Allegiance of Honor, by Nalini Singh

27 Jun

AllegianceofHonorWell, I finally read something, and it’s actually something new, so, yay.

Sadly, it really, really didn’t work for me.

Quick caveat: there’s some explicit language, there are a couple of explicit sex scenes, and it’s the fifteenth full length book in a series with pretty complex world building. Which basically means: all the spoilers for all the books that came before. Plus, a reader new to the series would be completely lost in a sea of in-world references and jokes.

Further, the whole point of this book, as stated in the author’s note at the beginning, is to be “a walk through the interconnected lives of many of the characters who’ve become important to us over the past books and novellas.” (This, by the way, turned out to be a rather big problem for me.)

Seriously, if you are not already a fan of the series, reading this novel first will put you off even trying any of the other books.

So, let’s get on with the review–which is long and somewhat ranty, by the by.

Allegiance of Honor, by Nalini Singh

I have had mixed feelings about this book since it was first announced, mostly because it was described at some point as a bridge between the first and second arcs in the Psy/Changeling series. In the first arc, the world is unveiled, and a number of conflicts between the three main factions are revealed and, mostly, solved. In each novel and short story, different aspects of the world and these conflicts are explored and revealed, while following the stories of a series of couples who are, in their own way, integral to the resolution of the overall story arc.

In this novel there is no central pairing or love story, and while there are a few (very thin) threads that advance the overarching conflict between the three human groups, it’s mostly composed of little vignettes about…well, almost every character that’s even been mentioned up to this point.

The blurb:

A staggering transformation has put the Psy, humans and changelings at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new ear of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: old enemies, new allies, wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten, and it threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members view for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: a child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost and protect the vulnerable–and to save Trinity–no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Last year I made a point of catching up on my reviews of this series, posting almost a review a week for a number of weeks. In one of those reviews, for Tangle of Need, I wrote this, in part, about series:

In the most common type there is a complex world-building and an overarching plot arc, and sometimes a number of minor arcs, that run through a number of books. For readers who enjoy anticipation and delayed gratification, these series are utter catnip.

Within the latter type, some installments will stand alone fairly well–meaning that, while there will be progress on ongoing series story arcs, a lot of the action will be self-contained. For romance-centered series, this means that there will be more of the central couple’s romance than anything else. But there will be those installments where almost equal word-count is devoted to the central romance as it is to other ongoing plot threads, which is not to every romance reader’s taste.

As a romance reader, this book did nothing for me–did I mention that there is no love story?

As a fan of the series, I understand that I was supposed to enjoy catching up with the many, many, many characters we’ve seen grow into their own throughout the series. The fact that this book was published shortly after the ten year anniversary of the release of Slave to Sensation is, obviously, not a coincidence.

Unfortunately, the execution just didn’t work for me, pretty much on any level.

The first thing a reader sees is a cast of characters–ninety two of them, I counted–that includes brief notes on who each one is, and how she/he is related to the rest. However, if the reader is a fan, and she really should be to read “a walk through” the lives of all these people, she should be familiar with most of these characters already, as at least sixty of them appear in most, if not all, the previous stories.

(Further, my anal retentive side is bothered because there’s no consistency to these brief descriptions–some of the Psy have their classification front and center, with a note to what it means, some don’t. Plus, there’s no consistency on who is listed here and who isn’t–there are some point-of-view characters who are not mentioned here, and a bunch of characters who just walk through, who are.)

Still, I get it; not every reader retains all these details, no matter how much they may like the series as a whole, so the list is a handy cheat-sheet for them.

Except it doesn’t really make sense to devote five pages to this, when, as each character makes an appearance, we get a paragraph, or five, explaining their entire back story. (And, in several cases, we get that backstory more than once through the book, from the point of view of different characters.) Really, do the ‘cast of characters’ thing, or do the in-text recap thing, but both? Annoying as hell, and it comes across as filler. I figure that, if all those little intros were taken out, the book would be about fifty pages shorter.

The book is structured as a series of fairly short chapters from many characters’ points of view. One of the ostensible threads that tie these…vignettes? scenes? together, follows what is a happening to a member of the Black Sea Coalition of water changelings.

