With the popularity of Game of Thrones I wasn’t surprised when this book came my way. The title, Thrones of Desire, kind of gave it away. As a fan of the show and having enjoyed fantasy tales, I thought this would be a book for me. It was, but it wasn’t. Let me explain.
While the title is fun, it wasn’t until I got the book that I realized it might have been trying too hard. In an attempt to make sure to get Game of Thrones fans they also included in the subtitle swords, mist and fire. So maybe not entirely A Song of Fire and Ice but it’s leaning towards it heavily. I found the photo on the cover sexy while amusing at the same time. Getting past the scantily clad, faux fur girded, flag and weapon-wielding woman on the cover, I delved inside. This is where I found a forward by Piers Anthony. Piers Anthony! This was exciting! A Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer whose work I am familiar with is opening this book on fantasy erotica.
This forward is well worth reading; please don’t skip it, as I’m sure some people may be tempted to do. Piers talks about how fantasy evolved to include this more uncensored form of the genre rather than continuing the tradition of the ellipse that skipped the sex entirely. As the genre matured it started to include more explicit sex. Hurray for us, the readers who enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy with a little spice added to it. Also, this means lots of fantasy themed erotica like the 14 short stories in this book.
I should have realized by this forward that the stories in this book where going to have a different style than most of the Cleis Press erotica books I’ve read. When I got to about the mid-point in the book I worried that while I was enjoying these stories I did not find them all as titillating as I hoped. Was I just so jaded from the kinky, seemingly more hardcore erotica I had been reading? Perhaps. Which is what has made reviewing this book rather difficult. I need to look at these stories from a different perspective. Not as steamy, explicit, get my rocks off before the last word erotica I’ve read before. These stories were more like moments gleaned from fantasy novels that just happened to have sex in them. The fantasy story is the main draw here, and there is a subtly to most of the sex scenes.
The stories have very common themes with ancient civilizations, mythical lands and a few alien cultures. There were lots of captured and enslaved characters, which after a while started to bother me. More on that later. There were queens, sorcerers, thieves, knights, shapeshifters, princesses and dragons. Each story is an adventure, mostly a daring escape type adventure but usually something with intrigue and suspense. If you are a big fan of fantasy fiction the stories themselves will keep you excited, the sex will be just a bonus.
Some of my favorite stories are Hot as Dragon’s Blood by Eric Del Carlo, where the ability to ride a dragon into battle is transferred not by blood, as usual, but in a sexy way. At The Sorcerer’s Command by Kim Knox, where the ability to destroy an evil sorceress through finding her secret “name” is found in a surprisingly passionate way. Silver by Anna Meadows, where a woman must keep what is different about her a secret but the reveal will bring her closer to her ill new husband. Eyekeeper by Aurelia T. Evans, finds a witch who is betrayed but who uses a very special talisman to exact revenge. The Last Sacrifice by Zander Vyne, which has dragons and shapeshifters. Saints and Heroes by M. H. Crane, is of particular interest to me because it has what looks like a polyamorous bisexual relationship in it. This triad relationship is the undercurrent to the action adventure of the story.
With many stories I can’t possibly go through all of them here. The stories are all somewhat similar so while there should be something for everyone the style in which each story is written seems very much the same. There is a reoccurring theme of imprisonment and sacrifice. The one thing that bothers me here is that there are many scenes involving non-consent. Captive victims, coerced maidens and sex used as a means to an end. Yes, there are many in the throes of consensual sex because they cannot deny the passion they feel for each other. I just found these other scenes not as sexy to me. Now please understand, I do find consensual non-consent to be a turn on. I just found these particular parts of the stories didn’t work for me.
I also found the mention of sex between two men as being something to be ashamed of as a little troublesome. I understand that having to hide your sexual preference happens even today, I didn’t really like it used in that way in these stories. Only two stories used this and might be something that only bothers me. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the other stories just took away a little bit of the two stories in was included in.
One thing I learned here is that there’s a reason why I don’t read this kind of fantasy anymore. I love the intrigue, mythical beasts and magical beings, not really into the dreamy language, conventional themes and epic romance. The stories are well developed but at times there seemed little that was actually erotic in the piece. I also found the use of “classic language of another time” meant they almost never used a direct term for sexual acts. Body parts and sex were hinted at with vague romantic terms as if no one in these distance magical lands could speak honestly and openly about such things. There were a couple of stories where language seems more natural and I responded to those more readily. It’s a nitpicky thing that is maybe more of an issue for me than it is for someone who steadily devours books in this style.
Overall I enjoyed reading all these stories. I thought every author told an interesting story. While more romantic and less explicit than most anthologies I’ve read, I still found a story or two that I found quite arousing. Editor Mitzi Szereto put together some great fantasy writers here. I’m sure you’ll want to find other stories they’ve written once you’re done with this book.
I just now found your review of the Cleis anthology ‘Thrones of Desire’, and your note about my story
‘Saints and Heroes’.
Thank you for mentioning it, and for noticing the triad relationship. It wasn’t easy to trim a 6K secondary world fantasy story down to the length needed for the collection, and I worried that the nuances were lost.
Kudos for your fearless, sex-positive outlook.