Last time, Harry’s master plan for not getting killed is to fall asleep and have a ghosty murder dream.
This time, nightmares, so things seem to be on track. The ghost says it watched Harry get raped and wishes for a videotape so Harry could better appreciate it too. We are really going all out on sexual assault this book, aren’t we?
Harry says a bunch of unwitty snark to anger the ghost.
Kravos hit me again, across the bridge of my nose, and my vision blurred with tears. “You aren’t funny!” he shouted. “You are going to die! You can’t treat this as a joke!”
The problem is I feel the story can’t decide if Harry’s supposed to be funny. Saying stupid jokes and being smug about them is a perfectly valid way to infuriate someone else, but I feel we are supposed to see these as legitimately cutting instead. I mean, Harry’s response to this is:
“Kravos, I took you out with a piece of chalk and a Ken doll. You’re the biggest joke of a spellslinger I’ve ever seen. Even I didn’t expect you to drop like that; maybe the link with that doll worked so well because it was anatomically corr – “
Kravos decides that fuck it strangling time.
Thing is – why isn’t he eating Harry? That’s a lot more upsetting than getting strangled and it’d give him more power, and the fact it gives him more power would also be more upsetting. But the plan hinges on Harry getting strangled precisely to death.
“Susan’s giving his real body CPR,” someone said
That someone being his ghost.
Now, given they had to discuss this plan in advance and just hope the superghost had actually left, there’s no reason why they couldn’t just have killed Harry manually. That seems far safer than risking Kravos eating him, risking a dream-killing that wasn’t CPR fixable, or just risking the timing getting messed up. For that matter, Harry said it could take hours for him to reach a dreaming state. If your plan hinges on a hungry vampire giving you CPR without accidentally eating you, it seems better to do that immediately than in a few hours.
(Also…given how much difficulty Harry’s had with this superghost, if they were doing it on purpose they could’ve tried making two. Kravos really wouldn’t have seen that coming.)
My double peered at me and said, “You know. We really look like hell.”
Also, while I can accept this is something that’s hard to know in advance, the fact is Harry’s previous bouts of unconsciousness have involved a double really undercuts this. My initial reaction was just “oh, Harry’s taking advantage of his weird split personality thing”.
The ghost goes on to explain, Normally, there wouldn’t be enough latent energy to create an impression like me, but with him being a wizard – a real wizard, not a petty fake like you – and with the border to the Nevernever in such a state of flux, it was pretty much inevitable.”
Not sure what latent energy means here. It may be that how much you die powers the ghost which is why normally you don’t get ghosts of living people. It might also be that Harry’s death, while unpleasant, is nowhere near upsetting enough to generate a proper ghost. Either way, we can still see the basic laws of the universe are bent toward the overmen – wizards have more power in life, therefore they’re also more likely to produce a vengeful ghost. (And this is in addition to the fact we previously learned wizards can throw around horrible curses as they die.)
I’m not sure I like the idea of wizards leaving ghosts, actually. I mean, the idea of going into a defunct wizard tower only to be menaced by a deranged ghost is cool and all, but… For one thing, if being a wizard is a +something modifier, it’s weird it never came up while Harry was trying to calculate ghost power ranges. It wouldn’t have to be Kravos in particular. Maybe some grouchy old WC guy choked on his breakfast, died, then assumed Harry had something to do with it so time to fuck things up. Also, a wizard’s main claim to magical fame is that they’re magic users who are part of this world and not the Nevernever, while it’s been a major plot point that ghosts are naturally natives of the Nevernever, so naturally that they can’t even properly enter our world the way things like fairies and vampires do but slip right back across the border when they stop exerting effort to manifest. And really, given just how many random cheaty advantages they have in our world, including super long lives and ridiculously fast healing, there really should be something they’re not good at in return – plus being generally unghosty would explain why people like poor Mort are rare and looked down on.
Also, the thing is, if Harry is going two on on here, he doesn’t need his ghost to be the better ghost. They just need to add up to more than their one opponent.
Anyway Harry’s ghost grabs the other ghost and then Harry eats him. Not just to get back what was taken but all of it.
I got to his own power when I ate his heart – red, livid power, vital and primitive and dangerous.
You might think there’d be consequences for absorbing the power of an evil wizard, particularly in a setting where that power is inherently evil and drives you crazy. But consequences are for other people!
Ghost-Harry starts trying to calm Living-Harry down, babbling about how that was just a ghost and wasn’t really a person any more but also even as ghosts go, he was a bad egg so You don’t have anything to regret.
Harry emos a bit about how it’s Easy for you to say because the ghost him is going to for-real die and so has it easy. Yes really.
