This chapter of Tithe is all about control.
It starts with Corny waking up outside the Unseelie Court, He doesn’t really remember the night, just bits and pieces. But he does know one thing: he spent the night with Nephamael, evidenced by the long scratches on his arms, left from Nephamael’s thorn-lined cloak.
After reading this chapter, I tried to remember what my fourteen-year-old self thought about this. It didn’t really bother me that Corny was gay, but I was trying pretty damn hard to pretend that he and Nephamael hadn’t gone further than making out. I wasn’t homophobic, but rather, scared of sex. I think this was largely due to my time spent in Catholic school, where sex-ed was taught in our religion classes, and we learned that only whores have sex before marriage. The idea of even fictional characters having pre-marital sex made me uncomfortable, so I wanted to believe it didn’t happen.
Some fifteen years later my abstinence-only values have changed, but Corny’s night with Nephamael still makes me uncomfortable for one reason: consent.
There’s a lot of ambiguity when it comes to Corny’s night with Nephamael. Corny clearly enjoyed the night, but he was also very, very drunk. There are also hints that he’d been enchanted by Nephamael. So, even though Corny wouldn’t have really been able to consent, and barely remembers the night, he’s happy with the outcome. I’ve tried a few times to articulate how I feel about the situation, how nothing is really clear, but I can’t really sum it up any better than this: I feel icky.
Nephamael holds all the power of Corny, whereas Kaye sets out to give Kenny his agency back. Remember Kenny? Kaye’s been thinking about him as much as the reader, which is to say, not at all.
She suddenly understood why she had let him kiss her in the diner, why she had wanted him at all.
She wanted to control him.
He was every arrogant boyfriend that had treated her mother badly. He was every boy that told her she was too freaky, who had laughed at her, or just wanted her to shut up and make out. He was a thousand times less real than Roiben.
Kaye does release him from her enchantment, but not before humiliating him in front of his classmates. It amuses her for awhile, until she realizes what she’s doing. After, she slinks off, angry and scared of herself for acting like…well, like a faerie.
The chapter ends with Kaye formally meeting Nephamael, and she discovers that he had enchanted Lloyd in the prologue to attack her mother. He restores her original glamour that will keep her disguised as a mortal. Soon after, she is whisked away, off to the Unseelie Court once again, and on to the main event: the Tithe itself.