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The Power of Women is More than Just Magic

A Review of Michelle Renee Lane’s Invisible Chains

(Please note, this review may contain spoilers.)

The worst part about this book was myself. Or, actually, the typical plot line I’ve been fed so many times: the woman who, despite herself, falls in love with a monster, and ends up in the relationship’s downward spiral. 

So, with every page I flipped, I was still waiting for that big stereotypical, disappointing denouement. And yet, I was also getting my hopes up. “Well, maybe she doesn’t…”

Then Lane would make that outcome seem inevitable, with the next scene, skillfully setting up situations where that her main character Jacqueline would have no choice but to comply with the monster, leaving me in constant suspense.

But which is the real monster, here? As a slave in New Orleans, she is surrounded by monsters. The slave owner and his family, slave catchers; even within the circus within which she hopes to find refuge she finds evil.

And there is no happy ending; at least not of the happily-ever-after kind. Jacqueline herself rejects the role of a princess, and becomes a dragon.

She never, not once, not even for her gods and goddesses that grant her power, gives up her agency, her sense of self, and does not relinquish her power or even abuses it. She simply does what has to be done, and accepts it as part of who she is.

Michelle Renee Lane has written this coming-of-age story with such delicacy, and has let the horror and suspense speak for itself, both with the daily horror slaves faced on the plantation, and with the horror invoked by the supernatural characters–all masterfully set against the earthy magic of the wonderfully mystic South.

In that light, however, I do not want to detract from the experience Lane has written about–the terror and brutality these enslaved people faced when they were captured and brought to America and other colonial outposts, but I was reading through Lane’s blog and saw an event she had hosted at Necon 39 titled “Why Do We Love Vampires and Narcissists?”.

I definitely saw aspects of narcissistic tendencies in some of the people Jaqueline created for her book (that’s probably a given) and that made the suspense and horror all the more real, even though some of the spooks and thrills and edge-of-the-seat reading came from supernatural sources. People who have come into personal contact with a narcissist can attest to the invisibility of that fear, confusion, and even terror that arises from that contact, due to the expert manipulations by said narcissist.

Again, I refer back to the delicate balance Michelle Renee Lane has created within the pages of her supernatural book. There may be vampires, loup-garous, powerful magic, trips to parallel dimensions, and Vodun gods and goddesses, but the horror is real for the 99%. And all the one-percenters disclaiming otherwise from their pulpits will not make it invisible.

As such, Lane’s book may be set in a bygone era, but Invisible Chains is both timely and present. And the fight continues to ensure that such history is not erased. Or repeated.

Lastly, the wrath of women should never be underestimated, as Jacqueline herself exemplifies. I can only hope that this book falls into the hands of as many young women (whom are on the journey to find, and empower, themselves) as possible.

Explore Jacqueline’s power for yourself, here

(Special thanks to Madness Heart Press for the ARC, and for the honour of being one of their guest reviewers–Willow Croft)

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