Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 19: Death

Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Charles continued the story of how he and Dela got together, and eventually told Mac why they broke up. Dela told Mac about her and Zade’s family history of having a bad case of magical ability, and Mac asked if they were devil worshippers! Dela also explained what went wrong with Zade’s act, and told Mac that he would have to stab her in the heart with a magical EpiPen that looks like a dagger!

So, if you recall, Dela said that the stabby ritual would have to take place at three in the morning. It was about noonish when she announced this, which means that we begin chapter 19 fifteenish hours after the last chapter ended. Doesn’t that delta add to the sense of urgency and suspense? The chapter opens with Charles and Mac sitting in Zade’s room, anxiously awaiting Ritual Time:

The seconds felt like hours, the minutes felt like days, and the hours felt like years.

Haha, the moment Zade is onscreen time literally slows down. OK, new theory: my joke about the world revolving around Zade is literal. I made a joke in chapter 0? 1? that Zade’s a cancerous mass that’s big enough that it’s developed its own gravitational pull, and thus slows down the story. I now hypothesize that Zade’s magical energy is a metaphysical mass that dialates people’s perception of time and infallibly draws people’s attention toward her. Mac and Charles are past the event horizon. I am past the event horizon. Get out while you can.

My body, if you missed the shallow breaths I was still taking, looked cold and lifeless. I couldn’t tell you where “I” was (as far as my spirit was concerned) because I have no memories of this except theirs. I’ve been told that sometimes people remember being around in situations like this, but whenever I was I remembered nothing, maybe I was there and just not awake.

The story turns tragic if you think about Zade as someone whose mind has collapsed under the weight of her own power and ego. Notice how the moment she returns to the story, we get sucked on tangents about her inability to do astral projection(?) Oh, and I think she can’t astral project because of her metaphysical weight. She is stuck within herself forever, never to be free.

Zade explains how Mac sat on her bed holding her hand, desperately hoping for her survival. Again, zero tension because we know Zade’s gonna live because Mac’s going to do the magic stabbing. Zade’s bit about what she would have felt if she were there really rubs our face in the fact that she’s definitely going to live.

While Mac looked hollow, like his soul had been drained of any life, Charles knows how to maintain the appearance of looking like things were okay even when they aren’t. It’s something he picked up during years of being a performer.

I take this to mean that Charles has just gotten bored by all of this, and is wondering when he can have some grief-sex with Dela. He’s just edited his memory for Zade’s sake.

After an untold number of hours, Dela is ready for dramatic climactic magic (I’m talking about Mac stabbing Zade, not Charles stabbing the sadness out of Dela with his magical EpiPenis). She tells Mac and Charles that it’s time, and asks Mac if he remembers what he must do. Mac says that he does, although he’s super nervous about going through with it.

Dela has one more thing to tell Mac:

”You have to believe this will work. The mind is a powerful thing—the most powerful thing on earth even—and it can will magick into existence . . . or extinguish it.”

That probably would have been useful for him to know as he psyched up for the ritual. Also, you know what would go a long way in convincing someone that magic is real? Actually doing some magic. Seeing is believing, as they say.

Mac gets scared again, but Dela asks him to carry Zade outside.

It didn’t look like she had much faith that what they were going to do was going to work—or maybe she was just completely exhausted.

I’m gonna go with exhausted, because she just got done impressing the importance of belief in a spell’s success. Also, she’s probably been up for more than two days straight at this point.

We get to hear more about how frail and delicate Zade looks:

Looking through his eyes, it schocked me that my body looked so lifeless and the only thing that contradicted that was just small breaths that you could barely see.

You literally said this two pages ago, Zade! This is another one of those instances where you can tell that Lani really liked the imagery, and was looking forward to portraying the nearly-dead scene. To be fair, it would probably be one of her more convincing moments.

Mac picks Zade up:

He was pretty strong for a guy who wasn’t really big and muscular. I’d always thought he was just tall and slender, but he was tough.

Wasn’t one of the first things Zade noticed about Mac his level of musculature? It was. From chapter 1:

He was slender and tall[. . .] with just the right amount of muscle in his arms. You know, just enough to grab you and hold you tight—but not enough to look like he was stung by a bee and was allergic.

This makes me assume that Mac is pretty built. The only people who look “stung like a bee and are allergic” are deeply devoted to getting as huge as they can, and usually require some hormonal enhancement. Whatever.

