Is Jackson Just a Glamoured Charles? Part Three: Part Two: The Tarot Reading

Disclaimer: I know nothing about tarot. For this section, all tarot information comes from learntarot.com.

After Zade’s two-for-one date with Mac and Jackson, she decides to do a tarot reading to help her decide which man to choose. She begins her reading, starting with the present:

“I’m looking for who would be best overall for my highest and best good and for his highest and best good as well. Jackson should come up in the form of the King of Wands and Mac as the King of Cups” (chapter 8).

First, we can see that Zade has identified Jackson with the King of Wands. LearnTarot.com describes the King of Wands thusly:

He is creative and never settles for old, tired approaches. He trusts his originality and allows his inspirations to take form. He’s enthusiastic. He steps forward and takes the lead if the opportunity presents itself. Others follow when he shows them the way with confidence. He’s forceful in pursuing his goals. He’s not a quiet, passive observer unless that suits his purposes. He jumps in and creates results. He’s dramatic and exciting. This King is never a wallflower, more often the center of attention. He’s bold and daring. He avoids the safe, easy route because he has the energy and assurance to take risks and win. The King of Wands has the courage of his convictions and always believes in himself. (source).

I think it’s significant that Zade has identified Jackson with this card because it is also very evocative of Charles’ personality. Charles is identified time and time again as being goal-oriented, and in chapter one, Zade thinks that he’s the kind of person who is “always the most important person in any room.”) Charles is a leader, and takes risks (as shown with his incorporation of chaos magic, which is very dangerous), and he’s said to be a captivating storyteller in chapters 15 and 18. In fact, this description matches Charles more than it does Jackson, as Jackson is the center of attention far less often.

The next card Zade reveals is:

 “The High Priestess.” That card usually talks of supernatural, secret knowledge; information she may or may not reveal to you. Must be my mom (chapter 8).

Zade’s instant interpretation that the card must represent her mother seems odd. While Zade probably should stay in touch with her mother, there is no way Dela could provide any useful information in this situation: Dela’s only been in love with Charles, and doesn’t know anything about either Mac or Jackson.

If we look at the card’s symbolic meaning, though which Zade represents as “secret knowledge.” LearnTarot.com says:

In readings, the High Priestess poses a challenge to you to go deeper – to look beyond the obvious, surface situation to what is hidden and obscure. (source)

This clearly hints that Zade should examine her potential lovers more closely, implying that one of them may be hiding something (like the fact that he’s her father, maybe?)

Next, Zade reveals “The Chariot”, which she says indicates a journey, but learntarot.com indicates that it has to do more with control and competition. After that, Zade uncovers The Fool, which represents new beginnings, excitement, and spontinatiy, but, Zade emphasizes this:

“the Fool carries a little “bark” of warning, as well. He’s depicted as being so busy being happy and excited that he doesn’t notice that there is a huge cliff coming up and his dog is barking at him trying to get his attention” (chapter 8).

This echos the hint from the High Priestess that there are secrets that she needs to watch out for. We know that Mac is relatively honest about his past, leaving Jackson as an ominous figure.

The next three cards Zade turns over are the Magician, the Devil, and the Lovers. She doesn’t make much of this, interpreting the Magican literally (so as Charles? Huh?), not even bothering trying to figure out what the Devil represents, and thinks that the Lovers is telling her that she’ll start a new relationship soon.

But here’s what learntarot.com has to say:

First, The Magician seems to indicate that one ought to act with conviction:

In a reading, the Magician implies that the primal forces of creativity are yours if you can claim your power and act with awareness and concentration. This card is a signal to act and act now, provided you understand exactly what you want and are committed to getting it. (source)

The Devil seems to warn about self-defeating tendencies, and urges you to see things more clearly:

This card lets you know that you are caught in an unhealthy, unproductive situation. You may be in the dark about something – ignorant of the truth and its implications (. . .) When you see the Devil, examine your assumptions carefully. Make sure you are not working from a false picture of yourself and the situation. (source)

Once again, the cards seem to hint that there is something Zade must realize about her situation.

Finally, the Lovers. LearnTarot.com indicates two possible meanings: it either indicates a strong relationship, or it indicates that tough choices (often ethical in nature, or with a definitive right and wrong choice) are coming up. (source).

To me, this clearly indicates that Zade’s cards/Destiny/whatever governs the card’s opinions/whatever is clearly indicating that there is a right and wrong choice for Zade regarding which dude to choose. (Obviously, this is because one of the dudes is hiding the secret that he’s actually her dad).

Finally, Zade gets to the “possible futures” part of her reading. These are the cards in Jackson’s grouping:

The Eight of Wands, which is  meant to represent Cupid’s arrows, meant he likes me. No surprise there. The Three of Pentacles (a relationship), the Three of Cups, the Sun, and the Five of Pentacles meant it would be great-but it wouldn’t be perfect. I kept reading and found the Nine of Cups, which meant all would be content-and the King of Wands. So that indicated for me that this was my future path with Jackson. Sounds pretty good. My intuition was telling me that the entire combo had an extra meaning to it, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was (chapter 8).

Disclaimer: I am cherrypicking my interpretations because every card has multiple meanings (how conveinient for me!), and I don’t want to go over each and every one. 

