Song of the Night is a slop of yaoi desperately wishing to be more

Song of the Night is a slop of yaoi desperately wishing to be more

☆☆☆☆☆

0 stars

This book is officially the SECOND worst book I’ve ever read (thanks Tridea’s Children!), but honestly that’s a barely. I feel like I’ve just been stamping my brain through a meat grinder trying to read it. I don’t even remember how I found this. Perhaps like Tridea’s Children it manifested in my home, and it is just my yearly destiny to test my faith in indie publishing by reading a catastrophe such as this.

What is this book? Well, it’s every yaoi you ever saw online circa 2010, but it was published in 2019. I use yaoi very deliberately, as that is what this book is: it’s not gay romance, it’s not lgbt, it’s bad yaoi where everyone has too large hands and anime chins. It’s a romance around the small, fragile, feminine, pale (So So Pale) beauty of a young ‘boy’ and a strong ‘man’. Yes, it’s one of those MANxBOY (DON’T LIKE:DON’T READ)(LEMON/LIME WARNING XD) stories. I can’t fable how this exists in the modern age, in a physical book I can hold in my own hands.

I Guess I Now Have To Talk About Yaoi Manga, Huh

I need to state this clearly, in order to keep my soul pure: I do not read yaoi and I never have ‘read’ yaoi. I have, however, read yaoi. I hate the stuff, but I’m someone who was brought up on the internet at just the right era for weabooism, and even if I wasn’t one, every ounce of culture I did like was soaked in the sickly aroma of yaoi fandom. I read fanfiction dot net and I browsed devianart; I looked through livejournals and private forums. I know my yaoi.

Yaoi is a genre of manga about gay (male) romance. Despite how broad it is, it evolved into a certain specific genre, with its own tropes. While you can find ‘proper’ yaoi (whatever quality gay romance manga), it became extremely famous for being about sex, assault, rape, crossdressing, and of course, ukes and semes. An uke is a cute young boy, a seme is a broad shouldered man. It’s who tops and who bottoms, really.

Yaoi is not good. It’s not, and I don’t want to defend any aspect of it. It’s generally extremely trashy. It’s written by straight women for straight women, and aspects of its culture only read had effects on straight women. Even now you see clear bias for M/M ships within fandoms, since fandom is generally women led, and women just seem to really enjoy M/M ships.

I have not touched on the plot of Song of the Night at all, so let me. Yue-ren is a ‘boy’ (17, then 22) who is an incredibly famous opera singer. He likes to dress as a girl and everyone thinks he is one. Stalking him, meanwhile, is a vampire older than history named Cain who is deeply in love with him. Added to the mix is a demon Laphiel, who is actually Yue-ren’s father, who wants to fill Yue-ren with emptiness so he can make him his eternal play thing. Yes, this book has incest in it. It’s another staple of yaoi, after all. Similar on the disgusting train, Cain and Laphiel both note how young and small Yue-ren is, both calling him a kid and fetishising his innocence in a frankly pedophillic way… especially as Cain and Laphiel have been watching Yue-ren since he was a child, and Cain seems attracted to him in a flashback when he seems fairly young.

Imagine a frowning emoji here. Or just one of sickness. This plot is so basic I feel almost certain I’ve seen it before- literally, I didn’t actively read yaoi but gave it a try once or twice, and I swear I can remember a story about a cross dressing uke who was a singer and the dark brooding man who became obsessed with ‘possessing’ him.

One of the strangest obsessions with yaoi culture is how it applies gender roles and gender to a gay relationship. You don’t really see any gay men who like yaoi because the characters in yaoi do not at all feel like gay men. These stories, evidently about gay men, are not written for gay men. Though you see similar things sometimes happen with lesbians, straight men have never obsessed and made the same sort of culture about lesbian women as straight women have with yaoi. These stories are extreme on their differences, the emphasis places on the bodies of men to define one as the ‘girl’ and one as the man- Yue-ren is angry he has to pretend to be a girl, but still frames himself entirely as feminine, and desired by all for his feminine beauty. Meanwhile Cain (also stunningly attractive) is personified manliness, instantly desired by all for his masculinity. If Yue-ren was a girl, it would be the most boiled down gender role nonsense you could imagine.

