A Caress of Twilight – Chapters 19 and 20: Hung like a horse. Literally.

Chapter 19 begins with Merry and Doyle laying in bed cuddling after the sex. Merry glances up at the mirror across the room from her bed and sees that somehow her blouse had gotten tossed over the mirror. She comments on it, and begins looking around the room for the rest of her clothing. Her green lace bra (see? Dressed like Christmas!) was somehow hanging over the large potted plant in the corner of her room. Merry remarks that she didn’t think they were in that much of a hurry.
 
Hah, what? Doyle tossed you around the room and then ripped all your clothes off in a fucking frenzy. Do you not remember what just happened last chapter?! Doyle says that he wasin a hurry, a hurry to see her naked, and then she start pawing at one another again when suddenly they hear a voice call from the mirror, “Well, isn’t this a pretty sight?” and they both turn to the mirror to see Queen Andais sitting there, staring down at the two of them.
 

That’s it. That’s the entire fucking chapter. Like 5 pages of Merry describing her clothes strewn about her bedroom. LKH has such insanely varying chapter lengths in these books. Shouldn’t chapters typically be around the same length? This just feels weird, especially since chapter 20 starts up IMMEDIATELY, so all this served to do was add a half page of BLANK NOTHINGNESS for ~* tension *~ or some bullshit reason. Fuck you, LKH. You don’t even deserve to be a writer for this kind of garbage.
 
Chapter 20
 
 
Chapter 20 begins with Merry and Doyle staring into the eyes of Queen Andais. She’s dressed up in all black finery, looking terrifying and beautiful as always. Merry greets Andais, telling her that her call was unexpected, which angers Andais.
 
“Are you criticizing me, niece?” Her voice was very cold, almost angry. I hadn’t done anything to anger her, not that I knew of at least.
I settled myself a little more comfortably against Doyle’s body. I wished for a robe, but knew that covering up when she’d been nothing but polite would imply that I didn’t like, or trust, the Queen. The fact that it was true was a matter for my own worries, not hers.
 
Andais had been nothing but polite? By somehow calling through the mirror with no announcement – the mirror has acted like a telephone for any other previous call, ringing and all, and now Andais is somehow able to get through without notice, to spy on them?
 
“I meant no criticism, Aunt Andais. I was merely stating a fact. We did not expect your call tonight.”
“It is not night, niece, it is morning, just not yet dawn. I see you have slept no more than I.”
 
How much time has passed since the call with Niceven? During the call, it was determined to be around 9pm. Since then, they had a small argument and then Doyle and Merry had some rough, but quick, sex. How had time passed that quickly?
 
Anyway, Andais notices that Doyle is bleeding, and Doyle proudly announces that it was Merry who bloodied him during sex.
 
Her eyes flicked down to him, then back to me. “You’ve been a busy girl, Meredith.” I pushed up from Doyle, so that I ws more or less sitting upright. “I thought you wished me to be a very busy girl, Aunt Andais?”
“I don’t know if I’ve seen your bare breasts before, Meredith. They are a little large for a sidhe, but very nice.” Her eyes didn’t hold lust, or kindness, only a dangerous light. All that she’d said so far could be mistaken for politeness. She’d never seen my breasts bare, so she should compliment them; but only if I was trying to be attractive, which I was not. I just happened to have no clothes on. I did not feel the least bit luscious around my aunt, and there was more to it than just being heterosexual, much more.
 
Okay, first, didn’t we just discuss how a sidhe accidentally flashing their underwear when trying to sit comfortably would be remarked on and appreciated by another sidhe? This was something that was mentioned back at Maeve Reed’s house, when Merry was sitting outside. Did LKH already forget that? Merry wasn’t trying to be attractive then, just trying to sit, but it would be a-okay for a sidhe to compliment her then. Just not when in the same sort of situation only nude? There is absolutely no consistency about the sidhe, and it is infuriating.
 
Secondly, that last comment. Merry was uncomfortable being naked around her aunt, why even bring up that Merry is a heterosexual? Why even mention that at all? Soooo annoying.
 