A while back (three, maybe four books ago?), Black Sea was introduced as a very unconventional grouping of changelings. Beyond dolphins, the most ubiquitous of them, there is a lot of innuendo and hinting at extraordinary, almost mythical, types of water changelings, reminiscent to all the allusions to Sienna’s ultimate Psy ability.

In the last book, we learned that there have been a number of disappearances of water changelings in the past year or so. While originally they were considered strange, if not puzzling, it is revealed that most, if not all, of these disappearances have been engineered by the mysterious Consortium, for some nefarious end known only to them.

Another sort of, but not really, thread running through the book, involves Father Xavier Perez, who was introduced way back in Caressed by Ice. His own backstory involves the loss of the love of his live, his Nina, who is presumed dead. That is, until sometime in the last three or four books, when there’s a line about how Xavier’s faith in God is predicated on his hope that Nina survived. In this book, Xavier has finally decided to actually go look for her. We follow his quest mostly through a series of short letters interspersed between chapters, and through the reflections on their friendship from Judd’s and Kaleb’s points of view.

Then there was the whole “Naya Hunter is the first Psy/Changeling child in a century, she must be eliminated!” plot thread, complete with a foiled kidnapping attempt, and a whole lot of nonsense about how forensic accounting works.

There are bits and pieces from the point of view of The Architect (capitalized, because we can’t have a super villain without a Name, obviously) (Yes, the whole ‘super villain’ thing bothers me–there’s enough natural conflict arising from the world building to write half a dozen more books, so this feels unnecessary and forced.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. So, we have bits and pieces that explain–tell, really–the motivations of the many different parties, along with their reactions to whatever is happening with the PsyNet, with the economy, with the Consortium, with the Human Alliance, and a number other things I can’t remember now, as well as their intentions and plans for the future. In theory, all these different people are involved, however vaguely, on finding and rescuing this kidnapped water changeling, and/or in protecting/harming Naya and the Trinity Accord.

In reality, while the kidnapping and search are mentioned by pretty much every point-of-view character, and while Xavier’s letters appear between chapters every so often, there is no progression, no…well, no point to the book. There is none of the, “we start here, things happen, we end there” that I expect in genre fiction.

It really is just a series of “a day in the (blissfully happy) life” pieces for the many, many, many characters we’ve met in the course of ten years, fourteen novels and six short stories. There are a number of scenes/chapters that felt shoehorned in, as if there was a check list of all the people who had to be mentioned, and how happy and successful all the previous couples are, whether they really had anything to do with anything going on in this book, or not (Remi and Aden rock climbing; Issac Beauclair talking about his courtship of Jesse; Persephone’s birthday; to name but three).

This…bothered me.

Then there are the author’s writing ticks. I mentioned this in my review of Shards of Hope, though I attributed my annoyance over them to the fact that I glommed fourteen books in a matter of weeks. Since that is not the case now, I have to accept that it’s the author, not me.

Such as:

I really don’t need to know exactly what each character is wearing in every scene–and by this I don’t mean, “wearing jeans and a t-shirt” throwaway sentences; I mean we get the color, material, decoration (if any), of what each character, down to babies, is wearing, each time they show up on the page. I don’t know for sure, but I do think most readers will assume that people are clothed unless there’s a reason they are not, like a sex scene or a medical emergency, say.

Seriously, a hell of a lot less is often much more; why write “her body was encased in a fashionable orange dress” when, “she was wearing an orange dress” would do?

I also don’t need to know how a shirt stretches over a character’s shoulders, or a t-shirt sleeve tightens over another character’s biceps, etc. Yes, yes, these men and women are sexy, but I already know this, because I have just been told by the point-of-view character (most usually the mate/husband/partner).

And what is it with the “his scientist wife” bits? I don’t know about other people, but if I’m talking/thinking about someone, I rarely will add their career/profession/field of study as a descriptor.

Another tick that yanked me out of the book every time, was the “this thing, it was this other thing” thing. As in, “his heart, it was…” and “her love, it was…” and so on and so forth. That comma, it, verb thing? It is not necessary, and it interrupts the flow of the writing. And when it happens at least once in every page–all four hundred seventy eight of them–it gets on my nerves in a hurry. It feels, after the umpteenth repetition, to be an attempt at literary prose, while falling into flowery writing.

