This book is a male power fantasy hard erotica. Not as bad as the GOR novels, but definitely problematic in some of its treatment of women, resulting in a longer than normal review from me. I do wish I could do 2.5 stars.
Let us get out of the way the world backstory. You will find more detail on the history of the world on the description of the book then in the book. That is a bit hyperbolic, but other then a few mentions it leaves the history of the world very hazy.
The overall plot of the book, a rebelling province, slaves and an Empire facing change is very loosely written with not a lot of detail. In fact the overall arc of the story serves more as a hanger to rest the interpersonal interactions of Vince and his women. This is not a Game of Thrones but honestly for what the book is about it works mostly.
Vince, the protagonist, and his many women (some whom become his wives) is where it is problematic with both positive and negative issues.
Vince is a ranger who hates slavery. His whole time in the book is him trying to free slaves (most of whom are women). He does free men as well but that is glossed over because the story isn’t about that. The story is more about the “shipping” between Vince and these women of various races.
The women themselves aren’t written badly overall. They excel in various areas including combat, intelligence, wit and magic. In addition, some of the sex scenes are pretty good, some are decent if taken out of context. There is something about his writing that is easy to read, and it went quickly.
Oh and I want to underline that the voice actress who reads the book is awesome.
The women outside of Vince are distinct individuals with strengths, some weakness and do have individual personalities. However the story becomes evident it is a power fantasy because the women do not pass the Bechdel Test, their entire focus for all women are Vince, and their desire to be dominated does have some callback to Gor (although from memory not as bad).
My biggest issue is all the women he chose, no matter their age/occupation/race were virgins. It gave the story a weird slut shaming feel on women. In addition not once during the several sex scenes did he write about Vince performing on the women for their pleasure. All pleasure they had derived, was from his manhood. Personally I feel he would have been a disappointment to any of those women, but like I said this is an erotic male power fantasy, and purely focused on what a typical “guy” would want from the author’s perspective.
I would have been ok if some of the individuals would have been like this, but all of them virgins, wanting to be dominated sexually in various ways by Vince made me uncomfortable. The fact they all wanted to be his wives, not be with anyone else sexually (not even between each other) and have his babies even more so.
Oh, and a side note, one of his wives is half woman (down to the genitals) and then half ant… I wasn’t sure when Vince met that character if the author would go that direction, but of course he did. However, the relationship worked out story wise for me. The biggest issue about that was her ant portion seem to shift size in the story to fit what was needed.
The story started out as a sexy D&D game, culminating in the fight and relationship between his first wife Fess, then rapidly dropping into a purely erotic power fantasy for men. I think the part that bothered me due to connotations the most is that this is being called the “Slave Harem” series.
I am still not sure if I will read the second book, I suspect the answer is yes. However this has made me want to find a more female positive series like this, and if I can’t find one maybe I need to write it.