Book Review: Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

Some of you may recognize this review from my old blog. I’ve reworked it, but I hope my new and old readers alike enjoy this little piece of sunshine.

GABRIEL’S INFERNO by Sylvain Reynard: Zero STARS


How do I write a review about a book that is so verbose, so tedious, and so dreadfully pretentious that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at my sad predicament?

Fear not. because you can bet your frilly britches I’m going to try.

From my new collection, "Books that are Better than Gabriel's Inferno."

From my new collection, “Books that are Better than Gabriel’s Inferno.”

I realize that I am a bit tardy here. “Gabriel’s Inferno” was released in 2011 and I’m just now getting around to reviewing this most influential Masterpiece of Shit. I bought the book back in 2011, but when I found out it was fan fiction, I removed it from my TBR. Fan fiction is not my thing.

Then, an asshole I used to know kind of talked me into reading it. “What the hell,” I thought. “How bad can it be?”

Thanks to Sylvain Reynard, I now know the answer to this question. It can be really fucking bad.

Forgive me, but I’m going to jump around the plot a bit in this review. Yes, I write like the Unabomber. Stream of consciousness. It’s a legit device, look it up.

Much emotion.

Much emotion.

I have not read “Twilight.” I choked down two chapters and decided that I would prefer a lifetime of elective root canals over continuing with Stephanie Meyer. I didn’t see the movie, either, because I can’t get behind a film whose lead actress has an acting range called “stoic.”

I heard from my bad bitch bestie that “Gabriel’s Inferno” is fan fiction based on Twilight. The English major in me thought, “Oh, yeah, I can see why someone would want to re-write that shit. You know, make it better.” But no. This isn’t better. This is much, much worse. So worse. Much bad.

My problem with “Gabriel’s Inferno” is not the story itself. The story is sweet and semi-enjoyable in parts. The plot is, underneath the snooty language, romantic and thoughtful. Gabriel is chivalrous and he sounds smoking hot. There are parts where the loose courtly love theme is clear and well done. The novel is slowly paced, but it works . . . except for when it put me to sleep. At any rate, this could have been a good book.

And this is where my compliments end.



“Gabriel’s Inferno” is a sappy love story between our heroine, graduate student Julianne Mitchell and her chivalrous suitor/hottie professor, Gabriel Emerson. Sounds great, right? Well, after reading this book, I am left wondering . . . What in the actual fuck is up with the ridiculous diction Sylvain Reynard uses? Who does SR think he is? Sir Walter Scott?


With the exception of one steaming pile by K. Bromberg, I have never read a more grandiloquent, ponderous, loquacious, turgid, discursive, bombastic, ornate, and wordy novel. (See how I did that?) It was effing ridiculous. Look, I went to college. I read books with big words. The pompousness pulsating from the pages of “Gabriel’s Inferno” was enough to make Kanye West appear humble.



It’s as if SR chooses words to be condescending to the reader. I found it a bit lofty and a lot arrogant. It almost seems as if the narrator is speaking to a child . . . here, dumbass, let me caveman this down for you because you don’t know shit. The diction was patronizing and it came across . . . well, child-molesty. Seriously. It was icky.

For instance:

Gabriel would leave her virtue intact. He would leave her as he found her, the blushing brown-eyed angel, surrounded by bunnies, curled up like a kitten in her little chair. She would sleep unruffled, unkissed, untouched, and unmolested.

Oh, hello. That’s really fucking creepy. Not a fan of this at all.

The frightened rabbit’s pony tail trembled ever so slightly as she lifted her gaze.

Did you know I hate rabbits? Filthy creatures.

Did you know I hate rabbits? Filthy creatures.

There she is, guys, your heroine, the rabbit. Are you picturing this? I am. Are you hot for this book or what? I’m not.

The animal/plant imagery is everywhere. She is described as a rabbit, always scared with a “worrying lip,” wide-eyed, and so forth. Oh, and she is also a flower . . . a flower whose petals Gabriel wants to open as he so eloquently tells his sister. Awkward. “You blossom under kindness, don’t you? Like a rose.” Gag. There are a bunch of these references, you get the idea.

Then there are the men. One dude has a “large paw,” Gabriel is a “wolf,” and a “dragon”… oh come on. This device is silly and unnecessary.

For yes, she was very much like a rabbit one might find in a meadow or some such place. But she was also very much like The Velveteen Rabbit.

Okay, for yes, we get it, she’s a freaked out rabbit and all the men are big hairy scary monsters. Ugh. How stereotypical can you be? This poor maiden. (And for yes? Really?) And quit it with the kiddie shit already! What the hell am I reading??


No, really.

Here’s a gem:

“Beatrice,” his arm tightened around her waist as he moved to whisper against her hair, still damp from the shower. “Don’t cry.” With his brilliant blue eyes closed, Gabriel pressed his lips to her forehead, once, twice, thrice.”