So, the Eight of Wands

The Eight of Wands also stands for the arrival of news or information. You may see or hear something important. The news could show up in a disguised form, so stay alert. Pay attention to everything that comes your way for a while. (source)

Seems like the cards are once again hinting that Zade must stay vigilent! I honestly don’t know where “8 of Wands means he likes me” comes from; the general meaning seems to be more about being decisive.

The Three of Pentacles:

As Pentacles are grounded and practical, this card represents a task-oriented team – people who are working cooperatively toward a common goal. There are few jobs that can be accomplished alone. We need the help of others to achieve our goals (source)

I guess I can see how Zade thinks this indicates a relationship, but the card seems to be more about teamwork. Which obviously indicates that Jackson is not working alone! Because Zeb is integral to this plan.

Three of Cups:

In readings, the Three of Cups can signify a friend or the feelings associated with friendship. This card can represent community – the network of support created when we interact with others. It can be any group in which the members feel a bond. (source)

Zade doesn’t interpret this one at all, but it seems to indicate a connection of some kind. At this point, she’s connected far more with Mac, so why would this be in Jackson’s pile? Since Jackson = Charles, and Zade does feel rather bonded to Charles, this could be another hint that she’s already more connected to Jackson than she thought.

The Sun:

In readings, you will understand Card 19 if you imagine yourself to be a Sun God. How do you think and feel? You have total confidence in yourself. You are not cocky, but profoundly sure of your power. You have unlimited energy and glow with health. (source)

Because the reading is about the future of Zade and “Jackson’s” relationship, I would guess that this card would refer to “Jackson’s” feelings if their relationship were to be comsummated. While I don’t know if this interpretation is allowed in tarot, I’m assuming it is, because Zade thought. that the Eight of Wands reflected Jackson’s feelings.

The Five of Pentacles:

Zade thinks that this means that her future relationship with Jackson will be “great but not perfect.” However, this card appears to indicate negative circumstances and times of hardship:

The Five of Pentacles can also represent rejection or lack of acceptance. We are social animals and feel pain when excluded from our group. We want to be included, not only for our emotional well-being, but also for mutual support. (source)

This would mean that once Zade finds out Jackson’s secret, she would reject him, right? Or perhaps he would grow weary of her, and move on to someone new. I don’t see how Zade can interpret this one optimistically.

Nine of Cups:

Zade thinks that this one indicates that she and Jackson will be “content.” But it appears that this contentment also contains a warning:

The man on the Nine of Cups reminds me of “the cat who ate the canary.” Now, a canary is a pet strictly off limits to hungry felines. Any cat who manages to catch one is going to feel pretty smug about it. This is the feeling tone of the Nine of Cups – pure indulgence and self-satisfaction(. . .) This may feel great at the time, but sooner or later the feathers around your mouth will be discovered, and regret will set in. Pursuit of pleasure without regard to consequences is never satisfying in the long run. (source)

Again, this seems to be talking about how Jackson/Charles will feel once he’s successfully managed to bone his daughter: satisfied and proud, but at what cost?

Finally, Zade explicitly thinks that there’s something about this batch of cards that she’s not catching onto. To me, when combined with the cards showing the “present,” these can easily be interpreted as a warning that Jackson is working with someone to seduce Zade for the sake of serving his own ego. Which is what I’ve been saying!!!

 

12 thoughts on “Is Jackson Just a Glamoured Charles? Part Three: Part Two: The Tarot Reading

  1. Wow. Just, wow. I know you said the minor arcana could be interpreted in a bunch of different ways, but how did Zade gloss over so much potential during her own reading? Crazy as it is, this Tarot interpretation pretty much clenches it for me. After all, Tarot is the word of god… lol except when it isn’t. It’s great having destiny and free choice there to aid us in our cause! If the author can have it both ways, so can the reader! 😄

    But I’m dumbfounded too. There has to be a ghost writer somewhere who included some of this stuff involving Jackson. It’s almost tongue-in-cheek subtlety. This just doesn’t seem accidental.

    I seriously think she originally wrote Zade hanging out with Charles, then she went back and altered and added a bunch of little stuff for Jackson the honorary love interest. It’s the only way it could be unintentional subtext.

    Alternatively, Zade also likes incest porn, and she did a bad job of hiding her true desire for this book. I mean, I’d be down for that. I’m just angry about it being a complete bait and switch plot! In so many regards…

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  2. Pretty much everything about this book feels shoehorned in. I’m not sure why the reader would care about the lol-so-big reveal that Charles is Zade’s father. I never once felt like Zade had any real inner turmoil or conflicted feelings about not knowing her father/having him around growing up so who cares? I mean, I understand not having any feels about not knowing your father (I grew up in a single parent household and am fine with it) but if that is the case, why would this be a big deal? I’m guessing you’re correct about the original plot including Zade hooking up with Charles. Not only does Lani’s self-insert get to be the star of the show, but she hooks up with the creator of the show! #lifegoals

    Out of curiosity, are there ever any descriptions of Charles’s illusions? He’s supposed to be this amazing performer and master magician, but thus far in these recaps, and others I’ve read, there has been fuck all about other performances. Charles doesn’t really seem all that involved in the show at all.

    All in all, it seems like Lani Sarem wrote a crappy screenplay about a girl from a small town who hits it big, gets the starring role and the most lusted after man and then turned it into a shitty book with a few under-developed plots to pad it out. And she claims there were three editors on this drivel. Yeah, sure, OK. If I say I’m a multimillionaire, will that be true too?

