A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter two


The narrative skips over Anita’s flight to New Mexico, so we don’t have to linger on her fears. Which is fine, but instead we get her bitching about how airlines won’t let her carry a concealed weapon on a plane, and how she has to get a certificate, and how she had to take a course, and that Dolf had to make fax her over the document…

Poor widdle baby.

Oh, and I didn’t misspell Dolph. For some reason, it’s being spelt as ‘Dolf’ now. I think Anita has killed the real Dolph, and ate him, before replacing him with his even less intelligent clone.

Anita then talks about her phobia of flying came from that unknown and mysterious diving incident, and that she likes reading the works of Sharon Shinn to keep her mind off it all. I find that shout-out a bit fishy, seeing as Anita hates everything and every hobby. According to wiki, Shinn is a fellow fantasy and romance writer who also lives in St. Louis. Hmmm. Hmmmm. I confess I know nothing of her work, but I find it a little… circumspect.

She lands and walks out into the main airport, where she spots Edward. He’s dressed in a cowboy hat and hiking boots, which makes Anita suspicious. How dare a city boy wear hiking boots! Even though he works outside of cities! And has appeared running around in the countryside before! Anyway, she then talks about how scary his eyes are and how wonderful his Aryan colouring is.

They greet, and then a woman shows up next to Edward. All Anita can think about is how the woman looks old and has a tan, both of which are awful things in Anita’s ‘How To Be A Woman And Hate Other Women’ book. She’s also a ‘casual toucher’ which is bad, because she’s not a shapeshifter and women are not allowed to be affectionate. The woman is Donna Parnell, and she is ‘Ted Forrester’s’ fiancée. (which is spelt wrong in the text)

OK. This is rape.

There was a similar case in the UK a few years ago. A senior undercover officer was found to have had relationships with women in the environmental groups he had to infiltrate. They did not know his true identity. The relationships were based on falsehoods and lies. The relationships were based on a need to take advantage of the women and gain information about their activities.

Edward’s relationship with Donna is similar. It is based on Edward’s need to hide his murder sprees and to have a legal alter ego through which he can hide. He is lying to Donna about everything. She does not know who he really is, and therefore, cannot be in a position to truly give consent.

He is abusing her, and I doubt he is ever going to suffer a comeuppance from that. I doubt LKH sees it as being abuse, only ‘oh no it’s just cruel’. No. It’s pretty much a great big string of abuse and rapes.

AGAIN.

Eugh.

Anita is very surprised by all this, and Donna and Edward find her reaction hilarious. Donna’s hilarity is genuine; Edward’s is based on LETTING A FRIEND KNOW HE IS TAKING ADVANTAGE AND RAPING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

Edward was enjoying his surprise. Damn him.

BE MORE DISGUSTED, ANITA

And then we are distracted by this by Anita’s fucked up gender politics.

“Ted, where are your manners? Take her bag.” Donna said.

Edward and I both stared at the small carry-on bag I had in my left hand. He gave me Ted’s smile, but he said Edward’s line. “Anita likes to carry her own weight.”

Donna looked at me for confirmation as if this couldn’t possibly be true. Maybe she wasn’t as strong and independent as she appeared, or maybe she was a decade older than she appeared. A different generation, you know.

Or maybe she’s polite. You know. Because it’s a common courtesy to offer to carry someone’s bags. You know.

“Ted’s right,” I said, putting a little too much emphasis on his name. “I like to carry my own bags.

Donna looked like she’d have liked to correct my obviously wrong thinking but was too polite to say it out loud. The expression, not the silence, reminded me of my stepmother Judith. Which made me push Donna’s age over fifty. She was either a mightily well preserved fifty-something, forty-something, or a sun-aged thirty-something. I just couldn’t tell.

WHAT IS YOUR OBSESSION WITH BEING RUDE? Why does it matter to you how old Donna is? Why can’t you just be nice, and be angry at Edward for exploiting her? Anita says that she feels sick and will kick Edward’s ass, but she doesn’t actually do anything. Donna then tries to force Edward to carry Anita’s bag, but Anita is just bristling with so much anger that… she just makes Donna think that she’s offended Anita in some way.

