Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 15: The Tower (Part Two)

Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Zade and Charles did their brand new magic act, using magic that is emphatically “strong and volatile.” Midway through, Zade starts feeling ill. While she’s able to pull through and be perfect (Black Swan style) she collapses as soon as it’s over. Zeb possibly casts a spell, and Riley calls 911. Before losing consciousness, Zade’s only request is that her mother is called.

So, I bet you’re thinking that it’s going to be third-person italics until Zade wakes up, right? Or maybe you’re thinking that we’ll jump straight to her waking up and continue from there. Neither of those happen. Instead, we still get to be narrated to by Zade in first person, although Lani Sarem finds a, um, creative way to get around little inconveniences like an unconscious narrator.

Later, after I’d had some time to rest, I pulled out the memories of what everyone else saw and what happened. When you “pull out” memories using magick, they pretty much feel like they are your memories—but you’re also seeing yourself from that other point of view.

Now, it’s a widely known fact that the pull-out method is unreliable. You might think that since we’re getting events filtered through the gaze of other characters, we might need to approach this with a skeptical eye. But once again, you’d be wrong, while lip service is paid to how memories are not 100% representative of what actually happened, Zade can pull as many memories as she wants, so there are no gaps in her knowledge!

After taking a while to explain this, we get back to the story. After Zade faints, Mac arrives, and we’re told that he’d left the theater for a little bit while he was angry. Since Zade is now privy to all of Macs thoughts during this episode, she knows that when he heard someone had gotten hurt, he intuitively knew it was her.

So Mac asks what happened, and upon seeing Zade “choking on her own blood,” rushes over to her. According to Tad, Zade just collapsed and began to bleed. Zeb tells Mac that she collapsed in his arms.

He seemed somewhat upset that I was hurt–which surprised me. Maybe he didn’t hate me after all.

Haven’t we established that Zeb doesn’t hate Zade several times at this point? Jackson told her, Zeb told her when he confronted her about something that went unspecified, and finally, while Zade was still conscious, she collapsed into his arms and felt comforted.

Riley is still freaking out, and Zeb tries to support him physically, since Riley’s on the verge of collapsing due to panic. When the paramedics arrive, they can’t figure out what’s going on with her:

Little did they know that what was happening to me wasn’t anything they had ever seen before. There would be no answers to my sudden collapse from any from this world.

Are Zade and her mother Jewish gypsies from outer space? That sounds like something Alex Jones would yell about on his show. I think this line is meant to imply that no one from the non-magical world will know what happened, but the way it’s phrased makes me excited that there might be aliens involved in a later installment (hopefully not Jewish ones, because that’s an actual antisemitic conspiracy theory).

So anyway, one of the paramedics asks what happened, and Tad tells him that something must have gone wrong at the end of the show. The paramedics say that there’s no sign of external trauma and that it must be internal, and that they need to get her to a hospital. They strap her onto a gurney.

Blood was still oozing out of my mouth and trickling onto the floor.

Is her head literally hanging off of the gurney? That doesn’t sound right. Whatever.

Mac asks which hospital they’re taking her to, so that he can go too. They tell him, and Charles says that he’s going with Mac.

Before they leave, Tad tells Mac that Zade said to call her mother. Mac thinks that he doesn’t have her number, and says he’ll deal with it later.

As Charles and Mac exit, we get to find out things are a lot more bloody than we realized at first:

Zeb and Tad both had blood all over their clothes and there was even blood pooled on the floor. Riley stood there just staring at the floor, pretty shaken and distraught. As everyone started to disperse, Riley couldn’t take his eyes away from the red pool of blood.

Would have been nice to know about all this blood that was everywhere toward the beginning of the scene. Or maybe Charles and Mac weren’t aware of all the blood because they were focused on Zade? But surely Mac would have noticed it when he arrived? I don’t know.

Tad tries to comfort Riley a bit, but Zade can tell he’s shaken. Zeb is kind of zoned out, and only now notices he’s covered in blood. Maybe the spell he did drained his energy? Reading this book honestly makes me feel a little bit crazy because it’s impossible to know how much of it is meant to be subtext and how much is just rushed, lazy writing.

Anyway, the scene ends.

The next scene opens with a long, hairy mouthful of a sentence with one of those lengthy emdash-delineated sub-clauses Lani’s so fond of. I will summarize it: Zade finds looking through the memories of people who saw her during this ordeal to be difficult because the memories are so emotionally intense.

Feeling the pain they felt as I combed through their deepest thoughts was incredibly hard for me, but I needed to know what happened during the time I was “gone”.

Imagine their pain if they knew Zade was digging through their brains! She does specify later that she got permission from Mac and Charles to “pull their memories,” but she’s definitely not limiting her recon to them alone. I also take issue with the assertion that Zade “needed” to know everything that happened while she was out. Why not just ask? I’m going to count this as an instance of The World Revolving Around Zade (28) because it’s so entitled.

Fortunately, we get to skip the ambulance ride and begin the scene in the hospital with Mac and Charles. But before that happens:

I was trying to find out what happened between the theater and the hospital, but since no one I was close to was with me in the ambulance, I had to admit that it would be a bit harder to find those memories. I had to assume that not much happened that was important (to me, at least), so I skipped trying to pull those moments, which seemed to to be more work than they were worth.

Thanks, Zade! I’m glad we get an explanation as to why we’re missing a scene of you riding unconscious in an ambulance. Otherwise, it would just add to the mountain of unanswered questions that’s been steadily growing since this book began!

We learn that Mac and Charles drove to the hospital in silence. Mac still thinks that there’s something uneasy between Charles and Zade, but Charles is too preoccupied by Zade’s emergency to notice Mac’s grumpiness. Since the hospital is only a couple miles away, they arrive in no time. When Mac and Charles get to the waiting room, they wait impatiently for a doctor to tell the what’s going on. Finally, an old, tired-looking man emerges.

By his white coat you could tell he was a doctor and obviously well-experienced–most likely the head doctor of the hospital.

I love how excited Zade is to discover that a man who was might be the “head doctor” is coming out to tell her famous dad boss and her boyfriend  romantic interest about her status.

