Sweet Reckoning means Sweet Release from me having to read this horrifying series

Sweet Reckoning means Sweet Release from me having to read this horrifying series

☆☆☆☆☆

(0 stars)

Is ‘horrifying’ the right word? I typed ‘horrible’ at first, but then… this book, and the series as a whole, is so absurdly bad it sounds fake. How else can I discuss a book  with extreme christian themes and yet super horniness, where the bible saves the day, the love interest is a canonical child rapist, and panty-sniffing virginity-sensing demons are a key plot point?

There’s actually a fourth book, a companion to the trilogy from the viewpoint of the love interest, but right now I don’t have interest in reading it.

Plot

It’s the final battle for good and evil! Or, uh, it will be. You know, in the last fourth or so. Maybe last fifth.

What’s this book? Er. Again, it’s quite light on being anything. Marna and Jay get back together, and she becomes immediately pregnant. This causes some issues. The Dukes, especially Kaiden’s dad, suspect Anna is the chosen one, and are trying to ensure she’s truly not a virgin- since then she wouldn’t be pure, and can’t satisfy the prophecy. Though they avoid this for ages (if you’ll recall, Anna’s virginity directly killed someone last book), eventually they realize if Kaiden and Anna just marry, he can have sex with her without it diminishing her purity, and they’ll bypass the virgin sniff test.

So that happens, and Anna/Kaiden have sex (she’s very insistent it has to be penetration for it to count).

Demon dad Beliel is a known traitor to the other Dukes, so he’s on the run, and comes back during a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner in the body of a famous rapper, who he didn’t realize was famous. So he has to go into hiding immediately after since, you know, people have noticed his body is missing from the morgue. Anna finally uses the angel sword to kill some spirits, one escapes and tells the Dukes she IS the chosen one, and she gets fake taken prisoner by Kaiden for the big finale.

She meets with the Dukes in vegas, thinks about the bible, watches and doesn’t lose faith as her adopted mother is tortured and murdered in front of her while Heaven ignores prayers, and then after a chaotic short fight she prays to Heaven for the demons to head back to Hell/be able to repent. They do, everyone lives (but mom and Marna during later childbirth), and later she adopted three kids with Kaiden.

Thirty chapters and nearly 400 pages. Oh, and everyone is heterosexually paired off by the end, of course.

Sex Crimes

This isn’t actually my section about the wild horniness that continues to be a theme. It’s horniness… of a different caliber. Unconsensual horniness. Sexual assault.

Guys, this book has a lot of uncomfortable sexual assault references. There might have been a mention or two before- Kaiden’s dad, the Duke of Lust, is of course always horny and has made some mild lewd comments about Anna before. You know what he does in this book? Molests her multiple times! More sex comments! Groping, grinding, weird hair sniffing! This is all weirdly after Anna’s married to Kaiden, meaning that’s her father in law there. Ew! He even asks Kaiden for a threesome at one point.

There’s also other goons who harass Anna with pat downs/touching, and at the climax before Kaiden intervenes, one of the Dukes starts getting ready to rape her while everyone watches.

Wendy Higgins, come over here, to this dark alley. I just want to talk, Wendy. No, there is nothing in my hands, Wendy.

The dreaded ‘Kaiden’s forced but still long standing participation in sex trafficking’ plotline is, uh, addressed at long last. I’m kidding! It’s resolved with Kaiden saying, post his dad being banished to Hell forever, he’ll call in the human who runs the sex ring and report her to the law (since it can’t be traced back to him anymore). This makes no sense on a lot of levels. The whole book series is full of the Nephs talking to each other via text/phone with only light levels of secrecy and not getting caught or anything traced back to them- his dad pays attention to what Kaiden does, but would he really be able or willing to trace an anonymous tip about an international sex ring?

It also confirms/implies that Kaiden, who was ultimately forced by his dad to participate in sex trafficking, mainly didn’t resist on threat of his own life. This series takes place over ~4 years, and for all of book two Kaiden is even refusing to ‘work’- yet he still doesn’t report the sex ring? His putting his own life solidly, for a few years after meeting Anna and turning fully good, ahead of women. Remember in book one where he said he was ordered to ‘train’ a 13 year old girl?

Also THIS IS A PARANORMAL YOUNG ADULT BOOK ABOUT ANGELS AND DEMONS WHAT IS GOING ON.

Oh, they horny for this one

In this book, Anna and Kaiden finally have sex! Good. Of course, they have to wait until marriage first (christian themes is another topic). Once they have sex, they can’t stop. Kaiden’s supposed to be hypersexual thanks to his demon ancestry from the guy in charge of lust, but he is just obnoxiously down to clown.

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Anna touches his knee during thanksgiving dinner once and he lets out a sexual moan. She sends him a photo of her ass and he sends back a page full of WILD texts about how turned on he is and angry about it. He has to be reminded and threatened more than once that it isn’t appropriate to have sex/make out in various places because they might be seen by demon whisperers, or because their friends with their 1 mile hearing will hear it. (The other running theme, ‘characters forced to hear their friends or dads having sex’, makes a triumphant return more than once, again.)