We get a bit about how ghosts disappear once they accomplish their reason for being, and also ghost-Kravos himself would’ve stopped existing once Harry was dead anyway, which actually really cuts a ton of tension out of this. Are permanent ghosts what happen if this reason is unachievable, or was there a way of dealing with ghosts like Agatha without lighting them on fire?
He wakes up to find that although Susan did exactly what she was supposed to, she’s still ready to reassure him that she was a total mess and barely capable of obeying his orders:
Susan sat back on her heels, trembling. “God. When you stopped breathing, I almost screamed. If you hadn’t told me to expect it, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Seriously! Apparently without being told that when he stops breathing she should do CPR, she’d have just screamed and then done nothing.
He says that he’s been repowered so they’re punching their way out. Susan reports Justine is currently hiding from the vampire and refusing to come out when the hungry vampire asks. Since this is obviously just more bitches being crazy, he doesn’t even bother telling Justine that it’s cool, his plan worked and seeing if she’ll come out. He just yanks her out with magic and calls her crazy again. Also, the description is Justine came tumbling out from behind the washing machine with a yelp. She lay there for a moment, naked and stunned Really? She’s still naked? This is a super relevant fact you needed to bring up?
Harry blasts open the door and then Kyle pounces him through the door. See, why would you blast open the door? Turn around and blast a wall they don’t have guards on, idiot.
Kelly followed him in, her once-pretty face twisting and bulging beneath her flesh mask, as though she could barely contain the creature inside her. Her face was warped, twisted, distorted, as though whatever was beneath it had been so horribly mangled that not even a vampire’s powers of masquerade could wholly conceal its hideousness
Or as though whatever is on top got mangled. I don’t think we need to have this complex theory that the mask is getting screwed up because the thing it’s hiding got even uglier instead of that the mask is screwed up because the mask got screwed up. But it’s important we all know makeup is fake and evil, so here we are.
We end with Kyle declaring they’re going to eat Harry’s heart regardless of how poisoned he is, but, isn’t Kelly already poisoned or something? This seems like a bad idea. Is that why Kelly’s got spots on her tongue and generally seems out of it, because they’re the sort of people who are all I DON’T CARE YOU’RE POISONED I’M GOING TO EAT YOU IN REVENGE!!! on a regular basis and she’s still getting the dude from two weeks ago out of her system?
(Can they even digest hearts? Is Kyle going to choke down a meat lump he’ll end up having to vomit up hours later like a hungover owl just for the sake of saying he did it?)
Next chapter, Harry decides that nothing he does is him probably:
Fury surged through me, before fear or anxiety, a fury so scarlet and bright that I could scarcely believe it was mine. Maybe it wasn’t. After all, you are what you eat – even if you’re a wizard.
Because previously he’s been so level-headed and not jumping at the chance to murder everyone.
He actually says that he’ll let the vampires live if they don’t attack him first, and honestly, I’d be more willing to believe this is Kravos. Harry loves murdering things he’s declared aren’t people. Kravos killed for power and by all appearances he did it with deliberation and planning. I could see the remnant of him hissing that blowing your power murdering people you don’t have to just because you’re mad is a horrible idea, what’s wrong with you, why are you thinking this?
For some reason Kyle responds by telling Kelly to attack Harry. Kelly is sick enough without eating this dipshit!
Harry smacks Kelly with magic, so Kyle, who currently is holding Harry by the throat, lets go of his throat to punch him which Harry dodges. Yes really. Then Susan jumps into the fray to chuck Kyle onto Kelly. Kelly goes nuts and turns into her bat form, and for some reason then attacks Kyle because ??? and so then they’re busy trying to murder each other. Now that they’re no longer a threat to Harry, it’s time to light them on fire.
I guess we’ll never find out why Kelly was sick. I guess it never actually mattered, it was just some component of whatever kink she was designed around.
They screamed as they died, sounds like metal sheets tearing, and somehow also like terrified children.
Harry again claims this is completely out of character for him. He also says he did it as swiftly and as efficiently and with as little forethought as one gives to crushing an ant. Bear in mind that we get several more paragraphs after this before he says the screaming actually stops, so apparently Harry kills ants in intensely protracted and agonizing ways.
They were vampires, some part of me said. They had it coming. They were monsters.
See, you really can’t do “oh no what if corruption” when Harry spends half of last book going on about how technically murdering Terra is wizard-legal and he’s going to do it the instant he gets an excuse.
Now, he does immediately look back at his girlfriend, so perhaps the dissonance is solely because he knows how completely right it is to think vampires had agonizing deaths coming but it’s upsetting to think that now applies to someone he cares about.
They go a bit further in and find bodies. Children from the masquerade. Others, dressed in rags and castoff clothes. The missing street people. So that obvious thing has finally been confirmed.