Dela touches Zade’s face and dumps some warm oil on her chest, before saying a prayer of some kind. She leads them to the back yard, where there are some oak trees and weeping willows that Zade says “actually look like they were weeping” (I’m pretty sure that’s why they’re called “weeping willows?” But I’m no expert). Zade describes how Dela has some fountains that can be turned into an altar somehow, and describes the scene in deep detail. Moonlight is shining directly onto the altar, oooOOooohh, and Mac has some very self-aware feelings:

The sinking feeling Mac had been having—as if he had just stepped into a bad dream or an equally bad B-movie—hadn’t gone away, and, if anything, had gotten worse.

Ha, Lani compares her big climactic scene to something out of a B-movie. I guess she’s speaking from experience, as she had a small role in “Trailer Park Shark.”

Dela is wearing a cloak, carrying a large candle. She’s also holding something “wrapped in velvet.” What could it be?

In what might be another reference to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Zade describes Mac lying her down on the “long stone table.” And in doing so, she has (possibly unintentionally) paralelled herself to a Jesus character. I would add this to the Zade-World-Revolution count, but I’ll let it pass since she’s the main character and this is the big climax.

”Charles took the ropes that Dela also had in her hands and bound my legs and arms to the table. From my vantage point inside their minds, I sort of knew what she was attempting but I didn’t even know exactly what kind of magick it was; my mom knew things I didn’t

Nothing to strengthen family ties like a little light family bondage bonding time! I love how Lani doesn’t even attempt justifying this; I think she just wanted to get tied up on camera. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but usually those movies are a bit less preteen-friendly.

Mac is uncomfortable watching (so am I!), and even though Dela told him this is how it would all go down, he’s having a difficult time with this. He has to keep convincing himself not to back out.

And suddenly, a thunderstorm! Which leads to aesthetic considerations:

I had to admit that the storm made for a dramatic type of evening and it was very fitting considering the situation—though it was a bit too Vegas for my taste.

I think that Lani knows this is cheesy, and is trying to lampshade it, but still includes it anyway because she can’t help herself.

Mac “wisely” wonders if the storm is a coincidence or if it has something to do with their magic. This is never answered.

Dela ripped my shirt just enough to expose the middle of my chest, and then took out a vial and rubbed something red on me.

Hey Zade, you saw this happen, did you feel . . . vial-ated?

It reminded Mac of something he had seen in a movie once where it was called dragon’s blood. It crossed his mind that maybe the folks in Hollywood had gotten the idea from something that was actually real.

I googled “dragon’s blood movie,” because I was curious about this, and all I found was a movie adapted from the Jane Yolen novel of the same name. It has literal dragons. Apparently, “dragon’s blood” is some kind of herbal oil thing that pagans use in rituals, so I assume that this is what Dela is using, and not literal dragon blood.

Anyway, this leads Mac to wonder what else is real that he always thought was a myth, and he wonders if everything he thought was made up is actually based on real stuff.

Dela walked around and stood on the other side of the stone and me, her beloved daughter. She paused for a moment to stare at my face. Her words echoed in my head as she gazed at my face and thought about how hauntingly beautiful it was. Though I wasn’t sure if I liked the “hauntingly” part of her description.

Two things:

  1. Why does Zade feel the need to remind us that Dela is her mother? We know that. We’ve known that since chapter one!
  2. Remember when Zade complained about not knowing how to take a compliment back in chapters 3 and 4? This is easily the worst she handles one, and that’s saying a lot.

So Dela hold Charles’ hand and hold to dagger out to Mac. Finally, he grabs it. But I guess the dagger is like one of those electric shock trick pens, because it’s pulsing with so much energy that it makes it difficult to hold.

Once Dela let go of the dagger and only Mac was holding it, he had to grip it with both hands as the pulsating energy grew stronger. Mac could feel it coursing throughout his entire body. The moonlight hit the dagger and it almost began to glow.

Or maybe it’s a vibrator?

So the weather gets stormier, and as the church bells ring signaling that it’s three AM, Dela yells to Mac that it’s time to begin the ritual.

But Mac’s forgotten the chant that Dela taught him! Fortunately, Dela prompts him, and he begins to chant in what I think is Croatian? Or Bosnian? It’s some Baltic language.  But then there’s like two words of Latin?

Sa ovim bodežom, prožet magije starih, i moje vere, neka ljubav preokrene kletvu Ja vaskrsne duh, dušu i telo Via Gardrich Verdicy!”

So I google-translated this word by word:

With this dagger permeated magic old and my religion, some love reverse curse I resurrected spirit soul and body [In Italian] with Gardrich verdicy

I cleaned that up a little bit:

With this dagger permeated with ancient magic, my faith, and some love, the curse is undone and I resurrect spirit, soul, and body With Gardrich Verdicy (?) .