The chapter after they get married is pretty much the sex chapter. There’s little mention of more explicit terms, but it’s extremely clear what is happening. They have sex at least four times that night. The next morning Anna sees an angel, it turns out to be her mom, and her mom says the angels were watching and celebrating their marriage (and uh, presumably them having sex). THANKS ANGEL MOM.

More than once Kaiden’s need to bone nearly ruins the day or causes serious problems. Also, once time Anna watches him play guitar and is extremely, very, extremely, turned on by it, and that was weird.

Race stuff Redux

This is mostly my notice that Higgins is still not off the hook for any of the things she does. Mostly, in this book Beliel leaves his old biker-punk body and possess a rapper, and with that he inherits a phonetic accent. So, lots of apostraphes and some slang. He also dresses with low pants, boxer shorts hanging out, a do-rag on the head… very stereotypical.

I’m mostly bothered by the accent, but it doesn’t help he’s also in a very stereotypical ‘rapper body’.

Related to next section, and really just a continuation of a point from book two, but Zania is like, fully christian now and that’s not really okay. I’m not saying someone can’t convert, or that an abused arabic woman who wasn’t really religious might become so when brought to the safehouse of a monastery, but it’s very telling this Syrian woman raised on Islam is now properly at peace and willing to pray thanks to Christianity.

Christian Theme-ing Extreme-ing

Okay, this book was always pretty christian themed, and also always a little over the top with it. For the final battle, things get more intense.

First, as mentioned, there’s a scene where Zania joins in on a christian prayer to give thanks for Thanksgiving. Actually, all the crew is there, and they all pray together. After they pray thanks light shines above the table and everyone feels very pleased and happy about it.

One of the clearer themes at play, of course, is Anna’s virginity. Ah yes. Her pussy killed a man. RIP Flynn, you didn’t matter to book 2, and you get like two mentions in book 3. Anna in book two wants to have sex with Kaiden, but is worried it will take away her ‘pure of heart’ nature. You have to be pure of heart, like an angel, to use the angel sword, and it’s the only thing which can kill demons. It’s never really pointed out pure of heart has no obvious connection to virginity- in fact, it simply implies having goodness in your soul is all that counts.

Anna, in fact, has her own moment of thinking of all the ‘armors of god’- truth, faith, prayer, goodness, etc- and how they are the truest weapon she has against evil. Yeah, that all checks out. It also has nothing to do with a virgin!

Still, Anna does in fact wait until marriage to have sex, despite it bearing no confirmed matter to her soul or purity. We all know virginity as a special, sacred thing is kind of a sexist myth, yeah? Kaiden isn’t rejected for having a lot of sex- he is sort of ‘born again’ in that he falls in love with Anna and waits for her to be ready, but his love is true so the sex/things he does are forgiven. Why is that not the case for Anna?

The final fight goes wild too: before hand, Anna sits in a hotel room reading the bible and scanning the index for ‘demons’ ‘angels’ and ‘swords’. I’m really confused as to why she hasn’t done this earlier, or for that matter doesn’t know it since she was raised christian. Anyway, we get an entire bible passage about the armor of god which inspires her forward.

Later, Anna’s adopted mom who raised her since she was a baby Patti, shows up. She’s been taken by the Dukes! The leader of the Dukes declares he’ll test her faith in god, since she can’t use the angel sword if she loses faith. He tortures and brutally kills Patti as Anna watches. Anna prays for help from Heaven, but nothing happens. She loses faith a little, but then is headstrong and focuses on how Patti is going to Heaven and is fine with sacrificing herself for this.

Not long after there’s a bit of a physical fight, then Anna wields the sword and prays to Heaven. This time she is heard, and she casts the demons forever in Hell/the redeemed ones get to go to Heaven, the ground opens up in an Earthquake, and she Actually Hears The Voice Of God in her head. Sacrifice is a christian theme, but JEEZ was it rough for her to have to suddenly, out of nowhere, watch her mom get brutally killed and accept it without any attempt from anyone to save her.

Oh, also during this scene is the first time Anna calls Patti ‘mom’. She raised her, and has always been like a mother to her, yet only in dying does she get to be ‘mom’.

Abortion and childbirth come in again. I mentioned in the first book Anna’s human friend Veronica laments the loss of her virginity, and how her dad made her have an abortion. Anna is like ‘I don’t hate you for that!’ and the anti-abortion protesters who harassed her are looked down upon, but the phrasing is still a bit biased against Veronica (‘s dad) for the abortion happening.

Anyways, welcome to the return of that theme. Jay breaks up with Veronica early on and gets back immediately with Marna. They have sex at some point over five days they are together, and Anna is able to tell Marna is pregnant. There’s a line of ‘who knows when the soul actually enters the body’ and ‘she can just tell someone is pregnant it’s not necessarily that the baby counts as a person yet’ but. Anna is literally able to see a woman’s belly glowing- a woman who got pregnant maybe 5 days ago and doesn’t know it yet. That’s before most medical tests can confidently tell someone is pregnant.