“And you, my Darkness, it’s been so many centuries since I saw you nude that I can’t remember. Is there some reason you have your back to me? Is there some reason you hide yourself from my sight? Is there some … aberration that I don’t remember that spoils all that darkness?” She was within her rights to compliment him, but asking if he was deformed, demanding he flaunt himself to her, that was impolite. If it had been almost anyone else, I’d have told her to go to hell.
“There is nothing spoiled here, Aunt Andais.” I said, and I knew my tone wasn’t neutral enough. I’d lost the knack of keeping my voice in line over the years I’d been away from the court. I was going to have to relearn, and quickly.
 
That is, like, direct opposite what happened in the first book. Remember Andais calling Merry out MULTIPLE TIMES for Merry’s voice having an apathetic neutrality tone to it? I guess in the 3 months she’s been back in LA pandering around like a spring-break floozy she’s totally forgotten! Oh Merry, you cad!
 
She gave me very cold eyes. “I was not talking to you, Princess Meredith. I was speaking to my Darkness.” She’d used my title; not niece, or just my name, but my title. It was not a good sign. Doyle squeezed my arm again, tighter this time, as if telling me to behave. He answered Andais, but not in words. He rolled onto his back with his knees bent so his thigh hid him from her view, then he lowered the leg closest to her, slowly, like a curtain coming down.
There was heat in her eyes now, real heat, real need. “My, my, Darkness, you have been keeping secrets.”
He turned and looked at her. “Nothing you couldn’t have discovered at any time in the last thousand years.” Now it was his voice that was not neutral. It was just a slight change in tone, a mild inflection of reproof, but I’d never heard him lose even that much control in front of Andais.
 
So Merry calms Doyle down by placing her hand upon his stomach, knowing that they must both keep each other in check around the Queen for fear of her accidentally lashing out in a fit of anger and hurting, or worse, killing Merry. Andais warns Doyle to have a care, before she becomes distracted and forgets why she even called upon them this morning.
 
“We await your news, Queen Andais,” I said.
She looked at me, then, some of the heat going from her eyes, replaced by puzzlement and, underneath, tiredness. Andais wasn’t usually this easy to read, I think because she didn’t have to be careful around anyone. “The Nameless is free.”
Doyle spilled his legs to the floor and sat up. Suddenly it didn’t matter that he was nude, nobody cared. The Nameless was the worst of both courts, Seelie and Unseelie. It was the last great spell that the two courts had cooperated on. They had stripped themselves of everything too awful, too hungry, to allow us to live in this new country. Nobody had demanded it of the sidhe, but we didn’t want to be forced out of the last country that would have us, so we’d sacrificed some of what we were in order to become more … human. Some said that the Nameless was what caused us to begin to fade, but that wasn’t true. The sidhe had been fading for centuries. The Nameless was just a necessary evil. So we didn’t turn America into another battlefield.
 
Ah yes, the Nameless. All the worst things from faerie balled up into one convenient package, carefully locked away so that no one could ever loose it upon – oh wait. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened, ha ha ha.
Doyle asks if the Queen was the one to set it free, and she says of course not. She has no idea who did set it free, and Doyle mentions that there are very few beings in faerie who had the power to set it free. This pisses Andais off, because of course she knew how few in faerie would have the ability to set this thing free. Why even keep it at all? If America is the last country that would take you in, why keep this horrible, awful ball of horror at all? Why not just kill it off to begin with?
 
Oh but then you wouldn’t have this lovely pure horror being to drive the plot!
 
Andais tells them that at the last spotting of the Nameless, they saw it was heading west, towards LA. She doesn’t know if it was loosed to go after Merry, but she thought she’d do the nice thing and warn them so they had enough time to prepare for an onslaught of horror if it had been.
 
