Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 3: The Hierophant

When we last saw Zade, she was in Charles Spellman’s office, and he demanded that she tell him everything. I have to admit, that’s a pretty good cliffhanger. Does Charles know that she’s actually magic? If he does, why? If he doesn’t, how does Zade explain her act? Does he make a pass at her? Does he reveal that he is also a magician?  Let’s find out!

It took about a week for Human Resources to process my paperwork and get me set up as an employee.

Oh. That’s disappointing. I’m sure we’ll learn how their meeting went later, though, right?

In the mean time, we learn about the ins and outs of getting hired in Las Vegas. It turns out that Zade got to stay at the Wynn hotel for free for a week, and then she found an apartment of her own.

I also got some furniture and did all the other really adult things I’d never had to do before.

Getting furniture = really adult. There is no specification about what “the other really adult things” are, but I’ll let that pass because I don’t want to have to spend a chapter learning about all the fun Zade had getting her utilities set up.

This isn’t to say that we’ve dodged any and all long, excessive, unnecessary descriptions, though. In a vaguely stream-of-consciousness tangent, we learn all about the layout of the dressing rooms and costume storage, and the costume makers. Zade tells us that the costumers make side money during Halloween by doing custom costumes, and she thinks about how she’s definitely going to get in on that when October comes around.

There’s one little problem, though:

Though I never know what to be, I always want a completely recognizable costume that is something so unique that no one else has it.

There’s something really sad about that sentiment. Zade doesn’t really have any specific vision for her costume, and only cares that it’s immediately recognizable and unique. Could the costume be a metaphor for her identity? Does it mean that she doesn’t have any dreams for her future, but wants to be a star at any cost?

Probably not, because Zade’s musings on the costumers continue.

It dawned on me they could make incredible costumes for the Renaissance faires that I loved going to, which made my new job and life that much more awesome, since I had heard Las Vegas had a pretty decent faire that happened yearly in town.

Who needs an identity when you’ve got a Ren Faire?

Yes, having your very own costume designer is a must for any girl.

Ivanka Trump could have written that line. I’d put that on the “Zade’s words of wisdom” list, but it’s not even that. It’s inane.

Also, notice how Zade immediately starts imagining all the wonderful things the costumers can do for her. Even though this is just in Zade’s head, I’m adding it to “The World Revolves around Zade” count, which brings us to 6.

So the chapter really begins as Zade is getting her costume fitted by one of the costumers, whose name is Lil. Which is another three-letter name, if you were’t keeping track.

Lil talks about herself. a lot but Zade spares us most of the details saying only that

I quickly learned more about Lil than I know about most people I’ve known for my half my life.

And, we learn that Lil is a goff:

She looked like the stereotypical Goth: black hair, black nails, and more than her fair share of tattoos. I’m pretty sure that if you saw her on the street the last thing you would think is that she made clothes for a living.

I can think of many occupations that seem less probable. Theater-related stuff is kind of ground zero for people with abnormal fashion sense.

Lil keeps talking, but Zade, being Zade, gets distracted by more important things.

She continued to ramble on in her fast, chatty way, and pretty soon I had tuned out the random gossip and focused on my reflection in the mirror.

I don’t know what to say. There is no way that someone could write this and not realize how unlikeably self-involved their protagonist is. It has to be intentional, right?

The fluorescent lights showed off every angle of me as I stood there staring at myself, and all I could think was how white I looked, and I wished some parts of my body were different.

Use of pale skin as a physical flaw? Check. Expresses vague unhappiness with her appearance, despite being told how hot she is constantly? Check. There’s no way this isn’t just elaborate satire, right?

Lil mentions Mac, which snaps Zade out of her narcissistic reverie. But Zade missed whatever the important bit was, and doesn’t want to let Lil know that she had zoned out, so she changes the subject. Lil complements Zade’s dyed hair, which of course she does herself. Zade offers to do Lil’s hair, and Lil tells Zade how awesome her audition was, and says,

“I can see why C.S. had, like, a special audition just for you. I’ve never seen them do that for anyone, but you sure brought it.”

So Zade’s one-girl show was a special case. I wonder why that could be. I’m not being sarcastic.