And while I rant about language, “action” is not a verb. You can act ON things, but you cannot action them–and yes, this was done twice in the first fifty pages, and made me screech out loud (neither of the cats appreciated it, by the way).

:deep breath:

There were things that I liked.

There is an exploration of the serious political and economic issues brought on by the upheaval on the PsyNet. There is no easy/magical solution to the psychic problems that a century of isolation and genetic drift have created for the Psy. There is closure to a couple of nagging issues regarding apparent conflict in world building (i.e., the Adria and Riaz pairing not being a mate-bond, with him having found his own mate in someone else).

However, the good bits were overwhelmed by the not-so-good side.

I confess myself very disappointed in Allegiance of Honor, which gets a 6.25 out of 10 from me. I will likely buy the Psy/Changeling anthology that’s being released in August, but I think the time has come for me to break up with the series, and, sadly, with Ms Singh’s writing.

Dammit.

~ * ~

My reviews for the series so far:

Slave to Sensation

Visions of Heat

Caressed by Ice

Mine to Possess

Hostage to Pleasure

Branded by Fire

Blaze of Memory

Bonds of Justice

Play of Passion

Kiss of Snow

Tangle of Need

Wild Invitation (anthology)

Heart of Obsidian

Shield of Winter

.
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20 Responses to “Allegiance of Honor, by Nalini Singh”

  1. Erin S. Burns 27/06/2016 at 9:12 AM #

    I am STILL working on writing my review for this…this thing.

    • azteclady 27/06/2016 at 9:51 AM #

      Oh dear, that bad?

      (I’m laughing out loud as I type this)

  2. willaful 27/06/2016 at 9:28 AM #

    I think this was the final nail in an already well nailed coffin. I can’t think of a single book of this couple catch-up type I didn’t find tedious beyonds words.

    I’m laughing though, because I’ve also been annoyed by Singh’s writing tics… but by different ones!

    • azteclady 27/06/2016 at 9:52 AM #

      Oh, I only mentioned the ones that killed me on this one, but yeah, there are many others.

  3. bamaclm 27/06/2016 at 2:36 PM #

    See, this is why you’re a reviewer and I’m a non-reviewer. 🙂 I agree with absolutely everything you said and want to read Erin Burns’ review also.

    I’ve always liked her Archangel series better than the Psy/Changeling. It’s been a while but I can’t recall as many writing tics in the former. (My biggest tic is the way she starts out with a clause and then runs a sentence on. And on. And on.) I have to wonder where her editor is/was.

    • azteclady 27/06/2016 at 2:42 PM #

      A while back, when I harshed on Rock Redemption, (one of her contemporary, self-published titles), there was a bit of a back and forth with Kat of BookThingo on the editor issue for well known/successful authors. Considering some of the louder meltdowns (Ann Rice, Laurel K Hamilton), it would seem that at some point, once authors reach some mysterious sales threshold, editing on their manuscripts becomes far less scrupulous. I wonder if this happened with Ms Singh’s work as well, or if it’s just that after reading her work so often for so long, I’m oversensitive to the tics…

      Edited to add: oh, and, thank you :blush: you are too kind.

    • Erin S. Burns 12/07/2016 at 9:52 AM #

      Well, mine is up, for whatever that is worth.

      • azteclady 12/07/2016 at 9:52 AM #

        (I’m commenting there as we speak 😀 )

  4. Kat 30/06/2016 at 5:34 AM #

    I’m scared to read this book! I’m technically still invested in the Psy-Changeling series, but I haven’t read the last single-couple book, and I’m nervous about this one. Dilemma…

    • azteclady 30/06/2016 at 6:23 AM #

      Well, a lot of fans seem to find this one very satisfying–apparently there are four and five stars reviews galore.

  5. Alex 19/08/2016 at 3:31 AM #

    First, I want need to get this off my chest: I HATE the word “pupcubs”. I hate it so much.