Also, lest we forget, Anna remembers being in the womb, so like, I’m feeling as if the author is trying to tell me life does begin at conception.

Marna immediately wants to keep the baby. Her twin, Ginger, is angry at this- Neph ALWAYS die during childbirth. We learn that Neph’s also can’t have abortions safely, as usually it kills them too. Ginger points out they know far earlier than any Neph ever has, and could take a morning-after pill or try an abortion. ‘It’s just a zygote’ she says, which is funny because I’m pretty sure that at five days pregnant, it’s barely a clump of cells!

Marna, however, refuses all this and is set on her fate. You know, to die in childbirth. Jay is also fastly in love and is like, alright. My girlfriend/sudden love of my life (I Broke Up With My Old Girlfriend Last Week) is going to die in childbirth. I WILL BE FINE.

Going to put my thoughts here, like this: (………………………………..)

The Plight of Veronica

I don’t think I’ve mentioned ol’ Roni (she’s called that in book) here before. She’s a human side character who becomes Anna’s friend in the latter half of book one, and then isn’t in a lot of book 2, before being entirely shafted by 3.

Veronica is a party girl who is nice to, and ultimately befriends, Anna after the date rape drug incident. God. I forgot that happened. Anyways, it’s Anna’s first female friend, and they paint nails. She develops a crush on Jay, Anna’s other childhood human friend. Jay for a time likes Marna when she visits from the UK, but he ends up having a crush on Roni too. It’s up in the air when Jay is influenced to make out with Marna at a party, but by the beginning of book 2 they are happily dating.

Really, it seems like a fine relationship. Yes, Marna is still a main character who misses Jay, but that’s not really central to the plot. Jay/Roni are dating and really into each other, and just an established thing for all of book 2 without any hint of conflict.

In book 3, like right away, they mutually break up. Veronica wants to study abroad in Spain, and they decide not to do long distance. Jay is heartbroken, but again, it’s mutual. He understands. Cool, cool.

Then, Marna returns. And we learn a lot of unresolved stuff has held on. Veronica used to ask him if he missed Marna, or would leave her for her… and he admits to Anna he would have. He used to dream frequently of Marna, in fact. He dated Veronica for about two years (all of book 2)!

Anyway, this is why when she returns, they are instantly in True Devoted Love, have sex for the first time, don’t use protection, and she gets pregnant (and subsequently dies).

Veronica, meanwhile… oh, Roni. She was nice. She has a short scene in the beginning before she leaves for Spain where she paints Anna’s nails and laments over her relationship with Jay. Then later she sends a text about loving Spain. Then… she’s gone. Never mentioned again.

Veronica is such an interesting character in this way. She is written out of the plot entirely, seemingly out of nowhere. Is it because all the Neph needed to be in relationships? Zania/Kopano is suddenly an entire thing, for example. Ginger and Blake are in love too, though that’s been a consistent thing for three books. Marna I guess couldn’t go single, nor get someone new, so Jay had to come back to her.

Her pregnancy is odd too in that it doesn’t impact the plot. It’d a source of conflict in the beginning, but after that isn’t really mentioned beyond one or two ‘oh yeah she’s gonna die’ mentions. It doesn’t act as a plot point or motivator or even threat. She just is dead in the epilogue and Jay is a single dad.

Veronica is not in the monologue. Where did she go? Did she keep in touch? She never even learned about the Neph, or Anna?

Was Veronica killed in Spain, never to return?

#JusticeForRoni

Stray thoughts

+I think there’s a gay character in this book. I can’t really suss it out. Marek has an entirely new personality in the falling action chapter, and he says Anna is lucky to have Kaiden (because he’s hot). Anna thinks, too bad he doesn’t have a twin brother! He’s all mine. Was this some weird way of having him be gay? Marek isn’t even a character. He’s hinted at in book two and doesn’t do squat in this book.

+Speaking of, Jezebel was this weird oddity in the series as the only Duke who is a woman. They’re all called male, except her, and she’s the only one in the body of a woman. This is suddenly explained as just being a recent decision. Leader Duke is dismissive of her like ‘Brothers… and sister’ and ‘being in the body of a woman has taken your balls’ and she’s like ‘this form gives me better clarity than ever before!’. Was this like, supposed to be trans representation? Or allegory?

+Anna has no personality! She just doesn’t. She has no interests, dreams, hobbies, or purpose in life beyond being in love with Kaiden and this prophecy thing. She has a chat with Kaiden post sex about dreams for the future, where she says she wants to be a social worker and help kids, and also have 5 or 6 kids. This is all we’ve ever been given, beyond in the first book her saying she wanted to marry and have a family. Now, the other Neph aren’t that fleshed out with interests either, but they show more personality besides ‘nice’, and it could be argued they’ve been raised in abusive situations and trained only to work. Anna has been raised as a normal girl and was outside the Neph world until she was 16, yet has no ambitions at all. In the end, she adopts three kids with Kaiden, so I guess her only dream was to be a mom.

 

 

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