Re-Read – August 2019: I first read and reviewed this 6 years ago and didn’t really enjoy it. But this summer, I wanted to revisit all of the Fever books, having been a big fan of the initial run of 5 in the series. And although my general feeling going into Iced was that this and the follow-up Burned were the weakest among them, I was actually a little cautiously optimistic that I might enjoy them more this time.
A big part of that comes from how in the years since my first read, I’ve read a lot of comments and opinions, both from the author herself and from fellow fans, that were very defensive of this book and of the material in it. The elephant in the room is the switch in this book to a young (14 year old) protagonist in a series with decidedly mature sexual content. But a lot has been said by the Iced defenders about how the book was misunderstood, and that those of us who were concerned about it being inappropriate were just misreading the intent of the characters and projecting our own sexual innuendo into otherwise non-sexual situations. Blah blah.
After my second read, I can now even more definitely say: that’s bullshit. I don’t want to re-hash too much of what I already said in my first review, and bring up the specific instances where I was definitely not conjuring sexual overtones out of thin air. But I am pissed off, and I quite frankly despair that grown women read this book and don’t see how wrong it all is. I think the best way I’m going to be able to organize my thoughts is to respond here to comments the author herself made in response to criticism.
Karen Marie Moning: I write about men who look at a 14-year old superhero woman-child (who is also an assassin—where is the moral outrage over that? Priorities, the UK would say, get some) and can see the woman she will become one day. I write about men who will do anything to keep her alive long enough to become it—even knowing they may never be the one lucky enough to get her.
Fuck off with this.
1) There isn’t moral outrage over Dani being an assassin (of Fae) because there isn’t an insidious problem in our actual society of fourteen-year old girls becoming (supernatural) assassins to survive. That part of the story is clearly fiction. The part that is not fiction, that does happen all the time in real life, is how children, teenagers, and younger people in general are abused and manipulated by people older than them into accepting unhealthy sexual and romantic relationships. And you’re writing about that like it’s normal and making excuses for it when questioned on it.
2) You will absolutely not be able to convince me that it is healthy for grown men (and women) to even be considering the potential of a future sexual/romantic relationship when they decide to protect and mentor young teens. When adults want to nurture the “potential” they see in a child, the outcome they should care about is the extent to which the child achieves that potential, for their own good — not because the adult might “get” them as a reward down the line. Their intentions aren’t any more pure if they theoretically accept that there is no future guarantee of getting that reward. It still speaks to a motive of becoming a fixture in a child’s life in order to better position themselves later on, when they’re “old enough,” for a non-platonic relationship that they earned with their early investment. That’s called grooming and it’s a well-studied and recognized abuse tactic.
KMM: Ryodan never lusts over Dani.
I mean, maybe not explicitly, but you don’t have to be a genius to read between the lines when he gets competitive, controlling, and possessive of Dani when either of her two other “suitors” are around; nor is it at all confusing when he literally tries to keep her all to himself by locking her in a room in his club and commanding so much of her time and attention that she is effectively isolated from both his other competitors AND her only other friends and allies. You can argue that some of these instances aren’t really sexual individually, but you’d be missing the forest for the trees. The point is that Ryodan sees Dani as something he’d like to possess, now because she’s powerful and he can use her ability while also establishing himself as a presence in her life, and later because he can “see the woman she will become” and yeah I’m sure none of that interest is at all sexual, give me a break.
KMM: Christian has a few very realistic death-by-sex Fae moments but there is no question he is drawn to her “light’and her ‘innocence’
This is a straight-up retcon. Like, I guess it’s kind of true in what makes Christian initially drawn to Dani, but he veers unequivocally into predatory territory more than once in so obvious a fashion that even Dani, who isn’t sophisticated enough to understand most of the innuendo going on around her, notices it and calls it out. We can rationalize this all we want about how Christian is turning into an Unseelie Prince and he can’t help it, but KMM muddies her intent by conflating his trying to find goodness — from Dani’s ‘light and innocence’ — with his sexual obsession with her and using the former as an excuse for the latter. If what Christian sees in Dani helps tether him to his slipping humanity, that’s cool, and if sometimes he acts out the wrong impulse with her because of his fracturing mind, well, that’s not great for Dani, but it’s informative for Christian’s character. But if you choose to do that, as KMM does, you have to commit to that, and just say, “Yeah, Christian’s in a dark place, he’s making bad choices, he’s confused.” Don’t excuse his behavior by saying it comes from a good place.
KMM: I was 13 when I first noticed a man looking at me like he wanted to have sex with me. How old were you? Although I didn’t act on it for a long time after that, I remember to this day being thrilled by it. Exhilarated. I was becoming a woman.
Honestly, I just find this sad. I don’t know your life Karen, but I would not use the word “exhilarated” to describe my earliest experiences of having other people’s sexual intentions projected at me before I was equipped to understand them; nor would I to this day — as a woman in my 30’s — consider myself “exhilarated” to receive sexual attention in inappropriate and unexpected situations. And I would classify literally every situation where an adult man sexually appraises a 13 year old girl as inappropriate and unexpected. So with respect to your personal experience being what it is, I’m still very disturbed that you seem to assume that your experience is so universal that, I guess, it excuses the sexual objectification of minors because the minors secretly find it “exhilarating”?
I hate that this book landed in this series like a turd in the pool because it forces me to confront some of the author’s really questionable attitudes about sex, power imbalances, consent, and objectification of minors. Selfishly, that diminishes the amount that I can enjoy the books that preceded Iced, because there’s no taking back the irresponsibility of her approach here.