Monday, October 13, 2014

Digital Review: Barbarian's Concubine

But what I'd told Clovis was the truth: for good or ill, I had chosen him.  I was on his side, whether or not I agreed with his decisions, and I knew that I would have to prove my loyalty to him...no matter how distasteful I found the tasks he set me.
That is everything you need to know to judge whether or not Barbarian's Concubine, the second installment in Lisa Cach's 1001 Erotic Nights serial, is your sort of read.  I'm not going to lie, this is turning out to be a problematic serial for me to review, and here we are only on the second installment.  I probably shouldn't like it.  I probably should be offended.  I could very well see how other readers would look at me and question my sanity.  But enjoy this I did, caveats and all.  Why?  Because Cach has gone gleefully, cheerfully, Old School with her story.  So far this serial is reading like a Bodice Ripper that has been dismantled and delivered in serial format, as opposed to a door-stopping 500 page novel.  That is obviously going to work better for some readers than others.

Nimia, our former sexual slave, has escaped King Sygarius.  She had no choice but to escape, having been betrayed by her lover, Clovis.  She's looking for a way to escape Gaul but when that option dries up, she's determined to find Clovis.  Yes, he did betray her, forcing her to this life on the run. Sygarius has, naturally, offered a healthy reward for her return.  But Clovis seems to know something about her people, and having no knowledge of who she is, where she came from, this is information that Nimia wants badly.  Once reunited with Clovis, things get complicated.  Nimia has paranormal abilities, visions, that seem to foretell the future, and naturally (this being an erotic serial after all) she gets these visions while, um.....being pleasured.  Clovis discovers this quickly, and now a King, he is determined to use Nimia's gifts to win a bigger prize - taking down Sygarius.

I'll be honest, right up front - Nimia is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  However I'm willing to cut her some slack, mostly because she doesn't have a lot of options.  If she weren't so desperate to find answers about where she came from, she probably could have just set sail for Britania - but then where would our story be?  However her fancying herself "in love" with Clovis strains considerably.  He's obviously using her, but she's too messed up in the head (and let's not forget horny) to get a clue.

And let's talk about horny for a moment.  This is an erotic serial, so yes - sex.  But like the bodice rippers that I suspect inspired this tale (I could be wrong here - it's not like the author and I have had lengthy chats on the subject), the sex is....not always consensual.  Is it rape?  I didn't necessarily think so.  Not all the time at any rate.  But there's no denying that there is a very lop-sided power dynamic to the sex.  Nimia doesn't have any power in this story - other than her visions.  Clovis or Sygarius are unlikely to truly "harm" her because her visions are useful to them.  But does she always want to have sex with them?  Is that sex sometimes played out in a manner that Nimia might not always "want" it?  Yes.  Especially with a development at the end of this installment.  Is Nimia beaten, bloodied and bruised?  No.  Is she subjected to sex against her will?  Some readers will probably say yes - and I'm not necessarily going to say that they're wrong.

Consider that your trigger warning.

It really does remind me of an Old School erotic romance.  Think, harem story - but with no harem and you'll get an idea of what we're dealing with here.  I am just going to admit it - I'm hooked.  Maybe I should be ashamed of being hooked, but I am.  I'm hoping I'm right when I say I think I know where this story is heading.  I'm hoping over the course of the story that Nimia will come into her own.  Gain power.  Gain agency.  As the mystery of who Nimia is, of what her powers entail, come to fruition, I'm hoping we get a serialization of a warrior goddess.  But time will tell.

It's a bodice ripping soap opera saga delivered in bite-size pieces.  Is it any wonder I'm hooked?

Final Grade = C

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