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  3. I think the Charles=daddy reveal works better if the audience thinks that he’s a potential love interest/creepy boss, as I speculated is the case in the screenplay. Like, it’s still dumb, but (1) we’re not privy to Zade’s interior monologue so it feels less like she was intentionally keeping the secret from the audience, and (2) I’m pretty sure Jackson wasn’t running around playing the alternative love interest.

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  4. Pretty much everything about this book feels shoehorned in. I’m not sure why the reader would care about the lol-so-big reveal that Charles is Zade’s father. I never once felt like Zade had any real inner turmoil or conflicted feelings about not knowing her father/having him around growing up so who cares? I mean, I understand not having any feels about not knowing your father (I grew up in a single parent household and am fine with it) but if that is the case, why would this be a big deal? I’m guessing you’re correct about the original plot including Zade hooking up with Charles. Not only does Lani’s self-insert get to be the star of the show, but she hooks up with the creator of the show! #lifegoals

    Yeah, I recall one interview saying Lani Sarem’s father died before she was born/when she was a baby, so she could only miss him in an abstract fashion. People usually feel warmly about their family (unless the family member in question treated them like utter garbage, and even then it depends on what sort of abuse was involved, since some people won’t fully comprehend subtler forms without an outside support group.) I’m guessing LS was taking this assumption of closeness for granted, and since it’s pure wish fulfillment, either she didn’t want to go through the work of how this would be achieved, by showing Zade and Charles spending time together, or LS was trying to do the creepy boss/dad dating side-plot when one of her friends said they felt uncomfortable and urged her to change it, which is when Jackson turned up to take over some of good ol’ Charlie’s scenes.

    I think the Charles=daddy reveal works better if the audience thinks that he’s a potential love interest/creepy boss, as I speculated is the case in the screenplay. Like, it’s still dumb, but (1) we’re not privy to Zade’s interior monologue so it feels less like she was intentionally keeping the secret from the audience, and (2) I’m pretty sure Jackson wasn’t running around playing the alternative love interest.

    Yeah, if LS had done that, she could have her cake and eat it too. It’d be half-baked, but it’d make more sense. I’m not sure if I’d prefer it though… I’m really at odds with the whole thing.

    On one hand, I kind of like the taboo of trying to hook up with an adult father that the character doesn’t know that well. There are cases of people being attracted to close biological family members when they don’t know it’s incest, such as separated siblings or adopted children. Even if it doesn’t involve actual sex, there’s something exhilarating and exciting about building up a relationship. As with anyone though, that takes work and chemistry (romantic or platonic.) Shared interests help too. If dad’s behind the sexual side of this, it could leave the protagonist guilt-free, regardless of which path they choose, and the inevitable conflict resolution builds some decent tension. Basically skirting with danger, which is one of the purposes of fiction. I like Charles=Jackson; I just hate how this is hinted at, but never acknowledged. Hell, it could be spun in a way that actually lets them get away with their incestuous relationship, entirely or until one of them changes their mind, if that’s what the author wants (but then of course the audience for that is a lot smaller and there’s nothing that would outrage most readers more than finding out the love triangle could be creepy, if they went in thinking it was more typical.)

    The major downside is how the whole thing could be deeply abusive, especially when trickery is involved. Again, without acknowledgement, there’s no way to come to terms with the significance of this, and that’s what really irritates me. I want resolution and the novel doesn’t give us that. It simply shoves the potential love of Charles off on Dela near the end, because she’s a more acceptable substitute than their daughter. This might not bother me either, if it weren’t for the lack of an actual resolution between Zade and Charles. We never get a feel for their familial relationship, as if only romance is important in life, and it’s like being denied everything that the build-up is trying to offer.

    Some people love motherly characters, who aren’t necessarily mothers, and I love fatherly characters, who aren’t necessarily fathers, because I also have my own daddy issues. (I’ve gotten to know my father a little better since I grew up, and I always wonder what could’ve been. Maybe nothing would’ve changed, but I’ll never know at this point.) I’m no authority on this kind of thing, and my weird interests aren’t mainstream, but this book disappoints me on so many levels. 😞

    Out of curiosity, are there ever any descriptions of Charles’s illusions? He’s supposed to be this amazing performer and master magician, but thus far in these recaps, and others I’ve read, there has been fuck all about other performances. Charles doesn’t really seem all that involved in the show at all.

    I’m pretty sure there aren’t any besides Zade’s, because she’s the only character who matters. Also, that’d require research, which LS never did. I’m pretty sure the stuff which could be researched is all based on her personal experiences and dumpster diving through motorcycle catalogs. 😜

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  5. “I think the Charles=daddy reveal works better if the audience thinks that he’s a potential love interest/creepy boss, as I speculated is the case in the screenplay.”

    I agree but, let’s face it, to pull that off requires a subtlety and cleverness that Lani is blatantly lacking. She didn’t even try! There don’t even seem to be enough scenes with Charles in them to really make his character seem to matter before Zade’s illusion gone wrong. The dinner date/David Copperfield show thing seems to have happened solely in Zade’s recounting and the did they make out/didn’t they make out thing was told in one of those murky POV scenes.

