I was scared. Not in that half-pleasant adrenaline-charged way, but quietly scared. Wait-on-the-results-of-medical-tests scared. It’s a rational sort of fear that puts a lawn chair down in the front of your thoughts and brings a cooler of drinks along with it.
Oh, that is a very interesting admission about fear there, isn’t it?
Obviously, the fact Harry kind of likes instantaneous panic is a point for the idea his emotional spectrum is fucked up, but even more than that, half-pleasant adrenaline-charged is the sort of way you’d describe, say, horror movie or roller-coaster fear, the kind that happens and then goes away. The distinction between horror-for-fun and actual danger is supposed to be that you don’t come down so quickly from the second one, but if Harry habitually turns fear into magic, then his experience of fear is almost entirely jump scares, even when the jump scare is actually a raging lion and that lion is still right there trying to chew his head off.
(It’d be fun if Harry, instead of making movie references to us, actually tried to talk in movie trope terms and in doing so illustrated that his perception of things is really weird, like calling an extended horror sequence “a bunch of jump scares” and Billy justifies his existence by being all “lol old man doesn’t know modern terms, jump scare is when you’re startled suddenly” and Harry’s all “??? yeah you see something scary and jump, and then the fear goes away, but the thing’s still there so it startles you again when you’re whoa wait that’s scary actually, and…”)
This all suggests “rational fear” actually can’t be transmuted into magic, which in turn suggests older wizards would mostly operate on “rational” emotions, having either burnt out most of their emotional capacity but survived it or intentionally focused on building their identity around logic because it’s the only way to have a stable sense of self. And that’s why wizards are stereotyped as being so reserved and disinterested in things around them.
This would fit well with the wizard’s death curse idea as well – the irrational panic of having their back against a wall would be an enormous power boost over their normal capacity, and would probably be far more effective coming from someone who’d learned to use their power efficiently rather than Harry’s system of just pouring more raw emotionpower into any problem. (It might also explain why people seem to be getting less and less concerned about putting Harry’s back to the wall. The death curse of someone who hasn’t experienced real fear in ages is going to be horrendous. For Harry, near-death experiences are just another Tuesday. Perhaps Bianca’s party ambush plan was actually quite reasonable, she just misjudged the timing and another few months would’ve left Harry unable to call such fire.)
I was working for the queen of wicked faeries—well, Queen of Winter, of the Unseelie faeries, at any rate. The Unseelie weren’t universally vicious and evil, any more than the Seelie, the Summer fae, were all kind and wise.
Oh christ I thought Lea meant we were at least clear on “both sides of the coin are still the same dickish coin”. But no, it’s “the dark ones are mostly evil with some good, the light ones are mostly good with some bad wow much nuance”.
Admittedly both courts being the same assholes dressed differently is kind of ho-hum as well. Blue and orange morality is a lot more interesting. I think a good distinction, especially with Lea already in play, is that Summer is smothering and possessive while Winter only sees you as a tool and doesn’t care if you break in half. So Summer is happy to offer you aid but once they’ve got your scent they’ll never let you go while Winter doesn’t give half a fuck about what happens to you and would if anything like it if you removed yourself from their presence as soon as you’ve finished whatever they wanted you for.
As a bonus, this would also let Harry be concerned about something specific to Mab instead of acting like this is Lea v2. Harry survived Lea by playing on the fact she didn’t actually want him harmed. Mab is not going to back off by Harry taking himself hostage. She likely doesn’t even care if he survives the tasks themselves – if you break your hammer, that just means it wasn’t any good of a hammer and you should get another one. And from what little we’ve heard from Harry, it seems he’s been interacting with the Summer fae in general, so we could have him actually know what he’s doing (god please why can’t I have competent characters) but still be wrongfooted here because he’s gotten so used to dealing with Summer fae that all his instincts are off.
Given the kind of business I was in, I hadn’t felt the need to spend too much time hunting for a good retirement plan. Wizards can live a long, long time, but most of the ones that do tend to be the kind that stick at home in their study. Not many tossed their gauntlets into as many faces as I had.
Given how the only thing we’ve seen from wizards in Harry’s generation is them self-destructing, there’s nothing really special about that the gauntlet throwing he’s been doing.
I mean – so we’ve got Shadowpants, we’ve got Other Demon Summoner, and while it seems like whatever went down when Harry was an apprentice was the other guy’s fault, it still took out his girlfriend and almost him too. I guess we don’t know how old Mort was, but also Mort didn’t seem like he was really a wizard.
So while it’s possible that the difference between the council and him is that the council is made up of people who were reasonable the whole time, it’s as possible, perhaps even more likely, that the council is just made up of people who survived the first couple decades and mellowed out from there. Indeed, given the sort of things Harry’s faced, he may well be throwing a lower than average number of gauntlets and it’s just he’s unlucky.
