A Failed Experiment with Twilight profic: Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

Published October 28, 2014 by Shannon

Gabriel's Inferno (Gabriel's Inferno, #1)

My first experiment to see if Twilight pulled-to-publish stories actually worked as original fiction failed. Not because the story doesn’t–I think it probably does–but it was so far from being my cup of tea that I gave up around the chapter 11 mark. I refer, of course, to Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard.

The Premise: Gabriel is a sinful, sinful man who sins a lot. He is also a Dante scholar who for some reason has more money than God. Julia is one of his students. They have a past connection that he doesn’t remember. He is rude and boorish, even while he decides that Julia is a delicate little wilting flower who blooms under kindness. The Jacob character is a perfectly nice guy named Paul who deserves to be in a story where he will not be the third wheel of this creepy, creepy love triangle.

At first I rather enjoyed this book. It was over the top and full of ridiculous amounts of cheese. If I stopped thinking of these people as even remotely realistic and started thinking of them as archetypes who lived on some other planet, I could get through it. Also there were manly tears in the first few chapters, and overwrought prose, and I felt a little like I was reading a bodice ripper of yore.

Then the Dante stuff started getting dropped in, and it’s not subtle at all. I read The Inferno once in high school and again in college. It was fairly easy to see where Reynard’s parallels were coming from, because a master of subtlety he is not. Clearly Julia/Bella was an analog for Beatrice, Gabriel/Edward was the Dante analog, and Paul/Jacob was the Virgil. And once we had our Beatrice, Reynard never failed to bring up how pure she was. Julia is a virgin. For some reason, this matters to everyone much more than I think it would in the real world. To put it another way, Julia is the very definition of a purity sue. And to no one’s surprise, along with that, there’s a whole host of slut-shaming.

Ultimately, it was the weird virgin/whore dichotomy that made this book unreadable. I could deal with over the top earnest crack. I was made uncomfortable for Julia, though, whose purity caused literally every man she encounters, up to and including the waiter at a restaurant, to put her on a pedestal. When I stepped away from the book, I found myself wondering what Gabriel would do after they inevitably got together and he discovered that pure, innocent and perfect Julia poops like everyone else.

Maybe it’s unfair to say this, but I was even more bothered by the benevolent sexism on display here because Reynard is a man. I think I could have put up a bit more with the purity nonsense if the book had been written by a woman. Then I could take it as female fantasy. But since the writer is male, it made the white knight in tarnished armor thing creepy rather than hot.

So yeah. I know this trilogy did well enough for itself, and I might see what Reynard is capable of if he ever gets ahold of a better editor, but I think I need to read a book where the heroine is allowed to get down and dirty without needing to put up with a guy who runs hot and cold and also puts her up on a pedestal.

Grade: DNF

2 comments on “A Failed Experiment with Twilight profic: Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

  • “what Gabriel would do after they inevitably got together and he discovered that pure, innocent and perfect Julia poops like everyone else.”

    Ha!

    And it’s lines like this that make me so happy to see you back posting reviews again.

    FWIW, I think my personal problem with TWILIGHT fanfic is that the series practically forces every reader to create her (usually her) own fanfic. The characters are so lightly-sketched, the plots so archetypical, the Feels so porous, that it’s pretty much impossible to read without mentally inserting your own canon into the gaps.

    Hence, for example, the online guides on “How to find your own Edward”, each of which contain checklists for behaviors that contradict the others (not to mention textual evidence!)

    So MY head-canon for the series is (depending on my mood) either an examination of the giddy, painful, stupid-inducing, but thankfully short-lived flush of newly-activated hormones that so many teen girls mistake for “Forevah Lurve”, or else a coded exploration of BDSM with “topping from the bottom.”

    And when I read OTHER people’s fanfics, I’m all “wait, whut, where did they get THAT?”

    • Thanks! It’s good to be back, too!

      That’s a really valid point about Twilight. And I guess the only way I think I could really enjoy that story for its own sake is if it was heavily subverted. (Kind of like how in my head canon, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern is way more gender inclusive and there are female brown riders and if you disagree with me, you’re totes doing it wrong!) So yeah. I think I would like to read your coded explorations of BDSM, or Bella as the sociopath or whatever, but everything else? It’s the kind of romance I don’t even like very much. (Though I do still have the cave man Edward book, because I can’t say no to crack!)
      And on that note, it makes me really sad that in order to be “true to canon” authors have to make Bella kind of an elitist snot who has no use for other women unless they fill some proscribed best friend role. The characterization is, as you say, so porous that you’d think authors would want to take that out, but no. It was there in the Reynard, and according to the 50 Shades recaps I’ve read, it’s there as well. Sigh.

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