Well, as usual, it starts off with lavish infodumping and Gillian throwing a temper tantrum a two-year-old would be ashamed of.
It had been commissioned to carry Gillian Key, newly recalled United States Marine Corps Captain, Special Forces field operative, and clinical Paramortal psychologist, and her handpicked Re-Con Team from London to Northern Russia on a historic mission.
If the list of over-the-top titles didn't tip you off, I'll explain: This is meant to show what Gillian is the Tuffest Tuff Manly Woman Wot Ever Wuz Tuff. Actually having her SHOW us would be too difficult, so we're just told about how awesomely smart and tuff she is.
Historic because it was a very public but very necessary operation intended to bring positive public opinion to the Paramortal community at large.
... right, because people's opinions are permanently changed by secret military missions. Which are secret. And run by the military, aka people who are in bed with the press. If the "paramortals" are trying to curry favor with the rest of the world by doing this, then they're dumb as a... as a.... as a Gillian.
Anyway, their mission as a Team (yes, capitalized) is to go charging in and rescue children from child traffickers... which is obviously what special ops does. And so the world can see that supernaturals are Just People Like Us and we should link arms/paws with them and sing kumbayah, there's a camera crew to document the whole miserable experience.
And because Gillian is a Tuff And Macho Woman Who Marches To Her Own Drum and Never Obeys Anybody even though it's totally the opposite of how a successful soldier operates, she has a problem with this. No, she doesn't have a real reason to be pissed with the camera crew being there - it's just to show that's ballsy. Yeah.
“Oh hell no! I don’t think so! Aristophenes!” Captain Key was obviously annoyed as she glared at the documentary squad.
Captain Obvious is obvious. When someone is screaming stuff like that, they are generally annoyed - you don't have to say it. This goes beyond Paolini's infamous "Sorry," Brom apologized.
Anyone watching could tell exactly how she felt by the way she stopped dead in her tracks, then turned to snarl
Really? And here li'l ol' me thought that glaring, snarling and stomping around was a sign of JOY and bright smiley happiness. This is indeed a revelation.
Seriously, it would make sense to explain this if she had frozen in place, or was just glaring. But it seems like Gryphon's hitting us with a big foam bat and yelling, "Have you noticed she's angry? She's angry and tuff and strong and angry!"
up at the handsome and photogenic Major Daedelus Aristophenes,
... does Gryphon select these names by flipping through random encyclopedia volumes? DAEDALUS ARISTOPHENES? What the hell? Does he have a sister called Furrina Plautus? A brother named Heracles Sophocles?
And to further demonstrate that Gillian is a demented rageaholic who would have been ejected from BOOT CAMP, never mind the actual military, she gets all up in her commanding officer's shit. Basically she starts bossing HIM around and poking him in the chest.
“We are rescuing children from the clutches of sick and twisted fucks. This is not a photo op for you to show off your leadership skills and artificially whitened teeth.”
Because, of course, the only reason a military unit would ever have cameras around is so handsome soldiers can pose for the camera. And of course, if you're a pretty woman then commanding officers won't mind having you mouth off at them. Cuz, y'know, commanding officers are just a bunch of prettyboys who want attention.
But since Gillian is a Sue, he has no problem with her treating him like something gross on her Manly Combat Boot.
Daed gazed down at the little fireball,
And then PSSSSSHHHH! Someone used the fire extinguisher, saving his sanity.
adopting the look and tone he generally used when explaining something complex to a subordinate.
... okay, first of all, he IS explaining something relatively complex to a subordinate.
And secondly, it sounds like he's talking to her like she's an idiot. Which she is. I'm liking this guy already despite his ridiculous name.
“Gillian, this is not for me, this is for your Team."
Someone please Tell Gryphon what the Rules for Capitalization are, because her random Use of Capital Letters is starting to bug Me.
"To show the heroic rescue efforts of a Human-Paramortal group who cares more about the safety and well-being of Human children than about rampant political issues.”
