Last time, we left Anita panicking over whether or not the rat shifter she’d killed (the one who Hamilton had Anita posit was more Asian than Mexican apparently) had actually meant to murder or just maim her. Chapter nineteen opens with her realizing that he’d come armed with a silver knife and that validates her tearing his throat open and ripping off his arm.
I’m a huge fan of violence, but this is literally overkill. Especially because Hamilton has to justify Anita’s violence. It doesn’t, ultimately, matter if the guy had a silver knife or not because self defense is self defense. It’s wrong to stab people who haven’t done anything to you or your loved ones first.
Hamilton then moves on to giving Anita this sort of… numb emotional shock.
I glanced down at the body lying there in the huge pool of blood. I understood now why the throat wound hadn’t bled much; the hydraulics had lost too much fluid by the time I got to his neck. The blood was still shiny; it’s almost cheerful red when there’s enough blood in the right light. It would start to darken soon.
“Is there some place I can clean up?” I asked in that detached voice that people who don’t understand violence think means you don’t care, but that’s not it at all. It means you care too damn much, so much that your mind is trying to shut down so that you won’t feel all the emotional fallout all at once, because if you do, then you’re going to fall apart right here, right now.
Because this is Anita and Hamilton continues not to understand that you can have emotional moments done well without yeeting readers out of the scene, Anita basically “mans up” and publicly eats her own anxiety rather than breaking down in Claudia’s shadow like she wants to. It’d be one thing if we were subject to Anita showing externally that this is happening to her, balancing her need to be the tough cool badass with her real vulnerability… but what we get is her putting on this mask to hide that she’s about to fully lose her shit but then telling us, via her internal monologue, that she has to be tough and strong and hide her shit. It’s a wee bit tiring friends.
Chapter twenty reminds me that ultimately, Hamilton does not actually understand that you need to basically… have conversations with people if you want them to then do things in return. My darling large rat shifter wife Claudia takes Anita upstairs to get changed because she’s basically swimming in blood but the security guard, Franco, is like “You can’t come in here, weenie” at her.
Instead of going, up front, “I killed someone who was trying to kill me and while I’m not injured, this is literally all of his blood. I’d like to wash up” she… gets pissy and essentially retreats to the safety of her second “beast”. One thing that has been interesting across this series is the way that Anita’s internal rage is large enough that it’s basically a pre-shifter beast on its own? She has to manage it otherwise she’ll unleash it and kill lots of fucking people. I’m just obsessed with it.
But it’s funny because again, Hamilton cannot write:
My anger was warm and washed away the need to cry or be hysterical. Rage had been my shield against the world for so long that it was like putting on a favorite sweatshirt all comfy and worn in all the right places, so that you could cuddle into it and feel safe.
Like… this is weird, yes? The sentence could’ve just been something like “Rage had been my shield against the world for so long that I reached for it on instinct” and that would’ve been enough.
But then Franco, doesn’t have sense. He doesn’t have the common sense to go “oh shit, go ahead” and let Anita into the room to change. He challenges her, insults her (“How can you be good enough with a blade to have killed Tony? You’re not even a real shapeshifter.”), and continues to get in her way even after she says she ripped his arm off.
So of course, Anita gets angrier and reaches for her power:
“Rafael gave you what the rest of us fought to earn. Now you have our strength without changing form. What else did he just give you that the rest of us bled for?”
My inner beasts stirred, but only rat looked up from the darkness, black eyes gleaming dark on dark inside me. I was surrounded by too much matching energy for any of my other beasts. The magic that had thinned down once we stepped into the warehouse pulsed through me like my body was a gong to be struck and made to vibrate. It wasn’t just sound that vibrated, that thrummed inside and on every side of me, it was power.
Franco staggered back against the wall as if he might have fallen without it. Claudia hadn’t moved. Whatever this magic was, it could be aimed, or maybe it just went in the direction of my emotions. Franco was standing between me and someplace I wanted to go. He was standing between me and medical care. He was standing between me and getting out of all this blood.
My rage came back not like a comfy sweatshirt this time but like a suit of armor, and what good is armor without a sword? And then I thought, I don’t know how this magic works. If I aim it at him, will I be able to control it? Will it kill him by accident like the man outside? I suddenly knew every blade Franco was wearing. The only place I couldn’t see was his back, so he might be carrying there, but otherwise I knew them all.
“Your eyes, your eyes, no one told me you were a bruja.” He pressed himself against that wall where the power had thrown him, but it wasn’t the magic keeping him there, it was his fear.
I continue to have so many questions and concerns about the way that we’re not just finding out that rat shifters have their own magic for the first time but that it’s so scary that shifters in the community are afraid to question anyone who might be a bruja.
(And like… let me not get started on how this series has made wicca – linked with white women – largely light and ineffective but still positive while magical religions associated with POC are bad and dangerous… until Anita does them? Because brujeria and voodoo – and whatever the hyenas in this world are doing – are linked with women of color and demonized… up until litebrite extremely white passing biracial Anita comes in and colonizes it and then it’s good and useful.)