I have no idea what Gardrich is supposed to mean. Googling was futile. Is it a name? A butchering of the world eldrich? Will Cthulhu show up in book 2? Maybe it’s a perversion of “Godric,” as in Gryffindor? The name “Godric” does mean “power of God” (albeit in Old English), which makes sense in this context. I have no idea why Lani chose Croatian Bosnian? Maybe that’s where her family’s from IRL? If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them.

EDIT: I JUST NOTICED THIS IN THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

To Dimitrije Curcic for more things I can’t even count and for also loving me when wasn’t very lovable. To Gordan Vuchovich and Nada and Alex Curcic for always treating me like family.

“Curcic” appears to be a Bosnian surname. I’d bet anything they did the translation. MYSTERY SOLVED?

Also, there are now three magic systems (plus tarot) that have been established in this novel: “hand-waving” normal magic, chaos magic, and now Baltic Chanting magic. As with most parts of this novel, those of us who have been following this trainwreck have now thought more about the rules of magic than the author herself.

After Mac does the chant, he stabs her in the chest. Her body lifts up into the air, and lightning strikes the dagger. This causes Mac to fly backwards, and I guess the dagger turns into a glass sculpture? It’s described as looking like sand after being hit by lightning.  Zade falls back onto the table and starts coughing up blood. More lightning and thunder go off, and it rains even harder! Zade’s restraints fall off, for some reason. All the blood (which is described as “pouring from her mouth”) scares Mac, who doesn’t know if the spell has gone wrong, and thinks it doesn’t look right.

Dela seems to think everything’s gone just fine. She says they should get Zade inside, and Charles is the one to carry Zade back into the house.

I never really got to ride around on my dad’s shoulders as a kid. And though I didn’t get the real chance of experiencing him holding me then, either, at least I got his view of it.

Somehow, I don’t think that being carried by your father as a 25-year-old woman is experientially similar to riding on your dad’s shoulders as a kid. Would he even be carrying her if she were conscious? And this isn’t the first time he’s affectionately made physical contact with her. Wasn’t Zade’s deep passionate hug with Charles toward the end of chapter 14 enough for her? She can probably have all the hugs she wants as soon as she wakes up. Jeez. 90% of Zade’s comments while viewing people’s memories are either comments whining about being unconscious, or commenting on how sexy she looked while half-dead. Christ.

Charles puts Zade into her bed and kisses her forehead. Dela removes Zade’s wet clothing and wraps her in blankets. We get another description about how almost-dead Zade is, and yet another mention about her shallow breathing. That’s the third time this chapter. It is an odd recurring image.

So then Mac asks if Zade will be OK, because at this point he doesn’t know what’s happened. Dela says that everything went well, and that now it’s up to “God and the spirits”, and it could take hours or days for Zade to recover. Mac is bewildered by how calm Dela and Charles are:

He was learning what it was like to have anxiety—something he didn’t really deal with normally.

>implying that Mac hasn’t been experiencing anxiety for the entirety of Act 3.

But Dela gives some advice that anxious people everywhere loath.

One thing I’ve learned in all my years is that getting worked up over something when when you can’t do anything more than what you’re doing—or have already done—is pointless.

ANXIETY SOLVED FOREVER!

While technically true, it’s kind of like telling someone who’s in pain to just ignore it. Since Mac doesn’t actually have an anxiety disorder, and this is the first time he’s ever been anxious? I don’t really care too much, but this feels like one of those times Lani is trying to impart wisdom on her audience, and also I’m petty, so I’m going to take it personally and gripe.

Fortunately for Mac, though, Dela’s dumb stupid advice helps him. He decides to focus on holding Zade’s hand instead.

Charles steps out of the room to call his theater bros to tell them about Zade being stabilized. For some reason, Mac starts worrying that by doing this, Charles will let something important slip and Zade’s cover will be blown. Hey, Mac, have you tried not worrying about it?

But, it turns out, Charles had a logical reason for calling his coworkers/employees with information about the performer who started hemorrhaging right in front of them! That logical reason? People would be curious about what happened! Also, Charles thinks that if you give people just enough information, that will help keep them from putting too much thought into the matter.

Mac saw how good Charles and Dela both were at making sure people only ever learned what they wanted them to—even though they made everyone feel like they knew everything.

So what he’s saying is that Charles and Dela are total Slytherins. By which I mean, they’re manipulative shady fuckers. Do not trust them! No offense to any Slytherins out there. That’s where Pottermore put me, so I’m technically one of you.