Fear. Maybe that was why I’d agreed to Mab’s bargain. Susan’s life had been twisted horribly, and that was my fault. I wanted to help her before I went down swinging.
But some little voice in the back of my head told me that I was being awfully noble for someone who had flinched when push had come to shove. The little voice told me that I was making excuses. Some part of me that doesn’t trust much and believes in even less whispered that I had simply been afraid to say no to a being who could probably make me long for death if I denied her.
So I was about to call bullshit and then the narration does it for me.
But why is this happening at all? Why isn’t self-preservation, or just avoiding torture, a completely valid reason? Why is Harry talking like this is some shameful secret that he’s desperately trying to repress? It’d be one thing if he’d actually compromised his morals in some way – if he expected that, given fae are terrible, he was about to be ordered to do terrible things. But he doesn’t mention that as a factor and the deal has a ton of wiggle room there.
So…is this another alpha thing? Is he shamed purely by the fact he buckled, and it has nothing to do with the actual content of the deal?
Harry then asserts that he won’t be taking the case, so it’s also incredibly unclear what exactly he thinks he agreed to. If he believes he isn’t going to follow through on the deal, then why is he trying to justify agreeing to it? And his reason for refusing the case is that he’s sure this is just a trick.
Mab wouldn’t have offered it if she hadn’t thought it would get me further entangled than I already was.
Now, that is a valid worry about fae deals, but, counterpoint, Mab is kind of important and so is presumably juggling a lot of different obligations and deals. In a lot of stories about the fae, there’s no sign they actually have anything else to do but torment someone, but when you start assuming the court actually has its own politics and when you make it explicit that they’re but one of many power blocks that operate in a human-comprehensible way, then even assuming Mab would like to fuck Harry over in every possible way – and that’s not really how being remote and emotionless works, by the way – she has other stuff she also needs to get done.
Furthermore, another aspect of those stories about fae is the person involved is just some ordinary person and they’re being entrapped for the purpose of having them, rather than anything they could actually do. The book seems to be skating along acting like we’re supposed to be treating this as one of those kinds of stories, where it’s completely reasonable that Harry would behave on that assumption despite none of the details matching. I fear we’re headed toward the shocking twist that Mab actually has other shit going on and needs this done, at which point perhaps Harry can throw yet another tantrum that the world doesn’t completely revolve around him.
Harry then realizes that fuck, money is still a thing.
I swore at myself and pulled the door shut behind me. You’d think as long as I was gambling with my soul, I would have thought to get Mab to throw in fifty bucks an hour plus expenses.
This is some quality modern urban noir detectiving.
Mab presumably wouldn’t have any issue throwing money at the problem – Harry being distracted by worldly considerations is bad for her too, plus she agreed to all of his far more unreasonable demands. So this comes down solely to Harry not thinking to ask, and that in turn is a completely reasonable thing to forget when you’re facing down the Queen of Winter who owns your soul and just made you stab yourself and is maybe plotting something even worse.
Then Harry hops in his car, explains the air conditioner is broken, and reminds us about the techbane issue.
Anything manufactured after World War II or so seemed prone to failure whenever a wizard was nearby. Stuff with microcircuits and electrical components and that kind of paraphernalia seemed to have the most trouble, but even simpler things, like the Beetle’s air conditioner, usually couldn’t last long.
And how little it makes sense.
I admit, I am not really a car person. Maybe air conditioners aren’t that complicated. What I do know is that I have been in so many cars with broken air conditioners because they break a lot and they’re expensive to fix due to so many points of failure often making it unclear exactly where the issue is. I find it really hard to believe the air conditioner is simpler.
Running late, I dropped by my apartment
Here’s a pacing thing – we just did this. He was late to his appointment with Mab, and his appointment with Mab was quite brief.
This is about the White Council meeting. He’s known that was coming for quite some time and we even open with him identifying the toadstorm as being the day of the White Council meeting.
If his appointment was going to make him late, it should have come up. Even with the money issue and him suddenly deciding to care about that again, the WC thing is kind of for his continued existence, so it’s better to look halfway presentable and get evicted later than take a case and pay rent only for Morgan to take his head off.
And while just having any acknowledgment that two time-sensitive events back to back should have some connection between them, there’s a way to better integrate this.
Namely, Harry doesn’t have to have been slacking on the job in the first place. What if, for once, he’s actually showing real work ethic instead?
Imagine the opening of the book isn’t “Harry is nebulously working hard in a way that seems to just involve being in a depressed funk until his friend forces him out of it” but “Harry is burning the candle at both ends and working on a way to get a flame going in the center too”. Instead of having no money because he won’t do his job, he’s been taking every job that crosses his path, even stupid or questionable ones, and pouring all the money he gets into research and ingredients. There’s nothing special about Harry refusing to take jobs despite having money problems when that’s been true in all the books before now, and Harry not paying rent with the money he doesn’t have says little. Harry actually caring about getting money for once only to not spend any of it on things he needs would say a lot more.