    You mentioned in a comment in response to me on another post (there is something weird about Charles, I believe) that Zade did know Chuck was her father before heading out and I missed that (read: went over my head). That makes it weirder to me because Dela’s feelings about Zade going to work for “that show” aren’t fleshed out or even hinted at (again, one would need subtlety to do this without giving away the plot twist).

    Basically, the entire Charles-Zade relationship reads like someone had an outline of an idea about one part of the story and then over layed it with a new one without going and cleaning up the muddled bits. Good job three editors!

    “There are cases of people being attracted to close biological family members when they don’t know it’s incest, such as separated siblings or adopted children.”

    Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA) is definitely a real thing! If you google, you can read about various cases. And story lines regarding things like siblings engaging in sexual/romantic relationships have been done – and done well – by other people so it isn’t like it would be super innovative or game changing (my favorite is actually an episode of Inspector Lewis).

    “I want resolution and the novel doesn’t give us that.”

    Amen. I want resolution about a lot of things in this book, just like I want either more character development or fewer characters. The characters that left the biggest impression on me personality-wise are Riley and Sofia and that’s probably only because they were written as exaggerated stereotypes. My interest, plot-wise, was most engaged when reading about Delmonte and Chuck-wagon’s past relationship. But there are so many unanswered questions with that as well. Why would Dela procreate with a mortal when she knows the rules/risks/concerns about diluting the magick pool? Why did Dely cast a spell to prevent Charlie from talking about her and Zade full stop rather than just prevent him from remembering that Dely had for reals magical powers? Why was Zade kept from seeing her father? There are so many opportunities there and none were taken. With regards to keeping Zade from her father, Lani could have explored a mother’s desire to protect her daughter from a man she felt would never be a consistent father/presence as well as a need to protect both father and daughter from ramifications having to do with magick/prophecies/what have you. Instead, the reader can walk away with “welp, Chuck banged someone to make sure he wasn’t under some sort of love spell, Dela freaked and turned into a totally vindictive bitch and punished him by banishing him from her life and that of their child’s”. But why bother developing your characters or plot when all you want to do is show how amazeballs your protagonist is because she rides motorcycles and plays the guitar.

    This book isn’t just dumb, it is such a terrible waste. Jenny Trout links to Claribel Ortega’s Tumblr where that author was doing fanfic of this book and I was really digging it. It appears to have just cut off, which is a damn shame. Even though it was clearly satire, it was far more enjoyable than the real thing.

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  6. My interest, plot-wise, was most engaged when reading about Delmonte and Chuck-wagon’s past relationship.

    lol My new favorite nicknames for the magickal whitchka and her con artist consort! 😘

    But yeah, I think the reason all of us like that section is because Zade drifts into the background and this is literally the only relationship that gets resolved. 🤔

    I know Mac and Zade get some build-up, but it doesn’t feel like it amounts to anything, so the meaningless love triangle can exist. And even though it comes out of nowhere, Charles dating Zade feels more legit than him as her father! As we’ve all pointed out, the reader doesn’t get to see him interacting with Zade any other way, outside of his stereotypical love interest introduction. He practically vanishes from the story, while being overlaid by Jackson, then reappears as the legit side of the love triangle that Jackson tried to slide into.

    There’s also rampant misogyny, but at the same time, all of the men are treated as equally interchangeable. Maybe not on the exact same level, but Zade, who supposedly wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, is explicitly measuring all the guys as dating material when she first meets them, including her dad, sort of. That stems from only caring about romance, and that’s basically why absolutely everything unrelated was ignored. It’s pretty notable, considering that the banana and the tenderloin only get some depth when they meet for some hot and spicy reunion sex medicine.

    I blame Lani Sarem for firing two editors, and then forcing the third to poke around with her punctuation, before giving the okay, which is how this utter shit quality got published. Well, that and Geek Nation having no standards.

    Amen. I want resolution about a lot of things in this book, just like I want either more character development or fewer characters.

    Agreed. If she didn’t have so much filler, it could’ve happened too! I don’t think we need fewer characters, since there will always be tertiary support, but the background dwellers shouldn’t have been introduced as if they’d play a more important part than they did, while we needed to focus on more than Zade, which doesn’t happen much. Picking a few to get to know better, besides Mac, Dela, and Charles would’ve helped. Zeb and Sofia were clear candidates for this, but then it never happened (and the only reason I even picked up on Zeb is for the hints that he was a magick antagonist and Jackson was conspiring with him.)

    Subtlety is definitely Sarem’s weakness, and she really doesn’t know how to write other characters. Sofia, Mac, Dela, and Charles seem to be loosely based on herself, judging from their interactions. I think that’s the only reason Sofia could’ve been treated even more raw, but eventually wasn’t. Someone on Jenny Trout’s site said that Sofia is built up as the mean cheerleader, but so is Zade, and I think it’s because they really are the same character underneath (although yeah, Sofia is also a broad stereotype of a “bad girl” and a “mean girl” for sure. Someone had sympathy for her though, and I don’t think Sofia would’ve been “reformed” if it wasn’t Sarem.)

    I mean, we all do this. It’s impossible to truly see the world as another person does, but empathy, knowledge, and compassion builds imagination.

    This book isn’t just dumb, it is such a terrible waste.

