Reread Featuring Bookburners

Bookburners Reread: Episode 7, “Now and Then”

Ooooooh it’s here! From all that I can tell, Episode 7 has been a fan favorite so I am pretty friggen excited to reread this shizbang.

We start in Shanghai, Then. It’s 1928 and someone named Chen Juan is dressed to kill while on a stake out along side the Bund. When a sleezy Russian makes contact, she gives a fake name: Grace.

OMG GUYS, IT’S GRACE. AND IT’S LIKE EIGHTY FIVE YEARS BEFORE BOOKBURNERS TAKES PLACE.

Whew, ok, steady breathing. So the Russian and Grace exchange some secret passwords and a mysterious envelope—but then the Russian tries to attack!

Grace is having none of that and swiftly kicks his ass. Suddenly his buddies start firing – but Grace has backup. Her getaway car arrives and she and some compatriots trundle the Russian into the car and drive away, exchanging fire with his Ruski fellows.

After tying him up, Grace demands to know where “the girls” and “the Professor” are. After some…less than gentle persuasion, the Russian offers up the location: Pudong.

<Scene Change> Vatican City. Now.

Grace is PISSSSSED at Sal. From her yelling and aggressive gesturing with a smudged copy of Middlemarch, we gather that they were on a mission and Sal threw caution to the wind to save some tourists. Grace is angry at her for taking such a massive uncalculated risk and putting them all in danger. Sal is decidedly unapologetic and basically is like “Gurl I do NOT need to be told about danger.” Then she throws a barb about Grace being the one who truly doesn’t know about getting hurt—and it seemingly finds its mark all too well because Grace storms off.

<Scene Change> Huangpu River. Then.

Grace is on a barge with her team (not really sure what outfit they are – but definitely special ops of some sort). Their leader is giving a mission brief. The Big Bad is Professor Yuri Antopov, a Russian expat and creepy scientist who has set up shop in China and apparently is trying to render people alive for tallow in his effort to achieve immortality.

 

The team’s mission is to storm his workshop and rescue the people he’s captured for his evil experiments.

<Scene Change> Vatican City. Now.

Sal is storming across Saint Peter’s Square and Menchú catches up to her. Sal tells him that She needs to fix things with Grace – the tension is bad for the team. Menchú tries to play the “oooh it will be fine…Grace is just prickly….She’ll come around,” card. Sal is having none of it (patience isn’t exactly our heroine’s greatest virtue, really.) She asks where Grace lives so she can go patch things up. Menchú refuses to tell her.

“Grace’s quarters,” Menchú said, “are a secret. If you pursue this, you might attract the Church’s attention—and I can only protect you so much.”


<Scene Change> Pudong. Then.

Grace slips into the Evil Professor’s lair. She finds 11 captured women in various states of mistreatment and releases them from their prison cells. Before she can get them to safety though, shooting starts. She sends the girls ahead to the getaway boat and heads off to help her team.

She finds them – and the Evil Professor. He’s hovering a foot of the ground over a massive candle and meanwhile her team is being attacked by wax sculptures!

Grace tries to just shoot the guy but shields of wax protect him. As her teammates are dying around her, falling victims to wax tigers and gorillas, she decides enough is enough and just throws herself bodily at the Evil Professor. Except he turns out to be more wax (with super strength and flexibility) than human! Wax is getting into her eyes and mouth – she can’t breath! The Professor cackles evilly (as Evil Professors are wont to do) and tells her it’s too late!

“The will is the flame and the flesh is the wax. The mind is the mold and the meat is the clay.”


She ignores that cryptic nonsense and manages to snuff out the candle before blacking out.

<Scene Change> Rome. Now.

Sal is hunting Grace. This turns out to be pretty difficult but Sal will not be deterred. After a bunch of dead ends – and a delightful concersation with my boo Asanti – she hits gold though and manages to snoop out Grace’s address from the woman’s browser history (note: Incognito mode is your friend, people!). What she later arrives to is a heavily guarded convent…which is really not where I expected Grace to live but ol’ Author Gladstone is just full of surprises, isn’t he?

<Scene Change> Somewhere. Then.