The doctor, who introduces himself as Dr. Schimdt. Fun fact: Lani’s editor is identified a “Robert Schmidt” in the acknowledgements, which makes me wonder if there’s a connection here. He can hardly get a word out before Mac interrupts to ask if Zade’s OK. Dr. Schimdt asks if either Mac or Charles are family.

“I’m her friend. . . um . . . I’m her boy. I’m her. . . boy . . . friend,” Mac stammered. He knew enough to know that the doctor would want to speak to family.

What gave it away? Maybe because the doctor just asked if Mac was family? Genius.

He immediately regretted not lying and say something like fiancé—or even husband.

I know that when someone who care about is in critical danger it’s hard to act rationally, but jeez, an hour ago he was ready to let her fall to her death. And now he’s ready to lie and say he’s her husband? Mac has more than a few issues, methinks.

But I guess Zade also pulled Schmidt’s memories too, because we get his perspective on the matter: he’s not quite sure if Mac is a friend or a boyfriend, and thinks that’s really not enough to warrant giving out a patient’s information. He reiterates that he needs to be talking to a family member (if only we had one of those lying around somewhere). Mac tells Schmidt that Zade’s mom lives in Tennessee.

Charles enters the conversation, saying that perhaps he can help sort this out. Schmidt asks him too if he is related to Zade, and Charles says he’s her employer. When Schmidt tells Charles that employer and family are not synonymous, Charles asks to speak with Schmidt in private. WHAT COULD THIS INDICATE?????

But Mac doesn’t like the idea Charles speaking privately to the doctor.

“Whatever you want to tell the doctor, you can say in front of me,” Mac insisted, crossing his arms and putting himself between the two of them.

The World Revolves Around Mac: 1. I know that “whatever you want to say in front of X you can say in front of me” is a cliche, but usually X is a close friend/romantic interest of the person saying it. But Charles decides, OK, whatever:

Charles looked back at the confused doctor and sighed deeply.

“I am also her . . . ,” he paused, glancing at Mac. “I’m her father.”

WHAT????? NO WAY!!

This is possibly the worst secret parent reveal I’m seen in my life. First of all, Zade clearly knows this already (hence the proclamations of love between the two in the last chapter and her total lack of surprise at this admission), but it raises so many questions. When did Zade find out Charles was her dad? When did Charles find out Zade was his daughter? I guess that their real reunion was the missing scene that followed the end of chapter 2 and was skipped over entirely, so what was that like? Was Zade angry that he’d abandoned her and her mother for a life of fame and much younger girlfriends? Was Charles reluctant to be forthright with everyone about his relation to Zade for fear of accusations of nepotism? Literally the only reason for Zade to not let us know that he’s her dad is for this shitty non-twist. We already knew they weren’t romantically involved because in the last chapter it’s told to us outright that their relationship is totally platonic. I would say that this is the most contrived thing in this book, but let’s be honest: everything in this book is contrived.

At hearing this news, Mac taken aback. Charles repeats that Zade is his daughter.

I realized that this may have been the first time Charles had ever said those words out loud–and I wasn’t even there to hear them in person.

You got to mind-pull the event though, so that’s basically the same thing.

“I saw you kiss her!” Mac protested.

“What are you trying to imply?” Charles said, flabbergasted.

See, I think Charles is confused because he thinks Mac saw him kissing Zade as Jackson, and is afraid that Mac can see through glamours. Maybe Zade doesn’t catch on, though, because Charles occlumencies his memories before Zade pulls them (Like I said, she tells us later that she had permission to memory-pull from both Mac and Charles).

Mac starts getting more freaked out and, before the doctor has had time to say anything about Zade’s condition, asks Dr. Schmidt to give him and Charles a moment alone.

The doctor complies, and as he walks away he mumbles to himself about this turning into a Jerry Springer episode. I don’t know if Jerry Springer is still on the air, but I appreciate his sass.

Once the doctor is gone, Mac asks if Charles was telling the truth. Charles says it’s “100% completely true” and that Zade came to audition for the show because she knew. Mac asks if anyone else knows, and Charles answers thusly:

“I am not aware of anyone else knowing. Besides her mother, of course.”

So does Zeb not know? Oh well, maybe he knows she’s magic but doesn’t know she’s Charles’ daughter? Or maybe Charles is lying, and occlumency-ing so Zade doesn’t catch on again.

Mac proceeds to ask why it’s kept such a secret. To this, we get an answer that doesn’t seem any more contrived than the rest of what’s happened this chapter, but doesn’t seem less so either:

“I cannot explain most of it to you, but I can say that . . . well, it was her mother’s wish and I had no choice but to respect it. ‘Wish’ is a polite way of putting it, honestly. It was only recently that Zade found out that I was her father; and that’s when she came to work with us.

Needless to say, we never get an explanation about why Dela demanded Zade’s relationship to Charles be kept secret. And even can’t come up with a wacky headcanon to explain it.

Mac comments that it’s funny that Zade does magic too, and Charles tells him that her mother “does do something similar.” Which Mac knows, because Zade’s told him she reads tarot cards for a living.

Mac tells Charles about thinking Zade and he were “having an affair,” and thinks about how now everything makes so much more sense (it doesn’t).

But then Mac remembers how he saw Charles kiss her:

“You did? Are you sure?” Charles looked directly at Mac with his eyebrow raised.

I think he’s super worried Mac can see through glamours right now. But Zade goes out of her way to tell us that this is not what Charles is thinking:

He was trying to figure out for himself what Mac could have seen that looked like they had made out, because he positively had not made out with his daughter. Of that he was certain.

If Charles really had never made out with Zade (in either form), it should go without saying that he was confused about what Mac had seen. But this seems like another instance where Charles has edited his memory so that Zade won’t realize that he’s actually freaking out of his secret identity being uncovered.

(I just really want Jackson=Charles to be true, OK? Why include memories as a method of viewing the past unless it’s going to get manipulated a little bit?)