But Zade doesn’t know how to take a compliment.

I’m not good with compliments. Some girls are. I’ve always admired those who know what to say and accept them graciously. I normally stammer over the words “thank you.” It always comes off awkwardly, so I usually end up trying to say something nice in return, which is hard when you don’t know the person.

Didn’t you just tell us that you feel like you knew her better than half the people you’ve known your whole life? Zade’s short-term memory problems are rearing their head.

Since I hadn’t really seen much of Lil’s work, I couldn’t tell her I thought she was an amazing seamstress. I began to turn red and mustered out the word, “thanks,” and then we just stared at each other in awkward silence.


What does this add? Is Lani Sarem one of those people who thinks that accepting a compliment makes you stuck up? Or are we being shown that Zade’s kind of socially awkward to make her relatable?

Lil, being better at this game than Zade, asks her how she came up with her trick. Zade gets defensive, and says it’s a family secret, and tries to redirect the conversation at Lil, and oh my god, this scene just goes on and on. They talk about dresses. Lil asks where Zade is from. Zade tells her she’s from Tennessee.

And with that, this scene ends.

Now something weird happens.

The texts shifts to italics, and the perspective switches to third-person. Mac appears to be front-and-center here.

So Mac is about to knock on the door of the fitting room where Zade and Lil are hanging out, but he reconsiders:

Mac could see Zade standing in nothing but her lace underwear and bra as Lil pulled a measuring tape around her narrow waist[. . .] Under the bright lights, Zade’s skin looked porcelain white. She was beautiful. She wasn’t supermodel hot but there was something about her that just made her stand out. Mac couldn’t quite put his finger on it but there was something there.

I see this as Lani Sarem’s way of reassuring us that Zade actually is hot, despite her self-depricating thoughts earlier in the chapter.

I’d like to point out that we don’t know why Mac was going to knock on the door. We don’t know what Mac was thinking about, until he sees Zade, because the entire world revolves around Zade (if you’ve lost track, this is the seventh unique instance).

He tried to push the thoughts out of his head; he didn’t want to like her. He couldn’t like her. Zade was the enemy.

Zade is the enemy? Could Mac know more about her than he’s let on?

I’ll tell you the answer now: he doesn’t. He’s just still angry about the incident from her first day.

Oh, and it turns out that just seeing Zade in her underwear makes him totally forget what he was doing. How convenient.

Despite his frustration with himself he still stood there staring for quite a while, the whole time thinking he should just look away, but he couldn’t seem to actually take his eyes off of her.

Creep. What even is “quite a while?” Because I’m imagining he’s just spying on her for like five minutes. Maybe Zade put a hotness spell on herself, or something, but I doubt that’s the case. I just think she’s the center of the universe.

While Mac is staring at Zade for an unspecified length of time, Tad enters the scene.

Tad waited for a few moments to see if Mac was going to notice him or even just stop staring at the mostly naked girl on the other side of the door. Finally Tad decided that they might be there all night if he just waited for Mac to turn around so finally he poked at Mac’s shoulder.

Maybe Mac’s had some kind of  seizure? I’ve never been a guy, but I would think that watching a nearly-naked girl get her measurements taken would probably get boring after, like,  two minutes at the most, unless he specifically has a voyeurism fetish. Doesn’t he have stuff to do? What is so special about Zade? Is it really just the fact that she’s magic?

Mac jumps when he realizes Tad is there, and is embarrassed. The two get out of earshot, and then Tad mocks Mac for being a peeping Tom.

Mac doesn’t just laugh it off, though:

Mac looked Tad dead in the eye and moved his tongue around his gums.

Try “moving [your] tongue around your gums” while glaring to see how ridiculous it is. I also like the unintentional ambiguity of who moved whose tongue around whose gums. Every possible answer is hilarious.

But then things take a darker turn:

He ground his teeth before responding, anger mounting in his words. “Contemplating how to kill her and dispose of the body without getting caught. Keep it up, and I’ll be disposing of two bodies. Any other questions?”