And then, instead of being told he doesn’t care about taking cases only to see no sign of it because he does show up and seems to really want the job, Harry could be on his way to yet another appointment and Billy (ideally anyone but Billy but whatever) is all “uh, shouldn’t you be staying in your warded home given the vampires keep trying to kill you? wait you’re saying today is the White Council meeting, did you prepare at all, please tell me you’re going to do that now at least” and Harry’s all NOPE NOT LISTENING GOTTA GO TAKE ANOTHER DETECTIVE JOB.
I pulled into the parking lot across the street from McCormick Place Complex, one of the largest convention centers in the world. The White Council had rented one of the smaller buildings for the meeting.
Not sure how I feel about the fact these superwizards are just renting a location intended for large gatherings. If nothing else, aren’t they going to blow out the electricity? Or set the whole building on fire, come to think of it. You’d think an empty warehouse with magic accommodations slapped on top would be better for everyone involved.
But fine, that’s what we’re doing. Another wizard in an older but better maintained car parks after he does.
A weathered shotgun rode on top of a wooden rack against the rear wall of the passenger compartment
“You’d better take the shotgun down.
Chicago PD is picky about people with guns.”
Ebenezar snorted and said, “I’m too old to go worrying about every fool thing.”
Uh. We’re talking about a highly visible unsecured shotgun here that you’re about to leave unattended. It’s not really an issue of “people with guns”. Even assuming this guy’s responsible enough that someone couldn’t actually break in and steal the shotgun, and his dismissive statement does not convince me of that, the police being bothered by the fact it merely looks like you’ve got an easily-stolen shotgun even though you’ve secretly got it under control is still completely reasonable.
This is before we get into the fact that yes, visibly displaying a gun in a populated area is a dick move. Shut the fuck up about how you’re totally not going to shoot people, if you weren’t trying to implicitly threaten others you wouldn’t be so insistent it had to stay visible.
Anyway, as to the guy’s, well:
a short, stocky man in a white T-shirt and blue denim overalls, opened the door and hopped down from the truck with the brisk motions of a busy man. His head was bald except for a fringe of downy white tufts, and a bristling white beard covered his mouth and jowls.
They’re on great terms, though I leave how much that can be attributed to the fact Harry doesn’t want to bang him as an exercise for the reader. The guy also has a super strong grip for the handshake, which Harry makes no attempt to alpha bullshit his way through, and continues, “What are you doing out of Missouri, sir?
So either Harry respects him so much he’s willing to accept him as more alpha without issue, or Harry considers the guy to not be alpha competition he needs to posture at and this is how Harry would be acting toward people all the time if he wasn’t run by his dick and ego.
You might think the first is more likely but consider: the only other person I can think of he didn’t try to threaten were the prepubescent children in the first book. Maybe Harry’s real problem is he thinks almost everyone around him is engaged in a vicious war of posturing and dominance games. He’d still be behaving awfully toward almost everyone, but at least in that situation it’s because he thinks everyone else is trying to do the same thing to him rather than that he delights in abusing people who are just trying to go about their day.
We learn that this is the guy Harry apprenticed to after killing his first master, as was mentioned never before and is actually a pile of plot holes because it means there was a master wizard who actually likes him that he could’ve contacted any time before now.
After my trial, the Council packed me off to his farm and put him in charge of the remainder of my education. Education, to Ebenezar, meant a lot of hard work on the farm during the day, studying in the evening, and getting a good night’s sleep.
I didn’t learn much magic from him, but I’d gotten some more important stuff. I’d learned more about patience. About creating something, making something worthwhile out of my labor. And I’d found as much peace as a teenager could expect. It had been a good place for me then, and he’d given me the kind of respect and distance I’d needed. I would always be grateful.
So he got sent to a new teacher who then didn’t actually teach him magic. I think you could make this work if only it was explicitly that murdering a guy meant Harry wasn’t allowed to be taught more magic – that’d certainly fit well with how Morgan seems put out Harry’s a practicing wizard at all, and it’s really fitting to the intended noir tone for Harry to be plying his trade semi-illegally due to the fact his wizard education followed by wizard house arrest for the rest of his childhood means he doesn’t have the skills/paperwork for most non-magical jobs. That’s why he’s in the phone book and working for muggles, because he’s basically blacklisted in the magic community, and that’s why he’s so defiant about doing so. And you can imagine other people in the same position either forced to live in the margins of muggle society pretending they have no magic or doing magic anyway and, as we see with Harry, stalked and scrutinized and given no support or guidance and, even if they still manage to keep to the rules despite all that, end up blamed and killed as soon as something else goes wrong nearby.