“Do you truly think it was loosed to hunt the princess?”
“If it had merely been set free, it would have ravaged the countryside by now. But it has not.” She stood, giving us a view of the nearly naked back of the dress. She turned back to us with an abrupt gesture. “It vanished from our sight, all of our sights, very quickly. We cannot track it, which means that the thing is getting some very highly placed help.”
“But the Nameless is part of the courts, a part of who you were. You should be able to track it as you would track your own shadow.” The moment I finished, I knew I should have kept quiet. All the anger flowed into her face, her posture, her hands where they gripped her elbows. She shivered with rage. I think for a second she was too angry to speak.
 
Doyle steps in to ask the Queen if the Seelie and Unseelie courts will join forces to hunt the Nameless, and she tells them no, they would not join. She tells them Taranis is being difficult, trying to pass the Nameless off as being a purely Unseelie being, despite the fact that the horrors contained in the Nameless came from both courts. Doyle asks her what could stand against the Nameless, what can destroy it.
 
“We do not know, for we bound it without testing it. But it is full of old, old magicks, things we no longer tolerate among even the Unseelie.” She sait down on the end of the bed, almost jerkily. “Whoever released it, and hid it from our sight … if they can truly control it, it is a powerful weapon.”
“What do you need of me, my queen?”
She looked up at that, and the look was not unfriendly. “What if I said come home, come home and protect me? What if I said I don’t feel safe without you and Frost at my side?” He dropped to one knee. His face was lost in a wave of his own hair. “I am still captain of the Queen’s Ravens.”
“You would come?” she asked, voice soft.
“If you commanded it.”
 
Merry becomes very worried at this but she tries to remain neutral so that her fear wouldn’t show on her face. Andais asks Doyle if he is truly still her Darkness, or if he now belongs to another, to which Doyle does not respond. The queen takes this to mean he is no longer hers, and tells Merry that “You have stolen my Darkness from me.”
 
“What do you want me to say, Aunt Andais?”
“It’s good to remind me that you are my blood. Seeing his back sliced up makes me hope you are more mine than I know.”
Nothing, nothing, I would think nothing. I imagined emptiness like looking through a pane of glass into another pane and another and another. Clear, nothing.
“The Nameless was loosed for a reason, Darkness. Until I know what that reason is, I’m covering my assets. The fair Meredith is one of those assets. I still hope to get a child out of her.” She looked at me, and it was not a friendly look. “Is he as magnificent as he looks?” I fought for a neutral voice to match the face. “Yes.”
The queen sighed. “A pity, but I didn’t want to give birth to puppies, now did I?”
“Puppies?” I said.
“Didn’t he tell you? Doyle has two aunts whose true forms are dogs. His grandmother was one of the hounds of the great hunt. Hellhounds, humans call them now, though you know we have nothing to do with hell. A different religious system altogether.”
 
Oh jeez.
 
Merry tells Andais that she is not bothered by Doyle’s mixed genetics, and tells her that she has heard him growling, snarling, hungry for her flesh in other ways than just sex.
 
“You surprise me, Meredith. I never thought you had the stomach for violence.”
“I do not enjoy hurting people. Violence in the bedroom when all agree is different.”
“I’ve never found it different,” she said.
“I know,” I said.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“How do I do what, my queen?”
“How do you sound so neutral, utterly neutral, yet somehow you manage to say ‘go to hell’ with a smile and a neutral word.”
 
BUT WAIT I THOUGHT MERRY LOST THAT ABILITY I’M SO CONFUSED
 
Andais asks Doyle to stand up so that she can see his ravaged back, so he stands and turns his back to her. Andais mentions to him that she had always thought he’d be dominant in the bed, and she desires no one to be more dominant than herself, which is why she never took Doyle to her bed. She also never thought he’d be so blessed in the junkal region, as he was descended from dogs. He reminds her that he is also descended from a phouka, some sort of faerie shape-shifter, who took the form of both a dog and a horse, and the queen starts laughing like crazy over the fact that Doyle is “hung like a horse”.
 