To be honest, I'd like to hear what these rampant political issues are because they sound a lot more interesting than Gillian beating her chest and howling. I mean, imagine the problems in the US alone - would the werewolves and vampires want their own political parties? Their own congressman since presumably they can vote? Do they count as "men" in the classical, constitutional sense? If you put one on trial, does the jury of their peers have to be supernatural as well?
The possibilities are endless (and interesting, which is thankfully why Carrie Vaughn wrote Kitty Goes To Washington). So of course, Gryphon is gonna ignore that because it wouldn't allow Gillian to shine... or rather, erupt like an exploding sun.
“Think of the good PR you’re about to buy everyone.”
Oh, like she'd do something to unselfish.
She mirrored his gesture, reaching up to clap her hand on his broad shoulder, leaning in conspiratorially. “I am about to be very insubordinate and on camera, sir.”
... and the only reason she gets away with it is because she's a Sue, not because she's so Tuff And Imposing.
Her whisper increased in intensity. “You keep those shutter bug shitheads away from me or else.”
Oooooh, I'm scared. Watch me tremble. What's she going to do, beat up her commanding officer for having a camera crew? I almost wish she would, because even Gryphon couldn't claim that she'd just get away with it.
Anyway, she starts raging at the camera crew for daring to follow THEIR orders, and basically says that it's not a game and that if they get in her way they will "pay dearly for it." I've heard more impressive and imaginative threats coming from six-year-olds, but of course Gillian turns people into little quivering masses of jelly because She's So Tuff.
There were gulps, gasps and faces paled as she went on, utterly merciless in her rhetoric,
Again, I can't see an experienced camera crew who has been chosen to go into a military combat situation being so very intimidated by a tiny screeching blonde who can't manage anything more impressive than your basic canned threats.
Anyway, she makes the ridiculous claim that she won't allow them to take pictures of any soldiers or children - just the background, and of their commanding officer announcing that they did it. If anyone takes any other pictures, she claims she'll "consider" it to be interference and hostile action, and kill them.
So, yeah. Our alleged heroine just voiced her intent to murder a whole bunch of people for doing the job they've been ordered to. And their job obviously is NOT an obstacle to the mission being successfully completed, because if it were, they wouldn't have been assigned on that particular mission by military higher-ups. And it'd be interesting to know what those higher-ups think of the carefully-sculpted PR arrangement being derailed because one insane rageaholic decides she hates camera crews.
And this is our heroine, ladies and gents. In the first couple pages, Gryphon's managed to reestablish that her Sue is a deranged maniac who wants to kill people for having cameras.
Anyway she joins her randomly-capitalized Team, which includes a couple of ill-specified women and a Grael elf. I have no idea what a Grael Elf is, and I suspect we'll either hear too much or too little. Googling this does not help me at all.
And since we've got two pages without a bishie or a reference to one, Gillian starts emitting her usual Genital Cloud by lusting after Aleksei Rachlav. This is completely random and out of sync with the rest of the scene. And when you consider that Gryphon is trying to portray Gillian as Teh OoberSoldier, it seems even more ridiculous that right before trying to save CHILDREN from CHILD SLAVERY TRAFFICKERS, she's daydreaming about a vampire bishie.
There are some random other characters on the mission, specifically a vampire pilot who is currently in a coffin. That's a really stupid choice, because then you have a pilot who CAN'T FLY EXCEPT AT NIGHT. Plus, a vampire's powers would be pretty ineffectual as a pilot, since it's not like superhuman speed and senses could make a plane turn faster or flight higher.
Pavel Miroslav, budding Alpha Werewolf,
Only budding, because an actual Alpha wouldn't take any of Gillian's shit. Wait, realistically NOBODY would take Gillian's shit.
But since Gillian is a Sue, Daedalus and the camera crew are soooooo scared of her. The commanding officer of this mission actually AVOIDS sitting with the soldiers under his command because of one lunatic. Yes. We're actually supposed to swallow this.
