Key To Conflict Chapter 2

Apparently Gryphon got bored with the absurd psych session, which was basically ruled by Gillian’s bloated smelly netherbits and Aleksei making puppy dog eyes while boohooing about how he hasn’t got a girlfriend.

she met conflicted and unwilling Vampires almost weekly. Aleksei was indeed depressed as well.

Yes, he’s so depressed that he splays his expensively-clad, perfectly-coiffed, sex-oozing body across the couch while whining about how sad he is. That is obviously the sign of a deeply depressed person.

He’d spent four hundred years harboring guilt over a lost love and mourning his lost Humanity.

This is less than touching because we’re being TOLD rather than shown. Heaven forbid we see some teary eyes, have a voice break up, have them put up an emotional wall and refuse to talk about it. But no, we HEAR that he’s oh-so-sad and conflicted, which doesn’t really make any impact on the reader.

Anyway, apparently his chickie died because he wouldn’t make her a vampire for unspecified reasons, and he’s all wangsty because of that. I shall now put on my fake-jeweled turban and make a magical prediction of what shall come to pass – he will get over his grief and lost love by repeatedly boinking the swampy netherbits of Gillian. Aren’t I awesome?

Anyway, Gillian sits around raging against the world…I mean, doing paperwork and dropping leaden infodumps on the readers. Apparently when she isn’t licking cream off hot vampires, she plans to do something about an Italian Ghost (yes, she capitalized the word “ghost”) in ANOTHER castle in the region. Why the hell are there two castles in close proximity?

She’d brought it along hoping she’d have an opportunity to meet with “him”—it was a male Ghost

Naturally. Wanna bet he’s a hot bishie with a broadsword in his tights?

Gillian knew Vampires well. There were good Vampires and bad Vampires.

… insert General Rant here: I’m really tired of the urban fantasy trend of having vampires be “just folks” who also happen to be unnatural parasites. Some authors – like, say, LKH and SMeyers – actually seem to consider them to be superior to human beings because they’re pretty and powerful and immortal.

Gryphon seems determined to remove any chance that anyone, anywhere, anytime, could possibly mistake her vampires for someone imposing and potentially threatening. Basically they’re moving undead cover models for trashy romance novels.

Instinct and her empathy had kept her from being hurt or killed on more than one occasion—she was generally right in her assessments.

Consider that yet another sign of what a Super Speshul Awesome Lump-o’-Awesome Gillian is.

If someone were a decent Human being in life, they became a decent Vampire in their “rebirth.” Vampires definitely didn’t like the term “undead.”

Holy balls of crap, she’s actually managed to destroy the romantic vampire even FURTHER – she’s made POLITICALLY CORRECT vampires. I feel dizzy. Pass me the bucket. Where am I? What is this place?

That was reserved for Revenants, sort of the mentally challenged of the Vampire world, who were not much more than animated corpses with the intellects of tennis balls.

So is Ms. Gryphon claiming that the “mentally challenged” people of world have the intellects of tennis balls? Given how she describes the depressed and headshrinkers, it would NOT surprise me one little bit.

you could bet lock, stock and silver bullets

Wow, is there any possible way you could make it any MORE obvious that this is an urban fantasy?

And since Gillian is Tuffer and Stronger and More Kickass than anyone else in the world, despite being tiny, stupid and prone to fits of irrational rage, she of course is an expert on Evil Vampires.

they would maintain their original sadistic personality traits, which would be coupled with an extremely attractive package. Those were the dangerous ones.

…. wait, why would all vampires suddenly go from being an ordinary-looking psychopath to looking like a model? What the hell happens that suddenly makes them Suetifully pretty? I’m sure we’re supposed to assume “It’s teh vampire secks majicks!”, but that does NOT explain how a potbellied balding middle-aged man could instantly turn into a supernatural sex machine.

Arg, the logic! It BURNS!

Oh, this book gives me a craving for Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain. Ah, evil see-through monsters who sucked the blood of innocent Jews in concentration camps. After all this dribbly hawt-vampire crap, it’s so refreshing.

Gillian had one or two dealings with a “Dracula,” as they were called. Neither of them pleasant. One had almost gotten her because she’d guessed wrong. Once.

These lines. Could only be chop. Pier. If they were. Spoken by William. Shatner.

