by Eressë, fantasy (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $6.10, ISBN 978-1-59578-595-4
Eressë is, unless I'm mistaken, a popular fanfiction writer in the Lord Of The Rings Livejournal circuit. Sacred Fate is her debut original fiction. I'm not slamming her fanfiction background, mind you. What I'm trying to say here is that sometimes it takes a fanfiction writer to come up with something as risky and unorthodox as this story. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that, should she keep this up, Eressë may just be an author to look out for if you enjoy equally unorthodox gender-bending stories by Nica Berry.
I'm going to cut straight to the chase here. The two main characters are hermaphrodites and one of them gives birth to their baby in this story. And yes, the author describes the delivery process in enough details to either make you happy or grossed out. On my part, I'm actually quite amused by the whole thing. I've read male pregnancy fanfiction before, and like those stories, the delivery room scenes of Sacred Fate has me chuckling and going, "Heh, that's so silly!"
Oh yes, the story. Set in the fantasy world of Ylandre where conveniently enough, all women have been wiped out. Killing off all women in the world is one of the most popular ways in fanfiction to get two hot guys to start pawing each other, after all. Almost two millennia of evolution resulted in the surviving folks of this world becoming hermaphrodites instead of simply male or female. In this world, we meet Lassen Idana, of the low Half Blood caste, who finds himself elevated into the position of royal paramour to the ruler of a neighboring country, Rohyr. Lassen and Rohyr eventually fall in love, but Rohyr has to marry the scheming Tyrde in a political union. Tyrde views Lassen as an obstacle in his scheme to consolidate power in Rohyr's court, so poor Lassen soon finds himself in trouble.
Sacred Fate is a pretty long story, but it actually feels much longer than it actually is due to the epic overtones of the story. This story is, I find, the perfect example of crack fiction - I am aware of its flaws, but dang if I can't stop reading and enjoying every minute of it. It's actually quite unusual for me to enjoy a story like this in such a manner. The main characters, for example, are pretty dull in my estimation compared to the villain Tyrde. Lassen is a little too passive for my liking, although his behavior is understandable given the culture of his people, while Rohyr can sometimes be too dense for his own good. Tyrde on the other hand is gloriously nasty while remaining human enough that his inevitable defeat has me shedding an unexpected tear.
But the best thing about this story is not the characters or the romance, it's how Ms Eressë has the whole story flowing in such an entertaining manner. The world building is lush and detailed, and while there are occasional tedious moments of information dumping (the prologue - is there any reason for it?), the pacing never falters. There are drama, action scenes, and, oh yes, romantic sodomy all in one big epic opus of angst, tears, and butt babies. Okay, it's not exactly a butt baby as Lassen has the proper equipment to pop out a brat, but you know what I mean.
Therefore, while Sacred Fate is not exactly the best book ever with the most polished prose, it is a very engaging story that is hard to put down once I start reading. There is a larger than life quality to the characters and the narrative that catches my attention and doesn't let go - this story is so damned entertaining, I can't stop reading until it's over and done with.
I wonder for a while whether to give this book a keeper grade, since a part of me feels that this story could have done without some of its sillier conflicts (like the misunderstanding over the paternity of Lassen's baby) because there are already enough conflicts in this story. I could also do without some of the euphemisms used by the author in the love scenes. "Seed channels"? "Seed pouches"? Ugh. But then again, this story is very entertaining so I don't know why I'm being so stingy. So, here it is, a well-deserved keeper rating for Eress¨'s Sacred Fate.
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