... what planet is this taking place on?!
And since Gillian's superspeshulness hasn't been sufficiently emphasized yet by her acting like a psychotic loon, Gryphon reminds us that she has TEH EMPATHIC POWAHZ! Which, of course, never inconvenience her by making her empathize with people she's screaming abuse and threats at. No, no, they only come up when she wants them to.
Her natural empathy would be a help in the process of liberating any children they found.
Yeah, because she's such a sensitive and caring figure. I imagine if any of the kids got in her way at all, she'd be kicking them to the floor while howling, "Outta my way, you little shitbags! I have assholes to shoot!"
Sometimes, if the exposure to a captor had been long enough or in some cases pleasant enough, Stockholm syndrome could develop
... wow, she SO impresses me with all this knowledge about psychology! I mean, only EVERYONE knows what Stockholm Syndrome is!
That empathy also allowed her to pinpoint a lie with nearly the accuracy of a Master Vampire or a high-level Fey.
By definition, "empathy" involving sharing and connecting with someone else's feelings and emotions. It does not make you a Magical Mind-Reading Lie Detector.
Anyway, having finished contemplation of how Very Very Speshul she is, she starts drooling about her vampire bishie again, and since they have a Magical Mind Link (since vampires are the resident Sue Species) she starts hearing his voice. Oh, and Aleksei has SILVER eyes. MAGICAL silver eyes. They were GRAY in the last book, but I guess he wasn't Stuey enough.
She jumped. “Stay the hell out of my mind, Aleksei.”
This is pretty much a standard Anita-Blake-clone behavior - "I lust after your leather-clad bottom, I daydream about you constantly and this book is a thinly-veiled fill-in-the-gaps until the day when you can fill in MY gap... but heaven forbid you use our Speshul Mind-Link!"
Anyway, since she wants to have sex with him, Gillian doesn't get angry. We're then infodumped about how she and Aleksei TOTALLY want to do the bloodsucking nasty and they spent the whole first book lusting after each other. Very healthy patient/shrink dynamic. And the pesky medical ethics code - which Gryphon writes as "her Code of Ethics," as if all doctors regularly boink their patients and Gillian alone has such scruples - is inconveniencing them by forbidding her to have sex with her patients for a certain time period.
So, like any professional, she's counting the days until she CAN fuck him. A real professional, that one.
The Team organized itself with no help or direction from her.
Why would they need help or direction from her? She's not even the commanding officer. Why would experienced soldiers need a shrill little harpy to babysit them?
So since she can't bully other soldiers at present, she decides to go charging around grabbing camera equipment. And because a tiny shrieking woman is soooooooo scary, they'll do whatever she wants as long as she doesn't get angry at them. Cuz she's so tuff and scawy.
The damage from the massive earthquake was already apparent as they stood looking around. Lights from the airstrip let them see that the tree line was broken in places where huge, gaping tears in the ground were evident.
.... just how bright are these airstrip lights? This is NIGHTTIME in an area that apparently doesn't have a lot of light pollution of functioning buildings... meaning those lights must be VERY bright if they can illuminate TREES that are nowhere nearby.
Hell, how come the airstrip is clean, unbroken and has functioning lights at ALL?
The forest was thick, ancient and foreboding.
... which is exactly where you'd put an AIRSTRIP.
The huge trees that the quake had felled lay like giant matchsticks over the landscape.
... matchsticks don't exactly make you think of "huge."
There was a raw smell in the air from the open earth, broken trees, the still unlocated bodies.
Just to nitpick, I'm pretty sure that broken earth and trees don't smell anything like, er, unlocated bodies.
Anyway the place is pretty much of a nightmare, but of course Gryphon makes it aaaaaaalll about Gillian and her SuperSpeshulness.