    My list of grievances with this book and series in general has slowly grown. You dissected, very eloquently, many of them, and, like you, AoH was the nail in the coffin for me. I may have forgiven the pieced together storytelling that made it such a mess if it wasn’t for the writing ticks, the “blissfully happy” characters, the list goes on…

    I also agree the conflict with this new “Architect” is unnecessary; there’s plenty of fodder for future stories without the introduction of new big baddies. The cover copy literally says so:

    A staggering transformation has put the Psy, humans and changelings at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new ear of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: old enemies, new allies, wary loners.

    But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten, and it threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment.

    Nalini Singh referred to the second story arc as “season two”. If the Architect, Pax Marshall, etc. are any indication it looks like season two will be the same situations and character archetypes recycled into different settings and people. Another example? The Arrow, Blake, from SoH was yet another jaunt around the serial killer block! Personally, I also find conspiracies a very hard sell; it’s a plot I rarely appreciate.

    What made this book so infuriating for me is there this supposed discord, this uncertainty and instability yet all the characters are so safe, so smug it makes the conflict feel feeble and forced. A prime example: Hawke going behind Sienna’s back to meet with Ming along with Judd and Walker’s collusion keeping in it from her is easily passed off as changeling/male/alpha protectiveness (I’m going to come back to this). I don’t know why NS went to so much trouble building Sienna up as a strong, independent female because she just shoots herself in the foot by glossing over this conflict. Like, as long as she voices her displeasure to Hawke that makes it okay? Why introduce it at all? It just made an already unnecessarily long book even longer. It also felt rote and insincere.

    The big baddie route also concerns me because it sets up a possible depreciation of those who came first. It started with Judd being more than he appeared. Then Sienna’s rapacious abilities were revealed, followed by Kaleb who is hailed as the most powerful Psy in the Net. I was really disappointed with Aden’s mirror because it felt like trying to top Kaleb after we’re explicitly told he is the most powerful. Even Sahara is a quiet power and could change everything if she were so inclined! I worry that it will be just another round of the same. What psychic secret does Pax have up his sleeve? What surprises do the Mercants have in store?

    I want to circle back to Hawke and Sienna and pose a question to you: do you think this series has undertones that, while not explicitly anti-feminist, subtly reinforce and romanticize traditional gender roles that subvert women? Because that’s exactly how Sienna and Hawke feel to me. From their first interaction in StS I loved both characters and knew they would be paired, but now that I really think about it KoS was the beginning of the end for me. While I still love them separately and feel like they belong together it’s the interactions like the one I mentioned above that leave a sour taste in my mouth. I asked why introduce a scene like that at all. It was more rhetorical than anything because I know the point is to witness their developing relationship and demonstrate a clash and compromise between two strong personalities. The crux of it is that Sienna is strong, yes, but only to the extent that she doesn’t overshadow Hawke. I apologize in advance if you dislike profanity on your blog, but that just plain pisses me off. And honestly, it’s portrayed as compromise but it’s really just Hawke’s behavior excused as “dominate predatory changeling male”…

    Which brings me to my final point of contention (and what probably bothers me even more than the anti-feminist vibes, which is saying something). I feel like so much savage behavior perpetrated by changelings in this series is justified and, even worse, romanticized when similar actions by Psy and humans are condemned. Oh, it’s wrong for Psy to use psychic advantages and make allowances for their fundamental differences but it’s okay for changelings to use their half animal status as an excuse for knee-jerk violence? At the end of the day I won’t and can’t buy any plots about seeking peace and understanding between disparate groups because – I’m going to appropriate and apply a phrase here – instead of “boys will be boys” it becomes “changelings will be changelings”. Spare me.

    Similar to my statement earlier, it’s not explicit, but I think it’s still there, if subtle. A more compelling story for the second arc would be making it the changeling’s turn to examine and deal with their shortcomings just as the Psy have to deal with the double edged sword of their gifts.

    • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 6:35 AM #

      Thank you, Alex, and welcome to my humble online abode.

      You articulate many of the things that have killed my interest in continuing with the series, that I didn’t even got into in the review, and some that I hadn’t been able to put into words.

      One of the dangers with having the most powerful whatever, in a long running series, and particularly in paranormals, is the fear that the next hero won’t be as impressive/attractive to readership. If you ever read Christine Feehan’s Carpathians, you’ll see her solution–and apparently Ms Singh’s–is simply to find/create a loophole that makes the male protagonist of the next book more THE most powerful evah!!!…until the next one. It’s annoying. And it shortchanges those characters. In this series, I’ve been dreading having Anthony Kiriakus’ story reduced to ‘what hidden power does he have that’ll make him more than those who have come before,’ because I like that, so far, he hasn’t needed to the bestest with the mostest power to be in control of one of the most powerful PsyClans on the net.

      I’m also tired of the clear “Changelings are inherently better people” trope; there’s lip service given to the “humans are good too, and hey, there are even some decent Psy out there” idea, but it’s pretty evident that readers are supposed to root more for the changelings as a group. Hell, it’s even spelled out! “Changelings loved/adored children” is said, just like that, in a number of the books. Obviously, it’s implied, they are the good guys here! And readers are, therefore, expected to overlook all the problematic issues of their society. Lucas’ executing the ‘rogue’ Alpha, Hawke rolling over Sienna, and so on, and so forth.

      And yes, there’s a subtle undercurrent of traditionalism in the novels. I hesitate to say it’s anti-feminist, because I doubt Ms Singh is truly aware of it, and yet… There’s always a lot of noise about how strong the women are, but in the end, it’s always the males who ‘win.’

      I wish someone close to Ms Singh would bring these things to her attention, but it does feel to me that, as this point, there’s little to no content editing on her work. At one point in another discussion here, Kat Mayo of Book Thingo, and I talked about how it seems that, after a certain level of success, editors back off. These books are, for the publishers, ‘sure bets’ after all; why spend time and resources in editing them, when they could spend them on ‘the next big thing’ coming down the pipe?

      Finally, on cursing: it’s lovely of you to ask, thank you! I try to avoid it in reviews (though sometimes it is unavoidable), but I’m free with it in other posts, and in comments.

      • Alex 19/08/2016 at 9:07 AM #

        Yes, I didn’t mean to proclaim it anti-feminist; terming it traditionalism fits better. Though I do want to point out that intention isn’t requisite for something to be anti-feminist. That’s why I didn’t call it sexist. It’s not, and I see sexism as more overtly deliberate than anti-feminist. Neither word fits perfectly and at this point I’m nitpicking. So, traditionalism it is.

        However: ignorance isn’t an excuse. In this case I find these undertones more off-putting because it tries to be something it’s not. It claims this moral high ground but doesn’t live up to it. It’s the same song and dance as “Changelings are inherently better” while paying lip service to humans as an afterthought and never following through. I’d almost rather it actually be sexist because then it wouldn’t be pretending. If that makes sense. I guess I prefer honest insult to flimsy homage.

        Thanks for the link to your discussion with Kat. I agree there seems to be no content editing, likely due to the series’ popularity and loyal fan base. It’s another reason why, as I mentioned over in the discussion on Wicked Scribes, I can’t countenance paying premium price for these books when the publisher has so obviously eschewed standards it previously observed. Do you think the advent of self-publishing has enabled traditional publishers to relax on quality? Not just for successful series, but in general.

        This segues nicely into a point I didn’t get to make in my original comment but that you both touched on: this has been frustrating for myself and other readers, but the vast majority of reviews I see are five stars with few complaints. We’ve accumulated a significant list of problems I’ve seen voiced elsewhere (I just had to know I wasn’t alone!), yet the vast majority of reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Normally one or two of the items among what we discussed would result in demerits to four or even three stars but I don’t see that at all. Right now, 74 percent of Amazon reviews are five stars; 14 percent are four stars.

        I’m honestly mystified. I truly wonder how much not noticing or caring really factors in because I think there’s a difference between not noticing or caring and actual blind consumption.

        I drive myself crazy thinking about these things.

      • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 9:28 AM #

        On the feminism/anti-feminism/sexism issue: these discussions get complicated, don’t they? On the one hand, as you rightly point out, intent matters little in relation to consequences (or the ‘good’ ones wouldn’t be paving the road to hell, after all). On the other hand, there’s a tendency (at least in the fiction circles I frequent) to conflate author with writing, which is why hesitated to label the not-so-subtle issues in Ms Singh’s writing as anti-feminist. However, I agree with you, this ‘traditional’ view of male/female relationships is inherently anti-feminist.