Especially when by god Harry did not learn patience or making things worthwhile or inner peace. I mean, really, it seems more plausible that the guy mindfucked Harry into believing it and the WC just didn’t notice. Maybe that’s even why it’s never come up before, Harry’s programmed to recite this whole thing about how Ebenezar was great any time someone brings up the subject but otherwise doesn’t think about it.
“Uh-huh. You know, you don’t look so good, Hoss.” He looked up at me, his eyes steady, frowning. I didn’t meet the look. We’d traded a soulgaze, years ago, so I wasn’t afraid of it happening again.
You said soulgazes aren’t forever because people change. And you’re supposedly thirty-ish, meaning a soulgaze at sixteen was about half your lifespan ago, and you also explicitly just said that you learned and changed while you were with him, unless we’re to buy that he didn’t soulgaze the wizard-killer he had living in his house until it was time for you to leave.
But yeah this time he’s avoiding eye contact because he knows Surrogate Dad Who He Never Mentioned Before will be disappointed in him.
We then learn more about why he’s a disappointment! He’s in a bathrobe before you have to wear robes because ??? wizards! He does have a legitimate wizard robe but Mister
Scratch used my good robe as a litter box. Neuter your damn pets, people. Obviously this would do nothing for Mister Scratch but maybe the fact it didn’t would have tipped Harry off to the fact his supposed cat is none such.
Which brings us to our next speculation point! What is Mister
Scratch‘s game? I assume it’s not to get his gullible “master” killed – everything we’ve seen from him has been him acting to protect Harry. Perhaps if Harry were better put together, Mister Scratch‘s own involvement might be noticed, but everyone will be too distracted by obvious things like the bathrobe to notice anything more subtly wrong. Perhaps it’s that he wants Harry to stay on bad terms with the WC, unable to go to them for help so he has to keep dealing with everything on his own, sinking deeper and deeper into madness and evil. Or perhaps, given Harry’s claims there’s a big division in the WC on how he should be handled, this is about inflaming tensions between the two – maybe there’s a great deal of overlap between traditionalists who’ll find this hugely offensive and people who are also traditionalists about how Harry needs to die for killing another wizard, while those who are flexible enough to buy Harry’s story also think everyone is way too fussy about ceremony and also god, the poor guy, he looks just awful, and I hear he got attacked just a few hours ago by the Red Court, why are you yelling at this sad depressed man over what he’s wearing?
I suggested last book that Bianca might’ve just been a convenient excuse for the Red Court to start a war they’d already been preparing for. It might be a nice echo of that to have Harry not truly be important in himself but in how he can be used to split the White Council’s opinion.
Then Ebenezar says that before they go in for the official meeting, some people want to talk to Harry and it’s the Senior Council. So, that does not sound good for the rule of law if we’re starting off with the people who are supposed to be upholding everything trying to have a secret chat. And then it turns out this is maybe a special favor Ebenezar’s called in, because apparently the average wizard is “scared” and If the Senior Council allows things to come to an open vote of the entire Council, it could go badly for you.
I’d like to pause here and say that this may not have any intended wider political meaning, but. We have a setup where a democratic vote is bad and the solution is to do a restricted vote by the most powerful and influential instead. It would be very, very easy to have this be the opposite – that the goal is to convince them to allow an open vote with the idea that the average wizard is less traditional than the oldest and most entrenched. From what little we’ve been told, the people who hate Harry and the people who are by the book traditionalists overlap enormously. Such people would be overrepresented on the Senior Council, which is presumably drawing from not only the most senior but also the most invested in the formalities of the WC.
There’s innocent reasons for a story to go this route – it lets you focus on a few characters and their votes. But I really think we should be hesitant about plotlines claiming democracy is a problem and the masses cannot be allowed to make decisions and particularly when the argument is they’re too scared and stupid. Like the Senior Council is going to be acting based on nobility while the commoner wizards are a bunch of cowards who’d sell each other out?
Anyway, Harry explains that this kind of subverting the will of the people is a huge favor, and he’s furious and barely manages to not shout because of his deep respect for the man because he is lone wolfing this one and fuck anybody who thinks they can change that.
I am not going to stand around out here and suck up to members of the Senior Council to lobby their vote.”
Now, Ebenezar was phrasing this as “please just talk to them so they’ll know you as a person and maybe hesitate to order you to your death” but I’m going to, for my sanity, just assume Harry has some clue how wizard stuff works because he’s so confident he knows how rules work and the past books have established it can’t possibly be because he has a grasp of fae rules, ghost rules, or vampire rules, so it’s got to be the White Council in particular. So yeah, let’s go with the idea that everyone involved knows “talk with” means “bribe”.
Harry brushes off this with the claim that his life can’t get worse so fuck it, which is not really how dealing with people who can kill you works. Just because Mab can kill him doesn’t mean he can stop worrying about the fact the Council can kill him. And Ebenezar explains that seriously they not only can but will because The Wardens and the Merlin are dead set against you. so all that left is the Senior Council and given he mentions no one else I think that means the wizards have a three-body system of Wardens/Merlin/Senior Council, and that while you’d think an odd number would be so votes wouldn’t tie, it seems they have to be unanimous if Ebenezar thinks getting the support of just one group will keep Harry’s head from rolling. Maybe it’s just for some things, like murdering their own. That’s reasonable enough.