Sorry Donna, but the existence of your vagina has already offended Anita.

Anita tries to salvage it by saying she’s just surprised. Yeah, because ‘anger’ and ‘surprise’ are the same emotion. Anita then concludes that Donna must believe Anita is an old girlfriend of ‘Ted’ and is jealous.

I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say, so we moved in a silence that grew progressively uncomfortable for me, and for Donna. Her, because she was a woman and naturally friendly.

Of course. Because women are empty headed and must fill their minds with friendly chatter. Could you just not say ‘she seemed to be friendly’?

Donna asks about Anita’s job, and talks about her shop in Santa Fe that sells psychic paraphernalia. Anita does not like this, concludes that Donna is not psychic, and is therefore entirely ‘deluded’. Donna says that the energy in Santa Fe is not as positive as it was, and that there are not many psychic shops left. This is another thing that annoys Anita.

She talked about “energy” like it was an accepted fact, and didn’t try to explain it, as if I would understand her. She as assuming, like so many people did, that if you raised the dead for a living you were psychic in other areas, too. Which was often true, but not always. What she called “energy”, I called the “feel” of a place. Some places did have a “feel” to them, good or bad, energizing or draining. The old idea of genius loci was alive and well in the new age movement under a different name.

Or: ‘WAAA WAAAA SOMEONE IS TRYING TO TALK TO ME ON AN INTELLECTUAL LEVEL ABOUT A COMMON SHARED INTEREST. WAAAA WAAA SOMEONE ELSE KNOWS ABOUT THE AREA OF EXPERTISE I HAVE! HOW DARE THEY HAVE OPINIONS AND THOUGHTS DIFFERENT TO MINE! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!’

It continues.

“Do you read cards?” I asked. It was a polite way of finding out if she believed she had powers.

Um, this doesn’t read like this is happening in a universe where psychics are a real thing. This reads like a woman in the real world trying to convince someone that psychics aren’t real. But the AB universe is full of psychics. You would know instantly whether you had real powers or not, because there are plenty of people who do have them.

“Oh, no,” Donna said. “My gifts are very small. I’d love to be able to read cards or crystals, but I’m only a small proprietor. My talent in this life is helping others discover their strengths.”

It sounded like a therapist who believed in past lives. I’d been meeting enough of them at the graveside to know the lingo. “So you’re not a psychic,” I said. I just wanted to be sure she knew it.

You have no right to shit all over Donna, woman who raises zombies for a living. No right at all.

“Oh, heavens no.” She shook her head for emphasis, and I noticed her small earrings were ankhs.

“Most people who go into the business usually are,” I said.

She sighed. “The psychic I’m going to now says that I’m blocked in this life because of misuse of my gifts last time around. She says I’ll be able to work magic next time.”

Again, she assumed I believed in reincarnation and past life therapy, probably because of what I did for a living.

No, she hasn’t. She really hasn’t, Little Miss How Dare You Talk About Energy You Are Not Even A Real Psychic You Are Deluded. Donna has spoken of her own beliefs. She has not asked you about past lives. She has not asked you about reincarnation. She has spoken about her own experience and her own gifts, and not made any assumptions other than that you will understand what she is talking about. Which, again, is related to your line of work. Why are you shitting on Donna? You should be shitting on Edward!

Anita makes fun of Donna by asking whether she’s met Ted in a past life, and Donna talks about how Ted is an old soul and has a soul that resonates, and all Anita does is glare at Edward and think about having Donna’s psychic arrested.

The three of them have been walking down the street all this time, and Donna breaks away to make a phonecall. To check on her children. Oh yes, Edward is playing false daddy now, and is severely fucking up THREE LIVES for this. Anita actually does call him out on this, and says that he can’t marry Donna. Donna then comes along and only thinks about handbags because LOL KOMEDY WOMEN HAVE HANDBAGS BUT ANITA DOESN’T.