What the fuck, bro. That seems a little extreme. I know it’s just a joke, but after spying on her for several minutes and that talk about Zade being the enemy, it’s more than a little bit troubling.

Mac storms off, leaving Tad alone in the hallway. Then the kid named Riley shows up, and asks what’s going on with Mac.

Tad shrugged and rolled his eyes. “He’s just having a difficult time dealing with his feelings. Don’t worry about it, kid. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

Nothing has anything to do with Riley. Riley has nothing to do with anything. Everything in this book is about Zade, but I guess Riley hasn’t gotten the memo.

And, as if to demonstrate Riley’s utter irrelevance, we immediately switch back to Zade’s point-of-view.

Zade’s been getting her measurements taken by Lil for what seems like hours, but finally she’s done. Zade tells us that she knows everything there is to know about Lil, including what she ate for breakfast. To prove it, she tells us what Lil ate, and where she got it. It’s irrelevant.

But then, as Zade finally leaves the fitting room, we meet another handsome man.

 I had crashed into him so hard that I started to tumble to the ground. Luckily, he apparently had catlike reflexes and caught me in his arms. He held me there for a moment, just long enough for me to look into his deep, sparkling eyes.

And we’ve gone full anime. I wish I watched more anime, because I’m sure that this exact scene exists in something, but I can’t find any examples.

More anime bullshit happens: He says hello while holding her in his arms, and she blushes, then babbles awkwardly. She notices that that this guy has a guitar strapped to his back, and he introduces himself:

“I know who you are. I actually came up and talked to you right after your audition. I was one of the many fawning over you. I’m Jackson Milsap,” he said, smiling broadly. His grin revealed two rows of perfect, white teeth. All I processed was “Jackson.”

If you read the foreword, then you know that Lani Sarem met Skye Turner (who wrote the foreword) because Skye ran a fanpage for a Twlight actor, and Lani Sarem managed that actor’s band. That actor’s name?

Jackson Rathbone

Yep, I think it’s safe to say that this novel just turned into a real-person fanfiction, and the author didn’t even bother to change his first name.

Zade thinks more about how hot he is, and how she feels like she’s been struck dumb by his sheer attractiveness:

Jackson smiled again and his cheeks dimpled. He ran his fingers through his perfectly tousled dark chestnut hair, and I realized that I was going weak in the knees whenever he smiled.

Wasn’t Zade put off by how attractive Cam was back in chapter 1? Whatever.

The fact that Lani Sarem knows Jackson Rathbone personally actually makes this creepier.

So Zade asks Jackson Not-Rathbone what he does, which, as she points out, is pretty weak, considering he has his guitar strapped to his back. Zade tells Jackson that she also plays guitar, and he tells her that’s hot, and she asks if they can jam sometime.

Spoiler: every time Jackson is onscreen, the story completely stalls out, which I’m not sure is technically possible, due to the fact that saying the story “stalls out” implies that it actually does move at all, which it does not.  I would show more excerpts, but there’s just nothing to say about them. If you’ve ever read fanfiction, you know exactly how this unfolds, and if you haven’t then you’re not missing anything. Zade says she doesn’t have a guitar with her, so Jackson says she can use one of his. It just goes on and on, and doesn’t stop. It’s horrible.

So it turns that Jackson is there because he volunteered to give Zade a tour, and she internally squees when he calls her pretty. But just as they’re about to start the tour, Zade realizes that she forgot her phone in Lil’s fitting room!

Zade goes into Lil’s fitting room to grab her phone, and even though you might think that there was a plot-related reason for her to do that, there’s not. Zade grabs her phone, and then starts with Jackson on the tour

Zade thinks about how she’s happy that her move is working out, and then the chapter ends.

So here is what happened in this chapter:

  • Zade meets Lil
  • Mac thinks Zade is hot
  • Zade meets Jackson

That’s it.

This chapter was 4066 words long, and those are the only things that happen. We didn’t even need to see Mac creeping on Zade, and (spoiler) Lil doesn’t play any role going forward. Meeting Jackson is the most consequential part of this chapter, but even that goes on way too long. There’s no tension, no conflict. Zade just feels giddy and talks about how hot he is.

0/10, would not read ever again.


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