I’m not going to start brownnosing the Council now, Senior or otherwise.”
“Harry, I’m not saying you need to get on your knees and beg, but if you would just—”
I rolled my eyes. “What? Offer a couple of favors? Sell my vote to one of the blocs? Fuck that.
I’m really feeling like the core objection here is the concept of democracy.
It’s sure not that Harry has any opinion on where his vote should go that he’d be compromising by doing that, what with not bothering to vote on anything as far as we can tell, and he also remarked on how Ebenezar’s appearance is a surprise because the guy doesn’t show up for these normally. Harry doesn’t specify any particularly evil voting bloc, either, and we know the council was split on what to do with him so there’s got to be at least one bloc that roughly aligns with Harry’s theoretical principles.
I’m also unconvinced “favors” is that big of a deal either given the current circumstances are that Harry has fucked up everything for all other wizards. It’d be wrong if Harry has to suck up to people to do their jobs, but it was clear last book that Harry’s the one who broke the rules and he’s trying to get special treatment. “Don’t throw me to the vampires despite all the problems I’ve caused everyone and am still causing, and in return I’ll help you out with some of your problems that aren’t my fault.” would be incredibly lenient.
THEN suddenly Harry’s like “wait you’re OOC here you don’t give a shit about politics and I refuse to believe you’d change your stance just because it’s a matter of life or death for me, your adopted son”. I guess Harry really does hate himself that much! Perhaps this also explains how he waited to the last instant to get ready for this. It’s not technically suicide by cop if you can just avoid shouting “SHOOT ME JUST SHOOT ME ALREADY”, huh Harry?
Ebenezar scowled at me. “Oh?”
“Yeah. In fact, the last time I checked, you told me the whole swill-spouting pack of lollygagging skunkwallows could transform one another into clams, for all you cared.”
“I did not say that.”
Ebenezar’s face turned red. “Boy. I ought to—”
“Save it,” I told him. “Go ahead and punch me or whatever, but threats just aren’t hitting me like they used to.”
Alright, so it turns out this is the right thing to do because actually the Senior Council was watching this all go down and Harry’s displayed integrity by saying he refuses to be helpful or participate in the council under any circumstances, but who cares, that’s just your regular sueness.
What I find interesting is that while Harry thinks caring about politics is OOC for Ebenezar, getting punched by him is not.
Harry goes to live with this guy at sixteen and he doesn’t reference him in any of the previous books, so they haven’t had much of a relationship as adults. Even if they did/we’re assuming a retcon to the contrary, Harry’s calling the guy “sir” in, and I can’t believe this is even possible for Harry, a completely platonic way.
And Harry thinks it’s reasonable that Ebenezar would get mad at him saying this to the point his face turns red with rage, and he thinks that Ebenezar being angry at him means he’ll get punched.
Jesus, Harry. That sure puts some horrific context to the idea this guy taught you peace and patience. I guess Justin beat him daily while Ebenezar was nice enough to reserve that for back-talk and weekends?
And I mean, given the whole age issue of wizards, that does make a lot of sense. (And their elitism can’t be helping matters.) Historically, beating people was normal. Then you consider that parents, for all they were involved in a lot of beatings, are more uncomfortable with hitting their own kids than strangers saddled with them and you realize the wizardly apprentice system probably involves whippings for answering a question wrong. (…also, the downside of beating your apprentice constantly was that sometimes you accidentally killed them, but wizards have wizard healing.)
It doesn’t do much to justify Harry’s current behavior, which is shitty in completely different ways, but I’m sure it didn’t do much for his general mental state. Maybe it’s behind some of his inability to work together with others? Like, if Ebenezar is what he considers a close and respected friend, yeesh that’s gonna fuck up your ability to interact with anybody else. And maybe this gets into why his behavior toward everyone else is hyperaggressive posturing if he’s dividing the world into “people I respect who hurt me” and “people I can fight off”. (Could this somehow explain why he keeps getting aggressive when women ask him for something? Does he feel like doing what he’s asked means he’s accepted they go in the first category?)
This is so depressing let’s talk magic.
Whatever veil had been used, it was beyond anything I could have even attempted. I’m not exactly a neurosurgeon when it comes to magic. I’ve had my moments, but mostly I muddle through by shoving a lot of energy into my spells until it doesn’t matter if half of it is slopping out. Magically speaking, I’m a brawny thug, and noisy as hell.
