Recently, a friend asked me if I had stopped doing these recaps. And I was like, yeah, I had to, because they were putting my dog to sleep. But I was just kidding. I’m hilarious like that.
Anyway, no I haven’t stopped, and I’m not going to stop, because I’m over halfway done with this, and there’s no sense in putting myself through the first 66% of the book and not finishing. It would be like letting a Civil War surgeon on a dirty battlefield half amputate my leg and then just leave the job unfinished.
A word of caution here: due to recent injury, I’m using dictation software to write this recap. So some stuff will probably look weird, and I will likely not catch it when I edit. It’s just my luck.
So, where we last left Rory, she had just found a dead body inside the crashed spaceship, and she’s afraid it’s Cy.
I felt over the rest of the body. The clothes were slick and tight fitting, not at all like Cy’s jeans and shirt. What was left of the hair was very short and spiky, different from Cy’s soft waves and curls. Exhausted in every way possible, my body collapsed against the wall, and I cried quietly, covering my face with my clean hand. It wasn’t him. Cy could still be alive.
Writing Tip: here’s a very common mistake. Word repetition. It happens to everyone, but sometimes it’s easily avoidable. You just have to be able to see it. Here, it’s pretty visible: “I felt over the rest of the body.” “[...] my body collapsed against the wall […]“. If you switch the second instance from “my body” to “I”, you solve the problem.
Cy was hurt somewhere in a strange ship, and Benji was outside, either captured or dead.
is the ship strange to Cy? It’s from his home planet, and it’s kind of like his girlfriend’s car, right? At the very least, Cy would have some kind of knowledge of what a spaceship is and how it might be laid out. He’s a space traveler himself, after all.
Rory thinks about how she ran away “like a coward.” If I recall correctly, she actually ran away like an idiot, straight into the spaceship that had just crashed. She thinks about how she isn’t brave and can’t save anybody, then she crawls over a bunch of bodies and into what she thinks is a control room.
“Cy?” I called out just loud enough for someone close to here, hoping I hadn’t missed his body in the black corridor. I stood up. My entire body complained.
Maguire should’ve complained about the shoddy job her proofer did. Two more “body”s on the same page, and a “bodies” I didn’t quote. She really deserves her money back on this.
My arm was covered in warm blood — my own. The rest of me was covered in the blood of others.
By some miracle, she doesn’t tack on something about her inconsistent near-or-possibly-full murder.
I leaned against a desk, beyond exhausted.
Thanks for reiterating that, because you haven’t been exhausted for like four entire chapters now and I was worried you were getting your second wind.
I had wandered too far away from the point of the explosion. It wasn’t likely that Cy had gotten this far inside the ship in that amount of time. Rendlesham and the soldiers might have already captured him.
This, like so many things in this book, makes absolutely no sense. Cy was on the ship before her. Why is it unlikely that he got on the ship before her, but hasn’t made it as far as she has? Why is it likely that Rendlesham, who was outside the ship when Rory got on it, somehow got ahead of her to find Cy? or maybe she means that between Cy getting on the ship and the explosion happening, he wouldn’t have been able to get as far away from the blast zone as she did? But that still doesn’t make sense, because Cy could’ve just gone a different direction.
I was alone in a dark busted ship, tripping over dead bodies.
But not corpses, victims, casualties, dead aliens, crew members… Look, I would understand if it was a word like “parasite” or “alien”, because there aren’t a lot of suitable substitutes, so the author has to repeat those words. There’s no way of avoiding the repetition. But here there is, so it really sticks out.
Rory hears somebody speaking in a different language, and then she hears Cy’s voice.
I turned, seeing Cy and his betrothed. Apolonia was holding a sword to my throat. She was breathtaking. Her skin was a bit lighter than Cy’s, and her long black hair fell in soft waves to her elbows. It was propped up somehow from the underside and then left to cascade over like a waterfall. She had two thick braids running across the top of her head and a heavy red stripe running across both of her eyes and nose, from temple to temple, making her pale blue eyes — that were just a few shades away from white — look even brighter. Her curve-hugging crimson uniform didn’t leave much to the imagination, showing her toned shoulders, arms, and add, and she was almost as tall as Cy. She looked both futuristic and savage.
Okay. The warrior from the culture that mimics a real-world culture of people of color is “savage”.
She could be in a workout commercial or a hair commercial or a lipstick commercial, I thought as I noticed her shimmering plump lips. My day just got much worse.
She could be in a workout commercial or a hair commercial or lipstick commercial or a commercial for my latent bisexuality. (Insert routine author note about underlines indicating italics).
So, remember how Rory’s human friends might be dead right now? And how she’s on a crashed spaceship, crawling over dead bodies? And how the fate of the entire world rests on her shoulders because some devastating alien parasite might consume the human race? But a girl being prettier than her, makes the day so much worse.
Cy warns Rory not to make any sudden movements, then he says something to Apolonia and she responds in their language. Cy tells her to speak English.
“English feels unpleasant in my mouth,” she replied. She spoke my language but awkwardly and with a severe accent. It made her seem less frightening even though she was looking at me like she wanted to take my life.
It’s important that we know that the scary savage’s accent is severe, because it helps keep her scary, but less so because she’s speaking English. Okay.
“Put down your weapon, Apolonia,” Cy commanded. He spoke much harsher than he had ever spoken to me.
Because he likes you more than he likes his fiancée. We get it.
Cy asks Rory what she saw on the way there, and you guessed it, she says she saw dead bodies. There’s also a line where she thinks about every muscle in her body relaxing, so now “body” is less of a word rep and more of a motif. Cy tells Rory to hide under a desk and not to come out until he tells her to. Then he and Apolonia make a run for it, but not real fast, because Cy is injured. Though I know it wasn’t the impression the author intended to give, it kind of seems like Cy just shoves Rory under a desk in a bid to save himself.
Before Cy and Apolonia can get away, Dr. Rendlesham arrives with some soldiers. Apolonia stares them down while Cy tries to warn them:
“Doctor, call off your men. She will kill them. And you.”
So…why not just let her. If Rendlesham is dead, he can’t do the thing with the parasite, right?
Because this book is this book, the tense stand-off goes on way too long. Rendlesham tells him they have five AK-47s aimed at her, and Cy is all, let your men go home to their families, and Rendlesham is like, I’m giving you one more chance, and Cy again tries with the think-of-your-kids-back-home thing, and Rendlesham tells a soldier to take the shot, but the soldier hesitates, blah blah blah. Writing Tip: If you’re trying to write a tense gun-battle stand off scene, every dialogue exchange sucks some of the tension out. That’s what happens here. It goes from a stand-off to a conversation that’s happening while weapons politely try to not eavesdrop. After a few lines of back and forth, the reader begins to doubt that anyone is going to do anything at all.
As it happens, a soldier does end up firing his gun. He shoots Cy, which is the wrong thing to do, because Apolonia’s eyes go all black. She unsheathes her sword and deflects the bullets the soldiers fire at her with the blade. But she doesn’t kill Rendlesham. Then more soldiers run in.
Her eyes lacked compassion or fear. Her flawlessness revealed that she wasn’t human, but her eyes exposed her inhumanity. I didn’t imagine any of these men wanted to spar with her. That much beauty with that much malevolence was unsettling.
Raise your hand if the combination of “savage” and “non-english-speaking” and “inhuman” are hitting all kinds of buttons here.
I found that video when I was looking for a funny image to use here. If it’s stuck in my head, it has to be stuck in yours now, too. My curiosity is both of our downfalls.
So, Rory is still hiding under the desk while Apolonia kills like two-dozen soldiers:
Within minutes, she was the only one left standing among at least twenty-five bodies.
I was afraid of no man, but Apolonia wasn’t a man. She wasn’t even a woman.
So she’s not a woman, she’s not a man…
She was death encapsulated in perfection–a frightening thing to behold.
She’s not a woman, she’s not a man, she is something that you’ll never understand. Her name is Apolonia, which is just one “l” off from making this the perfect Prince joke.
But let’s go back to the part where Rory says she’s “afraid of no man.”
Pump the brakes, Eowyn, because while you have, admittedly, shown some character growth in the past few chapters, you’re afraid of everything. At the beginning of this chapter you even doubt your own bravery. And I’m not even convinced that as a character you’ve become braver; all I’ve really seen evidence of is your willingness to charge into danger out of sheer spite.
Also, let’s talk about your supposed immortality that has apparently been dropped or maybe never picked up. I’m not sure if you were supposed to be actually immortal or not, but if you were, why would you be so afraid of Apolonia?
Wait, if Rory is immortal and Apolonia is death encapsulated in perfection, maybe the book ends with them becoming crime fighting buddies! Gosh, I hope not, because that would mean there would be more books with Rory in them.
Before we move on, let’s add the whole “she’s not a man or a woman” thing into the “entirely remove the humanity of a character whose race is informed by that of real world people of color” bucket, right along with “savage”, “non-English-speaking”, “inhuman”.
Benji suddenly came into view. I was so glad that he was okay, and I wanted to hold him so much that my entire body literally pulled an inch or two in his direction.
Apolonia doesn’t see him, so, you know. Some highly lethal killing machine warrior non-woman she is. Benji crawls over to Rory, who warns that Apolonia is going to kill him.
Apolonia kneeled beside me, her face just inches from my cheek, but I didn’t dare look at her or her freaky-ass black eyes.
She spoke something beautiful but frightening.
“Just don’t hurt him,” I said. Accepting that she would use her sword to slice through me, I closed my eyes. Just because I would come back didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt. I wasn’t exactly sure I could come back after being cut in half anyway.
Never, in the history of any paranormal or fantasy book I have ever read, have I been so confused about the possible immortality of a main character. Seriously, why are we supposed to be on the edge of our seats that Rory might die if she’s immortal? Is withholding confirmation or clarity on the issue an attempt to make the book more compelling? It’s not working.
Unfortunately, Apolonia doesn’t cut Rory in half. Instead, she tells Rory and Benji to stand up, and Benji tries to get between Rory and Apolonia.
“Stop moving!” I said, my voice breaking. I was sure at any moment she was going to decapitate him.
Apolonia’s eyes were blue again, and she rolled them at us.
Apolonia tells Rory that she’s not going to hurt them, and asks if Dr. Zoidberg, who’s lingering in the hall, is with them.
Apolonia left us, stepping over bodies to reach Cy.
Rory rushes to Cy’s side, too, or tries to with her injured leg, which she has injured without noticing. Which, you know, can happen, but it better have happened for a reason that’s better than “look how vulnerable I am in comparison to this scary, savage, inhuman stand-in for a woman of color.”
Cy is okay, he’s just shot in the shoulder. Good thing that rarely kills people. He warns everyone that if Apolonia can’t get the specimen and make contact with her father soon, Earth’s time is up. Cy wants to know what Benji is doing there:
“He was looking for me. He saw the Nayara this morning while he was running. She’s sort of hard to miss.”
“He just happened to be running before dawn?” Cy said, snarling at Benji.
“He always runs in the mornings! Would you please trust me for once?”
Okay, but remember the part where he was wandering around, specifically shouting your name? And now he was just on a jog? Let’s decide which one it is.
Benji looked at me, confused and hesitant to respond. “I would never do anything to hurt Rory. She’s more important to me than she is to you.”
“Why is that?” Cy seethed.
“Because I…that’s none of your business.”
“Rory is my business,” Cy said.
“As flattering as this is,” I said, “we have shit to do. Let’s get Cy stitched up.”
Cy and Benji stared each other down until Apolonia tightened her grip on Cy.
All-powerful, preternaturally beautiful female side character intimidated by plain Jane main’s importance to her man? I would expect no less of this book.
Apolonia suggests they go out and look for survivors. They leave Dr. Z in charge of Cy.
Then Benji and I went with her to check the bodies in the hallway. Every time we couldn’t find signs of life, Apolonia became more and more angry. After the sixteenth body, I was beginning to feel afraid around her.
Emphasis mine. And you’ve been afraid of her this entire time. Hell, you’ve been threatened by her since you found out she existed.
Through the breach in the hull they see that Rendlesham and his guys are gone. They just left, I guess. That’s convenient to the plot. They find a woman who’s still alive, but impaled.
“I hope she makes it,” Benji said. “If not, Apolonia might stab one of us just to make herself feel better.”
Because she’s just that “savage”.
Apolonia lifts the woman off the thing impaling her–btw, not the way you handle an impalement injury, since whatever is currently jabbing through the person is holding a lot of important shit in place, like blood and possibly organs–and when the woman doesn’t scream, Rory thinks:
The young woman wasn’t many years away from being a girl, and she had already displayed an intense amount of bravery and self-control that I had only seen once before–in myself.
Are you serious? You just saw an alien warrior woman armed only with a sword plow through twenty-five soldiers armed with AK-47s without flinching or breaking a sweat, but it’s your courage and strength you’re reminded of? Sweet Hera, save us from this mortal’s hubris.
When they get back to the bridge, Cy and Dr. Z are gone, and Apolonia guesses that they went to the infirmary, so she takes everyone there.
We entered an all-white room, every surface made of the same strange cloth-like material.
Is it, uh, cloth?
Even the walls, floors, and small surgical tables and beds were composed of this gauze-cheesecloth combination.
So it’s not “cloth-like”. It’s just cloth.
The room also glows without any visible light fixtures, and Dr. Z is tending Cy’s wounds. Because remember, in this book, doctor means doctor of everything. Apolonia puts the impaled woman on a bed and bad news, everyone! The impaled lady is the ship’s doctor! And she’s got blood leaking out of her ears!
Cy called out, prompting Apolonia to rush to his side. My stomach tensed, and my cheeks flushed, but it wasn’t jealousy.
Sure it wasn’t.
I was that I couldn’t bear losing someone else. IT was too much to stomach–that, and so much blood. I hadn’t seen that much blood since–
Since you were picking over casualties in the hallway? Since you saw a room full of soldiers get shredded with a sword? Nope! Since your mother and best friend died. Because they bled more blood than countless dead aliens and two-dozen soldiers.
As it turns out, Rory is also overwhelmed because she’s hurt. Benji puts her on the table with the bleeding doctor, Tsavi, and Cy is all, “Help her.”
I turned my head and stared into his beautiful golden eyes. He always had a calming effect on me, even when I hated him. He was dirty, covered in grease, soot, and blood, but he was still beautiful. Like my mother just before she died.
“I’ll be okay,” I said although it was too quiet for anyone but Cy to hear.
He reached out for me, and I mustered up the last of my strength to lift my hand to touch his fingertips.
GODDAMNIT ARE YOU IMMORTAL OR NOT?! You don’t get to have a death scene if you’re immortal! You just fucking said Apolonia could stab you with a sword and you would come back. Why should I believe there is any sense of danger in this scene?
But whatever. Benji tells Rory that he won’t let anything happen to her, and the chapter is over.