Thrice! Dear God, please make it stop. “Gabriel pressed his lips to her forehead,” works just fine! Why so many words? It’s as if SR went into this thinking . . . “I want to write a book, the idea for which I shall steal from another author, then make it as long and circuitous as possible with as many pretentious accessories as I can find on the interwebs. Does my publisher pay by the word? I hope so!!”

But wait, there’s more. There’s this big-boobed, hard-bodied sexually experienced woman who, of course, is the bitch of the book and her name is Christa. Personally? I want to know more about this Christa person. Is she in Book 4? Is there Book 4? No? Anyway, SR has to take it to the next level and get all Shakespearean with the insults:

Hot women are cows in this book.

Hot women are cows in this book.

. . . Christa was, in fact a woman, and not an anorexic sow in heat. Paul would never have compared Christa to a cow, for he thought cows were noble creatures. (Especially Holsteins.)

Yes, Holsteins are of particular concern to me as well. I mean really. With the exception of family members, all the female supporting characters are evil skanks. This is such a narrow view of the world. At this point, I’m thinking SR is a 60-something, sexually frustrated woman who owns seventeen (possibly eighteen) cats, and wrote “Gabriel’s Inferno” immediately before appearing on an episode of Hoarders.

I also need to discuss something that pisses me off. This book is your basic rich, powerful manwhore’s deflowering of the delicate, quivering maiden. WHY do people like this shit? This notion is so archaic and outmoded. Aren’t women allowed to be experienced? This plot is so overused that it’s probably the biggest genre fiction cliché out there. Banged by the Bazillionaire. So original.

Something else that bothered me is the attention to feet. Shoes. Stockings. Fetish much? It is so frequent in this novel that SR calls it out as parenthetical commentary just to jazz things up a bit:

He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans, his glasses, and nothing else. He wasn’t even wearing socks. (Parenthetically, it should be noted that even Gabriel’s feet were attractive.)”

Oh thank God. I was worried about his feet. I mean, without the parenthetically mentioned parenthetical commentary, I wouldn’t be in possession of such amazing foot fetish fap material.

So we have Julianne, the worried wabbit, and Gabriel. The bow-tie suit-wearing hottie with lots of cash. It’s a perfect match… right?



Every wordy author knows that redundancy and repetition of plot points previously stated will guarantee a perfectly crafted work of extreme verbosity. For example, when Julia visits Gabriel during his office hours, he happens to be on the phone:

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back. I was in my seminar!” an angry voice, all too familiar now, spat aloud. There was a brief silence before he continued. “Because it’s the first seminar of the year, asshole, and because the last time I talked to her she said she was fine!”Julia retreated immediately. It sounded like he was on the telephone, yelling.

DoNotShutOrClose-smallNO SHIT!?! So if they are using an angry voice with lots of exclamation points, that means they’re yelling?! Further, if you hear someone talking loudly and you can’t hear a second person returning fire, the person is probably on the phone. I mean, they also could be suffering from multiple personality disorder, but I’m going to go with the former. It doesn’t need to be spelled out like this for readers. We are not idiots. “It sounded like he was on the telephone, yelling,” is completely unnecessary. The text is riddled with these types of redundancies and I’m not going to bore you here with all of them, but they are everywhere.

I like concise, tight prose. The fewer words, the better. A lit professor of mine once said, “If it can be said with two words or one word, go with one word.” This is some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received. SR does the opposite. “Gabriel’s Inferno” is a word-o-rama. If there’s a word in the thesaurus, you know SR whipped that shit out and used it. Once. Twice. Thrice.


SR . . . maybe it stands for Snobosaurus Rex

Then there are references to all the art, sculpture, literature, obscure wines, designer “knapsacks,” Prada, Louis Vuitton, Louboutin, designer “pointy-toed” men’s shoes, designer coats, designer fragrances, Chopin (composer, not author), rare art by Botticelli, sculptures by Rodin, cashmere sweaters (in British Racing Green), John Donne (this is an unforgivable offense to defile my boy JD like this), pricey fountain pens, Héloïse and Abelard (gah!), Buena Vista Social Club, thousand dollar bottles of champagne, Mozart, Dickens, Arthur Miller, Tolstoy, blahbitty fucking blah blah blah. I can’t handle it. A bit of this type of brand-whoring in a book is fine. Even a medium amount. I don’t mind. But “Gabriel’s Inferno” is a Spectacular-Cover-to-Cover-Name-Dropping-Extravaganza. WHO CARES what brand the finely made wool pants are? Some of the art history references were necessary, but there were just so many of them. I feel like most of the people who liked this book like it BECAUSE of these references . . . like it exposed them to new things.

Anyway, I get it, SR. You’re super smart, well-read. Here is my actual reaction to your erudition:

Or maybe you’re just really good with looking shit up on Wikipedia. I sure am!

