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Literature / Bride of the Rat God

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Bride of the Rat God is a Historical Fantasy novel by Barbara Hambly.

The exotic Chrysanda Flamande (actually Christine Flint from Philadelphia) is a rising star in The Silent Age of Hollywood. Her rich producer boyfriend Frank just gave her a beautiful old Chinese necklace, her down-to-earth sister-in-law Norah keeps her within shouting distance of the straight and narrow, The Roaring '20s are roaring and life is good.

Then her body double from her latest movie is horribly murdered, in circumstances implicating one of the studio's other stars. While the studio's spin machine springs into action, Norah gradually discovers that the murderer wasn't human — and that Christine is also in danger. It's up to Norah and a small group of allies to keep Christine safe, with Christine herself providing occasional and dubious assistance. All while dealing with the everyday havoc surrounding the production of Christine's new movie, She-Devil of Babylon.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Artifact of Death: The Moon of Rats necklace was used in olden times to dedicate human sacrifices to the Rat God; any woman (or homosexual man) who wears it in circumstances resembling those of the original ritual will be dead within a month.
  • Asian Lion Dogs: Christine's Pekingese dogs transform into a larger and more powerful dog-lion form at the climax to protect her from supernatural danger.
  • Bad Boss: Queen Vashti, the Femme Fatale Christine is playing in She-Devil of Babylon. In one scene, she poisons a random servant just to make a point in her conversation.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When the director of She-Devil of Babylon starts ranting about the Philistines sabotaging his high art, Christine's response is to ask "Are there Philistines in this movie? I thought they were Persians", and then to go in search of a script to make sure.
  • Costume Porn: Several outfits are described with fair, if not extensive, detail. Christine even describes some of her outfits in detail.
  • Crossword Puzzle: Norah does newspaper crosswords with a speed and confidence that impresses Christine enormously, but doesn't consider it a big deal because American newspaper crosswords are so much more straightforward than the English ones she's used to.
  • Damsel in Distress: Christine is being hunted by a supernatural being, and this distressing situation initiates the plot.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Christine does her best to fight back and struggle to survive. So does Norah.
  • December–December Romance: Hinted between Shang Ko and Ni Kuei Nu at the end.
  • Demonic Possession: The Rat God usually possesses a person to get at his "bride" though there are restrictions; restrictions that are worked around by all the alcohol being imbibed by the cast...
  • The Ditz: Christine, as the Comically Missing the Point proves.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: Norah has a dream in which she sees the last occasion on which the necklace was deliberately used to dedicate a human sacrifice. She doesn't remember it all (though gets a few vague memories and impressions later once she starts to think on it) but the audience gets it all and it is creepy.
  • Epigraph: Each chapter begins with a quotation from the I Ching appropriate to the events of the chapter.
  • Evil Overlooker: In two covers for the book, the Rat God looks over Christine.
  • Eye Scream: Christine does this to fend off an attacker. Noteworthy, she's rather shook up at the fact that a) she even managed to pull it off and b) it did nothing to stop her attacker since he's under Demonic Possession.
  • Femme Fatale: All of Christine's movie roles that are described in any detail.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: An actress at a party wears a feather headdress and a dress with marabou shoulder straps.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Los Angeles' Chinatown.
  • Grand Theft Me: The Rat God can take over some people to use them to slay sacrifices.
  • High-Class Gloves: Christine wears a white pair on the cover.
  • Historical Domain Character: A lot of famous actors and directors make cameo appearances, mostly at Frank Brown's parties.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Christine mostly, though she's quick to make up for it if it's pointed out. The rest of the cast sometimes is like this about Chinese people
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Christine's dogs turn into supernaturally strong dog-lions at the end to protect Christine from the Rat God.
  • Magical Camera: The idea of photographs stealing souls is discussed, and winds up being a plot point.
  • Married at Sea: Norah and Alec decide to have a boat captain marry them at the end.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Norah doesn't start out as a writer, but by the end of the novel she's embarked on a screenwriting career.
  • Plucky Girl:
    • Christine is incredibly brave, considering the circumstances, and claws out the eye of a guy trying to kill her at one point.
    • Norah also qualifies; it takes a lot to willingly put on the Artifact of Doom to draw the attention of the Rat God.
  • Pop the Tires: Discussed in the car chase scene. They conclude that the tires are too hard targets considering none of them have any firearm experience, and they should go for the radiator instead. Then it turns out to be moot, since there isn't a gun in their car anyway.
  • Pretty in Mink: Christine, being a glamorous movie star, has several furs, such as a sable coat, and chinchilla coat, and a monkey-trimmed jacket. She gives Norah the latter, and lets Norah borrow her chinchilla a few times especially to the Hollywood parties they attend. Christine also wears a fur wrap on the cover of the book.
  • Prima Donna Director: Miklos Hraldy, director of She-Devil of Babylon, who obsesses about symbolism, complains about the studio cutting his earlier six-hour epic of human drama down to a length audiences will actually consider watching, and dreams of making the definitive film version of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.
  • Proscenium Reveal: The novel opens with a young woman fleeing desperately, and ultimately futilely, from her doom. It then cuts to a film premiere, revealing the opening scene to be the climax of Chrysanda Flamande's latest film.
  • Psychic Powers: It's implied Norah might have some (or a touch of magic) considering the various "bad feelings" and gut instinct she has. Not to mention the whole Dreaming of Times Gone By incident.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Christine is described as this, giving her an exotic look, but also reflecting her kind personality.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: The final battle against the Rat God is written as the cause of the 1924 Lick Pier fire.
  • The Roaring '20s: Set during The Silent Age of Hollywood. And Christine seems to just want to party when she isn't working.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: The stuntman, who also wore the necklace, is brutally murdered near the start of the book.
  • Scenery Porn: The book gives detailed descriptions of some of the areas.
  • Secondary Character Title: Christine is the title character, but Norah is the protagonist.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: The use of silver in film production turns out to be significant.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Christine is rich and famous, but she's not vain or selfish (just often ditzy). She even loans Norah her furs without a second thought.
  • Stage Names:
    • Chrysanda Flamande, actually Christine Flint.
    • A recurring background character is cowboy star Hank Silver, whose real name is Hans Schweibler.
  • Sword and Sandal: She-Devil of Babylon.
  • Tempting Apple: The forbidden fruit from the garden of Eden makes a symbolic appearance in the seduction scene in She-Devil of Babylon; this prompts a discussion among the crew about what kind of fruit it actually was. The director insists on a pomegranate, causing a whole bunch of problems that wouldn't have happened if he'd been willing to settle for an apple.
  • Unexplained Recovery (or possibly You Look Familiar): In-Universe Logistical restrictions result in one of the generals in Queen Vashti's army during the climactic battle of She-Devil of Babylon being played by the same actor as the underling she poisoned in an earlier scene.