And calling evil vampires “Draculas” is kind of stupid, because we later discover that THE Dracula is allegedly the villain of this series. I say allegedly because his presence is negligible. I might be able to believe it if Dracula were fictional, but it’s kind of like classifying all evil dictators as “Saddams” or “Fidels.”

Aleksei didn’t seem to be the sort, at least not that she could tell this early in their therapeutic relationship.

… yeah, because ten minutes of interviewing a guy who’s busy displaying his crotch for you tells you that he’s not an evil psycho killer. Because people who are evil psycho killers are “on” all the time, and never seem like nice charming people.

Anyway, Gillian sleeps in really really late, goes shopping and gets directions to the haunted castle. I can’t help but imagine her striding manfully into the store, aiming a gun at the store owner, and demanding, “Where’s the castle that the sexy hot ghost is haunting?” Since nothing about the place is interesting compared to Aleksei “Romance Novel Vampire,” it’s all summed up in a paragraph.

His insurance had approved her as a provider for daily, intensive therapy for thirty days.

… vampire health insurance. VAMPIRE HEALTH INSURANCE. I may just blow my brains out. The only way she could demystify the vampires further is if she made them suck their thumbs.

So then Aleksei shows up at her cottage or whatever. I’ve stopped caring about anything. What’s the point of life?

“Enter and be welcome, Count Rachlav.” Gillian recited the appropriate words for granting a Vampire access. She could revoke her invitation at any time, which lent her a small sense of security.

… and just what would happen if she DID revoke the invitation? Would he start bleeding all over like Eli, or burst into flames, or WHAT? It feels like Gryphon assumes that readers will just accept whatever she infodumps, so she didn’t bother to explain.

He’d been in the home the night before because it was his cabin, his property. When he turned the keys over to Gill, it had become hers and he needed her permission to enter.

…. and precisely how is this enforced? What about a home that doesn’t HAVE keys? Why should a few pieces of metal magically change the ownership of it?

File this whole infodump under “it sounds cool but disintegrates when touched by cold hard logic.” Jim Butcher handled this concept a lot better in the Dresden Files, where it’s not so much the legal OWNERSHIP of a place that repels the uninvited supernatural as the deeply entrenched presence of the people who lived their lives there.

“Thank you, Dr. Key.” Aleksei’s black-velvet voice washed over her, tightening her insides

“Gah! My spleen is imploding! I think my intestines just got knotted up! MEDIC! MEDIC!”

Gah! Bad Gillian. Very bad.

Very true. Why is a heterosexual male shrink not being sent to do this, since Swampybits can’t think of anything except sex whenever Aleksei is around?

Mentally kicking herself as her own personal humidity index tipped into the red zone,

I shall engage in pukie-time if Gryphon indulges in yet more TMI about how Gillian walks around in a fog of genital secretions.

Vampires were very sensitive to physical reactions. She was betting Aleksei knew she was attracted to him, though there was no help for it, given what he was.

… because in the current rush of urban fantasy, vampire ooze sex 24/7 and are amazingly attuned to people who want sex with them. Yet somehow they don’t smell farts, stinky sweat, or detect anything amiss with a person if it’s NOT sexually related.

I don’t know why these people don’t just dispense with the blood-sucking and focus exclusively on sex. That’s all they want for their Sues.

He probably had females of all flavors

Including strawberry, mint and chocolate?

and persuasions falling down in front of him in precoital…er…prefeeding excitement.

… puhleez, if it were all about feeding this book would never have been written.

Anyway, Gillian sits there thinking about how she wants him to notice how she’s TOTALLY NOT WANTING TO JUMP HIS UNDEAD UNDEAD UNDEAD BONES and how even if he likes her back (of course he will, silly! You’re a Sue!) they can’t get it on like farm animals until a year after his therapy ends. Of course, by Book 3 Gryphon finds a way around this pesky obstacle…

Aleksei had to admit that he was enjoying being able to speak freely with a trained professional.

These sudden narrative perspective shifts are making me nauseous.

Gillian listened intently and he had no doubt he had her full attention.

She’d be a pretty rotten shrink if she didn’t. Wait, she IS a rotten shrink!

Anyway, Aleksei is thinking about how all women think he’s sex on a stick and dribble with lust at the sight of him. Bored now.

The fact that she censored it in favor of his mental health needs, endeared her to him in a way blatant flirtation or easy conquest never could.