And right after the line about what chess masters Dela and Charles are, Charles has some information for Mac about Jackson! Suspicious juxtaposition? Most definitely.

Charles told Mac that he had made a special call directly to Jackson, ensuring him that they would also keep him in the loop. Charles knew that Jackson hadn’t been thrilled that Mac went to the hospital when he wasn’t able to since the he was still on the floor with the band, unaware what had really been going on backstage. By the time Jackson learned anything, Mac had already been on the way to the hospital. On the other hand, Jackson did not know that Mac had made the trip to Tennessee.

Hmmm, remember how Charles was just saying how giving people just enough info soothes suspicion and helps you keep your secrets? Obviously, Jackson didn’t come to the hospital because HE WAS ALREADY THERE! (As Charles! Who is secretly Jackson!)

Besides, when could Jackson have possibly called Charles to talk about being jealous of Mac getting to the hospital? Mac’s been with him this whole time? Even if you assume Mac could have possibly missed it, would Jackson, the bandleader who doesn’t seem close to Charles at all, really have called his boss to whine about favoritism towards Mac? Besides, the hospital is directly stated to have been only a couple miles away. Jackson easily could have gotten there, if he were going to show up.

The only answer is that Charles is covering his own ass. Charles=Jackson FUCKIN’ CONFIRMED!

OK, back to the story.

Mac sat up with me for hours, just holding my hand and watching over me sorta like a guardian angel would.

>implying that Mac is a pure, protective divine being. Although, Zade did qualify her statement with “sorta.”

Mac falls asleep in the loveseat in Zade’s room, because he’s been awake for almost two days straight. Dela keeps watch over Zade while Mac is passed out. We’re told that internally, Dela is actually terrified (what a goddamn hypocrite), and is just trying to stay calm so that everyone else will (OK, fine, that’s probably a good idea). To keep herself occupied, she does some tarot readings. Charles watches as she does this, and thinks about all the times he’d seen her do this in the past. But, he noticed, she’s being less deliberate with the cards than usual, which makes him ask her what she’s trying to find out. She takes a moment to respond, and says she’s really doing it more out of habit and that she can’t figure out what they’re saying.

This makes Dela realize that she’s not containing her anxiety very well, and she lets go for a moment:

She leaned back against the chair as she slammed the cards against the table. It was a difficult situation for her to be in. She was so used to being able to help everyone. She was used to having power and yet she was suddenly unable to help the one person in the world she loved more than anything—the one person she had been trusted to save, the one she would give her own life for. Instead, all she could do was sit, powerless and unable to do anything but wait.

I am legitimately surprised. I actually find myself liking Dela as a character more and more. I find her control-freak-disguised-as-free-spirit thing interesting, and it’s sad we don’t get to explore the dynamic between her and Zade more. She says that this must be what it’s like to be “mortal” (read: muggle), and that it sucks. But then Charles makes moon-eyes at her, and offers some anxious-banter, which Dela accepts. He suggests they get some food, and she agrees.

The conversation turns to Mac for a bit, and Dela thinks he seems like a great guy! Who responds to adversity well! Charles asks if she can see Mac and Zade becoming an item. Dela responds that in the cards, she’s seen that they have potential. But more paths have cropped up!

”This incident has set into motion something bigger than I know . . . bigger than I have ever seen.”

Like, a YA paranormal romance franchise? Boy, I am not sure if I think or hope that is the case.

But she also comments that there is another:

”And, based on my readings, I also think she has been hanging out with another guy, who has potential. At this point, though, I’m rooting for Sleeping Beauty.”

DOES DELA KNOW? I think not. I have a feeling that Zeb wouldn’t be so sloppy as to allow something as mundane as tarot cards to foil his illusion (he is the real MVP of this whole thing, after all). If you’ll remember, tarot readings about Jackson have consistently been vague.

Charles agrees that Mac and Zade “seem good together.” But Dela says that it’s too soon to know for sure, and that things can fall apart no matter how promising they seem. Charles feels a little bit personally attacked, but agrees with Dela that is the case.

Charles also thinks about Mac’s mortal-hood as a potential roadblock, but says they can “worry about that later.” Dela leaves the room, and Charles takes Dela’s place and sits down at the table.

his knee making a popping sound as he did so—one of the effects of being older.

Zade’s knee also popped when Jackson expressed interest in tarot! And now Charles is expressing interest in tarot! And his knee popped! I am positive that Lani Sarem did this to subtly connect that romantic moment between Zade and Jackson with this moment. That is literally the only thing this could signify.

