Maybe it’s because I’m older or because I’ve read the book a few times before, but very little in it scares me anymore. Except when Nephamael takes control of Roiben.

I’m not going to be ritually sacrificed by faeries, I think I’m smart enough now to avoid any teenage-like boyfriend shenanigans, and even driving isn’t that hard anymore. But Nephamael’s total control over Roiben is way more frightening than I remember it being. He’s ordered to humiliate himself and to “cut the pixie until she dies” when Kaye gets recaptured. The disturbing thing about this is that Roiben is totally conscious and aware of himself doing these things. He doesn’t want to do them, but has no choice. His body totally betrays his mind. The idea of not being in charge of my actions is scary, but that someone else could have absolute control over me is even worse. At some point, even I have to wonder, how much of me is really “in control”? How much of my life is actually dictated by me, and not, say, my boss, or my bank account?

But that line of thinking will probably lead me to some introspection and depression, and that’s not what we’re here for. What we are here for is to see Roiben and Corny get saved, right?

In discussing the last chapter, I talked about my disappointment in the shift from urban fantasy to just straight fantasy. I wanted to see Kaye’s world clash more with the fae world. I got a little bit more of that here. Kaye doesn’t know how to think like a pixie, and this works to her advantage. She poisons Nephamael with tiny iron nails from her boots, something she could have only gotten from the mortal realm. Nephamael dies, Corny and Roiben are free, and everyone’s a little closer to earning their happy endings.

I don’t think that this climax was bigger or more exciting than “escape from ritual sacrifice”, but I love that Kaye used her wits and resources to win the day. And, of course, that a girl saves the boys.

I’m combining my review for Chapter 15 as well, because I don’t think there’s enough in the final chapter to warrant a full post of its own. It’s basically a parlor scene wherein Kaye reveals the the Seelie Queen planned all this out, which should be intriguing, but is more confusing than anything. Roiben declares himself king of the Unseelie Court, and Kaye and Corny return to the mortal world.

The ending is bittersweet. Kaye and Corny are safe, but Janet is dead. Roiben and Kaye start a relationship, but it’s made clear throughout the book that kingship will not necessarily be kind to Roiben.

I like Tithe, but I don’t think it’s Holly Black’s best work. Reading it through again, it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should. The charmed kissing scene was also pretty questionable for me. But it’s still and enjoyable book, and easy to get sucked into. I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s other books, including Ironside and The White Cat, and I think both are more polished than Tithe.

Tithe meant a lot to me as an adolescent. It introduced me to YA fiction and urban fantasy. I took a lot of inspiration from Holly Black and her stories. Even her webpage  had a lot of resources and inspiration for a teenage writer like me at the time. She helped me learn about the publishing industry and the writing process. But most important, she made me feel like I could be a writer, and that someone wanted to hear what I had to say.

That’s a wrap for Tithe! Next week I’ll be back with a final – yes, final – manga review, and then I’ll be moving on to a new project for the rest of the year. Thanks for sticking with me this far, may your new year be full of good books and free of human sacrifice.

To 2019 and Beyond!

As you may have guessed, I’ve been quite busy with the upcoming holidays, and haven’t been able to update on time as I would have liked. The final two reviews for Tithe will be up in early January, followed by one last manga review, because Dramacon just needs to be discussed. Following that, I’ll be embarking on a totally new blogging project for the rest of the year, one I’m pretty excited about.

I also started a Ko-Fi for myself. You can find it here: https://ko-fi.com/charmedandalarmed There’s also a link on the sidebar just to your left. Click on the little tea faerie! I’m trying to earn money for a LiveScribe Pen, which will help make the writing process faster, since I handwrite almost everything before I post it online. If you enjoy what I do, please consider supporting me!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll meet you back here in the new year!

Tithe 13: Changing Lanes

It turns out that Kaye and I have a lot in common, apart from our shared name. For starters, she’s a terrible driver.

Kaye and Roiben go to see the Seelie Queen, thinking that Nephamael and Corny will be with her. To get there, Kaye “borrows” Corny’s car (with the keys conveniently hidden under the visor) and drives for the first time. At first she can’t figure out how to make the car go forward. Once she does hit the road, she’s scared to drive on the highway, has no idea how to merge, and can’t manage to park the car in just one space.

I think this, more than anything, takes me back to my teenage years. At least Kaye does much better her first time on the highway than I did.

Let me put it this way: I got pulled over for going too slow. Yeah, that’s a real thing that can happen.

Apart from that, the main similarity I saw between myself and Kaye was how she deals with her grief. This chapter is a whirlwind of emotion. She has to deal with Janet’s death (which she feels guilty for) at the beginning. When they reach the Seelie Court, she has to see Roiben admit that he loves the Seelie Queen, even if he no longer wants to be with her. There’s also anxiety when they learn that Corny and Nephamael aren’t with the Seelie Court, and Nephamael could have already killed his new “toy”.