    Yeah, the ultimate irony is that Lani Sarem had a good premise and a workable plot, but since she’s a lazy, inexperienced writer, all of that potential got flushed down the toilet. Zade should’ve been a secondary character, instead of the main view-point. There is no revision where this doesn’t work out for the best, IMHO. It’s possible to keep her as the protagonist, and use her as an unreliable narrator, but the plot doesn’t care where she is, so long as she almost dies. Plus a little bit goes a long way with Zade. She’s not useless, just annoying and unpalatable without the writer having some self-awareness of her actual flaws. That’s one of the reasons why the Sofia fanfic was so great! 😊

    I can see why her friends were excited. If the book and screenplay could’ve been honed by a much better writer, Lani Sarem would be making that movie she wants to star in (if she’d actually star in it is another matter entirely, since it sounds like she may also be a lazy, inexperienced actress.)

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  7. Zade/Lani strikes me as the sort of woman who says “I don’t really get along with other women. They are so petty and have so much drama. Most of my friends are guys” and then pride themselves as being able to hang out as ‘one of the guys’ whilst making frequent sexual comments/references in order to ensure all men in the group remember she is, indeed, a woman. I know women like that who seem to have insecurity complexes with regards to other women so they react by outwardly rejecting what they believe to be “feminine” traits while simultaneously acting to draw attention to their own sexuality. These women (in my experience, I’m not a super expert by any means) have a tendency to covet and value the superficial (physical beauty) while not thinking about accomplishments or ability. Zade talks about how people tell her she is beautiful and when Sofia hits on Mac, he tells her that Sofia is beautiful, but the abilities that we are supposed to find remarkable about Zade (other than her wicked magickal diving skills) are things she clearly associates with masculine activities (e.g. guitar and motorcycles).

    That’s something I notice in writing like this. The bitchy, mean girl, heroine antithesis is always gorgeous but isn’t just mean, but also less talented and fairly one dimensional. I was surprised that Sofia was given a good singing voice or anything of value beyond her external value. That particular scene, by the way, could have been used to explore Sofia’s motives behind her bitchy behavior and to develop an understanding and the beginnings of a bond between the two women. Instead, it appears to be used to showcase Zade as being the bigger person.

    I lol’d at “It’s possible to keep her as the protagonist, and use her as an unreliable narrator, but the plot doesn’t care where she is, so long as she almost dies.” Like “sigh, OK. We can keep the Zade character in but she either needs to die or get close to dying. Otherwise, this bitch is just dead weight.”

    If I had any writing ability whatsoever, I would definitely try my hand at fanfic of this. I’d buy the book for research and everything.

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  8. Zade/Lani strikes me as the sort of woman who says “I don’t really get along with other women. They are so petty and have so much drama. Most of my friends are guys” and then pride themselves as being able to hang out as ‘one of the guys’ whilst making frequent sexual comments/references in order to ensure all men in the group remember she is, indeed, a woman. I know women like that who seem to have insecurity complexes with regards to other women so they react by outwardly rejecting what they believe to be “feminine” traits while simultaneously acting to draw attention to their own sexuality. These women (in my experience, I’m not a super expert by any means) have a tendency to covet and value the superficial (physical beauty) while not thinking about accomplishments or ability. Zade talks about how people tell her she is beautiful and when Sofia hits on Mac, he tells her that Sofia is beautiful, but the abilities that we are supposed to find remarkable about Zade (other than her wicked magickal diving skills) are things she clearly associates with masculine activities (e.g. guitar and motorcycles).

    I think you’ve nailed it, and it’s a huge problem, when it isn’t properly understood for what it is, or examined with any nuance.

    Incidentally, I grew up with that problematic world-view (though I’m no expert either), and I sincerely believe it’s a side-product of pervasive male gaze. Women are typically objects to be desired or derided, and less commonly presented as real people with real problems in a lot of mass media, including advertisements. This leads to the Not Like Other Girls™ mentality, where the individual female is lead to believe she’s the only one who’s real and the rest are shallow, empty shells. This becomes internalized and subconscious, where it plays on those insecurities and feeds misogyny by pitting women against each other, even when there isn’t a personal reason behind it. After all, men can be petty and manipulative too, but they’re usually portrayed as admirable, even when they show some deplorable traits.

    It’s also a possible by-product of mass media inadvertently claiming that the protagonist always has to be right and can’t make simple mistakes. This affects both genders, but leads to perfectionism in female characters, since men are allowed to get away with aspects that aren’t necessarily lauded, but considered acceptable by toxic masculinity. When deconstructed, it’s not as bad, but untouched it leads to the unfortunate symptoms where the female protagonist is the only fleshed out character, yet she never has any real flaws that impact her life or the plot.

    That’s something I notice in writing like this. The bitchy, mean girl, heroine antithesis is always gorgeous but isn’t just mean, but also less talented and fairly one dimensional. I was surprised that Sofia was given a good singing voice or anything of value beyond her external value. That particular scene, by the way, could have been used to explore Sofia’s motives behind her bitchy behavior and to develop an understanding and the beginnings of a bond between the two women. Instead, it appears to be used to showcase Zade as being the bigger person.

