Before we get too ranty here, I do want to give a more Valentine-friendly shout-out to my followers, commenters, and fellow book bloggers. Bring it in, Bookwyrms!
I know I haven’t been keeping up with the blogosphere as much in the past year, which is why I didn’t feel comfortable doing a full Blogging Valentines 2022 post, but I still srsly appreciate the interactions I have had.
This February’s been kinda tough for me. It happens some years, for reasons not fully known. Most things externally are going well. It’s just that the S.A.D. tends to kick in extra hard in February, like it’s giving me an extra petty house-crashing gift as Spring approaches.
Anyhoo, as a way of embracing this wacky time of year, I’m starting a new (hopefully not too frequent) segment: the NeriSiRant. It’s somewhat inspired by the former Reading Rage segment on Insatiable Booksluts, and it’s specifically in response to a tiny moment in the latest October Daye book that made me say, “Nope. That’s it. This ‘ship is dead to me.” (I suppose you could call Shipwrecked a sub-segment)
CW: toxic relationships, emotional abuse.
Don’t worry; I’m not talking about the Lovecat & the Knight in Bloody Armor around whom the plot centers. Tybalt and Toby are fine, and I’m raising another amethyst-encrusted glass of champagne to their health.
I’m talking about Liz and Annie.
I know. You’re all clutching your October Report Bingo Boards in horror. Who is this imposter and what’s she done with the Selkie/Sea Witch stan who used to captain this tragic love-boat?
I’m sorry, but this normally sweet-hearted siren’s been soured by a single comment made by Annie (aka the Luidaeg) herself. A comment in which she completely and cavalierly dismisses her own role in their break-up.
The context: (mild SPOILERS). Toby is delighted to see that her formerly estranged daughter Gillian is attending the wedding, which the Luidaeg explains was a semi-political move by Elizabeth Ryan. As leader of the Half-Moon Bay Roane community and the few remaining Selkies there, Liz wanted to send a delegate to Toby’s wedding to show there were “no hard feelings” about, y’know, Toby causing the near-extinction of the Selkie race.
Sending Gillian, specifically, was in obedience to the Sea Witch’s personal request. “Request,” of course, being a tactful understatement. Because, as the Luidaeg full-tooth-grinningly puts it:
“Liz is a smart lady who made one massive, life-changing mistake when she was younger. She knew better than to tell me no.”
And like a sharp record scratch, that statement broke the bittersweet spell I’d been under since Book 5.1. I was like:
Nope. Uh uh. Fluke you, Antigone of AlbaNOT BUYING IT. To quote your own words to Liz all those years ago: “Don’t even try that on for size.”
Never mind that you told her the most epic lie of omission ever about your identity and then blamed her for being dutifully ignorant. Never mind that you gave her no clear reason to reject what she’s been raised — by your own decree — to want more than anything else.
Never mind that you also didn’t tell her that the price of learning the truth and then rejecting the sealskin would be instant death.
Never mind that you were literally ordering her to choose between her own family and you, between her individual desires and her relationship with you, between the freedom of the sea and the increasing confinement of your not-so-mutual home — between, ultimately, life and death.
No, let’s finally focus on the truly egregious issue. The thing I’ve somehow blocked out or not realized until now, that can’t be explained away as a symptom of your loneliness and your grief for the Roane.
You knowingly entered into a relationship with someone who had no idea just how great the power imbalance was. Never mind that she was just fifteen when you met her…I mean, kudos to you, I guess (if kudos are like the points in Who’s Line Is It Anyway?), for at least waiting until she was of legal-by-human-standards age before getting too physical.
You knowingly courted a person whose ancestors you created, in name if not literally. You were basically a demigod toying with one of your creations, demanding her complete, uninformed loyalty while offering nothing close to that level of devotion in return.