But in any case, Mac acknowledges that he never actually saw them kissing with tongue, and turned away before he saw anything and only fantasized about all the tongue-action that was going on.

Charles nodded and smiled; he knew exactly the time frame Mac was speaking about.

Relieved to know what Mac is talking about (and that his cover as Jackson isn’t blown), Charles tells him that what he thought was some hardcore kissing was simply a kiss on the cheek. He apologizes for Mac having misunderstood, and for causing him pain.

Mac feels like a dumbass for misinterpreting so much, and laments that he got so angry when he should have just listened to her. He also lets it slip that Cam had been running the main board during the big “illusion.” At this, Charles asks him to clarify that he himself wasn’t running the board. When Mac affirms this, Charles says that he thinks he might know what went wrong with the trick. At this very moment Dr. Schmidt returns. Mac and Charles are ready to hear what he has to say.

But first! A section break. And then:

Something else really important and alarming happened at that exact moment. Of course, I was the only one who knew it was important, and so it wasn’t till I was pulling memories–long after the fact–that I saw it.

I’ve said this in the comments a few times, but it’s moments like this that make it obvious which bits weren’t present when Lani wrote this a standalone screenplay.

So the “really important” thing that Zade sees is. . .Strange Lambo Girl! In case you’ve forgotten, Zade is kind enough to remind us that this is the girl who attacked her in the mall parking lot back in Chapter 7.

Anyway, Zade thinks that Lambo Girl is trying to be seen:

Not only did I find out that she was there but she seemed to make a point of being seen when she didn’t have to–which lead me to believe she knew I would look later (or at least that someone would) and would see her. I still have no idea what she was there–or why she purposely wanted to be seen.

This would be so interesting if it ever came up again. I don’t know why Lambo Girl would expect Zade to look through people’s memories (how does she even know that Zade’s unconscious at this point? Psychic powers, probably) so maybe Zeb is known for memory-pulling? That’s my guess. Maybe Lambo Girl is Zeb’s rival. Or it honestly could just be a coincidence and Lambo Girl might just be rude.

But yeah, Lambo Girl plows though the waiting room and bumps into Mac, which “burns a spot” into Mac’s memory by pushing him out of the way.

But she was gone as quickly as she’d arrived–Mac didn’t even see where she had gone to as he had already turned his attention back to the Dr. Schmidt.

And that’s the end of that little inconsequential bit. We get another section break, and return to the originally scripted story.

Dr. Schmidt takes a moment to clarify that Charles is her father, and Charles says he is and that Mac is allowed to hang around for anything they might say. Dr. Schmidt says that Zade is stable, but can’t figure out what’s wrong. Apparently Zade is bleeding from nowhere. Schmidt is thoroughly confused. Mac asks what can be done. Schmidt is so pessimistic that he makes another dated pop-culture reference:

“I never thought I would say this, but I am currently wishing Dr. House was a real person. It’s definitely the kind of case he would solve.”

I’m not a doctor, but referring the case to a fictional character wouldn’t be my first course of action.

Charles doesn’t know who Dr. House is, and Mac explains. We’re told that Charles isn’t the best with pop culture:

When Charles goes to big events with famous people he frequently must be told by his assistant who someone is–and why they are considered famous.

This is a thing that I am 99% certain is lifted straight from The Devil Wears PradaOnce again, Lani seems to be taking her cues from Anne Hathaway movies.

Mac continues explaining who Dr. House is. Schmidt says he’s not trying to make a joke, but that he’s just not very often bamboozled by medical emergencies. He tells them that they’re “running all kinds of tests” and that if the doctors find anything, he will tell them so.

Mac asks if they can see Zade, and Schmidt leads them to her room “in the ICU unit.” Zade’ all wired up to an IV and some tubes (?), and Zade feels the pain that Mac and Charles felt. As Charles strokes Zade’s hair, his cell phone rings. It’s Zade’s mom Dela! Charles steps out of the room to take the call. Once he’s alone, he tells Dela that he was just about to call her. Dela’s opening line is “How bad is she?” (all of Dela’s phone-dialogue is in italics). Charles asks how she knew, and Dela basically says that he knows damn well how she found out (she’s psychic, after all!)

When Charles tells her that the doctors don’t know what’s wrong, Dela says that of course they don’t. She also says that Zade must be brought to Tennessee, and to bring Mac too because she “may need him.” Charles asks her why she can’t come to them.

“Charlie, I need my tools and my altar–all that is here. Do you understand? I can’t do what I need to in a hospital room with people everywhere.”

What time is it? Occult Ritual O’Clock! That’s exciting. Charles seems apprehensive, because he doesn’t respond right away. Dela says that it’s the only way.

Charles asks if she could die, and gets anxious. Dela takes a while to answer because (Zade assumes) she’s still reading her cards. But then for some reason we shift to Dela’s point-of-view for a moment, and she lays out three cards and looks at them. And then we’re treated to a long explanation about tarot reading!

Basically, cards can mean things on their own but they can also have specific meanings based on context other cards provide. Zade says that it’s your spirit guides sending you messages, and lessons you have to learn, etc. If you’re magical, you can sometimes get unambiguous readings and sometimes not. And then we get some deep, involved thoughts on Destiny, and how it can be changed but that’s hard to do etc. It goes on for nearly an entire page.

In the mean time, Charles has been waiting for an answer, and reminds Dela that he’s doing so. Finally, Dela responds:

They won’t give me a clear answer. The only thing they will say is that you do need to bring her down here. The faster you get her down here to me, the better her chances are of making it. It’s a waning moon tonight and tomorrow night, at least. That will help.”

Ok, is it just me or have tarot cards literally never helped Zade or her mother divine anything in this novel? I know that tarot card readings are vague in real life, but shouldn’t Magically Gifted Zade and Dela have a bit more success?

Dela’s thing about the waning moon meant something to Charles though, because he knows some of how Dela’s magic works. And for the second time in two pages, we’re treated to another lengthy bit of exposition on how the phase of the moon affects spellcasting: basically, waxing moon = good for spells that want to increase something, and waning moon is good for those that want to lessen something.