    I was surprised too! With regards to Sofia, I think LS realized that Sofia was now the underdog and took pity on her, because LS was always being ignored/dropped for having less talent, although it only occurred after she felt that Sofia had been suitably sacrificed for the sins of other women, and/or one of the editors/friends who read the script/book said that Zade and the rest of the crew would be cruel for kicking Sofia when she was down. Obviously this cruelty already happened during the platform “accident”, but LS felt justified and refused to remove it, especially since it also made Zade seem like the bigger person then too. Sofia had already been safely cast aside by the time she was singing, so LS decided to be magnanimous towards the female foil and she let Sofia go free.

    I lol’d at “It’s possible to keep her as the protagonist, and use her as an unreliable narrator, but the plot doesn’t care where she is, so long as she almost dies.” Like “sigh, OK. We can keep the Zade character in but she either needs to die or get close to dying. Otherwise, this bitch is just dead weight.”

    Haha, pretty much! That’s literally the plot point where it’d be harder to remove Zade completely, especially since she’s the catalyst that brings Charles back to Dela. The book could’ve also worked from Chuck’s POV if less time had passed, but his (possibly illegitimate) teenage daughter turned up and wanted to hang out with him, and get to know him. Then he found out Dela had never remarried or moved on either, so he decided to pick a dark week/day to bring his daughter back to his former lover and reconnect as a family. This could end with Dela and Zade returning to Las Vegas with him, I guess, and planning for his upcoming wedding. Alternatively, it could be from Dela’s POV, but since we wouldn’t get to see Charles bonding with Zade, it’s less interesting. Zade could also hit on one of the tech guys, who feels awkward about how young she is, and then Charles would be pseudo-justified in worrying about her and not wanting the relationship to ruin her future plans of college or whatever she had planned. Zade could even have a boyfriend back home who’s in a band and she mentions him sometimes to Mac and Charles.

    All of that would be possible from Zade’s POV, and it’d be fascinating if it was well-written, but Charles is the one who’s learning about what happened while he was away, and since he’s the one who actually goes through a journey of personal change, and puts some effort into reviving two different relationships, he’s a better choice as the lead. That’s one of the ways Zade wouldn’t have to die, but when the plot isn’t altered much, she literally has to, because what else would bring Charles and Dela together? If Zade is going to win Mac over some other way, what do we have to go on? She’s tied pretty tightly to the death plot, so it takes more effort to come up with something new, since LS barely developed anyone.

    If I had any writing ability whatsoever, I would definitely try my hand at fanfic of this. I’d buy the book for research and everything.

    You should write your fanfic! Everyone has to start somewhere, and you’ve already got enough critical assessment to write something better than the source material. This book will also teach you what not to do, of course. Even if your fanfic isn’t the best, you’ll gain some experience and hopefully have some fun with it. Writing is a skill that anyone can learn; some people start off with more intuition about how it works, but everyone has to practice if they want to get better. It just takes effort and persistence. And if you lose interest, it’s not like it’s a job. You can give up on your fanfic, and decide to put that effort into some other story or an entirely different hobby instead.

    But see if you can find an illegal pdf of the Handbook. lol I might need to do that too, because I’m not paying ten bucks for this drivel. I’d rather donate that money to a charity. 😄

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  9. If I do decide to write anything, I think my angle will be that Dela is the enemy and that she is working in tandem with Zeb. Chuck’s star took off and he began traveling for his show, leaving Dela and “their” child frequently. Dela grew jealous of his fame and fortune and started plotting her revenge early on, which is why she needed to magick him from being able to discuss his past relationship with her. For reasons that will become obvious in a moment, the magicking will not just prevent him from discussing it, but will all but erase the memory of having a child from the Wagon’s mind.

    Zade isn’t actually Chuck’s daughter. Dela’s frustration and jealousy were strong and she vented to Zeb who commiserated because he, too, felt he’d been wronged and not appreciated enough when Chuckle’s star took off. Both D and Z believed they would be some sort of partner stars but that didn’t happen and they took comfort in one another. Delmonte may have married a muggle, but she procreated with a fellow magicker, Zeb. When Zade turns out to be a carbon copy of her mother, Deli-meats and Zeb decide they are going to go after Chucknuts. Zade is sent out to audition in order to secure a place in the show. The goal is to 1: make her a star in her own right (send that sweet Vegas show money home to mama) and 2: seduce Charles only to have it revealed that this is the daughter he abandoned so that he feels disgusted with himself and so horrified by his actions – both past and present – that he retires from performing and dedicates his life to his “daughter’s” career and making financial amends with his ex.

    Clearly there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of questions to be answered even in the very idea (how can Zeb be jealous when he has a great reputation and has worked with Charles for so long? Why is Dela not pissed at Zeb since he ended up apparently going on the road with Charles and leaving her?) but I think it could be done. My main problem with writing (save for lack of talent) is lack of stamina. I wanted to be a writer my entire life and even majored in English at college. I’ve also wanted to be independently wealthy somehow my entire life and that isn’t something I’ve figured out either 🙂 . But I may still try something, just for the giggles. My boyfriend is going on vacation pretty soon so it will give me something to do while he’s away.

    Finally: I wish this shit show were longer because I absolutely love the recaps. I never knew snarky chapter by chapter recaps were a thing until I found Jenny Trout and I’ve read most of hers (save for the later 50 shades stuff. I read the first three books worth of reviews but not the later books because that whole franchise is abhorrent) and I randomly found a blog that did the same deconstruction of Wild, which was wonderful. I just wish I could find more of these because, even if I haven’t read the book (the only one I read was all but 75 pages of the first 50 Shades), they are incredibly entertaining.

