Death blow (to my brain mostly)

16474880Death Blow
Jianne Carlo
(Viking Vengeance, #2)
Publisher: Etopia Press
147 pages

This review has been delayed mostly because I have some mixed up feelings towards the book. In the end, the book is far from ok if you analyse it with a feminist perspective. Today I read an article where it said that romance novels nowadays are adapting a feminist approach. Well, this book is the opposite. It makes one literary critic sad when you read one article saying “yey feminist is spreading around romance novels” and then you read romance novels and you realise that the last book that I read with such a misogynist approach, was “Das Nibelungslied”, fyi, written in the 14th century. So, go figure!

If this book was written by a male author, I have no doubt people would call him a misogynist, however when this occurs with a female author, I really have no idea where to begin. So… here we go: the review!

The way the story opens is relatively ok, you have the beginning of the trouble where Lady Nessa, a cursed princess, has just saved a wounded stranger. She tends him and is nice until he wakes up. The moment he wakes up, the Viking, Kónall is incredibly rude and when he realizes the poor girl is, in fact his betrothal, he goes all caveman around her, ripping her clothes to check if she bears the mark that dictates that he is the one who is supposed to break the curse. He rips her clothes exposing her breasts: how nice and cute of him.

Lady Nessa is a brave young woman and has a fiery spirit (so we are told), but FIRST mistake: she needs a man to help her breaking her curse.

In the synopsis, one can read:

“He (Konáll) expects a refined, comely, trainable damsel, not a doomed warrior princess with the strength of a giantess who cannot bear the touch of a man.”

Hello? The Nibelungs’ Song all over again? Prünhilt (a woman with the strength of a giant) is raped by Sivrit and he takes her belt and reduces her to a simple woman subdued by her husband? No? Am I really the only one seeing the resemblances?
Kónall has to find a way to take her virginity without putting his penis inside her (literally), because the curse dictated that if he puts his manly parts inside her, they would wither… So you know normal stuff.
First mistake, woman needs a man to help with her curse. Kónall succeeds in this task ripping her body and making her cry. When he realizes the state she is in, he says there was no other way to save her and forces her to marry him. So what goes inside his head is: I just saved you from your curse, I raped you and now I am making you my wife, because I am your betrothal and therefore you must marry me, even though I bear absolutely no feelings towards you.

SECOND mistake: Marry him?? The guy just raped you! But, Jianne Carlo is clever and makes the protagonist so useless that even though she has the strength of a giant, she cannot go back and reclaim her castle, because … she is a woman and she has no army of her own. Kónall, however has one.

During the wedding, she decides that they shall be hand fasted (meaning, they have one year to decide whether they should remain married or go in separate ways). Very clever Lady Nessa, that’s right, kick him in a year. So what happens? During the wedding night, every time Kónall orgasms, he has to repeat the word “mine”. THIRD mistake: Mine? What is this? She is not the Castle for you to be “taking her”, she is a person! Why is he going all possessive and caveman around her? You raped her, now you are taking her? What kind of idiotic character is he?

Up to this point the main character is useless and the male hero is an asshole. Great. According to Nessa sex with Kónall is amazing, he gives her great orgasms and makes her say naughty things that turns him on. Kónall, on the other hand starts to adore his new wife, but thinks to himself that he cannot possibly be falling in love with her. The girl is not ugly, the girl is actually nice, the girl has a Castle and is noble… why is it impossible for him to love her? Because Konáll is a twat, yes that would be my guess as well.

“Nay. She was his wife. He felt the pride of possession. ’Twas all. Not love. For love weakened warriors and made men shy away from battle.” (95)

Why is there a need to make men so “manly” that they think it is impossible for them to fall in love? Women have to be submissive and fall in love with men because they give them amazing orgasms, but for men to admit that they love women in fiction, woman have to be:

a) Pregnant;
b) Kidnapped;
c) Almost dying.

Fourth mistake: Lady Nessa’s bipolarity. Lady Nessa yells all the time that she is independent and strong. Then why in hell does she cry like a baby and says this, when she kills a man:

“I killed a man. Mine enemy. And ’twas not sweet. I am naught but a weak female after all.” (113)

She kills a man blind with revenge and then when she sees her husband, she cries and says that. My question is: how come you are always telling the reader that you are strong, but when you find a way to show that strength, you cry and embarrass yourself in front of your husband? Why is there a need to diminish the role of women in favour of men? Lady Nessa is nothing but submissive, weak disguised in the figure of a great warrior. If she has incredible strength, why can’t she go to the Castle, murder everyone and take it back? Why does she need Kónall’s army for that?

My piece of advice: if you say your female character is strong, SHOW that strength. The man can be as strong as she is; there is no need to make the woman look inferior, just because you think the man will look less manly. Your female character is strong, then your male protagonist can be as strong as she is. Make the male be a part of her and not something that is there to obliterate her and possess her like she was an object.

Overall, the story had a nice beginning, weak and absent villains and confusing structure in the middle and in the end the pacing was too fast. If the book did not have these issues regarding characters, it would be a light way to learn about Vikings and Norse mythology. Nevertheless, as a reader and feminist and I think as a normal human being as well, one cannot write a neutral review without mentioning the things listed above.

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