The floor lay damp beneath our feet, and a hose still ran out a trickle of water, to one side.
I’m not sure what to make of this detail. I mean, usually you’d think forensics, but Justine showed off her bites, so there’s already physical evidence all over these corpses. Are they washing vampire spit off them for some reason?
“I hate them,” I said. My voice rang out too loud, in that room. “I hate them, Susan.”
She said nothing, in answer.
“I’m not going to let them keep this up. I’ve tried to stay out of their way before. I can’t, now. Not after what I’ve seen.”
Harry is just not a very good character. He emos about how bad he feels, but he never really accepts responsibility.
Okay, he didn’t literally see this. But he knew it was happening as soon as he heard that people were going missing. If the vampires weren’t killing their snacks, they wouldn’t need to hide them when they were done. There’s situations where you turn a blind eye so you don’t realize how bad it’s getting, but this isn’t one of them, this is precisely as bad as Harry expected it to be – for that matter, he was pretty sure plenty of them were already dead mid-party, where he did in fact see it.
Really, the only difference between then and now is that they’ve hurt him personally and he currently has enough juice to hurt them without consequences.
Having been through one whole room, Harry finds his stuff, because of course it’s there and undamaged and in plain sight right next to where they were imprisoning him. The author attempts to justify this:
“Bob,” I asked. “What is all my stuff doing here?”
“Oh,” Bob said. “That. Well. Bianca got the idea, somewhere, that your stuff might explode if anyone messed around with it.”
1) That only answers why it wasn’t messed around with, not what it’s doing here instead of the bottom of a lake.
2) Bianca has made it clear she’s completely fine sacrificing dozens of pawns to deal with Harry and you expect me to believe she’d hesitate to risk one to what’s probably a bluff?
3) Harry’s been asleep for ten hours. Kravos could’ve possessed one of the still living snacks after they passed out and then wrecked the stuff with the shell of someone they were going to be killing anyone.
The rapist skull then notices Justine is currently semi-covered and asks if she’ll remedy this horrible state of affairs for him. While they’re distracted like this, Susan disappears. First they think happened was someone popped in and out of the Nevernever, but then Harry asserts that his girlfriend is a handful so they would have noticed anyone trying to remove her. Therefore, she must have walked off under her own power, and Justine says that Bianca can do that: She made Susan walk into the laundry room on her own.” Not sure why she’d bother when no one else was dangerous, plus Susan was unconscious when Harry woke up, as if she’d just been chucked in. I assume it’s needed because this and only this is considered an absurd leap of logic without a witness to say it can be done.
“Looks like Bianca’s been hitting the books, Bob.”
I thought we already knew this? Or at least assumed it was probably true?
Also yet again, Harry doesn’t know how vampires work so for all we know this is a power all vampires have over their babies.
“Vampire wizard,” Bob said. “Black magic. Could be very tough.”
I know Thomas claimed Mavra’s no longer in the picture but Harry’s claimed repeatedly the guy can’t be trusted, so I really don’t know why they’re so sure only Bianca is around.
Oh yeah, we then get an unintentional summary of how Harry may have moments of vulnerability but they’ll always come to nothing: My pain and weakness grew closer to me, more noticeable. I did everything I could to shove it to the back of my mind. A swift little thrill of panic gabbled in my throat and tried to make me start screaming. I shoved that away, too.
That bit where he was curled in a ball wishing for his dead parent who was the only functional relationship he ever had? That was just for emo points. It’s not a sign of Harry reevaluating his current relationships, or the plot suggesting that he needs to learn to lean on others more if he doesn’t want to topple. When the chips are really down, he’s just going to alpha the fuck up and win anyway.
He heads up and finds Bianca and dutifully reports on how hot she looks. Also, she’s surrounded by unglamoured vampires because I don’t know, dramatic contrast? And there’s some guys with guns who are presumably the mortals Thomas mentioned.
Their eyes looked a little vague, like they’d only been allowed to see some of what was in the room.
I’m wondering if we’re just supposed to forget that she had mortal security in the first book who seemed perfectly functional.
What exactly is going on here, anyway? We’ve seen no sign this is a talent of Red’s, which means she’s presumably using her wizard powers that burn up her energy to keep running. But why would you waste your precious magic on manipulating these guys, and in a way that’s likely compromising their effectiveness at that? How hard is it for a sexy vampire with good people skills, deep pockets, and a long history as a reliable employer to get guys who are willing to aim guns where you tell them?
Harry decides to try to insult her for thinking he’s dangerous and laughs a bit, and Bianca, while being inexplicably flirty about it, says that yeah she totally does. While the delay and the injection of yet more sexy into this bloated mess were unnecessary, at least we end with her telling them to just shoot him already.