Grace wakes up and quickly discerns that she’s been returned to “Central” which we learn is in the former Imperial Palace and she apparently is an operative for the Bureau of Official Secrets.

Then the bomb drops: When she attacked the Evil Professor and drank the wax, his ritual was completed – and transferred to her. His attempts at true immortality sort of succeeded – but her consciousness  and life are now tied to the magic candle. When it’s lit, she is awake (and has super healing, amongst other powers), but when it’s not, she is basically an unchanging wax statue, utterly dead to the world.

Then the next bomb drops: the candle is finite, so not wanting to waste it, they’ve kept her “off” for five years. It is now 1933.

Then the next bomb drops: With war coming, all “ancillary” research is being halted so the work into figuring out Grace’s predicament will be halted indefinitely. Her friend has awoken her just to tell her that they will be putting her back to sleep…and likely not waking up her for a very, very long time.

Grace, understandably, does not like that plan.

She tries to fight her way out, and finds she has super strength and speed – but the candle is her weakness and so with just a little puff of air, she is laid utterly helpless. She is laid in a crate and hammered in, and remembers no more.

<Scene Change> Rome. Now.

In a string of various impressive feats, Sal scales the wall, bypasses the guard dogs, puts on a disguise, picks various locks, and gets into Grace’s room. LIKE A BOSS.

<Scene Change> Somewhere else. Then.

Grace wakes up, still locked in the crate. Someone pries off the lid and she is in a shipping container. Her rescuer is Hispanic…a priest….beautiful….and OMG IT’S FATHER MENCHU OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.

He tells her he’s from the Societas Librorum Occultorum and they tracked the shipping container from China (where they aren’t allowed, apparently) to Guatemala. THEN he tells her what year it is: 1985.

<Scene Change> Rome. Now.

Sal snoops around Grace’s apartment and everything seems normal – well, except for a calendar with only a random days crossed off hear and there. And the lack of food –  but speaking as someone who hasn’t bought real groceries in three years, I say NO JUDGMENT. Anyway, things seem relatively normal until she goes into the bedroom and finds Grace, seemingly not breathing and therefore totally dead, laying on her bed. Sal starts running through the eighty-million ways to freak out when you find your teammate dead…but then she notices a weird thing – a candle and a little sign that says “in case of emergency, light candle.” So she does. And then Grace punches her in the face.

 

<Scene Change> Guatemala. Then.

After quickly handling some other wax figures that woke up with more violent thoughts in mind, Grace tells Menchú she should be going. Menchú is all “Where? China is waaaaay different from how it was 50 years ago.” Grace concedes the point. That’s when Menchú has the great idea: work for the Order! She certainly has valuable skills, and they can continue the hunt for something to cure her, as they actually do have access to magical texts. Grace agrees.

<Scene Change> Rome. Now.

Grace is PISSSSSSSED at Sal. Again. She tells her leave but suddenly everything clicks for Sal. Grace’s powers, the calendar, the candle – she gets it.

<Scene Change> Then.

A little montage of the 80s-until now. Menchú wakes Grace up for missions. Grace puts herself back to “sleep” in between. Grace fights monsters. Grace kills monsters. Everyone grows older. Grace does not. No one has any luck figuring out how to help her separate from the candle.

<Scene Change> Rome. Now.

Grace tells Sal the whole story – and why she had kept it a secret. Too painful, too many times explaining, too many dead ends for people who try to “save” her. Sal gets it. But they bond – Grace has clearly gotten lonely, and Sal bullheaded desire to get to the bottom of her mystery has had the positive side effect of forcing Grace to open up and let someone in. They share some tea.

Then Menchú bursts in – Sal had apparently set off an alarm and he was freaked. Grace calms him down and explains that she told Sal, and she glad she did. Sal leaves with Menchú, and a whole lot to think about.

 

….aaaaand that’s it for Episode 7! How’s that for a back story, eh? We got a lot of answers and insight into our grumpy team muscle this episode and I’m in love with the blossoming friendship between Sal and Grace…and that slight hint of a little something between Grace and Menchu. Remember when she saw him for the first time and thought he was beautiful? WELL I DO AND NOW I AM FULLY TEAM GRACE+MENCHU.

 

See you next week!

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