Oh how speshul and professional she is! After all, no other woman would possibly refuse to have sex with him because of stuff like morals, marriage vows, code of ethics or just a refusal to be manipulated by Vampire Sexx Powahz.

Her comments were insightful, thought-provoking and politely stated.

…. so don’t overstretch yourself by telling us what those comments are. Much like Eragon’s brilliant speeches that we never hear.

Thinking, truly thinking about how he had felt all those long lifetimes ago in the manner in which she suggested, opened up new realizations to him.

See above. Don’t overburden us by telling us what those realizations are, huh?

Watching her as she listened and took notes, he was struck by the depth of her personality.

And now we’re straying into Goodkind territory, with the ability to tell that someone is super-deep and smart by LOOKING AT THEM.

Anyway, Aleksei spends the next few paragraphs thinking about how hawt and awesome she is. I can only assume that Gryphon has never met a depressed person, because lack of interest in sex is one of the symptoms. And since Gillian is a Sue, we get a VERY VERY detailed description of her clothes.

She was dressed almost unobtrusively in olive drab cargo pants, a black turtleneck and hiking boots;

Cuz she’s MILITARY, and they NEVER wear jeans and ballet flats. Has Gryphon mentioned that she’s a TUFF TUFF MILITARY person?

she wore no makeup.

Naturellemont. What Sue does, since they are the gorgeousest womenz evah?

Watching her tuck her golden hair absently behind her ear, he saw the small diamond studs she word as earrings. Multifaceted, like their owner. Sparkling. His mind drifted.

Wow, Gryphon needs to tell us that Mr. Depressed Vampiyah’s mind is drifting? Funny, he doesn’t seem very guilt-ridden or depressed to me – he sounds like a horny teen using his Sad Tragic Story to get in a woman’s pants.

And he’s spent about ten minutes talking to this woman, and he’s done most of the talking. How would he know if she’s multifaceted or not?

Aleksei wondered if there was anyone in her life,

… yeah, he sounds VERY depressed. And by “depressed,” I mean horny.

“This woman, Elizabeta, wanted to be reborn, but you refused because you thought she wasn’t serious about her feelings for you, is that what I heard you say?”

This starts an ongoing trend in the Gillian Key series – no guy that Gillian has the hots for has ever been loved back by their various women. Ever. At all. The women are all shallow selfish little bints who break the bishies’ hearts, which can only be healed by the one woman in the world who can possibly provide them with Deep Twoo Wuv. They can only find love with other women if Gillian doesn’t want them anymore.

Are you puking yet?

He nodded slowly. Elizabeta had been his fiancée, strikingly similar in looks to the good Dr. Key.


She’d been warm and silly and fun, but when he’d faced his greatest trial, dying and being reborn, she hadn’t “felt” serious about him any longer, though she continued to profess her undying love.

… wait, so now somehow it’s being portrayed as a sign of being a Mean Evil Bitch to have a slight problem with your fiancee, I dunno, coming back as a freaking VAMPIRE? First off, there’s the fact that vampires were traditionally viewed as evil undead demonic monsters who had to be exterminated or they’d spread like a malevolent plague…. which, in that time period, would have been the natural reaction. His fiancee was actually being quite tolerant.

Secondly, I think MOST people might be a bit put off if their fiancee became a vampire, for a whole bunch of reasons. There’s the dead thing. And the immortal thing. And, y’know, the COLD DEAD CORPSE part.

His heightened perceptions had found that Elizabeta had a gold-digging little heart.

Wait… so magically enhanced senses can just tell you what kind of person someone is? Sheesh, shallow much? It sounds more like he decided that a mortal commoner wasn’t good enough for his vampiric majesty.

She’d been a commoner; the Rachlavs were low-rung nobility, but the highest rung on the ascending rank ladder of royalty she’d ever be able to obtain.

And apparently in Gryphon’s world, the nobility are kind, generous, unselfish and thoroughly pure of heart, while the commonfolk are shallow gold-digging assholes out to grab all they can get.

Anyway he dumped her because she was unworthy of his greatness, so she married some other minor noble and died a couple years later. But of course he was soooooo devastated because apparently she died yelling his name… which apparently didn’t detract from his opinion that she was basically a gold-digging opportunist ho.

“Yes. Elizabeta didn’t want me, she wanted new experiences, new challenges, new worlds. She’d hated being trapped in the role women were confined to in those days.”

So? Lots of women did that way back when – it often meant that they were women of strength and imagination beyond just spurting out babies and keeping house for the Big Strong Man. Unfortunately, back then an unmarried woman had even less power than a married woman; a woman’s only way of achieving any measure of independence was to marry a man who could give her that.

So the only way women back then COULD do that was by marrying a man who could give those to them. It doesn’t mean they were mercenary gold-diggers, it means that they had no choice in the matter – love was one of the LAST things that anyone considered when they wanted marriage.

If Gryphon is trying to make us hate Elizabeta, she’s failing miserably. All we’ve heard is a lot of random bitching about how she was basically a woman who was trying to have the best life she could.

“She wanted what I could offer her, Doctor, but not in the manner in which a true love wants something from their fiancée.”

What a crock. Four hundred years ago, no noble expected Twoo Wuv in marriage, especially from someone lower on the totem pole. Marriage was for dynastic, financial and social purposes; love was for whoever you were boinking extramaritally on a semiregular basis.

“A Vampire sugar daddy, yes. That’s what she would have made me.”

Apparently this is meant to make us sympathize with Aleksei, but it just makes him sound like a bitter, insensitive asshole.

He was blaming himself because he’d had an emotionally immature woman for a fiancée.

I don’t see anything emotionally immature in his fiancee – like I said, it sounds like she was DOING WHAT SHE COULD with the limited resources at hand, like virtually all women did back when they couldn’t have jobs, political positions, or the military experience that Gryphon tosses around as a Badge of Tuffness.

In fact, in that time, place and social circle, it would have been a sign of emotional immaturity if she had turned him down because she didn’t eternally wuv him.

He’d been honorable, not wanting to condemn her to his new dark life,

Sounds like a lame excuse, since Gryphon has carefully excised any sign of “darkness” or negative consequences from the whole idea of vampirism. It sounds more like he decided to be a bitter bastard and didn’t want her to be anything but his adoring groupie.

and she’d looked to him for nothing but the freedom such a transition would afford her. Not the life they could have had together, even as Vampires.

So basically she only got freedom if she did as the Big Strong Vampire Man wanted her to, and became his adoring groupie for eternity. It sounds like he didn’t love her much, since he didn’t even consider giving her what she wanted merely because she didn’t Wuv Him Trooly.

Having thoroughly trashed a dead woman who can’t defend herself, Gillian and Aleksei go onto red alert because someone is at the door. I bet it’s the mailman; it would be hilarious if Gillian went all Macho Gunslinging Woman on some poor dude trying to deliver the mail.

Ascertaining that he wasn’t the threat, she instinctively moved in front of him as combat training and experience switched to autopilot.

… so combat training and experience make you stupidly put yourself between a POSSIBLE threat and the person who is way stronger and virtually unkillable? Yeah, that makes sense.

Immediately she morphed from Dr. Key the psychologist and became all soldier once more.

…. yeah, because we’ve seen SO much soldierly behavior from her. As well as depressed people, I can only assume that Gryphon has NEVER met an actual soldier. It seems to just be an excuse to have her Sue be the machoest tuffest person ever… which is really stupid when her entire universe is populated by vampires and the like.

Let’s face it, mere human soldiers would become passe in an instant if the world were found to be full of supernatural creatures – and a short skinny woman who hasn’t demonstrated any physical strength, self-control or prowess would not be considered the military apex.

blowing her cover was the least of her worries.

… her COVER? WTF? Where did THAT come from?! What cover? No cover has been mentioned prior to this. What the hell?!

Since she’s a Sue, Aleksei is stunned and observes everything about her when she steps in front of him, and he voices the douchebaggy statement that she is female, human and in his domain. Don’t mind the second and third, because they’re the more relevant facts – but to a vampire the difference between male and female strength should be so negligible that it’s not worth mentioning. Therefore, he’s just being a sexist pig.

So he actually tries to pull her out of the way, which gives Gillian another chance to puff out her manly chest and talk about how she’ll protect him.

“If something outside is causing you concern, I am probably not even on its radar.”

Bah! She’s a Sue, therefore EVERYBODY notices and is deeply concerned with her.

“Please stay back. I will not allow you to be harmed.”

… does Gryphon even know how stupid this sounds? Not to mention quite arrogant.

I think she’s taking a page from LKH’s book by having a short, bitchy woman insisting she can take on and beat creatures with mind-boggling strength, speed and agility when they’re up and about. Logically, there’s absolutely no way you could beat a vampire who’s up and about – wouldn’t they just rip your arm from its socket before you could get a swing at them, or just dodge until they could pop off your head?

So she pulls a stiletto out of a spine sheath – another favorite “I’m so tuff” trick of LKH’s – which of course impresses Aleksei even more.

Any further discussion would have to wait as the door drifted ethereally open. There in a swirl of mist, a tall, cloaked stranger materialized on the porch, radiating power and menace.

… I’m pretty sure she ripped that off of an old Hammer Horror movie.

Seriously, why did the door “drift open”? Do Vampire Majicks somehow dislodge mechanical devices in exactly the way that the vampire wants?

And so without even checking to see who it is, she throws a knife.






Yep, apparently she throws knives if you walk into the room in a bad mood. I wonder how many grumpy UPS men she’s murdered.

And then Gryphon retcons this a minute later – whoops, she didn’t ACTUALLY throw the knife, even though she SAID she threw the knife. So instead of throwing it, she stumbles pathetically forward and plows straight into the vampire dude standing on the porch. If Gryphon is trying to impress us with what a kickass physically-adept soldier Gillian is, she’s failing miserably.

Anyway, the vampire understandably puts up his arms to keep Gilliam from torpedoing him in the chest, but apparently she interprets this defensive motion as an attack. Reaaaaallllyyyy smart.

“Back. Off!” Gillian barked, resuming a fighting stance, knife gleaming and blood in her eye.

All this because he opened the damn door without knocking first. Poor guy. He just opened the door and said, “My brother,” and suddenly he’s got a tiny psychotic blonde throwing knives at him, body-slamming him and threatening him with her knife for no apparent reason.

It’s also worth noting that Aleksei yelled “no!” at her, but she’s still trying to kill the guy. Apparently he knows Random Vampire Dude, but that isn’t stopping Gillian – I can only assume that “protecting” Aleksei is just a front for her wanting to prove how tuff and manly she is by killing someone.

And what’s with the “Back off!”? She plowed into HIM – he should be telling HER to back off.

The first thing she noticed was that he was now between her and the door. Fabulous.

And whose fault is that? Oh yeah, hers. She must be a real paranoid freak if she thinks this is some sort of tactical maneuver.

Anyway New Hottie Vamp does the sensible thing when confronted by a crazy knife-wielding person with bloodthirsty eyes and very poor balance, and uses his superhuman speed to grab the knife. I’d break her wrist first, but that’s just me. But since Gillian is a Super-Awesome SoldierSnappySue, she is able to SEE his superhuman actions and kick him OFF HIS FEET.

Oh, and of course he turns out to be sooper-sooper hawt, and our allegedly tuff strong heroine ends up sprawled in his lap. Can it get any more contrived than this? Well, I suppose she could trip coming out of the shower and fall in his lap THEN…

Damn, he was attractive. Dressed in retro-noble like Aleksei,

“Retro noble” is probably in the top ten most ridiculous phrases used in this book. Just say he’s wearing clothes from X time period. Which is stupid in itself. Why would you wear outmoded clothes from centuries ago, which would be more expensive and require special patterns?

the new arrival was a vision of the Old World.

The Old World people don’t dress like this no more.

And what part of the “Old World” is she talking about? Is he wearing a slashed doublet? A fur hat? Tights? A Viking Helmet? Heeled slippers? Various other now-silly-looking trends from Europe in times apast? All of the above?

Black cloak, gleaming boots, tight black pants and a silk shirt of a lovely soft copper color clung to his tall frame.

… why the hell do all vampires in these assorted vampire-romance books dress like Ye Olde Timey Romance Novel People? Why can’t a vampire from the 1500s wear jeans and a Sex Pistols T-shirt? Is that SO hard to imagine?

I might be able to buy, say, a PURITAN vampire being uncomfortable with such clothes, but going from an old-timey style to a similar modern style shouldn’t be a problem.

And oh lookey, Aleksei informs Gillian that the vampire she’s been assaulting for no reason happens to be his brother. Of course, rather than feeling embarrassed or remorseful, Gillian gets even more pissed – as if it’s someone else’s fault rather than hers that she flew off the handle and tried to knife someone for no reason.

Can you see why I hate her?


1 thought on “Key To Conflict Chapter 2”

  1. Appreciate you sharing. As my mom used to say “So it goes” 🙂


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