Where is Anita putting her keys, purse, etc, if she doesn’t have a handbag? Women’s clothes aren’t made to accommodate items like men’s clothes are, because the fashion industry is sexist and stupid. So where is Anita putting her stuff? Or is she so amazing and so much better than women that she can make her keys and purse float along behind her?

Donna then talks about her children, Becca and Peter, who are… well, they have generic children personalities, as given by bland television. Peter is a teenager and rebellious. Becca is quiet. Anita twists the knife by bluntly asking about how Peter and Ted get along, as if it’s any of her fucking business.

and then more gender politics bullshit

“Do you have any other bags?” Edward asked.

“Of course she does,” Donna said. “She’s a woman.”

Okay, Hamilton, I’ll say it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I am a woman. Are you happy now? Does that make it up that some woman pissed in your cornflakes once? Now, can you stop hating your own sex, please? It’s getting annoying.

Edward then says ‘Anita isn’t like any other woman I’ve ever met’ and this is supposedly framed and said in a special way to make Donna think Anita must be an ex-girlfriend. I’m struggling to see what’s so special about the phrasing in that common expression. Anita then says she has plenty of luggage because she’s brought all her guns.

Donna pretty much freaks out at that, probably because someone bluntly talking about ALL their guns is a bit shocking. She is shocked at the idea of a woman with a gun (what?) and that Anita does the same job as Ted. She then reveals that her late husband was killed by a werewolf in front of her and her son. Peter, who was eight at the time, killed it while his mother… sort of sat around and did nothing.

That was it. That was the true horror for Donna. She’d allowed her child to protect her. Allowed her child to take the adult role of protector in the face of a nightmare.

Okay, that is an interesting emotional idea with resonance, but I question the use of the word ‘allowed’. It’s not like Donna said ‘you are not my son if you do not kill the beast which slew your father’. It also places the blame of the whole affair squarely on Donna, who could not use a gun and had just seen her husband killed.

She’d failed the big test, and little Peter had passed into adulthood at a very tender age. No wonder he hated Edward. Peter had earned his right to be man of the house. He’d earned it in blood, and now his mother was going to remarry. Yeah, right.

‘Earned his right to be man of the house’? Excuse me, what fucked up gender idea is that? Donna is in charge of the household, because she’s Peter’s mother and the only adult in the house. ‘Man of the house’ is a stupid patriarchal idea, and killing a werewolf does not endow you with mystical adultness. He has no right to dictate his adult mother’s happiness and what she is ALLOWED to do. This just perpetuates the idea that men have an instant right to rule over a woman’s life, and that all her decisions must be controlled by the hand of man.

Although Peter’s reservations about Edward are entirely justified.

Donna sort of breaks down to think about it, because she is a wimmin, and Edward and Anita glare at each other over Donna’s head. Anita has a long internal monologue about how awful this is and why won’t he think of the children, but doesn’t have the brass ovaries to, you know, so anything about it. She’s just too afraid of Edward to say, ‘hey man, stop the rape’.

She then thinks about how she is such a monster.

I think I really like Donna. She seems pretty chill, and does not deserve Anita’s scorn.

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16 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ chapter two

  1. God, Anita is so mean and illogical.

    I don’t see why Donna would have to believe herself to be psychic (which isn’t going to be as common anyway, as you pointed out, in a world where there are objectively real psychics) in order to run a store for them. I can see why it would help and why most of the people who go into that business would be, but there’s no reason she just can’t do it if she’s not one herself. I just hope her customers aren’t snobs like Anita about it.

    Anita’s constantly mistaken viewpoints–oh look, she’s assuming this about me now!–would be so good if I thought they were done deliberately to show a biased narrator, as a first-person POV should inherently be, and if she got shown up regularly and that, even if she didn’t see herself proven wrong, the readers were meant to. Alas, not the case.

    I never made the connection before that Edward is indeed raping Donna by deception and now I feel bad.