SO YEAH Harry appears to be confirming what I’ve long been speculating about, that he’s got tons of magic even by WC standards. You wouldn’t say that your noteworthy traits are being brawny if you were walking into a strongman convention. If Harry was really supposed to be a younger, less experienced version of your standard WC member, he should have stopped before the final line.
It’s also interesting that immediately after the seeming dismissal of his skill as “thug” and “noisy”, he goes on to describe the spell as Way better than I would be able to do anytime in the next couple of decades. and “neurosurgeon” suggests he thinks that the issue is that it requires a ton of training and there’s no way he could be expected to manage anything like this currently, even as he just admitted that Ebenezar wasn’t interested in teaching him this sort of stuff. Could he have, if he’d had real training?
(Also, given wizard lifespans, it’s odd a super veil either done by a Senior Councilmember or done with their approval would be something he can match within a few decades. That might suggest there’s a cap on wizard improvement rather than that you can level up indefinitely. That would definitely fit well with how the older ones are so into mutual defense pacts, the only way for wizards to increase in power past that is by working together.)
On to the descriptions of who was listening to all that:
The first was a woman better than six feet tall. She wore her grey hair coiled in a net at the base of her neck. She had already put on her robes of office, black silk nearly the same color as her skin, and her purple stole echoed the gems at her throat. Her eyebrows were still dark, and she had one of them arched as she regarded Ebenezar, then me, with a completely unamused expression. When she spoke, her voice was a low, rich alto.
So on the one hand, that was a non-sexualized description. On the other, it’s of a black woman who’s six feet tall and is old enough her hair’s grey, which I feel adds up to “those traits disqualify a woman from being attractive”.
Admittedly, we’re now approaching the problem with diversity: the more ways something could go badly, the more likely the author picks one of them. If she was equal-opportunity sexualized like other female characters, we’d likely be adding racism on top of the usual misogyny, and quite possibly the really fun variant of specific racial flavors of misogyny. Is it better to have her sidelined with the implication black women are fundamentally unattractive than sit through her race being fetishized?
…mind you, this is immediately followed by Ebenezar using a nickname for her that she doesn’t like, so it’s not like she avoids the general dismissive treatment women get:
“Matty—” Ebenezar began, laughter still flavoring his words. “You know how I get when I’m talking about Council politics.”
“Don’t you ‘Matty’ me, Ebenezar McCoy,” she snapped.
I mean, you could read this as “don’t use my nickname because I am angry at you not because I dislike it” but, well, that would be more convincing in a series that hadn’t made a point it’s funny to do things women don’t like every time you see them. Especially when you consider “laughter still flavoring his words” means he’s already dismissing/disregarding her irritation about everything else and making it clear he’s not really apologizing for any of it. Given the rest of the cues are that he’s not respecting her, why should the nickname be any different?
(Her name is Martha Liberty. Again, just, diversity and bad writing and eeesh I don’t like this. This feels very much did you know black people were slaves and now they’re not. Having really on the nose names might be justifiable if the story was going to be making a point about slavery and freedom but everything we’ve seen so far suggests that the story will be firmly in the camp of “and now they’re not, okay good job everyone” and if you don’t want to talk about it then maybe give them names that suggest an independent existence from that?)
Oh, and like I said, she’s annoyed at Harry’s disrespect and Harry responds with further disrespect and a chin glare, but at least he doesn’t try to glare at her eyes OR throw a fit about how he can’t do so, so by Harry standards he’s doing well and ugh it’d be nice to be able to say that when there’s no narrative possibility it’s because of her race making him either calmer due to not being sexually attracted or calmer due to being straight-up racist and thinking he’s already top dog by default so he doesn’t need to posture.
“He’s arrogant, Ebenezar. Dangerous.”
I snorted. “That’s every wizard ever.”
Martha continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “Bitter. Angry. Obsessive.”
Ebenezar frowned. “Seems to me he has good reason to be. You and the rest of the Senior Council saw to that.”
I suspect this is an area fanfic has explored thoroughly but will never get well developed in the books themselves.
The WC is largely a plot device for Harry to get dollops of unfairness when he wants to complain, but what we can put together is that they didn’t stop his mentor from going black magic nuts, weren’t available for help when Harry initially escaped, blamed Harry for taking the only option left to save himself, and then tried to find an excuse to murder him for the next decade or two. That’s some good institutional abuse! There’s all sorts of great trauma and suffering to be mined from that.
And really, it doesn’t require them to be all that incompetent. You can see how an organization would look at teen Harry, traumatized, seething, and having proven he can kill when his back’s against the wall, and decided it’d be understandable if he already held a grudge so no point trying to make nice now, then that well, if they keep pushing him he’ll probably destroy himself before he gets to any of them. We know Shadowpants, blessed be his industrious name, was self-destructing. Superghost, well, that really sums up his skill at long-term survival right there. From how Harry talks to Mort, necromancers are at best looked down on and at worst considered non-wizards and cut off from support entirely, and could that be at all a factor in his magic fizzling out?