She then muses a bit about how if Doyle does not get Merry pregnant, she may take Doyle back as her lover to see what he’s like, if he lives up to his boasting. Doyle tells her that he never boasts, and Andais responds by telling him that the fact he never boasts is one of the reasons she kept him from her bed for all those years.
 
“… you would be king in truth, not merely in name. And I will not share my power.” She looked past him to me. I fought to keep a blank face, and knew I was losing. “What of you, Meredith? How do you feel about having a true king, one who will demand a share of your power, and a share of more than your bed?” I thought of several answers, discarded them all, and tried, very carefully to tell the truth. “I share better than you do, Aunt Andais.”
“You share better than me, you share better than me. What does that mean, when I do not share at all?”
“It is the truth, Aunt Andais. It means exactly what it says, nothing more, nothing less.” She stared at me for a long, long moment. “Taranis does not share his power either.”
“I know,” I said.
“You cannot be a dictator if you do not dictate.”
“I am learning that a queen must rule those around her, truly rule them, but I am not learning that a queen must dictate to all around her. I am finding that the counsel of my guards, who you so wisely sent with me, is worth listening to.”
 
Have I mentioned yet how much I hate how LKH writes dialogue? She also does this thing where she combines two speaker’s dialogue in the same paragraph, as shown above in the “It is the truth…” “… share his power either.” paragraph. Merry says the first bit, but Andais says the last. However, there’s no showing that it was Andais who said that, other than by having Merry say “I know” in the next line. I hate this sort of thing. Combining dialogue like that works, sometimes, if done right and well. LKH doesn’t know how to do anything well.
 
Andais grows tired of their conversation and repeats to them that she thought it was wise to warn them of the Nameless being freed, and that it was headed west. After she reminds them of that, she blanks the mirror and the call ends. Merry asks Doyle to put a blocker on the  mirror, so that no one can unexpectedly call them like that again, and he does so.
 
Merry and Doyle return to the bed and the chapter ends with Merry asking Doyle if she could really become pregnant with puppies by him.
 
Now, that chapter seemed to drag on FOREVER. Chapter 19 was like 3 pages of absolutely nothing, and then we get this super long chapter that just drags on and on and on. A good editor would put their foot down and say “combine these. It flows awkwardly and can be combined to make more sense.” LKH, being a rather successful author, has apparently decided editors do not matter. This series is just a mess of really, really poor writing, and it makes it an awful chore to read.
 
When I’m done with this book I’m going to cleanse my reading palette with some China Mieville. He’s a bit wordy, but at least it’s fucking well written wordy. 
 
Seriously, everyone should check this book out. It’s so well done and such a great read. It’s definitely one of my favorites, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re a fan of his, this is probably his best book (though I love the New Crobuzon books dearly). The characters are really fleshed out well, the plot is super intriguing and the language is fascinating. It’ll be a good book to ease my poor mind.
 
 
I will probably also read the next book in another series I’m beginning to love, the Agent of Hel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. Carey is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read and reread her Kushiel’s Legacy series (all nine books!) multiple times over the years. Her newest series, the Agent of Hel, is about a half succubus/human named Daisy who works with the local police of her tiny tourist Michigan town to help solve supernatural crime. And, yes, she’s partially succubus, but there’s NO SEX. GASP. HOW. GASP. It’s because Carey is an excellent author who doesn’t need to rely on graphic, clinical sex scenes to sell novels (though her entire Kushiel’s Legacy is pretty full of sex, but it’s so well written and poetic that I absolutely love it. )

ANNNNNYWAY.

Do me a favor and recommend me other good books to read in between this series. I mostly stick to fantasy, but I’ll also read most any fiction. To give you a good idea of what I may be into, here are some of my FAVORITE authors:

Scott Lynch – Gentlemen Bastards series
Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Legacy series
China Mieville – Anything. Anything. Everything.
Patrick Rothfuss – Kingkiller Chronicals series
Steven Erikson – Malazan Book of the Fallen series. So amazing.
Anne Bishop – Black Jewels trilogy and additional books in that series.
Jim Butcher – Harry Dresden is my literary crush.
 
 

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