Her empathy screamed at her to help, to nurture the frightened and wounded, to destroy those who were taking advantage of the situation,
Apparently Gryphon thinks that "empathy" means whatever she wants it to mean - because, as I mentioned, "empathy" might attune her to others' emotions. Isana from the Codex Alera series might count as an empath, since she can pick up and be affected by the emotions of others. So I can't see why empathy would compel her to do ANYTHING, let alone DESTROY something.
but she approached it warily, with caution and determination. It was a trait that made her a good leader and an exemplary psychologist.
BULLCRAP. It's already established that she's a crap leader, and a rotten shrink who thinks with her engorged private parts.
She never let her feelings overwhelm the necessity of the situation.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! :D:D She's incapable of picking up a quart of milk without flying into a rage.
And apparently she really relishes the idea of being able to charge in and be the"new sheriffs" who get to take control. Eeks. Run, Russians, run while you can! There's a bit of self-analysis which manages to be both boring and vague, and she reflects on how awesome it feels to be standing in an earthquake zone being "free." Where's that empathy now?
As they prepared to mingle and investigate, they all dressed down, not a hint of a uniform or rank about them.
So they all get out of the plane, strip naked and go bouncing off into the woods? If they're going for low-key, then they're failing miserably.
Luis wore a ribbed green turtleneck, jeans and hiking boots and carried a rifle over his shoulder, surreptitiously posing as a bodyguard for the group.
.... and why should we care what clothes he wears? I don't even know what he looks like, but at least I know his turtleneck is RIBBED.
Jenna and Kimber managed to look cute and dangerous respectively.
It's worth noting that the cuteness or lack of it is never mentioned for the males. Just the non-Gillian women. Nor does she have to go out of her way to mention that the men LOOK dangerous.
Jenna in a dark leather duster over her own olive drab fatigue pants, combat boots and a long-sleeved T-shirt that announced, DON’T MAKE ME GET MY RING, complete with a picture of the “One Ring” from Tolkien on it.
In a book series I liked, this would make me dance a happy dance. See Jim Butcher and Diana Wynne Jones.
From the woman who wrote in-universe that Tolkien didn't come up with his own universe and stories, and merely transcribed the history of HER elves (despite the fact that it would be totally incompatible with her religious beliefs)? Not so much.
In Anita Blake Sue-Style we get a detailed description of Gillian's boring-ass clothes, and a small armory on her person that is described in detail. This is presumably meant to impress us with her Tuff Self, but I'm just left wondering how someone who is constantly described as being teeny-tiny can fit a GRENADE LAUNCHER on her person without it being obvious.
Daed briefed them quickly. Intelligence had filtered through that there was a pedophile ring operating soon after the devastation of the area became clear.
.... wha? They're supposedly going undercover, so he waits until AFTER they land and leave the plane, and then starts talking loudly about what's going on? OY!
At least two hundred children had gone missing and it was up to their Team to rescue and recover the kids alive. Treatment and placement with appropriate homes or shelters would come later.
... and what about the kids whose families are still around?! It sounds an awful lot like the Inappropriately Capitalized Team is just charging in and taking over, regardless of the locals' needs. And since when is this a SPECIAL OPS mission?! Does Gryphon even know what Special Ops does?
And why the hell isn't the place swarming with relief aid if there was a freaking 8.8 earthquake? There was one of those in Chile awhile back, and not only did it devastate the country but it was one of the biggest earthquakes EVER RECORDED. So why isn't Russia filled with people there to bring water, food, shelter, and all that crap? Especially since Russia is VERY LARGE and has its own resources!
Making friends with the local magistrate was Gillian’s and Kimber’s job.
... and given that Gillian has a personality like a porcupine's butt, I suspect they'll fail miserably.
Accompanied by Luis as their “guard,” they asked for and received permission to film and research their cover story.
And heaven forbid we SEE any of this, since it apparently would involve Gillian being civil and asking PERMISSION from someone.