Alternatively, this could be a hint that Zade is actually older than she told us (like Dela, she probably ages slowly). This would also make the timeline regarding her birth line up with something that seems more realistic given the year Charles and Dela met.

Charles fiddles with the cards a bit, and we’re told he knows some stuff about tarot reading, but he doesn’t see anything in them. He takes a moment to feel regrets about screwing up his relationship with Dela and for letting Zade get into this totally foreseeable situation, and then thinks that he should have tried harder to fight Dela on the magical custody enforcement spell.

In Charles’ memories, Zade sees that he’s regretting “having made all the wrong things priorities” and that he’s wasted his life. He holds her hand, and looks closely at her face for signs of life. Soon, he starts crying, and asks Zade if she can ever forgive him, and he gets all emotional.

And I bet you’ll never guess what happens next, because this book totally isn’t several well-established clichés stacked on top of each other wearing a trenchcoat!

A crackling soft voice startled him right out of his chair. “Forgive you for what?”

Zade woke up at the perfect moment to answer Charles’ grief-fueled plea! Just like in the movies!

After Charles looks into Zade’s eyes, we get some italics saying that this is the first thing that Zade remembers on her own, and some plain text explaining the implications of this.

Everything that had happened between then and waking up in my old room I wouldn’t know until later. For the moment, I didn’t know where I was and I was unaware of everything the three of them had been through.

Nothing augments a touching, emotional moment like an info dump reminding the audience of something they could figure out on their own! Although you could make the argument that it’s a clever subversion of storytelling conventions.

Now back to the scene:

Charles gently caresses Zade, which causes a “huge burst of happiness.” Relief “floods his body so quickly that he practically felt like he was floating.” The experience is so emotionally intense that he starts crying (ew).

Zade asks what happened, and wonders where they are. She’s still super achey from getting chaos magicked, and Charles asks if Zade is in pain. She shakes her head, but says that she is? That’s not very clearly communicated. She tells us that she’s very confused, and can’t remember anything since finishing the “illusion,” and something going wrong.

Charles says that things “didn’t go exactly as planned”. He also says that “we” had to bring her to her mother’s house, which prompts Zade to ask what he means by “we.” Charles clarifies, and Zade recalls Mac being very angry with her.

As I was lying there, I hadn’t yet pulled their memories to understand what had happened; so how he, of all people, ended up at my mother’s didn’t make much sense.

Jesus Christ we know that you haven’t pulled their memories yet oh my god you told us this two pages ago.

Zade asks how this happened, and thankfully, Charles apparently remembers that all of this was explained already, so he tells Zade that he’ll tell her once she’s feeling better. He says that Mac knows everything, and leaves it at that.

Zade is afraid that Mac is done with her now that he knows everything. She asks Charles how fast he ran away once he learned, and tries to sit up. But she has no energy!

Even as a kid I never liked being sick and always tried to do things sooner than my body could handle. I pulled myself up only a couple of inches before my burst of energy gave out and my arms collapsed.

As a kid, I loved being sick. I’m not being sarcastic: I used to try to make myself ill on purpose so that I wouldn’t have to go to school. However, according to mental health professionals, this was pathological, maladaptive behavior. It is normal to dislike being sick. So normal, in fact, that it can be safely assumed without having to specify that this is the case.

OK, so Charles says that if Mac ran, he’s not a very fast runner, and points to the loveseat where Mac is sleeping. Zade is still nervous about him though, because there’s a difference between hoping someone doesn’t die and wanting to be romantically involved. Nuance!

Zade thinks about wanting to hear the story about everything that happened, but asks for some painkillers. Charles says he’ll go get them for her, but first, wakes Mac up.

”Son? Son.” My dad’s voice, which had been just a whisper as we talked, boomed into the corner of the room as he shook Mac.

Seems like Charles feels like he really bonded with his former romantic rival future son-in-law.

Mac jumps, and asks if something’s gone wrong. Charles says that Zade’s awake, and says he’s going to go grab some painkillers and water. After Charles is gone, Mac says how happy he is to see Zade, and apologizes. When Zade asks why, he says it’s because he and Charles screwed up! Suddenly, Zade has another burst of pain, prompting Mac to run to grab her a wet towel. As he departs, she yells at him that she wants to know everything. When Mac returns, though, he apologizes awkwardly for not trusting Zade about Charles. Yay! That awfulness was acknowledged!

Zade says she appreciates the apology. But before she can say anything else, Zade begins to fall asleep once more.

Your body does, sometimes, make you sleep when you are in severe amounts of pain. It’s an automatic response designed to help you survive the discomfort.

