Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-386-8
Fantasy Erotica, 2007
Savage follows Lila Dubois’s debut fantasy erotica tale Forbidden. Take a look at the review of the previous book if you need some introduction to the series. Things have changed in the Land Between the Seas since Forbidden, with the former High Priestess Cryessa now married to her favorite ex-Zinah and the other Zinahs now find themselves playing more conventional roles of ministers, judges, and generals without having to sleep with the Queen or wear phallic-shaped objects up their rear ends anymore.
This is Anleeh’s story. Anleeh is now the Lord Justice for the new monarchy. The Zinahs are not the only ones who take on new roles in the monarchy, however. Siara, formerly a Headmistress of the Temple College, decides to apply for the position of Royal Historian and Scribe after the Temple is disbanded. She yearns to see the world outside the Temple, you see, and now is her chance. She is thrilled when her first assignment throws her together with Anleeh, whom she has a crush on, for a diplomatic mission to his homeland Den. This is the first diplomatic mission to Den in a millennium so this is indeed a very big deal. Siara feels… well, a little worried, however, when she learns that Den turns out to be what seems to be a community of John Norman fanboys and fangirls.
“The women of Den are… slaves?”
“No.” His denial was immediate, but footnoted by his next comment. “Though if there were written laws there, as we have here, women would be the property of men. A man reveres his mother and protects his sisters, but a man’ wife is his, obedient to him in all things. A beautiful woman who is both wild and obedient is prized above all others.”
For the diplomacy mission to succeed, Anleeh must “train” Siara to be acceptable in the eyes of his homeboys, which means it’s time to whip out the I Want a Loincloth-clad Babe to Serve Me My Beer: Manual to Make Your Own Gor Barbie handbook. Anleeh knows that he has to initiate sexual contact with Siara but is not looking forward to it since he believes that Siara is not cut out to be a Gor Barbie. He does not like knowing that his training will change Siara into a Gor Barbie. But Siara is determined to help make this mission a success so poor Anleeh has no choice but to go along. Anleeh wonders whether she is aware of how dangerous this mission could be and the price she has to pay to go along with the Gor Barbie 101 education.
Savage explores the sensual and emotional dynamics of two people so this is a far more intimate story than the previous one. For all the talk of domination and submission, however, this one sees a rather conventional thing going on between Anleeh and Siara because Siara speaks her mind and generally acts most unlike an obedient submissive. In fact, one can even argue that if there is anyone who is doing the dominating in this story, it’s Siara as she gets Anleeh to teach her the martial arts of his people when she’s not experiencing sensual delights under his tutelage. I have no problems with this. I like this, in fact, but I suspect that readers looking for a more accurate D/s relationship between the two characters will be disappointed with this one.
And that is before she starts carrying out small but subversive steps to counter the rampant and often brutal patriarchy of Den. The author realistically does not have Siara making any big changes in this story, but I say give her five years and she’d probably start a revolution.
Anleeh makes a very intriguing and often attractive dominant male who doesn’t cross the line to being outright cruel, and his inner demons provide a nice touch of vulnerability without getting too excessive with the pathos. Siara is a nice counter to him as she is intelligent, curious, and passionate. Sometimes she tends to act without thinking, especially when her sense of justice is challenged by what she encounters in Den, but Anleeh is there to rein her in. Their relationship is satisfying to follow because there is a strong emotional as well as sexual bond between them. Sure, a part of me wishes that this story is longer so that the author has more opportunity to develop her characters more, but I think they are fine as they are.
I also appreciate how Ms Dubois presents both the lighter and darker side of Den without going onto her soapbox. That way, the story cuts deeper into the heart. There is no clear and easy fairytale resolution to this story, with the only thing made clear is that our two main characters are in love and will try their hardest to be happy together, but I feel that this provides a touch of realism to the story and makes it even stronger.
My only complain is that the author uses sometimes very contemporary-sounding words like “beastly”. In a story set in a not-so-modern setting, the use of such words can really jar me from the world the author has carefully set up and pull me out of it.
Having said that, Savage far exceeds my expectations as a follow-up to Forbidden. By the time I have finished the story, I am utterly satisfied with it. Readers expecting some hardcore BDSM story or a Gor fanfiction are not going to find what they are looking for here, but me, I’m going to find it really hard to remain patient while waiting for the author’s next book.