This fall I had the great fortune to visit with the publishers at Fantastic Fiction Publishing. When I mentioned to the primary editor that I had just finished the book I had been reading and was looking for something new to read, she recommended Elizabeth Schechter’s Counsel of the Wicked . “I don’t like erotica” I said, thinking back on the sappy romance novels I had started occasionally and always left unfinished. “Trust me, you’ll like this one” she said. Knowing her to be a woman of integrity and good taste, I took her at her word and purchased a copy.
Turns out, it’s not that I don’t like erotica, it’s that I don’t like badly written drivel with thin plot lines padded by pages of awkward sex. Even the sex scenes in Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake vampire hunter series left me cold, and I quickly found myself skimming over the sex scenes that seemed initially steamy and quickly became repetitive (and used the word spill far too often) to get back to the much more interesting vampire hunting and shape shifting.
Far from needing to blur past self-conscious or redundant sex scenes, Schechter’s gem is so well written that the sex scenes are not only interesting to read, but integral to the plot. Mercifully devoid of the kind of florid Harlequin romance language that hobbles so many other erotic novels, Counsel of the Wicked has complex and well-developed characters who do all sorts of interesting things, one of which happens to be interesting sex as well. Each sex scene flows perfectly with the twists of the plot, always fitting in quite realistically with the characters’ other actions. One of the main characters appears to be asexual, a true novelty for romance novels.
Luckily for me and other readers of smart and sexy fiction, this is just book one in the Rebel Mage series. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, Haven’s Fall, to find out what happens to the band of intrepid travelers.
I will be giving two presentations this year at the fabulous DragonCon this year. On Friday September 2 at 1pm I will present Multiple Partner Marriage After Same Sex Marriage for the Skeptic Track, and on Saturday September 3 I will present The Polyamorists Next Door for the Science Track at 5:30pm. I hope to see you there!!!!
Some of you have probably already read Jacqueline Koyanagi’s wonderful science fiction adventure Ascension, because it was published in 2013. Those of you who enjoy sci fi and have not yet had a chance to read this excellent book are in for a treat. A blend of a closely-knit crew on semi-legal runs throughout the universe reminiscent of Firefly and a sentient ship similar to Moya in Farscape, the plot of Ascension has a few twists that will surprise and delight even the most jaded reader who has seen/read it all. Ascension chronicles the adventures of Alana Quick as she stows away on the ship Tangled Axion in the hopes of not only saving her sister from unknown villains, but also of seeing the universe. Of course Alana is discovered and skirts the edge of annihilation by expulsion into deep space to eventually become part of the crew. Alana’s relationship with her sister is complex and compelling, a rare treat to see women’s non-sexual relationships with each other treated with such tenderness and depth.
Of potentially specific interest to readers of this blog, Koyanagi’s skillful depiction of polyamorous relationships blends in to the plot so well that it does not stand out as an artificial addition but as an integral part of the characters’ lives. After reading a raft of sci fi novels that focus extensively on sex scenes — sometimes at the expense of a decent plot — it was refreshing to read Koyanagi’s descriptions of the passion Alana feels for her wayward captain, the alluring and dangerous Tev, without such a detailed description of their sexual interactions that nothing is left to the imagination. Koyanagi’s plot is quite strong enough to stand on its own, and it keeps readers engaged without having to resort to gratuitous sex.
Not only do I highly recommend this excellent read to anyone who enjoys science fiction about badass queer women and their mostly human male lover/companion, I hope that you join me in encouraging Koyanagi to write more about the Tangled Axion crew. While the complex characters would make for a great series, it does not appear that Koyanagi has written any more about this fascinating crew. Please join me in purchasing Koyanagi’s existing book Ascension and lobbying her to write some more.