Well, that explains why reviewing this book is so exhausting. Fortunately for me, this is the end of the chapter. Zade says that she doesn’t know if Mac responded, because she was asleep before he could!

And that is the end of chapter 19. Which means there are only two chapters left! Three if you count the glorious, amazing preview chapter from Book 2 of the series, which essentially just picks up where the last chapter leaves off, so realistically, I’m just going to review it with chapter 21 which only like four pages on its own.

We’re almost there. The end is nearly upon us. Rejoice! Rejoice!

 

14 thoughts on “Handbook for Mortals: Chapter 19: Death

  1. “Or maybe it’s a vibrator?”

    This would have been a whole different book. And a much more fun one. Although I’m currently doing a snark-review of an unbelievably bad erotica which spent way too long in the Top 100 on Amazon and it’s also very painful.

    (and no, it’s not 50 shades)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoops! I should’ve posted these here. (Now chapter 15 part 1 has super secret spoiler comments!)

    I eventually found out that Gardrich is Gaelic for a troop, company. (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3; it’s a PDF that takes forever to load, just skip to page 200)

    There we go. Just for common sense posterity. 😅

    Incidentally, the part where Mac spits out foreign words on cue vaguely reminds me of the Evil Dead movie (I think the second one?) Except the protagonist biffed it, giving us a reason for tension, if I’m remembering that scene correctly. Sorry, I just thought of that. No idea what language was used in that movie either and I’m all researched out.

    So what he’s saying is that Charles and Dela are total Slytherins. By which I mean, they’re manipulative shady fuckers. Do not trust them! No offense to any Slytherins out there. That’s where Pottermore put me, so I’m technically one of you.

    I think Mac is suggesting they’re worse. At least Slytherins work for their ambitions! 🥁

    But seriously, you know it’s bad when the actual text finally admits they’re manipulative shady fucks.

    The only answer is that Charles is covering his own ass. Charles=Jackson FUCKIN’ CONFIRMED!

    Booyah! lol I wonder if Zeb got a call from Charles, or if Charles just fake dialed and pretended to be on the phone with someone for five minutes? Did he even bother with that? Was Mac even around to wonder who Charles was talking to, or was this a suspiciously unprompted info-dump from Charles? This is why our narrator shouldn’t skimp on the Jackson details!

    To keep herself occupied, she does some tarot readings.

    Literally no other hobbies for this woman. Even the people who love their jobs would take a break from work to decompress some other way…

    She takes a moment to respond, and says she’s really doing it more out of habit and that she can’t figure out what they’re saying.

    … Oh god, she’s a tarot addict! Someone take the cards away! :O

    Charles, stop doing annoying things, like watching other people be boring, and do something you think is fun. Him and Mac are just as bad as Dela, but they have an excuse. They don’t live here. Does this woman have a TV set, at least?

    I am legitimately surprised. I actually find myself liking Dela as a character more and more. I find her control-freak-disguised-as-free-spirit thing interesting, and it’s sad we don’t get to explore the dynamic between her and Zade more. She says that this must be what it’s like to be “mortal” (read: muggle), and that it sucks. But then Charles makes moon-eyes at her, and offers some anxious-banter, which Dela accepts. He suggests they get some food, and she agrees.

    Yeah, this is shockingly human! If I didn’t suspect that Dela was as manipulative as Charles, I’d like her a lot and wish the novel had simply switched between Charles and Dela dealing with their daughter’s frustration at being the child of divorcees. It’d be amazingly character building, especially if Dela and Zade really were whitckhman samples, so we could see how even a fairy/goddess/whitchk/nondenominational-bible-person/old soul spirits aren’t immune. Watching Zade come to terms with this through the eyes of her parents would explain her bratty nature juxtaposed with naive innocence, because that’s probably how they view their daughter acting out.

    DOES DELA KNOW? I think not. I have a feeling that Zeb wouldn’t be so sloppy as to allow something as mundane as tarot cards to foil his illusion (he is the real MVP of this whole thing, after all). If you’ll remember, tarot readings about Jackson have consistently been vague.

    Zeb is da best! I want a Zeb to have his own Disney spin-off. 😀

    Charles also thinks about Mac’s mortal-hood as a potential roadblock, but says they can “worry about that later.”

    Yeah, she’s explicitly been ignoring that the whole time. I don’t think it’s a true deal-breaker, but it depends on how their pseudo-immortality works and how old they actually are. Because I’m thinking, with how vague this is, it’s not a cultural taboo so much as it’s the usual lazy fanfiction excuse of “buuuut one of them will die first! OMG this other pairing works better.” It really depends entirely on the context and the individual IMHO.

