Captive (Blackcoat Rebellion, Book 2)
Harlequin Teen (US: 25th November 2014; AU: 1st December 2014; UK: January 2015)
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TRIGGER WARNING: Classism – it’s the world-building’s basis.
SPOILER WARNING: I’m not sure how to do spoiler-links in WordPress. I’ve put a warning directly above the spoilers, so proceed with caution, and don’t scroll too far – EVERYTHING below the warning is a spoiler.
I came to Pawn for the Masking, and stayed for Elsewhere. It was fine.
Captive starts off…well, boring, until Kitty goes to Elsewhere. Here’s where the story’s flashes of brilliance occur, namely the cage and the dollhouse. The latter is particularly fascinating, so the time spent in and about the dollhouse is far too short. Hopefully it makes an appearance in the upcoming third novel.
Then a particular character dies, and Kitty Doe does not deal with it in a healthy manner. Grief is devastating, and can affect people in a myriad of ways, so who’s to say what’s “right” and “wrong”? But I’m pretty sure that trying to bait people with firearms into killing you probably isn’t the best way to cope.
I sighed, and read on. But what happens next in the novel sent me into a rant.
SPOILER ALERT! PLEASE VACATE THIS PAGE IMMEDIATELY IF YOU DON’T WANT THE STORY SPOILED FOR YOU. EVERYTHING BELOW THIS WARNING IS A SPOILER.
Surprise! Not really dead. Which probably isn’t surprising. GENERALLY speaking (yes, there are exceptions), love interests are the least likely (after the narrator/lead) characters to die, unless they’re part of a love triangle or in order for the monogamous heroine to have a romantic/sexual relationship with someone else. GENERALLY. Deaths of enemies, strangers, family, and friends – these are plentiful and par for the course in most fiction. But having the love interest die? That’s where most authors seem to fear to tread. But why?
(NOTE: I’m not an author, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge – all I have is speculation.)
In genre fiction – and not just in romance – a “happy ending” pretty much always has the hero/heroine in a romantic/sexual relationship. As if you can’t be happy if you’re single?
But it’s still curious that while death is so prevalent in genre fiction, the love interest seems to be the character least likely to die. I have no statistics, just a general feeling of the situation, so my observation may be incorrect. If you know of any studies of character deaths in genre fiction, I’d love to read them.
Back to Captive: When Kitty’s boyfriend “dies”, she gives up on life. She stops fighting for herself and the rebellion. She seems to have put her entire self worth, and that of everyone else, in Benjy so that when he dies, so does Kitty’s care factor for ANYTHING.
But the reveal that Benjy didn’t really die? Suddenly Kitty’s back to thinking about others. Or does she? There’s a person whom earlier she didn’t care about, but when it’s revealed that Kitty has a connection to her? Instantly, Kitty cares. Because even though she seemingly values other people, she REALLY only values those that have a personal connection to her.
And let’s not forget about “women in fridges” – characters (usually female) that are included for the sole purpose of being threatened/killed to motivate the hero (usually male). It’s gender-swapped here, but even though Benjy is male he’s still a woman in a fridge.
But it’s the not-really-dead thing that sent me ranting. Authors may claim that THEY don’t kill characters – and, fair enough, CHARACTERS kill other characters, or illness or injury kills characters. But authors DECIDE who lives and who dies. Sure, you can claim that in the FIRST draft the characters tell the story, things do or don’t happen, and the author is more like a court stenographer – typing everything that goes on, and striking some of it from the record when ordered. Fine, that’s believable – for a FIRST draft.
For the final PUBLICATION, on the other hand, the author (and their editor, and whomever else) makes the decisions. The AUTHOR chooses what’s best for the story, what makes it into the final copy and what doesn’t. The author is not a MURDERER (another character/injury/illness is), but they are the MASTERMIND.
So yes, it DOES matter which characters don’t survive, and for the most part the love interest doesn’t die. Why is that? Why are love interests more sacred than other characters? Why is being single seen as the worst thing of all, and thus somewhat taboo, not part of a “happy ending”?
Captive improves after the rant-sparking scenario, and I intend to read Book 3. Captive is definitely thought-provoking. Not necessarily for the better.