I received a free e-ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this book in exchange for an honest review. The offer came in an e-mail through Goodreads. I’m not sure if this was just a general e-mail that went out to all Goodreads members, if this was because I’d tried to win an advance copy of a book I wanted about a year ago, or if I got specifically selected to review something supernatural because I’ve read the entire series of The Dresden Files (more on that to come later). I accepted it because I had never read an ARC of any kind before and it seemed like a neat concept. In fact, it was actually this particular book that was the inspiration for this blog – thinking, “I’m getting all kinds of free books, even this odd indie supernatural e-reader – why not write about my experiences with them?”
And then I read it. And I thought, maaaaaybe I shouldn’t actually review this. Maybe I should just accept that when I get an ARC, I should do the author a solid and pretend I never read it if I feel like I can’t say something nice. But as this is my first ARC, as it was the very inspiration for my writing, and as the premise of this blog is to give you the lowdown on the truly awful as well as the truly awesome, I’m here to provide what I promised.
This is one of the single worst books I’ve ever read. I would describe it as completely derivative work that is essentially a hybrid of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (although, despite thinking those were also some of the single worst books I’ve ever read, they are wildly popular – so you might like this!). Essentially, this is a story about a girl (Hannah) who feels like she fell in love with a gypsy (Merick) one night in her youth, but the gypsy is actually a grandchild of the devil. She thought her town slaughtered him that night, but as it turns out death isn’t possible (at least by manner of slaughtering) for kin of the devil. Years later Merick buys Hannah from her father under the premise that he will marry her, but he actually intends to keep her as a slave as revenge for her town’s attempted murder. As you could likely guess by my literary comparisons, Merik and Hannah eventually fall in love much to the chagrin of those around them.
What bothers me most about this (and the 2 works that clearly inspired it) is the combination of abuse and Stockholm Syndrome portrayed as true love. It makes me uncomfortable that Hannah is depicted as a slave carrying out Merik’s tasks day after day, observing his unpredictable anger and seeing his in-deep-need-of-real-therapy emotional wounds, yet she finds him beautiful and perfect. In what case other than imprisonment would a woman find such erratic and terrifying behavior ‘beautiful”? It equally bothers me that buying a girl as a slave to keep her near him is viewed as an act of long underlying love for Merik, and that when he manages to prevent himself from truly harming her when he flies into a rage he is portrayed as heroic and kind.
I think these continuous stories of abuse/control as love are dangerous for young women. Especially written in this style, which is essentially ¼ story and ¾ sexual longing. An act of anger quickly turns into a 20-page sexual encounter, and it becomes so difficult to separate out dangerous violent urges and true sexual attraction that the two become nearly equated for the couple. After a sexual encounter, Merik often flies into a violent rage or kicks Hannah out as if she had meant nothing to him (to PROTECT her you guys), and because it is “protection” this is seen as an act of true love. What does this do to the many, many women reading this (then giving it 5 stars on Goodreads) as a fantasy? That the fantasy means to be controlled is “sexual”, to have someone be cruel is “protection”, to have someone be so intense and angry that when violence isn’t carried out it is “romantic” – that seems even more distorted to me than my generation’s Disney Princess Complex.
111 pages in, Hannah was saying to Merik, as a slave, “I wish you would tell me what really am to you. What is is you want to be.” 113 pages in, he was thinking, “the whispers of the Vetala grew. Take her, she is yours. Yours to punish. Yours to keep.” That’s where the two of them were, halfway into this love story – her a slave, wanting to know where she stands, wondering if she means anything because of his ambiguous violent/loving actions – him fighting urges to keep as her as HIS to punish.
By page 131, 20 pages letter, she had officially referred to him as the man she loved. And on 133, she was intentionally harming herself to give him what he needed – cutting into herself, providing blood flow as some act of sacrifice to him. DESPITE the fact that only 10 pages prior he was fantasizing about controlling her as property while she wondered how he felt.
In Twilight, a man is so strong that when he attempts any sexual intercourse or loving act he harms the female lead, bruises her entire body, and she says it’s ok – that she knows he loves her and doesn’t mean it. He watches her sleep and threatens anyone else who might have emotion for her. He tells her what she should and should not do, where she should and should not go, at age 17, because he is her protector. And for teenagers everywhere, this was – maybe still is – the ultimate love story.
50 Shades of Grey, made popular because of the following it gained back when it was Twilight fan fiction (50 Shades of Grey was written by a Twilight fan fiction blogger who changed the character names after receiving a book deal), has understandably similar manipulation given its origins. It is about a man who contractually binds a woman to intercourse. Who, when he punishes her for stepping out of line, is seen as understandable and even sexy. Who, when he controls her waking life, is seen as pleasing or loving or even – what a theme here – protecting. For grown women everywhere, THIS was the ultimate sexual love story.
And A New Day at Midnight combines these elements. It takes the controlling and physically dangerous portions of a vampire in Twilight, wraps them up with graphic sexually violent manipulative scenes from 50 Shades, and it throws them together in a poorly written book. As such, with ANY amount of good PR (though I’m not sure Bookkus is prepared to offer that), given the success of the two above books I see NO REASON why this book couldn’t be a smash hit, #1 best seller amongst teens and grown women. And I find that scary.
The people who do love these stories seem to enjoy being swept up in the S&M nature of it all. But there is a distinct difference between S&M (if done the right way, a healthy sexual relationship between two consenting adults) and abuse or control over one’s entire essence and being. These books unknowingly and dangerously portray the latter. And I do mean it when I say dangerously, because with the popularity of these stories – demonstrated by this display of the 50 Shades of Grey release at Target – these are likely fantasies quickly internalized by females in the U.S.
The women I know who love books like 50 Shades seem entrenched by the descriptions of sexual encounters. But I could never find myself entrenched, in 50 Shades or A New Day at Midnight (in fact, I often quickly flipped through Hiscox’s sexual episodes) because I don’t know how you separate the sexual encounter and the unhealthiness of the relationship that precedes and follows the encounter. In truth, I don’t think you can – I’m not sure any of these readers could, meaning that I believe there is a good chance this unhealthy relationship is somewhere in any reader’s subconscious as they absorb a sexual fantasy. In many cases, given the popularity of these books and movies, repeatedly absorb them. And in what ways can that affect your real life relationships with love and sex? If we are virtually all willing to agree that the Disney Princess Complex is real, why aren’t we having more honest conversations about the influence of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (and now, books like A New Day at Midnight deriving their core themes)?
There was a halfway interesting back-story in Hiscox’ book, about the devils’ child escaping hell carrying a book of curses that would be the only way to re-open the portal to hell. There is another demon chasing them trying to obtain the book to bring his own wife back from the dead. The problem is this paranormal story takes up about 20 pages of the 262 in the book. Even at the end (I can’t believe I read this book through to the end), when it seems like it’s going to get really exciting – 2 armies clashing together over this fight for the curse that could bring hell to Earth – it’s over in less than 10 pages! Gathering up the armies and fighting it out took less than 10 pages. Where was the climax? Where was the action? Then I got 2 pages of flat-out answers to any questions that might have been raised throughout the book, trying to quickly tie up any loose ends, just before the happily every after with the gypsy who imprisoned a girl and her permanent Stockholm Syndrome.
Bottom line: this book is full of the essence of an unhealthy relationship; but then, so was Twilight. If you want some Twilight with an extra large dose of sex intertwined with your violence, I’d recommend it. But please read with caution.