        Personally, though my knowledge is limited, I don’t think that the advent of self-publishing has changed the trend of publishers to, in a manner of speaking, leave successful authors alone–it’s been what, ten years, since Ann Rice went on a rampage at the amazon boards, saying how she didn’t need an editor?

        Instead, I think what’s at play is a certain, inherent disregard at all levels for certain types of popular fiction. I’m pretty sure that authors who are deemed as writing ‘literary fiction’ still receive the same level of editorial scrutiny twenty years down the road. But popular/genre fiction? Once they have built a large and rabid enough following, there seems to me to be an unspoken agreement to let them go on.

        I use the word ‘rabid’ advisedly, because there seems to be a segment of genre reading public who are not critical in the least; they consume books the same way other groups consume graphic novels, or videos, or reality tv, or whatever. Whatever their hobby is, it passes the time, and they don’t engage their conscious mind while doing it. And they will push back if you point out any flaws, or problematic aspects of it, because that forces them to actually engage with the material, as opposed to swallowing it whole.

        Beyond that, I know that there are some reviewers who only write positive reviews, either at amazon or elsewhere, and the cynical side of my brain suspects that there is quid pro quo at play: five star reviews, more ARCs or free books. Because, let’s face it, when a person gets paid to review a product, they are less likely to point out the flaws, than if they had plunked down their own, hard earned cash for it.

    • willaful 19/08/2016 at 1:34 PM #

      I find this an issue with so many paranormal romances. The paranormal aspects are used to normalize behavior we would find hard to accept in a “human.”

      • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 1:38 PM #

        Exactly!

        I’m re-reading Kresley Cole’s IAD series, and this is very evident in the context of all the violence and racism. For example, when the Valkyrie talk about Lykae, to a woman they call them dogs.

        And killing between Lore beings is perfectly acceptable–more so if it’s a vampire or a ghoul, but really, as long as they are not of your tribe, have at it.

      • willaful 19/08/2016 at 1:55 PM #

        And the sexual politics of Cole can be almost as bad Singh. So many “everything but” virgins. You might remember, I wrote about it at KKB. http://karenknowsbest.com/2012/09/05/paranormal-heroines-its-okay-to-kick-ass-but-not-to-get-some-ass/

      • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 2:08 PM #

        Oh man, yes, the “gently used” heroine!

        Isn’t it weird that one of the most sexual-agency-positive authors I’ve read in years* is Nora Roberts? So many of her heroines actually enjoy sex, and are not shy about it. She even got some serious pushback about Fiona (from The Search) because she was fine having an affair with the hero.

        Aside: how come I didn’t comment on that post back then?

        *Keep in mind that I don’t read very widely these days.

  6. Alex 20/08/2016 at 4:53 PM #

    Replying here because there isn’t a link in your comment —

    These discussions do get complicated! I’m adding this sentence before I hit reply because this turned tangential and monstrous, but it seemed a waste not to post after writing it.

    azteclady, you just enlightened me regarding conflation of an author with his or her writing. Really. If there were a cartoon lightbulb above my head it would have roared to life like lightening. Because that didn’t occur to me before I’ll state: my dislike of the romanticized/dismissed traditionalism in these books doesn’t extend to the author herself, and I don’t believe whatever lack of feminist values I perceive in her work mean NS is sexist or anti-feminist or traditional.

    I will admit that I DO often blame not just authors but musicians and performers, even typecast actors, for perpetuating these issues. Authors not so much because they don’t have nearly the level of fame as someone like Beyonce. I’d say I blame them for making a lot of money while doing it, too, but that’s not true, and it goes back to your point of the product they’re selling versus the individual. I can’t resent a ruthless business mind and having the drive and ambition to make what you want happen.That lightbulb, it’s on but it’s flashing. Have I adequately inserted my foot into my mouth yet?