But the emotional blow that intrigues me the most is Kaye seeing herself. Or, rather, the girl whose life she stole. As a changeling, she was given to her human mother, and the real Kaye stayed with the faeries. The human Kaye still looks like a child, even though the swap was made years ago. Pixie Kaye has no idea what to do with this, and finally runs out of the Court and waits for Roiben to meet with her.

This is one of the most compelling moments in the book for me. How do you face someone whose life you stole, even if you had no say in the matter? It doesn’t go beyond this in Tithe, but in the sequel, Ironside, Kaye has to return the stolen child to her mother.

There’s a lot that happens in this chapter, and Kaye can’t really get a grip on her emotions. Totally understandable, considering everything that’s on her mind. Her sadness and anxiety turn to anger, that she takes out on both Roiben, and Corny’s car. Her focus is only on getting Corny back, saying that he may very well be dead if they don’t get a move on. Which is true, but she also uses this as a distraction so she doesn’t have to think about everything else going on. If finding Corny takes priority, she can postpone figuring out her feelings and delay her grief.

What I noticed about the book now that I didn’t pick up on years ago was how disconnected this new quest feels from the first. For a book named Tithe, I expected the titular event to be the climax, not a second inciting incident. When Kaye escapes, we’re sent on almost a whole new journey. We’ve got a different villain and different goal. The latter part of the story feels like an entirely different book from the first one.

To me, it’s not as intriguing as the first part, either. What drew me in to Tithe in the first place was the urban fantasy aspect. It was the mystery of Kaye’s fae friends and the enigmatic Roiben, and Kaye learning what it means to be a faerie.My favorite elements of the story are the magical world bleeding into the real, non-magical one, with the protagonist belonging fully to neither. But towards the end, that idea is abandoned, with the story taking place almost entirely in the magical realm. It becomes a gender-swapped “save the princess” story. I’m not saying that Tithe‘s new direction is going to be a bad one, but I do expect the climax to be pretty big to beat “human sacrifice escaping from fae ritual”.

Tithe 12: Driving a Wedge

-This is why I wanted more details – what, exactly, did they hate about the swearing fealty to the Court when freedom has led to chaos
-Did she and Roiben make any plans to help Corny? Where is he now?
-Killing Janet: more about the divide between Kaye and the fae than anything

We’re coming to the end of Tithe, and now that the main event’s over, where to we go from here?

To a rave, apparently.

Kaye needs to find Nephamael to save Corny, assuming that the latter is still alive. But it seems like she’s not in any hurry to get back to the Unseelie Court. Considering the mess she and Roiben left it in, I can’t say I blame her. She finds her fae friends: Spike, Lutie-Loo, and the Thistlewitch, looking to them for some guidance. Rather than getting any kind of wisdom from them, she discovers them celebrating the uncompleted Tithe and their newfound freedom, and a surprising degree of callousness.

‘I have no desire to be welcome among you, old mother,’ Roiben said, kneeling down on one knee in the soft earth. ‘I only wanted to know whether you were aware of the price of your freedom. There are trolls and worse that are delighted to be without any master but their own desires.’

‘And if there are, what of it?’ Spike asked, coming up from behind them. ‘Let the mortals suffer as we have suffered.’ [. . .]

‘So it’s us against them now? I’m not talking about the Unseelie Court, here. Since when are mortals the enemies of the solitary fey?’ Kaye said, anger bleeding into her voice again, making it rough.

Kaye’s exchange with Spike sums up the main conflict of this chapter, and her new inner struggle. She’s not worried about enchanting Janet’s boyfriend or being “weird” anymore. She’s a faerie who spent her whole life believing that she was human, and has no idea how to live as part of the fae world. She thought that this was going to be simple, and is only now coming to realize the trouble she’s caused, and how deep in she really is.

This point is further driven home at the end of the chapter, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.

As I mentioned in another post, one of the things that bugged me was that the rules for why the Tithe happened and why the solitary fey would submit to the Unseelie Court was never really explained beyond obscure faerie rules.  I really wish there was more backstory again, because the faeries are all pretty happy about being free. So why would they ever submit to the Tithe in the first place? Was there every any kind of resistance in the past, or attempts to stop the ritual similar to this one? I know I won’t get answers to these questions, nor do they come up in either of Tithe‘s sequels. I just wish there was something more than “because plot demands it”.

The meeting with the other fae at least gives Kaye some direction of what to do next, when she learns that the Seelie Queen will be coming to the area. They’re most likely to find Nephamael – and, with him, Corny – in the Seelie Queen’s court. Kaye realizes that her friends have no interest in setting things right or finding Corny, and that the only person she has to rely on is Roiben.