He, however, is not, which leads to a strange question. Is this book like, progressive? I don’t think so. Weirdly the author has TWO masters degrees, specializing in sexuality and gender within Japanese media. With that in mind, it’s strange how incredible reductive this book is. Nothing about it feels to be making any point about gender or sexuality. Yue-ren is loved as a woman but only became one to get his mother’s attention. She quickly turned on him after telling the world he was a girl, as he was getting more attention than him. The book takes place in the far future, after many wars have passed and outside of cities is trash and radiation, yet the people around Yue-ren are shocked by the notion he is a man, and even him being gay is disturbing to them.

One of the first questions I had when picking up this book was if Yue-ren was transgender, and even what gender that would be, but he’s not. He’s a cis, gay man who likes feminine clothing. Nothing wrong with that, but this book treats this as the scariest, deadliest sin of them all, and the notion as entirely alien. Yue-ren does not question or struggle with his gender, if anything he is too keen to call himself male and a man at any given moment. He’s trapped by the notion the world of opera will reject him for being a man, and I guess we’re shown it would, but this is such an artificial problem. I guess the far future of New London, Victorian-esque yet run by secret machines, is deeply homo and trans phobic?

This book also plays into another huge yaoi trope: the complete disregard for women! Yes, women are rare in any yaoi work of fiction, since they are not men and thus there is no point in them. This book has four women total in it, all of them dead by the end. There’s Annabel, the nice girl Yue-ren lives with for five years when he wanders in a depressed haze through the deserted wasteland outside London, her mother Joy, Yue-ren’s mother Selena-ren, and Lilith, a servant girl who becomes a ghost. Every one of the women in this book goes insane and dies.

Yes, really. Annabel and Joy are a happy surrogate family to Yue-ren, but in an unintentionally hilarious sequence, a factory in their town explodes. Joy’s husband dies, and when Joy digs through the burning building with Annabel and Yue-ren and sees his body, she instantly becomes dead inside and decides to sit in the wreckage and die. Annabel, seeing her mother do this, instantly becomes dead inside and decides to sit in the wreckage and die. Yue-ren is left on his own.

Yue-ren’s own mother is famed for being a self obsessed woman who loves having sex and loves attention- she is purely evil, even selling Yue-ren’s virginity when he’s 15 to some businessman who he luckily escapes from (in a too graphic scene). Yue-ren’s mother, like passing women in the book, is heavily shamed for being sexually active and promiscuous, a sharp contrast from the ever pure Yue-ren, whose virginity and delicate-ness are oft repeated and prized. Yue-ren’s mother kills herself before the book starts.

Then there’s Lilith. Lilith was Lilian, a servant girl in the opera house. She’s mean spirited and jealous of Yue-ren, especially because she desires Cain above all else. After getting rejected by Cain, she tries to kill Yue-ren and is killed by him in the process. The demon Laphiel then resurrects her as a ghost so she can drive Yue-ren insane, and she still plans to seduce Cain.

See, the women in this book are all written to revolve around the men, and have no dimension beyond that. It’s probably one of the least progressive books I’ve seen in a while, which again feels confusing when it’s by an author who in theory has studied gender/sexuality at an academic level, and also is a grown adult woman. I guess this finally proves university degrees are useless.

Writing quality (bad)

Though not the worst I’ve seen, this book clearly had no editor, and certainly not a copyeditor. Or even spell checker.

The most egregious examples of the poor editing is that about 70% through the book, it shifts from first person to third. Before that, it switched like this for a few paragraphs once or twice. That is such a specific and odd mistake to make, and have remain unnoticed. Further mistakes include frequent spelling mistakes of character names or words, incorrect punctuation, wrong spacing, and several times where there is the incorrect character-name chapter header, making it vague which first person narrator was speaking.

The writing despite all these errors is still pitifully wretched. Run on sentences are everywhere. Ideas are repeated several times in a short span- reassurances of facts we know, like basic exposition about how New London runs on secret technology, how Cain is an old vampire, and how pale, delicate, and feminine Yue-ren is. This book feels like it was written with a vocab of 50 words with how often the same metaphors and words are repeated in a rather short span. Yue-ren is ever described with ice metaphors and constant misery and emptiness, creating a repetitive slosh to wade through. Most of this book makes your eyes skim through pages of giant paragraphs where characters do nothing but say the exact same wants and desires in the exact same ways. Laphiel wants to break Yue-ren so he can play with him and desires his pure soul, just as Cain whines about how much he needs to be with Yue-ren and Yue-ren sobs about being cold (as ice) and empty. Any editor would have had about six sentences to cut each page, at least, with so much information being completely unnecessary or just repeats of stuff from the prior page.