    Zade’s knee also popped when Jackson expressed interest in tarot! And now Charles is expressing interest in tarot! And his knee popped! I am positive that Lani Sarem did this to subtly connect that romantic moment between Zade and Jackson with this moment. That is literally the only thing this could signify.

    OMG *is dead* 🥀

    Gotta love it when her lazy first draft comes back to bite her in the ass. We need a tinfoil theory comprehensive post after the very end, as proof! We have to spread the word! 😆

    Also, maybe it’s both? Zade can be old and Charles can be Jackson!

    And I bet you’ll never guess what happens next, because this book totally isn’t several well-established clichés stacked on top of each other wearing a trenchcoat!

    A wild Vincent Adultman appeared!

    It is normal to dislike being sick. So normal, in fact, that it can be safely assumed without having to specify that this is the case.

    I think the only reason Zade pointed it out is how she hates losing control. Otherwise, yeah, definitely the usual response. Of course, I think most kids have faked getting sick, at least once or twice, and the same goes for some adults. (Although, sometimes you just can’t be too sure how bad off you are, then weigh your options, and decide on what seems the best for you.) Basically, Zade told us absolutely nothing, because she hates giving reasons for why she feels a certain way, unless it’s the most obvious, mundane fucking thing possible. But even if it’s normal, it can vary and be important for personality or plot! For instance, intentionally making yourself ill to stay home from school is a bit different from making yourself ill to feel loved by the person looking after you, and any other permutation someone might have. Or being a hypochondriac, which is all sorts of complex.

    Seems like Charles feels like he really bonded with his former romantic rival/future son-in-law.

    To be fair, my father always called people that he knew “son” in a friendly way, and I dunno why. (These were men his own age as well.) It might be a Southern thing? XD

    Sonny is a variation, but I guess Son has more dignity?

    Well, that explains why reviewing this book is so exhausting. Fortunately for me, this is the end of the chapter. Zade says that she doesn’t know if Mac responded, because she was asleep before he could!

    Same. I try to sleep off cramps as well as godawful writing. I usually need ibuprofen first though, in order to take the edge off the physical pain. 😆

    We’re almost there. The end is nearly upon us. Rejoice! Rejoice!

    Haaaaaallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halleeeeeeey-lujah! 🙌 😇 👼

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  3. #seven shades of shit #masterpost

    Thank you! I forgot to ask about that. Oh man… I’ve been dabbling with my own crappy polyandry story (don’t ask), and I’m still irked by the composition of this cover and the “reverse harem” part.

    This is gonna be good! 😂

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  4. Was it the commentary on the post? I needed to manually approve it because it had links. So unless you’re talking about a different one altogether, it maybe should be there now?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I needed to manually approve it because it had links.

    Oh, whoops! Yeah, it was that one. They normally show up on my page, with the manual approval tag at the top, but then I suddenly realized there was no visual confirmation of my post at all, after replying to Cathbilson and a few refreshes. I was afraid it got eaten by the internet. I’m also half asleep at this point, so maybe it was my eyes. But yes, it’s definitely back now! Sorry about that. ^_^;

    Like

  6. To clarify further, because confirmation was another bad word choice on my part, I couldn’t find my own massive post on the page at all, even after reloading and scrolling around. When it’s just waiting for approval, it still shows up on my end. That’s why I thought the data had gone missing. It wouldn’t be the first time I typed up a lengthy reply somewhere, and then it vanished into the ether, but I was too tired to bother rewriting it. ☕ z_z

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  7. “Zade says that she doesn’t know if Mac responded, because she was asleep before he could!”

    – so her authorial ass-pull I mean memory-pulling occurred somewhere in between her waking up in ZOMG TERRIBLE PAIN and falling asleep from ZOMG TERRIBLE PAIN? Or maybe finding out Mac’s response wasn’t important enough for our noble, altruistic witkh, because it wasn’t telling her how wonderful she was, and she never bothered pulling out that memory afterwards?

    Or maybe this is just a terrible “author” who can’t keep her own unedited shit straight, I don’t know.

    I’m 99% of the opinion that when she says “editor”, she means “the person that formatted this all nice with three moon emblems and pretty italics, and made the text not all, like, go off the edge of the page?”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anyone else think this whole scene was Bella’s near-death in Twilight? Where all the action of the book took place while she was unconscious? That Mac’s epi-dagger saves Zade is Edward having to suck the vampire venom out of Bella’s arm? Finally, Mac –like Edward– waits patiently at her side until she wakes up. Oh, and this whole “Sleeping Beauty” thing is cringe-worthy.

