Ofelia Gränd, $0.99
Fantasy Romance, 2017
Ofelia Gränd’s Eight Feet of Magic is marketed as romance, but I feel that the romance is a bit too muted. This story is more of a steampunk road trip adventure with a touch of romance. Even then, I’m not sure about that “adventure” part either. But let me talk about the plot first.
Kind of like a little bit like a steampunk gay version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, this one sees Hank Goodenough giving himself one month to care for his father, which isn’t easy when the man is rather… difficult, let’s just say. Poor Hank can seem to hold a job either, and an illness that held him back for a big part of his young life leaves him a rather stereotypical insecure gay character that has “sensitive tender bottom” stamped on his chest. Not that I will know for certain, as the author shies away from depiction of explicit sex scenes here. Explicit sexual tension and mentions of erection, oh yes, but the pound town, not really.
Hank is content to be his father’s doormat until that man sells off everything to embark on a voyage on Captain Elazar Steel’s airship in search of Odin, the Norse god. He is then made to share a cabin with Elazar, and ooh. He is then… yes, that’s basically Hank in a nutshell: he rarely does anything on his initiative here, instead things just happen to him while he reacts with a more manly equivalent of a stunned goldfish gasping for air. This fellow’s character arc can be summed up by him being a complete doormat to his father, even when he knows that the man is scum, until Elazar practically tells Hank that he is Hank’s new daddy now, and our hero then finally shakes off his doormat act. It’s not very interesting.
Elazar is a more interesting character, as a former male prostitute carving a name for himself as a swashbuckling raider of the seas, er, sky. If there is one thing done right here, it’s the sexual tension between him and Hank, which is coupled to his protectiveness of that fellow that coexists nicely with the more roguish side of him.
As for the adventure, well, this is a short story, so the adventure is a flat one, developed in such a way that is oddly lacking in build up. Indeed, I reach what passes for the denouement without even realizing that it is one, because the author’s narrative pacing is a bit on the uniformly sedate side. I never feel that the story is going somewhere, or that something grand will happen. The whole adventure feels like an excuse to throw Hank and Elazar together, and once that happens, things just happen to serve as filler material between sexual tension moments.
Perhaps this is due to the length of the story – but then again, if this is the case, I would then wonder why the author would choose for this story a plot that needs a longer word count to be adequately fleshed out.
At any rate, this one has the embryo of a sexually charged gay romance, but it ends up being somewhat neither here nor there thanks to the underdeveloped plot and practically everything else in this story. It may be the worth the author’s while to revisit Eight Feet of Magic and expand it one of these days, but for now, this one hovers somewhere between two-oogie and three-oogie territories. Oh what the heck, I like the sexual chemistry between the two lead characters so I’ll be nice this time.