Speaking of repeats, several chapters in this book are simply repeats of the chapter before, but from a different POV. Yes, really: at the start of the book we hear Yue-ren’s whole backstory and how he was saved from rape by a mysterious man with mysterious eyes, and then we get the same story from Cain’s point of view, adding very little new.

Action is nonsensical within the story, added to by the nonsense that is Cain and Laphiel’s powers. Rather than just be a guy who drinks blood, Cain can do pretty much every impossible thing (at the end of the book he kills every person in London and then covers it in ice), and Laphiel is a demon who can… well, do less, since he loses to this vampire. I can’t piece together the lore of this at all, and there’s no attempt to explain any of it, or what any of it means. Cain doesn’t even seem to know. Yue-ren, half demon since Laphiel is revealed to be his father, finds he has demonic powers too… I guess. He sure does seem to quickly activate and master them.

The fights are nonsensical because of this. There is never any threat to any of the action, as Cain is impossibly fast and strong. He can use psychic force to move objects and people, control water and freeze it into shards of ice, control glass and break objects, pull pins out of grenades from long distances (yes), and hypnotize people. He does a lot of killing before he even gets to killing Everyone In London, and it’s all very gratuitous and unnecessary.

The world and characters are wildly bare. Every character revolves around one other character in this book, and the technical rule breakers of Annabel’s family exist for one chapter before dying, adding really nothing to the story at all since it sends Yue-ren back to square one. Nothing particularly changes, and the whole thing ends in I think a sequel set up, though it’s hard to tell: Yue-ren dies (in between chapters, somehow), though Cain makes him a vampire as he is dying. However, Yue-ren is not a vampire… for reasons unknown… but he’s not dead. Cain has to take Yue-ren’s dead body and find his soul, wherever that wandered off to, and… put it back in? Meanwhile Lilith the ghost vows revenge but is trapped in London, since she died there.

I feel I’m definitely missing more, but yeah. This book felt like getting bashed on the head with a rock. The writing is horrible, the plot horrible, the romance horrible. The best part is the sex scene near the end, which was not a good sex scene, but somehow better written than anything else and better faced. Even if it does involve the vampire using the kid’s blood as lube to finger bang him.


Bonus Round: Book quotes!

The reason I do this, really, is because I always feel BAD doing reviews like this. I don’t read reviews by other people before I write my own, but I do end up seeing the number when I’m grabbing the cover off goodreads. I care about indie authors an awful lot, and it always feels awkward to leave a long, negative review when it’s pretty much the only one there. And yet, as always, I must concede writing these is fun, and I spent real adult money to purchase this publicly available book, and it is not bullying to write an honest review.

Also. I’m not being mean. Let me prove it to you, with writing samples.

‘He looked at Laphiel and smiled,
“And did you forget I am one of the oldest vampires lest, a true master vampire you ignorant fool”.’

‘Cain lapped up some of the swear that had pooled in Yue-ren’s belly button.’

‘Without heat, without love, without passion, there is nothing to burn for, and thus I shall freeze. I have ice in my view, frost in my heart, my eyes shine like the surface of a frozen pool. I will be cold to everyone and even colder to touch so that I may have people recoil from me, afraid of the numbing sensation my body carries. Yes, I am frozen, a forgotten lake, a pool of despair and a body of tundra. I will move like the frozen winds of the north, and when I can move no more, I will lie down like the fallen snow, waiting to be crushed beneath the feet of those who would enjoy me only to destroy me like snow by taking their pleasures from me.’

–pretty much every chapter in this book with Yue-ren

‘Yet this is strange enough, years of waiting had made my lust and desire stronger but also that love, that very human feeling for so long I had been without. And this boy, no he was becoming a young man, he was letting me, love, and I was not a master of it, I was just as confused by it as any man.’

–pretty much every chapter in this book with Cain

‘Sometimes I would dare to graze my hand across his face, let it linger on his lips or across his chest to rest above his heart listening to the rhythm as he breathed, watching every rise and fall of his small chest. I would even dare to steal a little kiss, never allowing myself too much, only the lightest of touches as if a feather was brushing over his lips.
His nightmares became so bad that it pained me to watch and I felt guilty at the pleasure I received watching as he thrashed about his bed.’

–Cain watching Yue-ren, 15, every night

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s