In this section, I am going to lay out everything weird about Jackson. Then, I will see if assuming that Charles is Jackson makes any of this make more sense.
Until act 3, Charles makes very few appearances. In this theory, Charles stops actively wanting to bang Zade as soon as he reconciles with Dela, and since there are only a few instances where Charles appears prior to his trip to Tennessee, there aren’t too many moments that show anything inappropriate between Charles and his daughter. But they are there (if you squint). While it’s possible to read all of this as simply a father and daughter reconnecting, that’s certainly not the only way to read it.
in Lani Sarem’s Handbook for Mortals, there’s something strange about Jackson: He’s the lead singer of a band that already has a lead singer. He doesn’t seem to be friends with the rest of the cast and crew—except for the mysterious Zeb. He is only ever seen in the same room with Charles once, and when Zade does a tarot reading on him, she gets the feeling that there’s something more about him they’re trying to tell her.
All of this can easily be explained if we assume that Jackson is actually Charles (or, on one occasion, Zeb) magically glamoured to look like Jackson Rathbone. It might sound crazy, but let’s take a look at the evidence.
This was originally going to be just one essay, but I think it’s too long for a single post. In this one, I talk about the reasons why Charles might want to dress up as Jackson to seduce Zade, and how he manages to do so.
You probably know that Lani Sarem’s novel Handbook for Mortals is a total mess. The prose is repetitive, given to stream-of-consciousness tangents about seemingly meaningless details. There are numerous typos, comma splices, and a conspicuous fondness for em dashes. Point-of-view shifts mid-paragraph, only to revert a sentence later; Psychic powers are introduced and then vanish in the space of a single chapter. The love triangle that makes up the bulk of act 2 is utterly inconsequential, as is the magical duel in a mall parking lot. And there are hints strewn throughout that certain characters are not who they seem, but none of this is ever developed, leaving the reader to wonder if they hallucinated entire plot points.
Writing a book is hard, and writing a good one is harder. Most professionally published novels go through countless rounds of revision: anything superfluous is surgically removed, bits that don’t work are tweaked until they do, and, after dissecting every line of their work, the author has to stitch it all back together well enough that prospective readers don’t notice the scars.
My point here is that Handbook for Mortals died on the operating table, and I am here to figure out what even these quacks were trying to accomplish.
Which I guess makes me the coroner?
Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Zade and Mac went to Charles and Dela’s wedding. Zade caught the bouquet! OR DID SHE?
So, like I said, the teaser chapter begins literally seconds after the first novel ends. This is how the transition is formatted in the Kindle edition:
Well, this is it, folks. The final chapter of Handbook for Mortals: Book 1 of the series is upon us, and it is literally three and a half pages long.
Fortunately, we get a teaser chapter that picks up precisely where this one leaves off, so I’ll do them together. Lol no, sorry, real life stuff got in the way and I wanted to get what I’ve written up today, so the excellent teaser chapter which features a prophecy, implies that Zade is the Chosen One, and is more than a little bit transphobic will be up tomorrow/later tonight(?) After those, though, I’m planning to do some post-mortem essays/analyses/predictions for Book 2 of the series over the next week or so, so check for those if you want.
But, without further ado:
Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: The time finally came for Mac to perform the resurrection ritual, which consisted of tying Zade to a stone table, anointing her with “dragon’s blood,” chanting in what is either Bosnian or Croatian (and, of course some Latin (?)), and stabbing her through the heart with a magical dagger, all while a lightning storm raged around them. After some more hours, Zade regained consciousness and everyone felt lots of things.
This is the penultimate chapter, everyone! And it’s short!
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!
Also, this review is about 5000 words long, making it longer than most term papers I wrote in college.
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:
Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Dela and Charles continued to story of how they fell in love, which had literally nothing to do with what happened to Zade. Plenty of pop-culture references are made once Dela reveals her (and Zade’s) true abilities.
Also, remember how last time I said that Zade gets stabbed in this chapter? I accidentally lied. She gets stabbed in the next chapter. The rest of chapter 18 is more dialogue, and it too is a bit of a slog.
When we left off, Dela was explaining her magical powers to Mac, who was having a difficult time with the entire thing, as one might if one is were told that magic exists.
Charles explains to Mac that the reason that Zade’s illusions were all kept super secret was because she used her actual magic. Mac asks what all of this has to do with Zade’s mysterious illness, and finally we get an explanation from Charles.
Previously on Handbook for Mortals: Dela detailed the meeting between herself and Charles in the 1970’s, and boy did things get sexist! That’s literally it.
And before we start, I am once again splitting this one up into two parts. While it’s not as long as chapter 15,
this first half is a slog. EDIT! IT’S ALL A SLOG! By which I mean it’s not laughably bad, for the most part, but it’s still a long way from being outright good.
Now, you might have thought that the end of Dela and Charles’ meeting might have been the natural conclusion to that story. But nope! It turns out that the only reason Dela stopped there was because Mac finished his iced tea (which, we’re told, was served in a mason jar!) and made a loud slurpy sound. This prompts Dela to offer him more, which brings Mac back to reality after being deeply absorbed in the riveting, totally relevant story. After accepting, Mac thinks about how enlightening Dela’s story was–in regards to Charles’ history.