An expert networker, she would have an opportunity to pinpoint some of the families who were missing kids and gauge their reactions.
Again with the telling and not the showing.
Anyway, Trocar and Pavel go off in the woods to make contact with Fey and Shifters in the area... who apparently aren't bothered at ALL by the massive earthquake. And it's not clear why shapeshifters couldn't meet at McDonald's in human shape, rather than scampering off into the woods.
Within two days, owing to their stellar investigative work,
... which we never see. Way to freaking go.
Since having the Randomly Capitalized Team be debriefed would involve shining a spotlight on something other than Gillian's temper tantrums, we're just infodumped about it all. Basically older kids vanished, babies were claimed by fake parents who were presumably wearing Groucho Marx glasses.
who by their descriptions could only be Lycanthropes of some kind in Human form.
- Lycanthropes means "werewolves." Not a blanket term for shapeshifters, which would be "therianthropes." WEREWOLVES ONLY.
- Fuck Hamilton for causing this to be a thing.
- And how does a description tip you off that seemingly normal humans are actually werewolves? Did the man have wolf ears? Did the woman have a flea collar? Did they both scratch their ears with their feet?
All of them had appropriate documentation but some of the workers had misgivings about the so-called parents.
Partially due to the fact that they all looked exactly alike, except for the stick-on mustaches, cheap wigs and fake accents.
It didn’t take long for the local police department to put all the clues together.
... yes, because cops are doing Business As Usual after a FREAKING 8.8 QUAKE.
The children were being intentionally stolen, most likely for nefarious purposes.
... so do people often steal children for non-nefarious purposes?
The consensus was to stake out some of the likely areas and follow the perpetrators when they actually claimed a child.
This Designated Brilliant Plan is brought to you by Bleeding Obvious Inc. They needed special ops for this crap?
Anyway this infodump is finally interrupted by the revelation that Daed is some kind of werethingy. For some reason Gillian has never asked even though she's worried about whether his werethinginess will help in a fight.... presumably so we can be shocked and amazed when his werethinginess is revealed. It also makes Gillian look like an even bigger ass, since she's not even a "paramortal" but is determined to keep them from getting good PR.
She hoped that whatever Daed was, it would count for something if they got into a real jam. Wouldn’t help to have him turn into a Werebunny or Werehamster when muscle counted.
Well, I suspect that A) he wouldn't go on sensitive missions if he turned into a cuddly rodent, and B) I suspect even a werebunny or werehamster would be more useful than Ol' Ball o' Pointless Rage.
And since Gryphon is clearly bored by the part of this ridiculous mission that doesn't involve shooting things or fucking things, Gillian starts thinking about her Romanian hotties, and starts telepathically chitchatting with Aleksei. Yeah, zoning out during a tactical briefing sounds like a brilliant idea, especially for someone who's been screeching death threats at anyone who MIGHT POTENTIALLY get in the way of the mission.
“Why can he be in my mind when Tanis wasn’t? Tanis took blood but he never used his ability . . .”
Presumably it's because Gryphon decided that Tanis wasn't as speshul as Aleksei.
“Something has happened here which has allowed my powers to blossom fully. A shift in the very fabric of magic."
Totally random spurts of Stuiness are erupting everywhere, giving SupahPowahz to bishies for no apparent reason!
"Something happened" is quite possibly the lamest excuse that you can come up with for a magical power-up, and it's even worse than the Magic-Generating Private Parts of Anita Blake, also known as Ma Petite Fissure de Ruine. I suspect that Gryphon didn't want her Stu out of the picture for too long, so she had him randomly develop telepathy.
Seriously, is there any magical power that vampires don't have in modern urban fantasy?!
Oh, and Tanis apparently is going to develop the same Stu powers, which would be more interesting if they required actual work and growth. But one of the modern vampire Sue fantasies involves not having to actually do anything, just sitting there and having magical powers descend upon you as a reward for being So Speshul.