Thursday, June 21, 2012

Psycho-sexual Ravenloft: Vampire of the Mists II



Surprise! Guess what? Jander continues to be a real fuck-nugget! Despite swearing an oath to protect the burgomaster's daughter, he willingly goes with Strahd to her family's house, feeds on her sister, sits on his thumb while Strahd's minions kill everyone else in the house, and does absolutely nothing to stop Strahd from killing Anastasia before his very eyes. What a god-damn champ.

Aside from continually using his hypnotic powers to maneuver women into doing what he wants, we can also ascribe to Jander a pattern of making promises he doesn't even attempt to fulfill. Despite pledging to Anna that he would solve the mystery of her madness, he stays in Strahd's castle for TEN YEARS without doing much of anything. Seriously, he's got this sworn quest and he gardens at Strahd's place for ten fucking years instead of displaying a trace of follow-through.

Thus far I haven't really commented on Golden's writing. The best thing I can say about it is that it is workmanly. There are no attempts at artistry here, and I'm better off for it as they would definitely fail entirely. Her real weakness as an author is dialog; she has a tin ear when it comes to the way people actually talk to each other. Worse yet, out-of-place phrases slip into the prose. Anastasia describes her unborn child as “kicking like mad”; another character answers in the negative with a teenage mall-crawler's “Nope.”

Actually, I take that back. The worst thing about Golden's writing is her inability to resist the temptation that comes with a protagonist who is largely unaffected by the passing of years; that is, since Jander is a vampire she feels no qualms about advancing the novel's time line by leaps and bounds. This has two very unfortunate effects: first, it results in secondary characters who aren't around long enough to be developed or for the reader to care about, and two, it really makes it seem like Jander is just loafing around Castle Ravenloft and not actually trying to solve the mystery that he pledged to see through.

Speaking of character development, Golden's Strahd is a bit of a furry. Toward the middle of the novel, Strahd brings his new werewolf girlfriend to the castle: “'She makes an excellent spy and a merry bedfellow.' He turned his attention back to the wolf.” Note that Strahd praises Trina's sexual prowess while she's in wolf form. Castle Yiffenloft, right? Also, soon after Jander has another in what are becoming a series of annoying and poorly-crafted flashbacks; this time, he recalls an incident where he was saved by a weredolphin. Let me type that out again in capital letters in case your mind repressed the word I just used: WEREDOLPHIN. Golden has included a weredolphin in her story. That is an amazing lapse of taste, judgment, and decency. Jander doesn't mention how fuckable the weredolphin was at least.

So, remember the Jander is some sort of shining, radiant elf guy? Well, he's so solar-powered that he gets mistaken for Lathander Morninglord, god of the sun, by a priest of that deity. It's important to Golden that we know that Jander isn't just shit-hot, he's as shit-hot as a god. This distresses Strahd a little bit; adopting a very 90210 pose he accuses Jander of upstaging him at some gala party that Strahd has thrown in his own honor. This, more than anything so far, illustrates what vampires are in Golden's novel: they are pick-up artists who peacock around and trick women into sleeping with them/letting them feed off them.

In what seems like a bizarre narrative misfire, Golden has the young cleric Sasha drown one of Strahd's vampire brides. At first I thought this was invoking the whole “vampires can't cross running water” thing, but the description really focuses on the water filling the vampire's mouth and nostrils—and Strahd explicitly states that someone drowned his vampire lady. Chew on that for a moment; I'm over two-hundred pages into a vampire novel and the author of said novel hasn't yet realized that vampires don't breath and therefore can't drown.