Charles finally agrees, and says they’ll take his private jet! Dela says she doesn’t want to know why he as a private jet, which is weird because obviously he has one because he’s rich and famous and hates flying on commercial airlines.

Charles finds Dr. Schmidt, and says that he’s found a specialist who can help Zade. Schmidt is incredulous, and asks for more details, but Charles makes some shit up about being an “internal specialist”. He thinks for a bit about how he could have been more convincing, and after a page of that, Schmidt very reluctantly allows Charles to take Zade to his “Internal Specialist.”

After that, Charles tells Mac that they’re going to Tennessee. Mac, too, protests, but Charles cryptically assures him that Dela is very talented. Mac says he’s going with him, and Charles welcomes him along, saying that he will be needed.

[Charles] took credit for spinning the whole thing to Mac in a way where Mac wanted to come with them even though, in reality, Mac would have probably wanted to come regardless.

Awww, Charles is also a narcissist. At least the text acknowledges it.

Anyway, Mac is confused and repeats the word “needed?” And Charles reiterates that Mac will be needed. And this chapter is finally over!

15 thoughts on “Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 15: The Tower (Part Two)

  1. Christ on a cross, no doctor is going to allow a seriously ill patient to be handed over to some unnamed specialist without even speaking to them! *ducks incoming lawsuit*

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  2. You might think that since we’re getting events filtered through the gaze of other characters, we might need to approach this with a skeptical eye. But once again, you’d be wrong, while lip service is paid to how memories are not 100% representative of what actually happened, Zade can pull as many memories as she wants, so there are no gaps in her knowledge!

    Incidentally, Zade is still the narrator, so we’re also getting these third person scenes filtered through her voice, and she’s only telling us what she wants to talk about. I like how she glosses over this fact. And since these memories feel like Zade’s memories, I’ve got to say… I’m kind of shocked she’d ever look at anyone’s memories of her at all. She has to see how other people view her in an unfavorable light sometimes… Then again, she’s only examining the memories of people who like her. Sofia is noticeably absent.

    Haven’t we established that Zeb doesn’t hate Zade several times at this point? Jackson told her, Zeb told her when he confronted her about something that went unspecified, and finally, while Zade was still conscious, she collapsed into his arms and felt comforted.

    And I’ve since been to the Something Awful forums thread. She straight up compares Zeb’s comforting arms to Jackson’s! We have so much proof of this theory, it’s ridiculous. I’m starting to think the scene at the Peppermill was when Sarem became aware of the possible implications and tried to disown them, before forgetting that Zeb was a possibility. Then she slips up again, and writes that. Unless… maybe every man secretly has arms just like Jackson for a reason? Maybe no one has ever actually caught Zade mid-fall, and she edits this out by saying they all feel the same. 😀

    Riley is still freaking out, and Zeb tries to support him physically, since Riley’s on the verge of collapsing due to panic.

    Zeb is amazing. First he’s Cam’s designated driver, then he tries to warn Zade to be careful with her magic, then he tries to help her with a spell that sadly doesn’t work, and then he tries to be there for Riley to the best of his ability. I wonder if Zeb got roped into being Jackson against his better judgement, but he went along with it, because he was afraid Charles would resort to something worse if he didn’t? Zeb, Mel, and Sofia are the true heroes of this story.

    Relieved to know what Mac is talking about (and that his cover as Jackson isn’t blown), Charles tells him that what he thought was some hardcore kissing was simply a kiss on the cheek. He apologizes for Mac having misunderstood, and for causing him pain.

    Uuuugh. Even ignoring that sight can be tricked (which is how stage magic works), the fact that Mac turned away in that moment means that he never saw anything! Mac has to take this man at his word, which should ring some alarm bells with the way that Charles has asked these questions, to pinpoint what sort of evidence Mac has against him.

    And this also means that Zade should be wary. I really think someone edited those memories, especially given how happy Charles is to know of the EXACT TIME FRAME, so he could go in and tamper, before Zade could see. And of course, Zade is so full of herself that in normal circumstances, she’d never suspect she’d been fooled with another person’s magic. She’d only find out the truth if she used her own magic (which she for some reason presumes is infallible… as infallible as she presumes human memory to be.)

    I’m seriously beginning to think that Charles was pretending to be Jackson in his office that time and Zade didn’t realize it. I think we saw her follow him in, but there are so many gaps in what she told us, and no actual time spent with Charles that we get to see, to cover up that stupid reveal, that I’m beginning to think the tinfoil theory is more accurate. It’s just soooo ridiculous if that’s not the case, nothing makes much sense, and I’m finding it hard to believe that’s the truth. I can far more easily believe that Charles is a sleazy bastard and that he lied, than I can believe he’s an innocent man.

    And you know what? My parents were separated, and I always kinda wished for a closer relationship with my father, but I knew who he was. I’ve kept in touch, but I’m bad at keeping in contact with people, friends or family, so I’m just not good at bridging the gaps. I love Wolverine with Shadowcat and Jubilee, and hell, Bane and Scandal Savage, because I love seeing that sort of father-daughter bond, whether it’s biological or not. I wanna buy the game Dream Daddy at some point, because while it’s a dating sim (which I’ll still enjoy), it also has the dads interacting with their kids. That’s how they’re dads.

    Point is, this is the worst possible wish fulfillment for me ever, and I’ve read some excerpts from the future chapters now. I know it won’t get any better, only worse. This entire story would’ve played out the same if Zade was actually an orphan, Dela was her Magick Aunt, and Charles was her Hot Uncle.

    Furthermore, this story should’ve been from Charles Spellman’s POV, not Zade’s, because it’s really his story. Or better yet, from Mac’s POV, since he’s pretty much clueless through-out. There are so many problems, I can’t even…

    Wait… I watched this video recently and I’ve just had an epiphany about some of the reasons this book is so horrible. The comparison towards the end, focusing on the God of War games and the Bayonetta games, is what I’m thinking of… I believe it’s unintentionally internalized, akin to the misogyny of Not Like Other Girls™, in this chapter but also especially later on, when they cure Zade. We’re really supposed to view our heroine from a distance. This might only be due to the movie script origins, but given Sarem’s portrayal of most other women, I’d argue that it’s still indicative of how weird everything is.

    Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Mary Sues fall into this kind of world revolving flaw… Inexperienced female authors try to circumnavigate the male view, but have trouble doing so, since women are meant to be seen and not necessarily understood in a lot of mainstream media. They are active yet passive, frequently sporting the Madonna-Whore complex, without any other women because they either have trouble relating or fear that relating will ruin their protagonist position. 😦

    Lamborghini Girl is a great illustration of this… She’s really badly handled, partly from laziness and no concern, but it’s also a sign that Sarem doesn’t know how to write strong female characters. Sofia ends up supposedly mean when she’s relevant and is only openly denoted as kind once she no longer matters. Any woman with actual agency is framed as an antagonist or foil. The only woman that Sarem can write about as a person is herself, and that’s filtered through a narrative lens… It allows her to photoshop herself, but it also removes any true intimacy.

    Oh, also, I just realized the act that Zade did was also sort of foreshadowing the ending, maybe? Zade gives Charles Jr. Crystal the apple of knowledge and a kiss, then she drops like Snow White, and has to be revived by Mac at the end… only more violently. I skimmed over the end, because I thought the ritual was boring. The various details that were objectifying Zade still leapt out at me and made me cringe. Ugh.

    I will say the ending surprised me, but not in a good way. :p

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  3. Er, to clarify, there are plenty of good authors out there, who can write a power fantasy for women. I’m suggesting that some of the least experienced female writers can’t fully connect with this, because their greater experience is with the male power fantasy. And without connecting the dots that women are human, and masculinity/femininity is partially an accepted definition based on what society portrays them as, discerning the difference between the way women are stereotyped and the way women simply exist is harder to do.

    I say this from a place of experience, by the way. For years, I had trouble coming up with female characters and my male characters were always more in-depth. Partially, this is from focusing on fanfiction, but this also held true for my original characters. I still struggle with this, although I’d like to think some of the things I’ve seen and read over the years have expanded my capability. It really helps to have people who understand the problems as they appear in mass media (for instance, Escher Girls is great about revealing this from an artistic stand-point) or can help with breaking down certain tropes and why they’re female. Hell, even simple research on humanity and exploring forums for anecdotes. It’s just less common, because I am female so I assume things, but I can be just as ignorant about women as I am about children, men, other races, other cultures, history, science, etc.

    I’m rambling though and perhaps sounding incredibly stupid. I’ll end by linking to two videos that I like: Strong Female Characters and Manly Men! This isn’t everything I’ve ever seen (nor do I expect everyone to look at all the links I post in the comments section.) I just really like that channel. ^_^;

    In general, I’m happy there’s a lot of discussion going on right now about such things.

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  4. Wow, Zeb really is the MVP. Even though he’s (most likely) helping Charles with his creepy reverse-Electra complex, I’ve really not given him nearly enough love. Especially if he is Beelzebub!

    On the topic Sarem not knowing how to write female characters, I pretty much agree. I was going to say that the male characters aren’t any better, but they kind of are? Not by much, mind you (on the Something Awful readthrough, one of the commentors points out that the book kind of fails a reverse Bechdel test because the male characters never talk about anything except Zade. Mac is an ass, but he still gets more backstory and complexity than Zade. Charles is less complex (unless he’s trying to regain control over a lost love by seducing her identical-looking daughter, in which case buddy’s got some issues). Zeb comes off as cold but is ultimately there for Zade and (conditinally) offers her help. Even if Jackson’s not someone’s disguise, it’s hard to imagine doesn’t know more than he’s letting on.

    I listened to a podcast with Lani Sarem and Thomas Ian Nichols, here’s the link, and Nichols describes Zade as an “empowered female lead” or something alone those lines. So I’m pretty sure that was what Sarem was going for.

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  5. Previous chapter:

    I use my secondary email for comments, so if I get notifications I don’t know, I just check the site sporadically.

    Thank you Dove, I like your comments too.

    I think one of the things that really gets me about the whole g*psy thing is that A) I’ve never read a book by a Rroma author about a Rroma character, so the fact that a gadje is writing a Rroma character and that this character is likely the only representation a hypothetical reader might see feels like a cruel blow B) the only Jewish/Rroma people I can think of off the top my head real or fictional are Wanda and Pietro Maximoff from the X-men. Their backstory is that their Jewish dad and Rroma mother met at a concentration camp and had the children after they were liberated. So while I can’t vouch for how delicately the subject was treated since these are long running comic book characters, they do get the point for at least acknowledging historical circumstance. For all the flaws this book has I think this is the one that bothers me the most. Just the blatant disregard and further degradation of a marginalized group that has such a small voice in this country.

    I had some background knowledge of the the Romani beforehand, but I appreciated the links you provided. If LS really needed to make her character Rroma she should have done her research, but we all know she’s too lazy for that. Which is a shame because historically both Jewish and Rroma people have had to conceal their ancestory for safety reasons, there could have been some lovely explorations about compromising two distinct and distinctly oppressed identities, or about how Zade feels about expressing her identities in such a racially charged social climate, or about Zade just revealing her ancestory to her coworkers and dealing with their reactions (like you said), and none of that happened and we are all the poorer for it.

    I feel that if we are to take Zade as an unreliable narrator, and a narcissist on top of that, it would mean that as long as Zade loves/admires/desires approval from Mac all of his bad characteristics are going to be downplayed or ignored. Whereas people she doesn’t care bout or out right dislikes will be shown in the worst light possible, like Sofia. So I would say that Mac is probably worse than Zade is letting on, and Sofia was only trying to warn her at the bar. My interpretation of the peeping scene is that Zade found it flattering so she hand waved the creep factor when she found out about it.

    I can’t imagine this film will have that big a budget, I’m sure the CGI for the hypothetical movie, and in particular this scene will look absolutely awful.

    This chapter:

    Oh good the plot has finally arrived!

    I will say the memory hopping idea would be a cool idea in the hands of a more talented author.