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  9. Or maybe finding out Mac’s response wasn’t important enough for our noble, altruistic witkh, because it wasn’t telling her how wonderful she was, and she never bothered pulling out that memory afterwards?

    Yeah, no kidding! Maybe this is a subtle hint that Zade needed to be rebooted? Mac came back to the Blue Screen of Death and did a forehead slap, ’cause of course he’d get roped into fixing it by the oldies. 🔣🤦‍♂️🤔

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  10. Oh god, I think you’re right. LS definitely loves Twilight, and the whole visual fetishization of near-deathishness was conspicuously present in the Breaking Dawn movie.

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  11. I might be repeating myself. I can’t find the initial comments I left a few chapters ago, but I also confess that technology is not my strong suit.

    This chapter–actually the past couple–really bother me. Because Zade is pulling memories, there’s no tension at all in the narrative. I don’t understand why, even though Zade is unconscious, Sarem couldn’t have given her something to *do*. I mean, she has a novel with magic in it! Zade could be fighting some epic astral battle! She could be literally talking to Death! She could be fighting Death or bargaining with Death! She could be in some sort of weird labyrinth that represents her own psyche or anything. But instead…it’s just people talking.

    I mean, maybe she could even have a telepathic vision or conversation with Lambo girl? Because Lambo girl is present during Zade’s trick, so initially I assumed she’d sabotaged Zade somehow. But then, it turns out Mac inadvertently did it.

    The frustrating thing about this novel is that it hits all the points on the checklist, but Sarem’s choices are so…baffling. She shows us everything we don’t need to see and leaves out many things that we really do need to see. And Sarem drops hints that never lead to anything. I kept expecting Clara Faust to be important somehow; I mean, her last name is *Faust*. Like Dr. Faustus! That would’ve been a great hint that there was something not quite ordinary about her, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I realize Sarem is writing a series, but she leaves so many loose ends that it’s difficult to decipher what is or isn’t important.

    I mean, I don’t even know really what Zade’s relationship with her father is like. Okay, I guess they love each other, but…are they snarky with one another? How has their relationship changed? How did their initial conversation go? Did Zade initially resent him for not being there for her? I’d much rather see that relationship than this love triangle Sarem gave us, and it would’ve been nice to see a long-lost parent/child relationship that began a little awkwardly and wasn’t just rainbows and unicorns.

    And I still hold that this novel would’ve turned out better if Dela was actually the villain. She lets Zade go to Las Vegas, hoping she’ll realize that her fervent desire for a “normal” life is futile and come back. Meanwhile, Dela sabotages her. When the platform mysteriously malfunctions? It was Dela trying to frighten her daughter; Sofia just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Zade attributes her vision to being unclear because it’s from Sofia’s point of view, but what if it’s actually unclear because Dela’s magic was interfering with Zade’s?

    And perhaps, if Dela is the villain, Lambo girl is actually an anti-hero. Maybe Lambo girl has a past with Dela, and Lambo girl is actually trying to thwart Dela’s plans. However, because she’s at the wrong place at the wrong time, Zade erroneously assumes Lambo Girl is her enemy. I rather like the idea of Lambo girl being Clara, actually. She has a vision of Zade getting injured by Dela, so Clara arrives at the show to try and prevent it. However, she arrives too early. She gets involved with Mac, but after witnessing his abusive behavior leaves. She still hangs around close because she wants to save this girl from her visions, but she no longer feels welcome in the show.

    So when Zade’s chaos magic goes wrong, perhaps, it’s actually Dela’s doing. Of course, with Zade so injured, what choice does anyone have but to take her back to Dela to heal her? So while Zade is unconscious, Lambo girl appears and is like, ‘whoa, girl! Here’s what’s up!’ Dela gets to look like the doting, concerned mother by healing Zade, but Zade is left with the conflict of who she believes.

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  12. Lambo Girl = Clara Faust. I like it. Maybe she sold her soul hundreds of years ago. Maybe (Beel)Zeb(bub) is her boss? Maybe she actually did fall in love with Mac, but that violated Zeb’s terms, so he had to relocate her? Or maybe it was a badly timed encounter, and she got promoted? Maybe she’ll return and Mac will have a love triangle of his own.

    I also love how insidious everyone thinks Dela is. I really never picked up on it (beyond the ominous “I had may ways” back in chapter 0) until other commenters started pointing it out, and now I can’t not see it. If she’s not outright evil, she definitely is manipulative and controlling. Which always makes for great complex parental relationships.

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