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  10. Interesting idea! I especially like the thought of Zade sending some money back to mom, since tarot reading probably only meets minimum wage, if they’re lucky.

    I’m taking a similar concept with mine, although the true antagonists are Charles and Dela, who are both using Zade to get back at each other. I got a bit heavy handed in the first scene I’ve written, but my plan is to have Zade be a literal personification of the Axis Mundi (an extremely dangerous and unprecedented homunculus/dryad/loci abomination), who was lied to by Dela and knows almost nothing, hence her confusingly empty POV regarding her world. Zeb gets caught in the middle of this whole fiasco, just like the good old days, and tries to run damage control. I’m waffling over Zeb hooking up with Cam (deciding to take a chance if it might be the end of the world.) If I do, then it probably won’t work out for either in the long run, but they’ll enjoy it while it lasts. I’m also thinking that Charles intuits that Zade isn’t his, even before Zeb determines that she absolutely isn’t, which is one reason Zeb gets talked into the Jackson plan. (Incidentally, Lani Not-Sarem, I think I allowed comments on my google doc since I put up the link. Still haven’t gotten back to it, but I’ve been mulling it over quite a bit, and should hopefully get some more scenes out today. My progress is slow, sorry.) 😅

    Clearly there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of questions to be answered even in the very idea (how can Zeb be jealous when he has a great reputation and has worked with Charles for so long? Why is Dela not pissed at Zeb since he ended up apparently going on the road with Charles and leaving her?) but I think it could be done.

    Zeb Zagen probably isn’t a household name the way that Charles Spellman is. Remember, Zade had to do research to know about him (when she almost never does research about anything), whereas Charles Spellman is probably as well known as David Copperfield in this universe. It’s common for magician’s assistants to be equally good at illusion, but overshadowed. Therefore, since Zeb is actually the one coming up with these tricks, he could be jealous that even if he does appear on stage at any point, he won’t be recognized or specifically applauded by anyone. Also, perhaps he doesn’t believe that Charles deserves the fame that he’s gotten, since he needed Dela and Zeb to become famous at all?

    As for Dela not being pissed about Zeb, what if they’re no longer lovers? It could’ve been an amicable break-up before Zeb left with Charles, and usually affairs don’t turn into a true relationship. I’m not well-read on the subject, but as I understand it, this is often a symptom of a broken marriage, where one partner looks for comfort elsewhere, or it’s an opportunist situation, based on mid-life crisis, selfish impulse, and/or an angry desire to upset their partner. Maybe a combination. People are petty, so it’s possible that Charles acted worse before he left, and Dela sees Zeb’s abandonment as more acceptable, since he wasn’t the man she married, whereas Charles has legal obligation. Perhaps Zeb has secretly been sending her some money for Zade, while her husband did everything in his power to pay less in divorce court, and he made the entire proceedings frustrating? Charles might’ve known about her infidelity, or hell, maybe he actually wanted custody of Zade, but so did Dela, and when he lost, Charles felt bitter about having his wages garnished, sending some passive-aggressive letters to his ex-wife, which she held onto. Basically, it could be really messy and human!

    For that matter, if Dela is one of the villains, what if she’s an actual narcissist, who raised her daughter to be exactly like her? Or maybe they’re both sociopaths. Lots of dark undertones with that, although it might be a lot harder to pull off, since handling it poorly could backfire. Zeb could simply decide that Charles is a terrible friend because of his intimacy issues (also possibly a narcissist, but who knows.) Maybe Chuckwagon was never there for either of them, so Zeb decides to join Dela and undermine him as a justice avenger. Zeb probably doesn’t realize how awful they’ve both become in their efforts to make the douche bag pay.

    Also, what if magickal people can’t really reproduce with muggles, and Dela simply never mentioned this fact to Charles? Obviously, it’d be in Zeb’s best interest to keep quiet too, since he’d know it was his kid. This could be implied by that snippet in the novel about breeding with muggles helping magickal folks to die out. Since it was pretty vague, maybe they can’t produce children at all with muggles, or maybe they produce hybrids, like mules, and so the resulting offspring can’t breed at all? Unless Charles has contact with other magickal pseudo-mortals besides Zeb and Dela, then he’d never know. Dela might’ve been vague at informing Zade, because she didn’t want her to accidentally tell the truth or to realize that there’s no way Charles could be her biological father. Or maybe Zade does know, and that’s why she’s in on this plan.

    There’s a lot of potential and I definitely think you can make it work! 😃

    Clearly there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of questions to be answered even in the very idea (how can Zeb be jealous when he has a great reputation and has worked with Charles for so long? Why is Dela not pissed at Zeb since he ended up apparently going on the road with Charles and leaving her?) but I think it could be done. My main problem with writing (save for lack of talent) is lack of stamina. I wanted to be a writer my entire life and even majored in English at college. I’ve also wanted to be independently wealthy somehow my entire life and that isn’t something I’ve figured out either 🙂 . But I may still try something, just for the giggles. My boyfriend is going on vacation pretty soon so it will give me something to do while he’s away.

