A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Narcissus in Chains’ chapter twenty six

The oubliette was a rounded metal lid set in the ground.

And no one has ever noticed it. Ever. No dog walker has ever tripped on it, no one has ever reported it to the local water company, thinking it’s an abandoned septic tank, no one has ever phoned the police about the smell of rotting bodies that must come come out of that thing like stink.


Nope, don’t buy that. Human beings are intrinsically nosey. I don’t believe that no one has ever ever noticed a great big metal lid with a giant screw on it. I mean, you’d think the workmen who built the thing would be suspiscious.

Oubliette is French for a little place of forgetting, but that’s not a direct translation. Oubliette simply means little forgetting, but what it is, is a place where you put people when you don’t plan on ever letting them out.

‘Oubliette’ is the name for a form of dungeon that is accessibly only from a hatch in a high ceiling. Oubliette means ‘forgotten place’, coming from the word ‘oublier’ which means ‘to forget’. It doesn’t mean little forgetting because it doesn’t have the French word for small in it. You know, that word JC uses all the god damned time. Was it too hard to find out what the word actually means?

There’s a Scottish castle where they found an oubliette that had literally been walled up –

How do you wall up a pit in the ground?

– and forgotten, discovered only during modern remodelling. The floor was littered with bones and had an eighteenth-century pocket watch in among the debris.

Someone was using a medieval dungeon system in the eighteenth century. Nope, I don’t buy it. Certainly, dungeon systems are prevalent in Scottish castles but imprisonment WAS NOT the punishment system used in the medieval era. Punishment was quick and designed to physically stop you from attempting to do that crime again, whether through bankruptcy or through, you know, missing a hand or two. There are medieval oubliettes, but they became more popular later on, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. But this example? Does not fit with that. Those pits were in early prison systems and were used for prisoners awaiting trial who could not afford their prison debts – gaols being privately run for profit at this point. You did not shove people in there to die. That would entirely defeat the purpose. Of course, there are castles with features such as these. You know what they have in common? They’re used as LOCATIONS FOR ASSIZE COURTS AND COURTROOMS. RANDOM CASTLES DO NOT HAVE EXTENSIVE DUNGEON SYSTEMS FOR NO REASON. THAT WOULD BE WEIRD.

It had an opening where you could see the main dining hall, could have smelled the food, while you starved to death.

No. God no. Those castles with courtroom systems? The courtroom and prisoner side of the castle WAS KEPT AWAY FROM THE LIVING QUARTERS OF THE FAMILY. Why the hell would they want to smell faeces, unwashed bodies, and rotting food while you went about your daily business? Castles, after all, don’t have big formal dining rooms. They have a great hall which is used for many, many things. What the hell? The world is not built like a Gothic horror story. The man in the iron mask wasn’t a true story! (Well, some bits of it.)

I remembered wondering if you could hear the person screaming from the dining hall while you are.

… there’s a hole in the wall. Of course you’d be able to hear the people inside the oubliette. Don’t you understand how sound works?

I just ranted about fourteen lines for about five hundred words. The fact is that you should fact check all the details you include in your story, no matter how minor they may seem. There is always going to be a reader out there who knows about the subject and if you get it wrong, they will tell you. Because it’s the sign of laziness on behalf of the author and it’s a sign the book is going to fail in some other area.

And why does Anita know all this? Since when has she been interested in the crime and punishment of Great Britain before the Industrial Revolution?

Two of the werewolves in nice human form knelt by the metal and began unscrewing two huge bolts in the lid. There was no key. You screwed the lid in place and just walked away. Fuck.


… so anyone who just comes across the bone pit can unscrew it and let anyone inside it out. Wow, that’s real clever.

The lid is dragged off and Anita starts gagging from the smell of Gregory’s crap. She rants about how starving to death is not romantic – who thinks that it is? – and Anita starts to climb down.

I was prepared now for the smell, and underneath the ripe smell of life in too small a space was a dry smell, a dry, dusty smell. The smell of old bones, old death.

‘The ripe smell of life’. That is not a description I’d use for rotting bodies and shit.

Anita climbs down with Richard and they are standing on the bones. How many bones are there? How come they can stand on the bones without injuring Gregory? How big is this pit? How many bodies are in here? You’d think the police would notice how many people went missing to fill this pit with so many bones you can STAND AND WALK ON THEM AS IF IT WERE SOLID GROUND. Plus, Anita suddenly remembers that she’s claustrophobic. Why didn’t that come up before she went into the pit?

Richard then throws out his arms and beeches Anita to remember how scared she is and that she cannot always be the bravest and the strongest and should stop having to prove herself to the world.

You are literally standing on Gregory and the bones of your murdered friends.

My god. Have you people have no concept of timing?

Anita starts talking about how she’s only competing with herself and that she has to rescue ‘[her] boy’.

“You’ve already rescued him, Anita. It doesn’t matter who climbs in the damn hole.”

… but you are both in the hole already. Richard asks whether Micah understands all this, forgetting that Micah The Rapist has only known Anita a day and knows nothing about her. She shouts at him for the flashlight when she could use her beast to find Gregory.

Richard says he wants to be in a relationship with Anita – no, he wants to be her Ulfric, and therefore in complete control of her. He wants to be ‘the man’ which Anita has problems with.

“What if I need to be braver than you for myself, not for you?”

Because only men can be brave, obviously.

Boudica would like a word with you two.

Anita then asks if Richard is afraid of going in the bone pit. The bone pit that they are already in. Richard tries to sweet talk Anita about how charming it is that she wants to kill Jacob. Here’s a thought; if Richard knew that Anita would want to kill Jacob, why did he even hire him? Richard then ‘demands to go down the fucking hole’.


Anita then goes down the hole. I think I’ve been thrown in a hole.

(Actually, they did not go in the hole. It was just written so badly that they stood around arguing by the side of the hole and I didn’t notice. That’s not good. I should be able to know what is happening in your story.)

PS. For all X-RPrs, I’ll be on about eightish UK time. I think this is about 12 noon for you guys which I thought would be a problem until I remembered tomorrow is a Saturday. (It’s been a long week). Hope to see you there, let me know of any problems.


11 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Narcissus in Chains’ chapter twenty six

  1. This makes sense now: Anita’s world is the universe created by bad medieval fiction. Where things like oubliettes adjoined walls with dining rooms to torture the prisoner with delicious smells of food. *headdesk* It’s the only thing that makes any sense.

    • The whole dungeon dining room bit reminded me of that episode of Futurama where Leela was going to marry that shapeshifting alien. It reminded me that Fry was in the dungeon but got to eat in the dining room by sticking his head and arms through a grille.

      I just did the maths and I think the episode was broadcast when LKH was writing this.

      Mind. Blown.

  2. I hate to say it, but she might be right about ‘oubliette’. I think ‘ette’ can be a diminutive suffix in French, like ‘ito’ in Spanish. So ‘little forgetting’ would be about right.

    • I didn’t even realise that until the end of the chapter. I hate LKH’s writing style because I can never tell what’s going on.

      Plus the idea of Anita and Richard having that conversation while standing on Gregory is hilarious.

  3. Also as far as rp times, I am in the Pacific time zone so I am not sure if noon is how it would work out for me. I’ll check for you guys around then though, on gmail chat?

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