So it’s quite possible that either they saw no reason to care about Harry’s feelings because they figured he wouldn’t make it to thirty or they intentionally tried to cultivate the bitterness to be sure he wouldn’t make it to thirty.
(Oh man, what if the events of the first book are in part because as time goes on the pressure’s building on Morgan to find an excuse to kill him already, they don’t want someone running around who has good reason to want revenge AND the self-control to pull it off. Maybe rules about demon-summoning and keeping away from vampires are more concern about wizards finding common ground with people who also want to kill a bunch of wizards.)
Liberty goes on to say Harry’s caused a lot of destruction.
“By challenging the Red Court when they were going to kill that young woman? No, Matty. Hoss didn’t cause what’s happened since. They did. I’ve read his report. He stood up to them when they damn well needed standing up to.”
Now, I think this actually may be true. While last book rarely cared, I believe “that young woman” must be referring to Lydia, who was going to be killed to destroy Michael’s sword. (…given Ebenezar is reading Harry’s report, we don’t have to question his calling Lydia a young woman and not a child, that’s presumably just how Harry described her.) After all, while Harry did launch an assault on Bianca immediately afterward, neither of the women they were trying to rescue were going to be killed.
Of course, the problem with that more reasonable interpretation is that after thwarting Lydia’s murder he assaulted Bianca and her people again, and was then told that the war would be off if he just fucked off and left his vampire girlfriend with the vampires, and that the whole White Council Red Court war would only happen if he challenged them over the possession of a not going to be killed and also already a vampire who was one of them woman.
So quite possibly what really going on is Harry is saying he had no choice if he wanted to save Susan’s life while the surviving vampires are disputing this and the question if if the WC believes Harry’s version of events over vampire’s one.
Then Liberty asks if Harry remembers her.
“They had a hood on me all through the trial
Like I said, I’m sure fanficcers have taken this and done some great things with it. Harry in canon? Just being kind of edgy about it. You can’t even say he’s doing a repressing trauma thing properly because he goes on to immediately have some very non-repressed sads when Liberty mentions he has his mom’s eyes, followed by moming at him herself.
I barely managed more than a whisper in response. “I never knew her.”
“No. You didn’t.” She lifted one wide, heavy hand and passed it through the air on either side of my head, as though smoothing my hair without touching it. Then she raked her eyes over me, staring intently at my bandaged hand. “You hurt. You’re in great pain.”
“It isn’t bad. It should heal in a few days.”
“I’m not talking about your hand, boy.” She closed her eyes and bowed her head. Her voice came heavily, slowly, as though her lips were reluctant to let the words pass them. “Very well, Ebenezar. I will support you.”
After all that, well, this show wasn’t just for one single council vote, there’s another guy.
I’d almost forgotten about him
In writer, this means “I forgot he was in the scene and didn’t want to rewrite it”, “he wasn’t in the scene until just now when I realized I needed another person and I don’t want to rewrite it”, or “fuck it I don’t want to have to juggle both characters in a conversation”. Of course, the better way of handling it would be to have Harry mention that some dude was standing there silently at various points in the conversation.
Anyway, it’s time to leave the subtextual issues of Liberty’s race in favor of absolute textual ones.
He contained a quality of stillness I could all but feel around him—easy to sense but difficult to define. His features, his bearing, everything about him blended into his background, swallowed by that stillness, patient and quiet as a stone beneath moon and sun.
He was of innocuous height, five eight, maybe five nine. His dark hair was plaited in a long braid, despite age that seamed his features like bronzed leather under a scarlet sun, warm and worn. His eyes, beneath silver brows, were dark, inscrutable, intense. Eagle feathers adorned his braid, a necklace of bits of bone circled his throat, and he had a beaded bracelet wrapped around one forearm, which poked out from beneath his black robe. One weathered hand gripped a simple, uncarved staff.
“Hoss,” Ebenezar said, “this here is Listens to Wind. But that’s always been too much of a mouthful for me, even for a genuine Illinois medicine man. I just call him Injun Joe.”
Yeah. That all just happened.
I’m just going to say this is why people get so snappish about nicknames. It’s not just that Ebenezar has declared the guy’s actual name too annoying to say in a way that’s absolutely a matter of things from your culture being worth the effort but strangers being weirdos who should change for you. It’s that instead of an actual nickname he just straight up goes for “Race Placeholdername”. There is a super good chance that if another Native American wizard exists, Ebenezar calls that guy Injun Joe too and thinks he’s being hilarious and maybe even has this great followup joke about how can you tell them apart even.
Anyway I am now at the crossroads where I’m pretty sure Listens to Wind is even worse than Martha Liberty in stereotypical naming but I sure as fuck am not touching Injun Joe so gotta go with that I guess.
Anyway the guy has a pet raccoon called Little Brother who is exactly more of the stereotyping down to liking Harry because that is the purpose of the cute sidekick.