  2. You know the thing about fight and flight? They’re not the only two options. Freeze is another perfectly response to stress. It’s often not the most helpful, but Donna freezing when confronted with a werewolf who has killed her husband is perfectly legitimate. It’s awful that Peter had to shoot someone, but why isn’t anyone talking about that. Peter killed a human being. He or she was wolf shaped at the time, but that doesn’t mean the werewolf wasn’t human. And I bet no-one even thought about getting Peter some therapy for that.

    Why does there need to be a big psychological reason why Peter doesn’t like Edward anyway? It can’t just be because he’s creepy as fuck. Because LKH likes Edward, and so no-one can dislike without the excuse of childhood or being a horrible person.

    I want to rescue Donna. I’ll add her to the list of characters who deserve a better universe.

    • You’re right – I’d dismissed Donna’s reaction, but freezing in the face of danger is a common and valid response.

      Therapy is for wussies. There’s been a definite anti-therapy thread in the book already.

      You can’t NOT like Edward! He’s Aryan don’t you know?

      • Which is weird because therapy is wonderful magic later in the series…oddly, in the books that came *after* LKH claims to have gotten some herself.

  3. The Sharon Shinn shout-out is because they both used to be in a group of local authors who, I think (if I remember this right) would read and critique each other’s work. You can guess why LKH doesn’t seem to be in said group anymore. (Honestly, the only reason I even vaguely remember is because I was surprised to see Shinn’s name, since I enjoy(ed) her work. But she doesn’t write the particular series I like anymore, sooo.)

    I admit, I never really tied the whole Ted/Donna thing as a rape, but it was always sort of squicky anyway. No matter what, he was using her as a false front, and she never knew it: that’s just horrid on many, many levels. But I know LKH meant us to go LOL Donna’s So Ted’s Opposite and Isn’t That Funny? instead of realizing how utterly disturbing the entire thing was. (And it…gets sadly worse, later on. Siigh.)

    • Is it awful of me to think that compared to all the rape that’s coming, this is actually one of the healthier relationships in the series. Which scares me.

      • It is kinda disturbing that the fact that Edward’s *only* lying to his fiance makes their relationship leagues better than most of the others. At first glance, I might not qualify it as rape, but I can see the reasoning, and it is indeed squicky.

        I’d like to imagine that this engagement is Edward’s attempt at having something resembling a normal life, and that he really wants to spend more time as Ted. But I’m certain that that’s not what’s going on, because that would be an interesting story, and LKH hates those and does everything she can to kill them as soon as possible.

    • The fact that she is mentioned in one LKH book is one of the first things on Shinn’s wiki page. That’s a bit sad, because I’m sure her works are a lot better than this.

      • Shinn is very much a writer of weak sci-fi/fantasy with more than a dash of romance. I still enjoy her far more than LKH, but she’s a pretty lightweight writer overall.

  4. Anita, the only people allowed to carry guns on a plane (even in the early to mid 1990s) are the air marshals and possibly major law enforcement agents. You’re not even a cop. You’re lucky you don’t live in post-9/11 world, because you wouldn’t even be allowed on the plane today.

    And of course Anita doesn’t have a purse (or handbag, whatever) – that would a sign of femininity. And as has been established, apart from being the Most Beautiful Woman Ever, there is absolutely nothing feminine about Anita. At all.

    • This is …. 2000 so she’s brushing just up against 9/11, and the subsequent rise in airport security. I have no idea why they let her have a weapon on the plane. I don’t think there are any vampires to hunt on board.

      • The timeline in these books is messed up – the first book was probably set in 1993, when it was published, and Anita was said to be 24. The last one was published in 1998, but Anita is said to be 25 (I think). The books come out at a rate of one a year, but only a few months seem pass between them.

        Yes, it would make sense for the date of the book to match the real-world date of publication, but this does explain some things (like why Anita *still* doesn’t have a cell phone). And if the timing went like that, then Anita would be in her 40s in the latest book, and LKH wouldn’t be able to write about her hot 20-something alter-ego having lots of sex with hot guys.

        I’m trying desperately to make sense of all this, basically. I should probably just give up and assume that these books take place in a sort-of Christie Time-like period.

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