Oh boy, I was so excited when I learned the Brienne/Jaime fandom from Game of Thrones was the main inspiration behind this book. I was already excited about a book centered on a fanfic writer who unbeknownst to her has become good friends with the actor who plays her fictional muse, because he writes fic too, and that just put me over the edge. In hindsight, I kind of wish it was based on a fandom and a show I wasn’t super familiar with because I kept getting distracted by all the obvious parallels and digs at GOT (there were a lot*) and it kept pulling me out of the world of the book.
*Some of the digs were justified, and I thought others weren’t. But again, some of this may be a function of the slippery slope here between real life and fiction. Not sure how many were actual digs at GOT and how many were completely fictional and only based on the show in the book.
In case you’re curious, here are some of the parallels I noticed:
SPOILERS: *The main actor here is named Marcus Caster-Rupp, an obvious nod to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, although beyond their roles in their respective shows and their names, there aren’t really any similarities. Marcus is his own guy.
*The Lavineas ship is a nod to Braime, a ship based on upsetting traditional notions of beauty and shallow judgment. The whole deal with Brienne and Jaime is that they see beyond each other’s surfaces and form a true human connection, against pretty much every odd. Lavineas have that, too.
*The Lavineas fandom is upset that the actress who plays Lavinia is so pretty when the character is really supposed to be conventionally unattractive. This was a criticism of the casting of Gwendolyn Christie as well, as she is a goddess in human form, but frankly I’ve never cared much about that myself because she’s so good in the role, and they do manage to make her different noticeably from other women on the show.
*The show stops being as good when they run out of books to adapt. (The part where I thought it was taken too far was how hard Dade went after the showrunners for being sexist, and also they came across as fatphobic assholes, and assholes of every other variety as well, which again, might be a book thing only, but given how far the rest of it parallels, I’m not convinced. She portrayed them very callously.)
*We never see the fan reaction to the end of Gods of the Gates, though it’s assumed it will be negative, but here the showrunners ditch the Con appearance they’ve had booked for months amidst bad publicity. This is something Benioff and Weiss did after the end of GOT, canceling their appearance at Comic-Con, but frankly, fans were so hostile, I can’t really blame them.
*The crew is portrayed as extremely talented and hard working, just as the crew of GOT famously was. The documentary of the last season’s filming makes this very clear. (It’s called Watchers on the Wall and it’s on HBO if you haven’t seen it. It’s great.)
*The cast has a text thread where they lament the fan reaction to the last season, and their own reactions as well. This happened in real life as well.
And that’s all I can remember for now because I don’t have access to my ARC END SPOILERS.
I loved both Marcus and April. They have great chemistry, and the scenes between them are so fun to read. I love how Marcus is so unafraid to let his genuine attraction to April show, his obvious pleasure in her body is so blatant April never questions it once. And I think for the story Dade told, it was great, and hit all the right notes. I just kind of wish she hadn’t gone the route she did. The whole plot is based on SPOILERS Marcus hiding his identity as April’s fic buddy BRAWN for most of their relationship (he ends up betraying her in both identities). I didn’t like reading about him doing this to her, it wasn’t fun, and it was obvious where the inevitable break-up conflict was going to come from. I just think there might have been a less obvious way to approach their story and create conflict, that I would have enjoyed more END SPOILERS.
That’s sounding critical, but I really did like this book a lot. I think I’m just too close to it and also have a lot of thoughts. The inserted bits of fandom and Marcus’s old movie scripts (which are very satirical, so maybe I should be reading the showrunner thing that way, too?) were so much fun, and I loved how good both Marcus and April were at their jobs. April’s co-workers were great side-color, and I liked the way they played into the theme of neither of them having to hide their real feelings or identities. The parent-conflict elements worked really well, too, as both April and Marcus have parental issues and sort of take over being each other’s family support. Dade clearly knows her fandom, and her fic writing. The parts where the characters talk about their fic, why they write it, etc. were so wonderful. It so perfectly captured the way that fic can work in a fandom, what needs it fulfills.
I also looooved Marcus’s coworker deciding he was going to write fic, too, and that whole schtick that happens afterward (there is going to be a sequel to this book involving him and his show appointed babysitter Lauren, which I’m super into).
All in all, success, and I will definitely be checking out Olivia Dade’s other works, and hopefully I will have a lot fewer* opinions of them.
*I changed this just for you, Malin! (it used to say “less” but Malin got all Stannis Baratheon on me)