    Yeah, it’s hard to keep the motivation up sometimes, and the only way to make progress is to keep plugging away at it. But hey, if it becomes too awkward, there’s no harm in abandoning it later and dabbling in a different story entirely! If it’s a hobby, it’s all about the passion. There’s always better sources of inspiration for fanfiction or even your own original stories, and writing is a great way to kill time. You don’t even have to share it, if that makes you feel nervous, although I’d love to read it if you do write it. I think we all want more rewrites after the endless disappointment that is this novel.

    Incidentally, if you like fantasy, Limyaael’s essays are a bit lengthy but still a delight, and there are several that apply to any genre. I also really like Red’s dissemination videos on multiple tropes, but then I strongly agree with her assessments, so YMMV. 😊

    I just wish I could find more of these because, even if I haven’t read the book (the only one I read was all but 75 pages of the first 50 Shades), they are incredibly entertaining.

    Mark Twain, yes that Mark Twain, wrote an essay along these lines. He didn’t cast shade on each individual chapter of The Deerslayer, but it’s fun. If the site is a bit hard to read, there’s also Project Gutenberg and numerous other sites. It’s nice to have proof that sporking is a time-honored tradition. 😄

    The rest of Conjugal Felicity is exactly what you’re looking for. Each author link may have multiple books, so lots to enjoy. I’ve only started on the Maradonia and Ruin Mist Chronicles myself, but I got sidetracked while reading sporks of each first book. They’re both as bad as Handbook, and Maradonia is exceedingly worse. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish that one.

    If you’re okay with porn, this was in the comment section of a previous chapter: The Seven Brothers of Sin.

    And this is a bit of a headache to dig through, because of the site format, but there’s also Kippurbird, who looked at all four books in the Inheritance Cycle, as well as a few others, although I don’t think they finished the last one. Unfortunately every other sporking isn’t linked to on the wikia for easy access. Here’s a TV Tropes page just to show every spork that’s searchable, since the Livejournal tags aren’t always comprehensive. (The links on there lead to pages devoted to the actual books within TV Tropes though.) If you scroll down, the tags here do link to several of the sporks for an easier manner of consumption, but for instance Maximum Ride is missing so you’d have to go back to the regular LJ for that tag. Although glancing back, Kippur is rather light on the excerpts sometimes. Still interesting. Note: Kippur never finished the last book, Inheritance, but Conjugal Felicity might have.

    Incidentally, Swankivy comes to mind, but I forget if they did sporkings too. They comment on the Conjugal Felicity site quite a bit and I remember them from back when I first read Kippur’s sporking of the Eragon books. I’d look into it more, but I’m already dumping so many links on this page!

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  11. Thanks for the recommendations!

    You’re welcome! 🙂

    Incidentally, I found a few potentially interesting links for anyone writing Handbook fanfic or unrelated fantasy.

    Warning: these four are TV Tropes pages!

    Hermetic Magic, which seems to be the inspiration for what little happens in this novel, however…

    Wild Magic, which is essentially chaos magic, and mentions something I sort of forgot about… reality warping! Less info, but it’s relevant. To be honest, I think Zade is mostly just using this when it comes to her spells. We rarely see her handle the more Hermetic methods, other than tarot.

    Functional Magic, which has a crap ton of links that could have you clicking for quite awhile. Just skimming the page is pretty useful too.

    Tips for Writing a Functional Magic System, which is nice for walking through the biggest considerations. I wish I’d found this one sooner!

    These two are about illusions! How to Build Magic Tricks into a Routine? This is more about creating a whole act, but I like the practical information, and it’s a quick read. This is longer, and basically just an old forum thread where some magicians discuss the different aspects of practice/rehearsal. Personally, whenever I have questions, I love finding old threads where people talk about the subject, because then you get details and perspectives that you’d never think about if you have no experience with it.

    Btw, I’m at 26 pages on Unseen Forces, my Handbook fanfic, and still not done. Been plugging away at it. I need to come up with a better, more plausible trick for Sofia in the last scene, but for now just trying to replenish my energy so I can complete that scene and move on to the next eventually. It’s gonna end with Zeb and Charles coming up with the Jackson plan, but not entirely sure how it’ll get there (either the end of the evening or a conversation while Zade’s paperwork goes through, after the audition.) Then I think I’m gonna write a second one, that’s hopefully much shorter, with some explicit Zeb/Cameron slash, because I’m that kind of person (this one is going to be clean, except for some language.) I think I wrote every character as hot garbage (especially poor Cameron) but meh… Charles is intentionally wordy; he’s supposed to be distraught…. Ah, I’m in justification mode. 😳

    I’m just determined to try and finish something for once, since I rarely do, and I guess this is the one. I’d put it on Tumblr or Fanfiction.net or Archive of our Own, but I wanna wait until it’s at least done and… I don’t even know how I can get a beta reader after that. At the very least, I wanna get it done by the end of October. I didn’t have NaNoWriMo as a goal before, but I’m kinda eyeing that now (I have a novel idea that I’d been tinkering with for a few years and had a huge chunk of the plot hashed out, simply unorganized and mostly untouched.) If I don’t, I’ll return to one of my many other languishing fanfics. 🌱

    Sorry for babbling so much. lol also dove_cg (at) yahoo.com, if anyone wants to help me improve my fanfic (or you can comment on the doc itself, I think.) Or just to talk to me. lol 😊

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