    Poor traumatized Riley. But like how much blood could have pooled in that amount of time, and where did it come from? I can’t picture how this scene would work out. I assumed Zeb caught Zade from behind (since this is really a movie and that would let Lani get more screen time on her face), so Zade should be face up, if the only place she’s bleeding from is her mouth either Zeb should have noticed, or she would have choked. Unless she’s bleeding from other parts of her body? Is she just oozing blood from her pores? Is it coming out of her butt? Did the blood teleport out of her body for dramatic effect?

    I’ll admit I kind of laughed at the image of a river of blood just flowing out of Zade’s mouth, and the EMTs doing nothing to stop it while they took care of the scene.

    Also, to reiterate a pool of blood seems like a lot and she keeps on bleeding, shouldn’t she have bleed out or something?

    LS spends so much time reassuring the reader that Charles is so suave and regal, and then every time he’s written he comes off as a kindly uncle or bumbling dad who doesn’t get the kid’s references these days.

    The only reason I can think that Dela doesn’t want Charles to publicly out himself as Zade’s dad is if someone or something really is after Zade, in which case concealing their relationship might prevent the force from looking to Charles as a lead on Zade’s whereabouts. Of course that idea is blown to smithereens since she’s in a GD Las Vegas magic show.

    Oh Lambo girl, you are as great as your storyline is underdeveloped. But really, her appearance seems wholly unconnected to literally everything else going on in the story. Unless that’s her casual way of telling Zade she saw Zade biff her trick

    I hope this occult ritual requires a Mac sacrifice.

    Conspiracy corner:

    If Zeb is magical maybe he was initially suspicious of Zade because he thought she was in league with Lambo girl. Maybe he and Lambo girl having an ongoing forces of good versus forces of evil thing going on. Hell, I’d settle for a turf war.

    My own spin on Charles/Jackson/Zeb; Charles and his henchman Zeb initially planned to seduce Zade so Charles could steal her powers through some kind of dark sex magick by pretending to be Jackson (who is real a person, but unaware of all of this). The plan is backfiring because Zade’s body is rejecting the initial stages of the ritual. So now Charles needs to take Zade and Mac to Tennessee so he can use Mac’s body as a vessel for Zade’s power. Once Zade’s power is safely in Mac, Charles can then preform the dark ritual with Mac and gain Zade’s power.

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  6. I was going to say that the male characters aren’t any better, but they kind of are? Not by much, mind you (on the Something Awful readthrough, one of the commentors points out that the book kind of fails a reverse Bechdel test because the male characters never talk about anything except Zade.

    Oh my! I skipped some of the earlier pages, so I missed that comment. It’s so true. But yeah, the guys are a little more complex. They’re still horribly stereotypical, but they have better inner conflict than Zade does, even if it’s just from waxing poetic over her. It’s a very low bar though.

    Mel is still the only one who doesn’t care much about Zade. I think Sofia was probably more bitter about how it affected her profession and her love life. If it was anything like that fanfic, she’d be more believably upset than Zade. And Zeb’s just the best demon/witch/whatever. Even his conditional help was probably a case of 1) not having a personal connection with her, and 2) figuring out that she and Charles are stupid, narcissistic lunatics, but having faith in them anyway? I guess. XD

    Nichols describes Zade as an “empowered female lead” or something alone those lines.

    Eww. I’m sure that was her intention, but…

    Oh! Damsel in Distress completely illustrates some of the problems with the ending. Of course, since Zade is sort of in a coma, it’s hard to make her active, but eh . XD

    *will stop posting youtube video links some day*

    And it’s getting late, so I’ll respond to Guesto tomorrow. Sorry for the delay. I mean, not that a lot of your comment was directed at me, but it’s interesting. Although, one thing I’ll ask now, because this is what I’m most curious about… I’ve never seen Rroma spelled with an extra r before, but I like it and I was wondering if that’s the standard spelling or is Roma? Where did this spelling come from? I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen capitol R and lowercase r side-by-side in the same word. 🙂

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  7. I was also wondering about ‘Rroma.’ From Wikipedia:

    “Sometimes, rom and romani are spelled with a double r, i.e., rrom and rromani, particularly in Romania in order to distinguish from the Romanian endonym (români). This is well established in Romani itself, since it represents a phoneme (/ʀ/ also written as ř and rh) which in some Romani dialects has remained different from the one written with a single r.”

    And there’s also <a href="http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/society/article/expresso-do-we-say-gypsies-roma-or-rroma.html&quot; this article (which isn’t the most clearly written, IMO) for additional explanation. Personally, I’m probably going to stick with “Roma” when referring to R(r)omani people because that’s how I’ve most often seen them refer to themselves. If that changes, then I will as well.

    Don’t worry about posting youtube links. I love finding new channels to binge-watch.

    Also, are you a Something Awful member? I ask because now whenever I try to look at the thread it gives me a message about needing to be a member to view that page, so I haven’t seen any of that thread past page 8 :(. Oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, interesting! I wondered if it was a pronunciation thing. The double r made me think of rolling my tongue, though rh is a softer, shorter sound, I think. I’m terrible at remembering the pronunciation guides, and I usually have to look them up or find an audio clip. Also, I feel a bit dumb for not realizing Rromani is for their language and Rroma is for the people. I didn’t pay close enough attention. Although I think it’s still correct to use both in English when referring to the people. When I’ve finished my coffee, I might dig a little deeper.

    And yeah, that article was very informative, but a little awkward. I suspect it’s simply from English being a secondary or tertiary language. Also, I didn’t realize Bohemian was connected to the Rroma! I mean, I think I guessed, based on things styled as Bohemian, but I never read more about that.

    I think I’ll make the switch to Rroma, since most people should be able to figure out what I’m referring to, even if they don’t know why I’m spelling it differently. My only concern is they think it’s a typo, but I like that it’s further differentiated from Rome.