You are a nearly omnipotent being who deceived and seduced a young human; emotionally manipulated her into rejecting her family to be with you; blamed her for eventually wanting a life outside of your relationship while, at the same time, falling too deeply in love with you and wanting that love to last forever.
It would be more understandable if you really were the person you pretended to be — a Roane changeling unable to tell her Selkie girlfriend the truth about how they’re connected. At least you would’ve been on slightly more equal footing (aside from her being the descendant of the genocidal murderers and you being the descendant of the few survivors. I’ll definitely give you that), and the story would have been properly tragic instead of deeply disturbing.
Aww, you would’ve visited her grave every se’ennight to shed a romantic tear for the worn-out toy you had to bury? You would’ve buried her in the Summerlands, the place she dreamed of having access to all her life, that you decided she didn’t deserve because of her unchosen ancestry?
Fluke that, Antigone. You don’t own Liz. You don’t get to treat her worse than the other Selkies who made the exact same choice that you ordered them to make when you created their race. You don’t get to use your grief to fluke around with someone who’s not your own size.
Right on, Liz, for being “uniquely uncharitable” about your position as Annie’s chew toy. Fair enough, choosing not to die for your ancestors’ sin. Sure, rejecting the skin would’ve been a noble choice, even just believing, at that point, that it had belonged to one of your girlfriend’s ancestors.
But honestly, it was a criminally unjust choice to have to make. As the Luidaeg’s badass sister Amphitrite put it two books ago, Annie was punishing people so far removed from the original sinners that it made her look more like a villain than a magnanimous wronged deity. She was, to put it as Biblically as Amphitrite did, visiting the fathers’ sins upon not only their immediate children, but on their hundreds-of-times-great grandchildren.
And you’re (talking to Annie again) STILL not finished, apparently! You’ve finally resurrected the Roane — not the original, individual people who died, I realize, but the species — and yet you’re STILL treating them (especially Liz) like your troublesome possessions. The Selkies have done everything you’ve told them to for hundreds of years, and it’s STILL not enough.
I get it — being the new Roane’s Firstborn is nowhere near the same as being your original children’s mother. Gillian may have Firtha’s body now, for instance, but she’s still Gillian and not Firtha.
But she is in no way responsible for Firtha’s murder. And Liz is not responsible for the murder of the Roane whose body she now inhabits. Whose skin she honored exactly as you instructed the original Selkies to do. You ordered them to wear your children’s skins in order to bring them somewhat back to life.
Yet here you are, still trying to gaslight Liz into believing she wronged you. You deceived her, manipulated her, and discarded her, and now you’re continuing to threaten and humiliate her for not dying like a good little human.
Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten how you threatened her half-Roane daughter, Diva, at the Duchy of Ships. Diva, whose grandfather was one of your original children.
Visiting her mother’s alleged sin on her, now. How poetic.
Having re-read In Sea-Salt Tears, the novella that started my October Daye journey, I now see Liz’s final statement differently.
May Oberon forgive me for all that I’ve done, but Annie, my darling Annie…I am still not sorry.
You could see this as a tragic declaration of continued devotion to a toxic lover, as well as an example of self-gaslighting.
But maybe she’s saying something else. She’s not just #NotSorry for having loved Annie. She’s ultimately not sorry for disobeying her. For choosing her own life and autonomy instead of settling for a grave in the Summerlands. Liz may be a bitter alcoholic now, but she’s still rebelling the best way she can — by surviving. She may have submitted herself to the Luidaeg’s power even further by becoming a Roane, but she’s won herself Fae immortality in return.
Aaaargh, Seanan McGuire, why are you making me feel so much angst over these fictional people???
Encanto screenshot from msn.com.
Say What GIF from tenor.
Excuse me? Seal GIF from giphy.
I’m sorry, what? GIF from giphy.
Sarcastic clap GIF from giphy.
That’s messed up GIF from giphy.
That’s precious GIF from tenot.
Overwhelmed feeling GIF from tenor.
Overkill GIF from tenor.