I took his hand and got to my feet. “Thanks, uh, Listens to Wind.” Ebenezar interjected, “Injun Joe.”
Injun Joe winked one grave eye at me. “The redneck hillbilly doesn’t read. Otherwise he’d know that he can’t call me that anymore. Now I’m Native American Joe.”
I wasn’t sure I was supposed to laugh, but I did. Injun Joe nodded, dark eyes sparkling.
see see it’s totally cool because the stereotype gave a thumbs-up to his treatment
this is why asking bad writers for diversity is so terrifying
ANYWAY MOVING ON he says Tera says hi please let that be all we ever get of Tera be periodic mentions she’s alive somewhere far, far away from Harry.
Then they bring up “the Russian” who must not be the one the commenters are talking about unless he’s coming bad as a zombie or defected to the vampires and faked his death because as far as they know, the guy got super vampire murdered. His name is Simon Pietrovich, and Ebenezar’s demeaning nickname for him is… Simon. HM. I WONDER WHY HE IS THE EXCEPTION TO SHITTY NICKNAMES. A MYSTERY I GUESS.
Also he is their vampire expert. And was in his tower that Ebenezar describes as a fortress. And the vampires killed the entire compound which was presumably made up of his vampire expert underlings.
“The Wardens said that they couldn’t be sure, but it looked like someone let the killers in past the defenses. They didn’t get away unscathed. There were the remains of half a dozen nobles of the Red Court. Many of their warriors.
What are nobles? We don’t know. How many wizards were at the compound? We also don’t know. Are warriors a third subclass of vampire or are they just regular vampires and the term is just because, as they were assaulting a wizard stronghold, they were warriors in the normal sense?
Now, Red is of course the addictive spit brothel-running vampire, and the events of the previous book also established vampires can use magic to do things beyond their innate capabilities, but for some reason no one considers the possibility that someone on the inside got mind-controlled into opening the gates. Ebenezar assumes a betrayal, and goes on to say But even if it was true, it would have to be someone who knew his defenses inside and out.” which is exactly what you’d expect for someone in the compound who got mind-controlled. Even if you’re really sure that Pietrovich knew what he was doing when it came to protecting against that, it’s also the greatest threat if you’re wrong. Someone betraying Pietrovich personally sucks, sure, but they’re unlikely to have knowledge of every other stronghold, let alone opportunity to intentionally let vampires in. But if vampires have figured out a way to mind-control around the current protections… Yeah, you’d really think investigating that would be people’s first priority.
But no, instead Liberty glances between Harry and Ebenezar because somehow Harry did it maybe.
“No,” Ebenezar said. “That’s insane.”
It is painful to agree with you, Ebenezar.
“Master to student. You know what the Wardens will say.”
SO. I guess Justin or Ebenezar were working under Pietrovich at some point, and therefore it’s assumed Harry knows all their current defenses, and also we’re ignoring that it looked like someone let the killers in past the defenses does not mean “it looked like someone told them how to get past the defenses” but “someone on the inside actively aided the invaders by either disabling the defenses so they could get past them safely or creating a new undefended way in so they could bypass them”, neither of which can be accomplished merely by having inside knowledge.
Not like any other aspect of the politics of this makes more sense. Harry’s told this is super bad because he’ll get blamed for the dead people and also because Simon was going to support them. The fact Simon THE VAMPIRE EXPERT is dead doesn’t seem to be quite registering as relevant, nor does the fact THE VAMPIRE EXPERT just got taken out by THOSE VAMPIRES HE SUPPOSEDLY KNEW HOW TO DEAL WITH. Personally, I’d assume his death really has little to do with whether he liked Harry or not. A vampire hunter would probably vote for war with vampires unless they’re so utterly outmatched it’s suicide and in that case I think the vampires would go ahead with a war regardless of what the WC does so it doesn’t matter. And killing a vampire hunter in his stronghold surrounded by his vampire hunter disciples is a great message to the rest of the WC that they’d better hand Harry over and fast.
Also no, of course Harry doesn’t really care that those people are absolutely dead because of his actions. The hero always says, “Yes, for the sake of a single person!” and then when dozens of other people die afterward because of that we’re somehow not supposed to put one and one together.
(Incidentally, Liberty refers to her compatriot as Joseph, which at least suggests Ebenezar didn’t just pull the name from his ass even if that’s transparently what the author did but does serve to underline that Ebenezar is a disrespectful dick when everyone else is using people’s actual names.)
And then it’s our ending line:
“Hell’s bells,” I whispered. “I’m in trouble.”
Fuck off, Harry, if this was supposed to be a surprise you should’ve spent the previous chapters establishing you’re not taking this seriously because you figured the WC totally had your back and wasn’t afraid of vampires anyway instead of complaining constantly about how you weren’t even going to try because the WC hates you anyway.