    Perfect example: I have different standards of what’s acceptable or what’s not pretty much based on whatever standards I want to set. I like rap music and will use it to explain. Even if you don’t know rap you likely know of Eminem. There’s never been a female rap artist who reached anywhere close to his level of success (even Taylor Swift will never be in the same league), but I’m going to use Nicki Minaj because she’s the most successful, well-known female rap artist of the last five years. Eminem is known for lyrics that are violent toward women. Nicki’s lyrics can be just as bad. She has this song. It’s actually a diss track toward Lil’Kim – another female rap artist – so there you go, hating on women. Anyway, it’s called “Stupid Hoe”, and it literally says the words “you a stupid hoe” 38 times, among other things. I can’t stand it. It’s uselessly repetitive and, of course, Nicki doesn’t have the lyrical talent or artistry of Eminem, so there is more to it. However, an Eminem song I really like? Superman. It’s not nice (an gross understatement) toward women. Look up the lyrics if you want, but they are very explicit. The song may be reflective of toxic relationships he’s had, temptation of fame, dealing with women who want to use him. But, as we established above, that doesn’t make it okay. I still like the song. What I’m getting at is it bothers me more when Nicki does it. I guess I could say I hate on women for hating on other women more than I hate on men for hating on women. How messed up is that?

    Speaking of abusive relationships, his song with Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie”, is very honest and raw. Not intending to glorify at all but it was such a huge song, and the hook with Rihanna singing…even the theme – the addictive nature of toxic relationships – that level of glamour speaks differently to young minds. They might not set out intending to glorify but when you have a large, loyal fanbase that’s what it becomes, IMO. And if it’s not glorifying then it’s empty consumption of something we’d find offensive in other mediums. I’m not sure which is worse.

    It’s interesting to me because unless you make it your business to be openly humanitarian or feminist or whatever (or you hold politic or religious office and other applicable situations where you lead by example) I don’t think you owe it to the world to use your money, power and voice to speak out. You also don’t owe it to the world to be PC all the time. A completely non-inflammatory pop culture would be much more dangerous. For what it’s worth, the existence of these issues in our entertainment are a good thing if they provoke intelligent discourse.

    But at the same time I condemn those who don’t speak out. Or if, when they do, they do this: http://www.mtv.com/news/1717083/selena-gomez-lorde-response/. It’s a really short read and I recommend it, because it’s a perfect example of conflating an artist’s work with the artist. Lorde commented that she didn’t like the way women are portrayed in pop music using Selena Gomez’s song “Come and Get It” as an example. And Selena responded that Lorde (in regards to her comment about Selena’s song/music) wasn’t being feminist and supporting other women. Then she says she might stop covering Lorde’s songs in concert. I just…*headdesk*

    In these cases I think it’s more the carefully crafted image and mindless fans that I start to condemn, not the individual. We are none of us perfect, and the danger of striving for a squeaky-clean image like Selena Gomez makes perfection seem like it was attainable for her. Fans feel personally betrayed when they are shown she’s only human after all.

    But…back to books. More than authors it bothers me when other readers – or what seems like the majority, anyway – don’t see it as a problem or, if they do, it doesn’t bother them enough to voice their complaints. But then again I kept reading for several books even after I felt the problems were too big to ignore. That’s very telling, I think, and it applies to willaful’s insightful comment about this being a PNR issue. I’m willing to accept these things because they’re accepted by everyone else! So I wrote some Harry Potter fanfiction back in the day; read it, too. Mostly next-gen stuff (Harry’s kids’ generation). The writers in these communities (or, say, in a genre like PNR) influence each other. So do readers. I specifically shipped Ron’s daughter, Rose, with Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. It’s been years so I don’t know if JKR made the pairing official cannon, but from reading and writing stories with that ship I can tell you certain things about the pairing and general assumptions about the next generation became accepted and expected though they weren’t cannon. The same concept applies to PNR. Historical fiction as well.

    willaful, thanks for the link to your post – “Gently Used Virgin” – now I have a name for this thing I can’t stand! I might comment over there after I recover from this 🙂

    Now that I’ve got that all out I’m ready to diagnose myself with a significant case of RCD, Reader Cognitive Dissonance.

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  1. Review – Allegiance of Honour by Nalini Singh | ...Burns Through Her Bookshelf - 12/07/2016

    […] to do any more. And it has taken me this long to write my review, and I am not the only one to have some kind of feelings about […]

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