Like the book, this will be long. Unlike the book, this post contains trigger warnings, so if rape, abuse and kidnap upset you, feel free to move on.
In which I talk about a literary nightmare and get deep about it.
You might remember that I picked up a copy of The Dark Heroine in my my last book haul and that I’d done so because its author got a publishing deal by getting popular on wattpad. I’m an independent author too, so I wanted to read it to show my support. Now I know why places like wattpad have such a bad name. This might possibly be the worst thing I have ever read and its not all down to Abigail Gibbs. It reads like someone just grabbed all her wattpad entries, bound them and shipped it out to stores. There is no evidence to suggest a second draft was ever asked for, let alone that an editor or a proof reader ever looked at it. There are contradictions within moments of each other, poor research of actual geographical locations and spelling mistakes galore… I get the feeling that this was rushed out to cash in on the whole 50 Shades and Twilight thing. Shame on you, Harper Collins, Shame on you.
I would rather not be published than to have my name on something so carelessly put together. I might have the odd type but I don’t have an editor at my disposal. Publishing houses do.
It makes me feel sorry for Abigail Gibbs actually, that her work is being torn apart like this and I hope it doesn’t affect her degree (the irony of it being English at Oxford when confronted with the grammar in this book isn’t lost on me). But, I feel like I can’t let Harper Collins get away with publishing things like this. This isn’t about tearing Abigail Gibbs’ work apart, this is about my anger at publishers putting out work that isn’t ready and the state of the world where the contents of this book are acceptable.
Being a writer, sometimes I take notes when I write things so that I can learn from them. What follows are my observations based on those notes.
Lack of research:
One thing that really annoys me about books in general is lack of research. This book was rife with it and it was very, very irritating. It’s something that should have been picked up by an editor. The first chapter see’s our heroine stood in an empty Trafalgar Square. I don’t know if you chaps have ever been to Trafalgar Square, but empty it is not. Ever. At any point. I have seen it busy, I have seen it quiet. But empty? Nope. Not ever. This book also has the main characters speeding along a deserted M25. That is also never a thing that has ever happened. I know this is a fantasy, but if you’re going to reference real places and ground it in reality do it!
According to this book, our main character and her vampire captors were able to walk from Harrods to Embankment to eat chips before they got cold. (A trip that on foot would take about an hour.) They were also able to dive into Hamley’s whilst walking around Embankment. Sure, on the tube that journey takes about five minutes but there isn’t a tube station directly outside Hamley’s and no mention of getting on the tube to return to Regent Street, so I dunno how that jump happened. I dunno about you guys, but unless vampires have the ability to teleport these days none of these things are possible and such a lack of research over things like this just make your work look sloppy and it’s up to an editor and proof reader to help out an author over things like this. Thus the importance of narrating things properly and an editor observing this.
From the very beginning of this book, Violet, our lead character, has conversations with herself in italics. It irritated me from very early on, at the very end of the book, this is revealed to be a plot device. Apparently, dear old Violet started hearing voices at the exact same moment that she locked eyes with a murderer in an empty Trafalgar Square. Personally, I’d have been concerned about suddenly hearing voices, she wasn’t and so I thought this was some stupid inner goddess thing ala 50 Shades, after all, the narration from Kaspar (her vampire captor’s) point of view also features conversations with himself in italics. Turns out right at the very end of the book, the reason they talk to themselves in their heads is because they are joined by fate. Coulda given us the heads up on that one because the plot device really wasn’t executed very well. Similarly, whilst I’m there thinking that this book is just about a girl being kidnapped and assaulted by vampires who slowly falls in love with her main captor, it turns out there is a whole prophecy and fate thing going on which was flung in almost as an afterthought right at the end of the book. Violet starts dreaming in real time, the whole her being part of the prophecy thing came across as being a convenient way out nothing else.
Contradictions and grammar mistakes.
Again this is a problem that sits quite firmly with the publishers. Despite the fact that this book is written by an English author and is set in England, it features American spelling, it features appalling grammar mistakes, you don’t know how annoying it is to be reading a book that has been published to come across would of instead of would have. Really? Really?
There is a moment in the book where this conversation takes place: “I just want to show you we don’t have to kill when we feed.” “You don’t?” Violet, he’s fed from you twice and you’re not dead, what do you think? Also, this thing is littered with phrases like “dark, black hair.” I wasn’t aware that there were different shades of black. I have black hair and I have never described it as being light or dark black. Perhaps I should. Perhaps the word black simply isn’t descriptive enough.
My biggest problem however, is this:
This book is just a haven of slut shaming.
This was my face at not even half way through:
I’m not trying to be funny. This book genuinely makes me sad. This book was written by a teenage girl for teenage girls and the messages in it are so wrong. We should not be teaching anyone that sex is bad. Whatever your gender, you’re a human and you should have as much (consensual) or as little sex as you want. As long as you are being safe and not hurting anyone, do what you want. That is your right as a human being, to enjoy yourself and express your sexuality in a safe consensual environment. Note how I keep repeating the world consensual.
In this book, any female with a hint of sexuality is branded a slut, a bitch or a whore. Ruby at the beginning for pulling, Charity for being sexually active, Violet for having sex, getting unwanted attention and for being sexuality assaulted. Not even half way through, Violet has been kidnapped, degraded and objectified by the guy we are supposed to see as the romantic lead. He says things like “I will seduce you one day”, refers to her as “girly” throughout the entire thing and continuously threatens to rape and murder her. He saves her from being raped by a different vampire, manipulates her into giving him her blood and then believes that he should be rewarded with sex.
Violet is mutilated, drained and sexually assaulted with the threat to keep raping her even after she is dead. She is saved by Kaspar and we are all supposed to now hero worship him even though he has been threatening the same. Post rape, another vampire captor, Fabian, accuses her of getting with Kaspar even though both of them break into her room and molest her. All of this brings me onto the victim blaming in this book which makes me even sadder.
Rape culture is so ingrained into our lives that teenage girls write off abusive behaviour as romantic and seriously, this devastates me. Phrases such as “I will seduce you” and threats of rape and murder are accepted without question from Kaspar because he’s the love interest. That is wrong. So very, very wrong. I can’t be the only person who sees how wrong that is to teach young girls? After being molested, Violet is told off, she’s told that she is a stupid girl, she is blamed for letting Fabian kiss her, her intelligence is questioned when she is attacked and mutilated.
The sticker on the front of this describes it as being the sexiest romance of the year. Rape is not romantic. There is a moment when Violet declares that Kaspar is Kaspary, this is apparently “a level of awesomeness so high it kicks everyone’s arse leaving them breathless and bewildered”. I don’t think Abigail Gibbs understands the definition of her own word. Kaspar is a vile person, an abusive misogynist who repeatedly subjects his supposed love interest to scenes of murder and molestation. There is a moment (on page 332) where Violet wonders what her feminist citizenship teacher would make of her situation. Violet, honey, she would think you’re a damn fool for letting anyone treat you in this fashion just because they are pretty.
I might be wrong, this entire novel might be a look at how Stockholm Syndrome affects people. But I doubt that some how.
In conclusion, this book is Twilight’s vile cousin.
I’m sorry Abigail Gibbs, some of the problems with this book are not your fault but there are many that are. I am very, very sorry about this but 0/10 do not recommend. Any book where rapey misogynistic behaviour is excused because it comes from the primary love interest is disgraceful and that, more so even than the careless nature of it’s publication, is why this book gave me actual nightmares.