Later in the story, a mean old boyfriend attacks our dear frightened rabbit girl flower person. She almost dies (no, not really, but she acts like it). Oh noes!! Do not despair, my friends. Enter Gabriel the Archangel on his trusty steed to save the day:



Julianne is very inexperienced, so her ideas about sex provide for some slapstick comedy:

He sounded like sex. Or at least, what Julia imagined sex would sound like . . . Oh my, Gabriel. Oh my, Gabriel. Oh my, Gabriel. Oh . . . my . . . Gabriel.

First, my dear maiden Julianne, that is what shitty sex sounds like. And second, did “Oh my, Gabriel” have to be written FOUR times right there? Come on. SR, your wordiness knows no bounds. No bounds. No bounds. No bounds. Damnit.

Now, I must address the issue of romance. Romance can be so many things. It can be a look, a word, a touch, even a description of these things. When I read the following passages, I wasn’t thinking romance, I was thinking . . . I was thinking “please, book, fucking end RIGHT NOW.”

I will remember your scent and your touch and how it felt to love you. But most of all, I will remember how it felt to gaze at true beauty, both inside and out. For you are fair, my beloved, in soul and body, generous of spirit and generous of heart. And I will never see anything this side of heaven more beautiful than you.


For the rest of my life, I’ll dream of hearing your voice breathe my name.

Blah bliddy blah blah blah. Who says stuff like this? How much more of this can I take? I will allow the epic 1980s film “Heathers,” to do the dirty work for me:


Come ON. People are reading “Gabriel’s Inferno” and thinking this is the romance of my dreams? I think it’s an attempt at romance, but SR misses the mark.

Let me tell you something. There is more heat and raw chemistry in a Jane Austen novel than this jumbled mess of a book. Like Persuasion. After years of relationship misfires, Captain Wentworth takes one last shot at landing his woman, and he writes her his Hail Mary last-ditch-effort letter (emphasis mine):

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.

Oh God. That is . . . I can’t even. I’m speechless. Those words. That fire. YOU PIERCE MY SOUL. Fuck! It’s . . . I think it’s the type of romance—the type of heat—SR was attempting with Gabriel’s Inferno, but SR fails abysmally.

Finally, 540 excruciating pages later, we have the most highly anticipated and over-orchestrated sex scene in the history of Planet Earth. The entire book lightly dances around the subject with only suggestive kissing scenes that remain very chaste and reverent. FINALLY we get to the Big Bang scene and my reaction was something like this:

Aw hell no.

Aw hell no.

There is such a thing as TOO MUCH communication during sex. I mean . . . it’s was like they set the scene—the preparations, the candles, the air freshener, the lingerie, the dinner, the bedside moist towelette. SR basically described every 13 year old’s “dream de-virginization.” It was bordering on creepy . . . like, what grown ass adult woman needs all this crap? Maybe I’m weird, but it wasn’t remotely romantic. They go on and on about “I want you to feel comfortable;” “Oh, no, baby I want YOU to feel comfortable . . .” “How’s this position?” “Oh, no, hot sex god loverboy, I want YOU on top.” It’s too much. Just get to the fucking, please. The heavy-handedness of this climactic scene further ruins the first 540 pages of foreplay.

Unbuckling his belt and unfastening his trousers was slightly nerve wracking, but he placed a steadying hand over hers and helped her when they refused to cooperate.


He smiled and gently began to pet her with his fingers. Julia moaned.


“The whole evening is a gift. Simply accept it.” A smile tugged at the edge of his oh-so-perfect lips. “St. Francis of Assisi would approve.”

Okay so she is having trouble unbuckling his belt and taking off his pants. I mean, as a weakling rabbit-woman flower, I suppose this makes sense that she needs the help of a big strong man. Then, once she gets him naked, he “pets” her (note: the petting is taking place between the rabbit’s legs). That sounds . . . just gross. Just . . . no. Good God, I get the animal imagery thing but this is just really creepy. Then . . . “oh-so-perfect”?? WTF?? Who talks like this? Who thinks like this? And St. Francis of Assisi? OH PRAISE JESUS. Saint Francis of Assisi would approve of this soon-to-transpire sex. How about we just bust out a Catholic mass while we’re here. Aaah-ahh-men!

Please play the music for the next few lines . . . it’s truly fitting.

Gabe really pulls out all the stops during this ritual deflowering. He starts speaking in tongues:

As she rested on his chest, he whispered Dante’s words to her in Italian:

Color di perle ha quasi in forma, quale
convene a donna ever, non for misura;
ella è quanto de ben pò far natura;
per esemplo di lei bieltà si prova.

