Book Review: A Few Words on Assault
I am a self-professed fantasy fan. I love urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I have favorite authors that I follow (not literally as I still haven’t figured out where any of the PNW-based ones live) and I eagerly await newest releases in my favorite serials.
In case you were unaware, books are typically released on Tuesdays. I’m sure there’s a very good reason for this, but let’s just assume it’s because publishers are assholes who don’t want me to be productive at work on Tuesdays. (Just kidding – I love publishers! And editors! And agents! Call me!)
So, on Tuesday the 27th of January when the third in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Prince series was released, it instantly appeared on my Kindle app and on my Audible app (I didn’t want to waste any time and I have this pesky driving thing that I have to do). My PSM and I had been talking about this book for a bit. We were eager to read it. A bit excited even.
I started first and I taunted her via Twitter and text message, because that is the kind of friend I am. Evil.
And then, things started to go wrong.
There will be spoilers, so if you are personally planning on reading this book and haven’t yet done so, go away or I shall taunt you another time
It took me a really long time to scroll back to find this so I could screen shot this. We discussed a bit exhaustively.
So, I have a few words that I’d like to say on this subject that I’m rolling up into my review of this book.
I think we can probably all agree that rape is bad. Not good. No Bueno.
I also understand that rape is a reality.
One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That’s 17.7 million women.
IN addition, 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime – that’s 2.78 million men. **
That’s a lot of rape.
I understand that rape is a reality and that fiction, even fantastical fiction, can be an important vehicle to discuss uncomfortable realities.
But it is not always necessary.
There were two things about this that struck me most particularly about the scenes that were in this book.
Point the first. These rapes, whether faked or not, were not perpetrated against Leila, the female main character, as a way of damaging her or breaking her. They were a way to hurt her husband. The rape, which was filmed, was aimed at a man. That point, right there, is the number one reason why these rapes (regardless of whether they were real or not – either in regards to the reality of the fictional world or the fact that it is just a damn novel) are unforgivable to me. The entire reason the evil villain had the female protagonist raped was to hurt another man and that wasn’t discussed. No one said, “hey evil one! Maybe if you want to hurt your enemy, you should, oh, I don’t know, continue blowing up his homes and other possessions because regardless of this fantasy world, his wife is not his possession!” Of course, no one said that because violating his woman was the most damaging thing that could have been done to our male protagonist. And that pisses me off.
Point the second. I started thinking about all my favorite paranormal romances and tried to figure out how many of the female characters (main characters or not) had not (a) been raped, (b) been sexually assaulted, or (c) had to fend off an unwanted sexual assault. I’m limiting it to sexual assault because they’re all kind of kick-ass and warriors get physically assaulted a lot. Part of the job description.
The urban fantasy genre with female main characters fared a little better than the paranormal romance. My qualifier is whether romance is incidental to the story or not. So I don’t recall Jo from CE Murphy’s Urban Shaman series fending off a rape (maybe an unwanted sexual advance from Cernunnos), but Mercedes Thompson in Patricia Brigg’s series was raped, as was Anna in the same author’s Alpha & Omega series. Keri Arthur’s women in her paranormal romances do not do so well in rape avoidance. I’m pretty sure Kate Daniels (urban fantasy, not paranormal romance) is not sexually assaulted. I also don’t recall any sexual assault in Kevin Hearne’s urban fantasy.
I’m probably going to have to go back and do a critical re-reading of my favorite series, but the one message I’d really like to impart is that there are plenty of ways to torture someone without raping them, and maybe it’s time to use our creative writerly brains to figure some of those out.
Four stars for the story
Minus 1 for rape
Total: 3 stars.
** Statistics from https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims