It’s time for a new installment of Hate Book Club! If you need a refresher, Patricia Ladd and I are reading books we think we will hate, and then reviewing them. Each post has to include a graph, a summarizing GIF, and at least some positive comments (sarcasm is allowed). I’m also doing little report cards at the end.
This month, we challenged each other to read dreadful books from our own past. I tasked Patricia with one of the worst novels I’ve ever read, The Natural by Bernard Malamud (here’s her review!!), while she saddled me with Daughter of the Blood, a fantasy novel by Anne Bishop. We’re not sure who won/lost this matchup. Both of these books are unspeakably, painfully, grindingly awful.
This is the book that almost broke me. If I was ever going to give up our book club, this would be the time. But I didn’t. How smart of a decision that was, the reader may decide.
How terrible is Daughter of the Blood? Well, the first problem is that it’s utterly impenetrable. Author Anne Bishop offers no help to the novice reader. This is the first book in a series, but aside from a couple of weird glossaries involving the rankings of different jewel colors, you just get thrown in with no guidance. First some crazy lady gives a prophecy, but it’s not clear why the prophecy is important or why people care about it. Then we suddenly zoom forward like 700 years, but we’re still in the same weird medieval kingdom. A very weird medieval kingdom, as you shall see.
So the plot is, uh, okay, bear with me. There’s this girl. She’s like seven years old, and then suddenly she turns 12. She is super duper magical and is not only a witch, but the ultimate witch, so people call her Witch. Apparently this is good news. The prophecy spoke about her. She’s supposed to do something really important that everybody’s excited about. But, what is it? Aside from be super powerful? Nobody explains. We just get told she’s super important and powerful.
Also, the characters are impossible to remember. That’s because none of them has even the slightest shred of personality or interest. Plus, a lot of their names are similar. There’s this guy named Daemon, and a guy named Saetan, and a guy named Lucivar (and a minor character named Uncle Bob) (not joking here), and sometimes they live in Hell, but sometimes they live in Hayll. And it’s not clear whether this is the more famous Hell or not, and likewise the characters. And I don’t know what Hayll is. If this universe has a Daemon and a Saetan and a Lucivar, where is the Godde and Gawd and Gahd? Or Jezus and Jeezis?
Also, there’s a character we never meet called Lorn, who’s some sort of boss, so I always imagined him/her/it as Lorne Michaels, boss of Saturday Night Live. Also, why are Saetan and Daemon given the last name SaDiablo? Is “Daemon SaDiablo” not already a Satanist porn actor? Especially since Daemon “referred to his bedroom skills as poisoned honey” (p. 177)?
Oh, speaking of porn, this is a world where gender roles are flipped, so women keep men as sex slaves. Saetan’s own sons became sex slaves, somehow. Bad parenting. But also, women are prostitutes for powerful men, so I guess it works both ways? And there’s a girl named Surreal (really) (I am not making this up) who is a prostitute, but she murders all her clients. And nobody notices. This is why the fantasy world could really use Yelp. 1 star – she gave great head but then she murdered me. (Oh yeah, dead people all come back as sentient zombies, or something, so they could totally use Yelp.)
Are you confused yet? Your confusion is nothing like the confusion of actually trying to read this book.
I’ll just move along to quotes. Here is a conversation on the seventh page of text (officially p. 21):
The man in the boat laughed. “I feel very brave, Yasi.”
“You are very brave.”
“The rats…My balls are gone.”
What?! Just to be clear, these are not metaphorical rats. This dude’s testicles were eaten by literal rats, and he’s just sitting there having some yuks. The book does not explain what he was laughing at, by the way. He’s just randomly laughing, I guess. That’s what I’d do if I was dying of genital rodent munchies.
Also, I can’t remember who Yasi is.
Here is another quote:
Cassandra gave him [Saetan] a saucy smile, but there was panic in her eyes. “I don’t tumble with just anyone, Prince. What are your credentials?” (p. 103)
Yes, and before we jump in bed, can you please take this placement test and supply the names and phone numbers of three sexual references?
With the forefinger nail of her right hand, she began tracing three connecting lines on his palm, over and over again. “A Blood triangle has four sides, foolish boy. Like the candelabra on a Dark Altar. Remember that.” (p. 124)
First of all, what the heck is Blood anyway? I think it’s just the race of magic people. Are there any non-magic people in this world? We never see any. Also, what the heck is a Dark Altar? And also, she traces only three lines and says there are four. This is that magical prophecy lady and she’s too stupid to count. Ugh. And even if she knew how to count, she still thinks triangles can have four sides.
A denial caught in his throat, strangling him. (p. 126)
Quick! Perform the Heimlich maneuver!!
“You know,” he choked, “if any of the groundskeepers see that…” (p. 290)
Quick! Perform the Heimlich maneuver!!
It was an oiled high dive speeding him into the Darkness… (p. 377)
Do divers slather themselves in oil? Say, does oil even mix with water? I Googled the phrase “oiled high dive” and this book is literally the only search result.
He slowly pulled in his seduction tendrils. (p. 326)
I’ll let this one speak for itself. Unsurprisingly, the seduction tendrils are never adequately explained.
And now we’ve arrived at my favorite moment in the whole book:
Philip hesitated at the doorway. Daemon buttered his toast with slow, sensuous strokes, knowing that Philip was watching him and uneasily imagining something other than toast beneath his hand. (p. 236)
WHAT. Here are possible options for interpreting these lines:
A. Daemon is buttering his toast sensually with a butter knife, and butter knives are a popular sex toy in this world.
B. Daemon is buttering his toast with his hands.
C. Either (A) or (B), but the really important thing here is that covering somebody in butter is an essential part of the magic-people’s reproductive process.
D. Or they all have butter fetishes.
Because I am obligated to mention three things about this book that I liked: (1) I liked that there was a partial gender role reversal, with women keeping men as sex slaves; (2) I liked that butter quote; (3) I liked that the author saved the rest of the story for a sequel so that I don’t have to read it.
Oh, and there’s a tiny little detail I forgot: a bunch of the men in this book wear “obedience rings” around their “manhoods”. Evil witches can thus punish guys by shrinking the rings, although, at a climactic moment in the book, we find out that guys really don’t feel incapacitating pain from this.
Also, generally speaking, this technology is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds like it should be. In fact, nothing in this book is. Basically, despite a cover praise quote saying the story is erotic, all sexuality is bad and evil, and I think all the sex acts depicted are rape. There is also a ton of rape of pre-teens, so get excited for that.
This was the worst. It was a chore. It was hard to bear. Some days I could only read 10 pages. I only finished because of a timely illness which kept me in bed. If you want to spend endless hours being confused by a byzantine plot, inexplicable magic powers, characters who are all totally indistinguishable, and prose that is no fun at all, so that you can learn about the adventures of magical teenagers and the magical old people who rape them, go ahead. This is not the fun kind of bad, it’s the bad kind of bad.
Conclusion, in GIF Form
Hate Book Club Report Card
(all scores on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most)
Hateability of message: 1
Hateability of writing style: 10
Pleasure derived from hating book: negative 10