    And yes, I’m a Something Awful forum member! I paid the 5 bucks a long time ago and IMHO it’s worth it, even though I don’t spend a lot of time there these days. I’d copy and paste the other pages for you, but that would spam your comments section, even though most of the replies to the chapter commentary are short (and the thread isn’t really active now; it basically ends at page 15.) I can answer questions, post screenshots, or try digging up some choice bits I guess, but I think if you feel it’s a good investment, that you might want an account. There are a lot of good forums there. That said, I wouldn’t pay just for this one thread. 🙂

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  9. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff from the X-men

    Oh, gosh! Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver! I didn’t know about that part. I knew Magneto was their father, but nothing about their mother. Of course, I’m sure it’s something different in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since they’re not including the X-Men, but that’s for the best. I love X-Men, but they just don’t make as much sense in the expanded universe and they work better as their own separate universe. We just need Fox to get their shit together to use this effectively. And Scarlet Witch could be in both, but she doesn’t really need that backstory. I don’t really follow her in the comics though, so I could be wrong about that. XD

    Actually, in a way Wanda is Zade. I have no idea how similar they are. Probably not very, at least in the hands of a decent author. Hrmm. I’ll bet she doesn’t know. I don’t think Scarlet Witch is incredibly popular. Alternatively, Scarlet Witch is one of the inspirations for Sarem.

    Just the blatant disregard and further degradation of a marginalized group that has such a small voice in this country.

    Yeah! It’s insidiously subtle, so the uninformed won’t know, but that’s what makes it so glaringly nasty. She “accidentally” erased a black guy, but from the very beginning she “accidentally” erased an entire culture! It’s not as if she replaced them with anything that was worth altering the universe for either. This didn’t make Sarem’s book better, by creating an urban fantasy separate from the real world. Poor De’Mar Hamilton was put back in, but the Rroma are never truly mentioned, simply replaced with some weirdly nebulous witch race that remains ill-defined (if I’m not mistaken… this book takes so fucking long to explain what these dumbass “immortals” even are.) It makes me wonder if she does all these real world name dropping to try and prop up her cardboard setting, which is just sad. It’s like a liar trying to gain some trust by sprinkling in just enough truth to get by.

    Sarem had a chance to do something amazing. As with every other opportunity in this book, she blew it by self-aggrandizing her lead… and Dela. Ick, ick, ick. I didn’t think about it fully. Actress Sarem probably did intended on playing Dela for the ending, so she wouldn’t have to be off-screen while Zade was unconscious. Gross! I think I figured out the whole incest thing in it’s entirety. Sarem knew she’d be blurring the line anyway and stopped caring if Charles was fawning over Zade or Dela, so they got conflated? Ew…

    Which is a shame because historically both Jewish and Rroma people have had to conceal their ancestory for safety reasons, there could have been some lovely explorations about compromising two distinct and distinctly oppressed identities, or about how Zade feels about expressing her identities in such a racially charged social climate, or about Zade just revealing her ancestory to her coworkers and dealing with their reactions (like you said), and none of that happened and we are all the poorer for it.

    Exactly! There could’ve been plenty of natural conflict through-out, even if Sarem wanted to keep the witch stuff under wraps until the very end. In fact, Zade having to deal with the more realistic persecution is an amazing reason for her to double-down on refusing to say anything about the actual magic, because she has enough trouble as it is! All we needed was for Zade to struggle with her cultural heritage in a realistic way, while hinting that she’s also more than human, and then keep her as relate-able as possible for the readers. There doesn’t even need to be a love interest, although it would explain why she’s iffy about getting involved with anyone, so then we wouldn’t need Jackson at all, just Superman.

    And that’s what’s so devastating about the way Zade is written. Sarem tried to have the ultimate wish fulfillment by making her super amazing, without making her truly sympathetic, and ruined the whole premise. The book really should’ve been about a girl trying to live a normal life. It could’ve worked with a truly magical girl wanting to learn stage magic, so she could be applauded for doing something similar to what she has to hide, but the attempts to make Zade so speshul backfired. Sarem pretended to write about a character who was unusual, but desired a normal life, because that’s actually interesting. That’s the kind of marketing she wrapped the story up in, and it would’ve worked. Instead, Sarem wrote about a normal character who wanted all the trappings of an unusual life. Everyone has been mentioning this while commenting on the book, but I’ve never fully comprehended that until now. 😦

    It’s a genuine shame. There’s so much we could’ve had, and it truly could’ve hit the NYT best-seller, if only the story had followed the desire that it disguises itself with. If Sarem didn’t want to do any serious research, all she had to do was stick with the initial premise of a witch girl just wanting to be normal and then write the character’s struggle better.

    Instead, this book is more fuel for the dumpster fire of her career. 🔥

    I feel that if we are to take Zade as an unreliable narrator, and a narcissist on top of that, it would mean that as long as Zade loves/admires/desires approval from Mac all of his bad characteristics are going to be downplayed or ignored. Whereas people she doesn’t care bout or out right dislikes will be shown in the worst light possible, like Sofia. So I would say that Mac is probably worse than Zade is letting on, and Sofia was only trying to warn her at the bar. My interpretation of the peeping scene is that Zade found it flattering so she hand waved the creep factor when she found out about it.

    Very on the nose. I think you’re right, which is why I’m so disgusted with myself for siding with him. But no matter how horrible he was, I can’t help feeling like he got setup, based on his initial resistance to her, which aside from the whole snafu of Clara and his own gross misogyny, seems to be reasonable in hindsight. I think everyone should stay the hell away from Zade if they value their lives, and this is why I’m actually a little sad that the Sofia fanfic went with the Meta commentary on Mary Sues. It’s true, but I think we could easily portray Zade simply as a vindictive narcissist and it’d be every bit as accurate and twice as realistic.

    I’m kind of at odds here. The thing is, we all have less agreeable fantasies. Aggressive video games, especially shooters, are popular, because that’s something that can appeal to anyone, even if we would never act on those desires in reality. Destruction is just a part of life and objects being wrecked in slow motion are fascinating. We want to smash stuff, and it’s all in good fun, so long as the real world dishes don’t get broken by our reckless behavior.

