- December 29th, 2016
This one is pretty short, so no cut!
BLACKWOOD FARM, CHAPTER 18
It's the middle of the night. Quinn is in and out of sleep, and Rebecca tells him how Manfred bought these antique wicker chairs in the attic for her. But then "she was trying to talk of other things, things I must do, how justice would be achieved, and I was arguing with her" and then he wakes up.
He wakes up because "suddenly, I was wrenched out of the bed and dragged across the floor!"
Whoever this is drags him to the bathroom and lifts him off his feet and smacks him up against the wall. It's a tall mane with large dark eyes and "hair cleanly brushed back from his high rounded temples." He accuses Quinn of burning his books, so I guess we know who this is. His breath is warm but odorless and this is just mentioned in passing but I find it a really good detailing for hinting there's something supernatural about this person.
Instead of feeling afraid, Quinn is angry, and yells at the guy about being a trespasser and how dare you come into my very room!
As with looking at Jasmine's figure when bemoaning he might be mad, the fact that Quinn is describing the man's outfit (open white shirt with white cuffs and a black coat, if you wanted to know) and how his mouth is "very finely shaped, with thick but perfectly sculpted lips" very, very much detracts from the mood of the scene. Rice's strength has always been elegantly phrased descriptions of sensuous details in both objects and people, but she has a placement problem. This is a tense scene with two people angry at each other, one of which is probably very dangerous and could hurt the hero, and there's no, like, sexual tension or anything going on, so this kind of detail, especially from a first-person perspective, really hurts the tone and that disrupts the entire mood for the reader. We go from being tense to going "why do you care about THAT??" It being first-person also makes Quinn look like a foolish jackass for being focused on outfits and lips at a time like this. And while Rice does sometimes use that with the vampires to play up how their senses are so enhanced that they kinda go a little nuts with noticing everything, that's not the case here and not what I think she was going for.
This is a small thing, but I think it's important from the perspective of what works and doesn't in writing, and why that is. Because something that would be great description in another scene is absolutely wrong for this one. It's not just about how things are written, but where they're put in a story.
Quinn struggles against him, the stranger tells him to never go near the island again or touch what is his, Quinn once more says he's a trespasser and tells him to bring it to court. The stranger says "Don't you realize I could kill you?" and asks why Quinn does such foolish things, "what's so precious to you?"
To which Quinn replies "What's rightfully mine!"
So, when Quinn was burning the property of someone just in principal of them being a squatter on his property, it was gross and spiteful to me, especially since it was pretty clear he'd be doing this even if the person was just a poor homeless person like most squatters instead of a mysterious likely-supernatural likely-murderer, but when the person is actually in his house and threatening him, and Quinn is still so stubborn and defiant in his IT'S MINE, it actually gets kind of admirable in a weird way. I remember really enjoying the part in The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett where the protagonist, a little girl who is likely a witch, defeats the Big Bad through the force of her own selfishness. Not the Big Bad, but her own. The Big Bad took HER brother, and she doesn't like her brother but he is HERS and how DARE anyone touch or take what is HERS. And Pratchett explicitly refers to this in the narration as selfishness, but it's not painted as good or bad, just powerful. And I actually really ENJOYED this. I absolutely loved that not only did the heroine have this trait seldom associated with heroes (heroes are typically emphasized as UNselfish) but that Pratchett found a way to turn it into a weapon rather than a flaw. It was really clever. I think something cool could be done with Quinn in that regard, that he is such a brat he actually will scream in the faces of monsters if those monsters come near what's HIS HIS HIS
...though in Quinn's case, I also would not mind seeing him pay the consequences for that. Actually, that would make for a good story, him dealing with those consequences and how that changes him. And as much as I rag on Rice, I actually do think that's a possibility. She is not talentless, not by a longshot, I would not give a shit about going through this book if she were just plain bad, and she's very capable of making and writing engaging characters. In fact, I would say that characters are really what she does, more than she does stories. Much of the Vampire Chronicles are really just biographies. This book is pretty unique in the degree of plot it has, and that it's a plot that spans the whole novel thus far rather than just a part of it.
The guy releases Quinn and says "I won't kill you. I don't want you dead. I have a theory about you." But he says he will kill him if he goes near the island again, and instructs Quinn to keep everyone away from the island forever, or he'll drag him back into the swamp and kill him the same way Rebecca died.
Then the mirror shatters, Goblin comes up behind the man and chokes him and tries to cut him with a piece of glass. The stranger pushes away the glass "rather easily" and tries to attack Quinn again, but Goblin continues to pummel him and hurl glass at him. Quinn thinks this is a good time to tell us that the man has very long black hair in a slender ponytail and sharply squared shoulders. The intense fight between Goblin and the stranger, who is baffled by what Goblin is, continues. Quinn just does nothing except tell us that when the lights come on, he can see the man more fully and that he has a beautiful face and "satin" hair and perfect skin and a very fine suit. The guy keeps going WHAT IS THIS THING and Quinn is like FUCK YOU, GET OUT.
Well, no, actually Quinn says he won't tell him because he's in HIS house just like how he's on HIS property when he reads his books on the island, and he can see what's attacking the guy but the guy obviously can't. And I'm back to finding Quinn an insufferable brat for the books thing. Oh my god, a man read books on my private island that I wasn't using, this is THE VERY WORST THING!
The man slips out, and everyone in the house wakes up and comes to see Quinn embracing Goblin, who, of course, to them is nothing but thin air.
As a note, last chapter Aunt Queen said that the Shed Men would all be standing guard to keep this stranger from getting in the house again, which means that whoever or whatever he is, he slipped in past them somehow, adding the mystery.