Anyway, once Anita cows Franco into moving out of the way, we get to move on to the next chapter. I’d like to lie to myself and say that these short chapters are good but… I know better. We know better. We’re almost seventy percent of the way through this book and have shrunk down to a lot of page long chapters more or less… This cannot be resolved well.
I think the best part of chapter 21 is that while Anita is in shock she has a moment where she’s like “oh sports bras will wick away blood the way they do sweat” because I did not know sports bras did any of that. I don’t sweat like that and have no current plans to cover myself in a lot of blood, but if any of y’all have been able to test out both blood and sweat on a sports bra… hit me up about how well it worked. I guess??
What’s interesting about the rat shifter culture that get tidbits of here in this chapter that includes a tidbit like (“The rule here is if you can’t protect yourself, then you deserve to be hurt.”) is that once again it’s another shifter culture that’s violent and cruel for no reason while trying to claim that they’re not animals. And remember, almost all of the rat shifters are visible POC – largely Latine or South Asian – so there’s something… concerning there.
Chapter twenty-one introduces Hector in the flesh and then gives us a dense depiction of him swaggering into the room to be a dick to both Claudia and Anita:
Pierette and I moved a little back and to the side of Claudia so we could see him and the room’s only entrance. Funny how that hadn’t bothered me until now. Hector was at least six feet tall, but that was still six inches shorter than Claudia, so he didn’t look nearly as impressive as he seemed to think he looked. He was wearing only fightwear shorts that hit him upper midthigh. They were even slit up the side and bright orange and black, which was a good color against the brown of his skin. The shorts left most of his muscled body bare to view. His long black hair was done back in a braid. If he hadn’t swaggered into the room like he owned it and everyone in it, I might even have said he was handsome. If this was Hector without a crown, God help us if he won tonight. It wasn’t just the loss of Rafael, it was just a bad idea for the tall, dark, and arrogant stranger to be in charge of anything. Maybe I was prejudiced against him, but I didn’t think I was wrong.
“I believe that Rafael will kill you tonight, but either way it doesn’t change the fact that I will never be your girlfriend,” Claudia said.
“I don’t want to be your boyfriend, Claudia. I just want to fuck you.” He was close enough now that I realized his eyes were even greener hazel than they’d looked when I fed on him. The eyes were pretty, and if I was totally honest, he was in good shape with pale brown skin so even and smooth over all that muscle that he looked pettable, but pretty is as pretty does. The nice package couldn’t make up for the way his gaze went up and down Claudia’s body so that it was very clear he was doing a lot more than just picturing her nude.
Her hands curled into fists at her sides.
“Now, Claudia, you know you can’t challenge me until after I kill Rafael.”
“He’s baiting you, Claudia, don’t allow him to manipulate you,” Pierette said.
Hector’s lascivious gaze moved to her, but in the second it took for it to change targets it went from sex to hatred. I wasn’t exaggerating either, he looked at Pierette as if he hated her. It was way too personal a look for just having met.
Front loaded is that Hector is:
- A misogynist
- A potential sex pest
- Kinda hot
It’s so stressful how annoying he is. He immediately comes in like a swaggering rooster so that he can try to get to Anita and get Rafael pissed off or something. He keeps trying to gram her and fight with her and it’s just… ridiculous.
Also, hey if you thought we were not done with the racism, here’s some racist shit Hamilton wrote in this chapter
He laughed; it was that sound of a big, athletic, handsome man who has been bigger, faster, stronger, and better than all the other men for most of his life. It can make a man be incredibly arrogant and have a sense of entitlement because no one ever tells him no.
“Have you seen my fiancés?” I asked. “You’re cute enough, but you so aren’t as gorgeous as they are.”
He frowned again, as if I was making him think too hard. I wondered if he was like some of the inner-city athletes who were great on the court or field, but all the rest of their lives had been skipped over so that they were undersocialized and couldn’t read well. “After the wererats are mine, your vampire master’s beauty won’t save him, and once he dies all that survive will be ours.”
Let me run that back for y’all:
He frowned again, as if I was making him think too hard. I wondered if he was like some of the inner-city athletes who were great on the court or field, but all the rest of their lives had been skipped over so that they were undersocialized and couldn’t read well.
Y’all… She had Anita think to herself that Hector was… slow and undersocialized. Like “some inner-city athletes”. You know… like black and brown kids? I’m going to fight this woman. Wow. Like this is incredibly, openlyracist. How does this stuff keep getting published? Pretend that I’m not reading it and in theory raising her platform as a writer, but like… I am usually getting these books secondhand or as gifts from people, not paying for them.
This is just… this is shamelessly racist, babes. Really racist. But also ableist? I’m so tired.
And okay so this whole time when we’re like “oh what’s going on here, who’s the vampire Hector is dealing with”… and like… it’s the fucking Master of Beasts. You know, Padma from like… twenty books ago or so?
Which sets Anita off and you know what… fair because he fucking sucks.
Next chapter, she’s going to go uh… kill Hector, maybe?