    Zade is feeding off this primal feeling, but she goes way too far and it’s terrifying, because a lot of what she says and does seems premeditated or it rings false. From Sofia’s POV, this really could be a horror story. Hell, from Zade’s POV, it could be a horror story! If the Jackson=Charles, then we’re amused, because the trickster would be get some comeuppance by being tricked.

    I dunno. There’s just so little sympathy for most of the characters we actually get to know, and they’re all horrible people… Maybe not Dela, but then again, what if she set-up Betty? What if Betty never intended to shoot Charles, but then someone else put a real bullet into the gun? GAH. There are so many levels of horrifying. Every new contemplation is worse, especially since it’s plausible, because of how weakly the narrative explains anything. o_o;

    Oh good the plot has finally arrived!

    What little there is… lol 😛

    It’s telling how terrible the padding in this book is. We’d just call it slice of life and character development if it accomplished anything worthwhile. Instead, it’s mostly faulty exposition dumps, a subtle lack of morals, pathetic uses of magic, unreliable self-preening, empty references, unsympathetic characterization, terrible jokes, and IRL name-drops to prop up the set. On top of that are two love triangles that don’t actually exist, because Jackson is a mouthpiece and Charles is Zade’s father. I seriously wonder if the original movie script was any better, but I doubt it.

    I will say the memory hopping idea would be a cool idea in the hands of a more talented author.

    Agreed, but I think this book was way too stuffed. Based on all the rewrites that I can fathom, I think the story would work better without it, but then I also think the entire ending should be dropped. The coma-illness is garbage for so many reasons that it’s not even funny. 😦

    Is it coming out of her butt?

    lol I’m reminded of that South Park episode with the bleeding Virgin Mary statue. I think supposedly it’s explained as the blood coming from “MAGIC: I don’t gotta explain shit.” 😀

    LS spends so much time reassuring the reader that Charles is so suave and regal, and then every time he’s written he comes off as a kindly uncle or bumbling dad who doesn’t get the kid’s references these days.

    I bet that’s why we didn’t see much of him in the rest of the book. Informed Attribute, ahoy!

    The only reason I can think that Dela doesn’t want Charles to publicly out himself as Zade’s dad is if someone or something really is after Zade, in which case concealing their relationship might prevent the force from looking to Charles as a lead on Zade’s whereabouts. Of course that idea is blown to smithereens since she’s in a GD Las Vegas magic show.

    That’s what she tries to imply with the sneak-peek at Book 2 and it’s such bullshit, for so many reasons, but especially that. It’d be fine if she was actually hiding in plain sight, but since Zade never does true illusions, only magick, you’re absolutely right.

    Oh Lambo girl, you are as great as your storyline is underdeveloped. But really, her appearance seems wholly unconnected to literally everything else going on in the story. Unless that’s her casual way of telling Zade she saw Zade biff her trick

    Haha I want to believe it’s both. Lambo girl could’ve been fantastic, as way to push Zade into dealing with her magical side, if Sarem had forced Zade to ever come to terms with her magic side in any relevant way. It’s just something that makes her protagonist speshul, even though Zade never does anything truly special with her damn magic. Also, it just dawned on me that she never even contemplates the ramifications of an Immortal/Mortal pairing from an emotional angle. It’s just lightly touched on, to stir up supposed conflict that Zade never actually delves into.

    I want to believe that Lambo girl has a rich, full life of her own and she’s only making appearances here, because Zade is giving magic-users a bad name with her shitty stage performances.

    Hell, I’d settle for a turf war.

    At this point, I’m kind of hoping that Zeb and Lambo are on the same side, but Zeb was trying to be more of an out-reach program. Lambo only stirs up conflict with him, because she correctly surmised that Zade’s entire family are complete assholes who would doom all of man-kind without a second thought. Zeb switches sides after observing for himself how terrible they are. Then with Book 2 it’s revealed that Zade’s Aunt is a tragic figure, trapped and unable to escape from these narcissists, eventually warped into being their willing stooge after so long. 🎭

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  10. I forgot to add, writing about a normal character, who wants an unusual life, isn’t bad. It’s just as valid as an unusual character, who wants to live a normal life. They simply don’t mesh very well overall. Sarem destroys her book by waffling between which idea she’s working with, and that’s why both premises never truly connect within the story. This is also something that Twilight and 50 Shades do, to a degree, but it’s much more glaringly obvious in the Handbook for Mortals. Sarem is trying to have her cake and eat it too. A better author might have pulled that off, but usually there are two characters who work as foils for one another.

    I’d say this is also a typical symptom of Mary Sues, because the center of the universe tends to glorify the protagonist as so special that nothing else matters without them, while presenting this as if it’s perfectly normal, instead of a personal fantasy.

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  11. “He was trying to figure out for himself what Mac could have seen that looked like they had made out, because he positively had not made out with his daughter. Of that he was certain.”

    Oh wow. “Made out” is not a term a 40+ year old guy would be using. And also “Of that he was certain?” Was that really necessary? Like you need to reaffirm to yourself that you POSITIVELY DID NOT MAKE OUT WITH YOUR DAUGHTER.

    My head hurts.

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  12. Why didn’t she simply change pov? She already did several times! We don’t care how she learns about it later! And Lambo Girl’s presence could have been a clever detail, like Mac vaguely notice someone and it’s only later we figure out it’s her. And she could have put some sort of spell on Mac when touching him? Which makes more sense than “she knew I’d look through memories even if I didn’t have to do that at all”

    The doctor is already there with info even if Mac and Charles were probably just behind the ambulance? She’s already stabilize? How can he already say he don’t know what she has? And he doesn’t ask anything about what happened before she collapsed?

    The whole “Zeb was upset I was hurt. Maybe he doesn’t hate me!”: maybe it’s just me, but even people I don’t like, I would still be upset watching them choking on their blood

    Also, if she lost too much blood, she’s dead. And if she really wanted an unrealistic amount of blood, at least have the doctor say that it doesn’t make sense…

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  13. Oh I forgot but for a super charismatic stage magician with an hypnotic voice and everything, Charles is terrible at lying. XD
    Like use some power of persuasion or something, explain why everyone goes along with your plan of moving Zade!

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