And Gabe goes on and on. During sex. Quoting Dante. BOR-ING. If your big sex move is to quote Dante during sex, please don’t expect any repeat customers. I majored in English and even took a year of Italian in college and if a partner busted out with Dante mid-sesh, I would be like: 



Then we have the lovemaking soundtrack. SR throws around a few songs, but then they bone down to Lying in the Hands of God by the Dave Matthews Band, I kept thinking . . . DMB is not romantic lovemaking music. DMB is “drunken-frat-party-messy-post-keg-stand-I’m-not-sure-if-we-did-it-but-theres-a-phone-number-written-on-my-arm-in-sharpie-and-I’m-not-wearing-any-pants” sex. At least in my experience.

Anyway, after the sex sesh, Gabe cleans up the mess (why even mention this shit?) and brings his little former virgin a drink. “‘Cranberry with soda,’ he said. ‘It’s good for you.’” Yeah, and it’ll also help clear up that raging UTI you’re about to get. Welcome to sex, Julianne.

SR goes out in a blaze of glory, though, with one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever read in genre fiction. Julianne just got deflowered, her dude is beside her, and:

She silently thanked the gods of large bathtubs, handsome, sexy lovers, and rose-scented bubble bath. (Not necessarily in that order.) And she thanked the gods of virgins who were about to have sex with their sex-god (no blasphemy intended) boyfriends for the mother of all orgasms. Thrice over.

Thrice. You torture me with this word, SR. Please stop. I’ve created a new category for my blog posts. It’s called “THRICE.” This is where I will post the most ridiculous things, starting with this post.

WHY is this novel shelved as erotica? There is one boner-crushing love scene on the last couple of pages. You could call this YA, maybe? This is . . . I don’t know what it is, but don’t call it erotica. Please.

Now for the reason I will not continue with this series or anything this mystery person writes. She has insulted me deeply. This is unforgivable. The narrator states:

Men from his generation never cried. Of course, they never took their socks off in hallways, either. Unless they were–odd. Or lived in California.

OH HELL NO. First, Californians don’t wear socks because our weather is better than yours. Second, you did not just obliquely talk shit on my native state. Sixth generation Californian, bitches. Don’t you dare say that shit to me and expect me to give you my money again. Don’t lump us in with odd people who take their socks of in the middle of a fucking hallway. Californians are fucking awesome. I’m done with you, SR. D-U-N DONE!!

Welcome to California. Now go home.

Welcome to California. Now go home.

[Mini Book Review] Fates and Furies: A Novel

Mini Book Review for Fates and Furies: A Novel, by Lauren Groff


When the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review referred to Lauren Groff as “a writer of rare gifts,” I purchased Fates and Furies immediately. I thought that any author in receipt of such a compliment is worth reading; boy was I right.

At first, Groff’s seemingly impenetrable prose blindsided me. I spent the first 20% of the novel fearing the whole thing would be weighted down by the bulk of its own luxuriousness, but I kept with it and what a lovely piece of fiction Fates and Furies turned out to be. Once it gets going, it really takes off.

The story spans the marriage between Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite and Mathilde Yoder, where a youthful whirlwind courtship spins into a colossal earth-obliterating storm cluster:

The fireworks blister-popping in the sky, the party sounds. [Doomed people celebrate peace with sky bombs.]

And there we have my absolute favorite passage from the book. A Fourth of July party. A celebration. Revelers reveling, over-quaffed, sun-tanned and smiling. The fates of The Beautiful People? All doomed.

Driven by two points of view, the narrative structure works well, without repetition or re-hashing as is the danger of dual POV. If anything, Mathilde’s second act elucidates truths that Lotto’s narrow-perspective first act fails to recognize (he is so beautifully self-absorbed).

A Great Upending is in order, and Groff delivers—from the mythological Arthurian Legend beginnings, all the way down to an oblique Oedipal turn toward the end.

And what is marriage if not myth? A personal mythology. A marriage is only what one believes it to be.

Something I love about Groff is her willingness to show off. She is a gifted writer and she knows it. She writes with total confidence. She is abrupt, fierce. Her words are short but electric:

The dark whip at the center of her. How, so gently, she flicked it and kept him spinning.


Hurricanes of entitlement, all swirl and noise and destruction, nothing at their centers.

While Fates and Furies contains the comprehensive arc of Lotto’s life in a loose Hero Journey, the bigger picture is how a life shaped by strategic omissions can transform one’s self-perspective, one’s beliefs about others, and one’s own marriage mythology:

Great swaths of her life were white space to her husband. What she did not tell him balanced neatly with what she did. Still, there are untruths made of words and untruths made of silences, and Mathilde had only ever lied to Lotto in what she never said.

This novel was a page-turner for me once it passed the 20% mark. I read it twice in two weeks. Even the supporting characters (particularly Chollie, Leo, and Roland) have purpose and depth.

Fates and Furies is dangerous and clever in its complexities; dazzling yet practical in its delivery. I can’t wait to see what profound thing Groff does next. I’m expecting a masterpiece.