Friday, April 5, 2013

Slave Harems of Xhagia Series By Teagan Rand Reviewed

Chained, collared and wearing a boustier ... soon to be a very sticky boustier! Image source: Cover of "A Slave Girl for the Emperor" the first book in the four-part Slave Harems of Xhagia series.

I am a sucker for combining fantasy/science fiction themes and bondage themes, let's just put that right out there. Anybody who has read almost all of the Gor novels can reasonably be suspected of being that.

THAT must be why I've read all four of Teagan Rand's “Slave Harems of Xhagia” books, because I DEFINITELY never intended to read all of them. I just planned to buy that first book and move on. Well to be honest, the REAL reason, and as an erotica writer I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but it's true and I gotta keep it real … I got hooked on the plot. Between an arresting and interesting plot, an intriguing universe and a smooth writing style that makes turning the pages very, very easy, I got hooked.

Set in the not too distant future, Slave of the Emperor and its successor books deals with the adventures of Christine Berenger, one of many women who have been kidnapped by slavers of a vast interstellar empire known as the Xhagian Empire, to serve as slavegirls in the harems and bordellos of Xhagia.

OK, I hear you already … I thought the same thing myself … “Another damn story of aliens who want our Earth women … what the hell … well it IS porn … er, erotica ...”

But here is where Teagan Rand proves she is made of better stuff than your average pornifier. Tuns out the Xhagians and humans are both descendents of an ancient race called the Valk who died out about 25 million years ago, and seeded the galaxy with a variety of humanoid races for some mysterious reason that's essential to the plot – and no, this review will not contain any spoilers, this is all established early on.

So the cross-species attraction is understandable, as is the fact that Xhagian males are taller, handsomer versions of Earthmen … they're basically both subspecies of the Valk.

What's more, Valk males and Earth females find each other tremendously sexually attractive ... also for reasons that are essential to the plot.

This is what really made me sit up and take notice of Rand's books. Instead of using the science fiction background as the thinnest of tissues to hold together her story of the romance between Christine and the Xhagian slaver Dalgaz Tav, and all the hot slavegirl sex that she and the other slaves have with him and other handsome Xhagian men, Rand thought her background through in such a way that it's essential to and supports the story, making it stronger.

This is a good thing because although the Slave Harems of Xhagia series is FULL of submissive slavegirly goodness, and includes some bondage, its central fetish is, well ... bukkake. Bukkake is not a fetish I enjoy, nor is it ever likely to become one, I mean .... YECH! But it seems that the sperm of Xhagians has some property that renders Earth slaves orgasmicallly ecstatic for prolonged periods, and it only takes contact with the skin to make this orgasmy goodness manifest itself. And the Xhagian men produce lots and lots of sperm, much more than Earth men. They also have a very short refractive period and like to have sex a LOT.

Think of them as the the male equivalent of the big-breasted bimbos who want to have sex with everyone as soon as possible who show up in male porn. And the sperm of Xhagian men is so powerful and effective on human female psyches that its effects are ninety percent of what it takes to transform the captive Earth women into lust-bedazzled sex sluts, reduced to panting wanton slavegirls without much need for lashing or punitive treatment of any kind. It's all about the sperm, baby!

What's more, the Xhagian men find the Earth women VERY attractive, more attractive in fact than Xhagian females, who are only interested in sex when they are fertile and ready to conceive children. And instead of being jealous, the Xhagian women are pleased that the Earth women are keeping their men from being all sexually wound up when the Xhagian women are not interested in sex, which is basically, most of the time.

And of course, the Slave Harems of Xhagia books are essentially romances. Dalgaz Tav, the male lead, is that rarest of all creatures, a slaver with a heart of gold. He might be charged with picking out the prettiest Earth women kidnapped by Xhagian slavers for the Emperor's harem and transforming them into total hose beasts for use by the Emperor, but he CARES about those women, by gum. He and Christine soon develop strong feelings for one another, but can a romance between the top slaver in the Xhagian Empire and a lowly human slavegirl really work out? I'll never tell … read the books if you want to find out!

Keeping the Emperor's and others' harems and bordellos full is why the Xhagian slavers constantly raid Earth for women to stock their harems and bordellos, but it's germane to the plot in more than one way, for there is a mysterious relationship between Earth humans and Xhagians that plays out over the course of the four books in the series that is essential to the plot.

This is what really impresses me about Rand's writing. There are a lot of erotica writers who can write a convincing sex scene, but most miss out on the tremendous potential of science fiction and fantasy to make erotic stories more powerful and believable. She worked out the way the genetics and customs of the Xhagians and humans affect her characters and her story and makes it work FOR the story, sometimes in surprising ways. This is a hallmark of good science fiction and fantasy writing, when the writer does not use their fantastic or futuristic plot elements merely as props for the story but works out how they would affect their world.

Larry Niven is a great example of this. He predicted flash mobs before they happened, because he envisioned a society that had instant communications and instant transportation because they had teleporters, and he wondered how that would affect how ordinary people behaved. He decided they'd use them to form crowds out of nowhere just for fun and parties. And of course, flash mobs are people who use cell phones out of nowhere, they just use more mundane transportation.

Niven's thinking-through of his futuristic ideas even on aspects that aren't central to the plot is what characterizes really great science fiction, it adds a very nice density and richness to your story.

And Rand's thinking through of the different sexuality and genetics and culture of the Xhagians add nicely to her series. I wish she had thought the Xhagians through in other respects, they're basically technically advanced ancient Romans in outer space in other respects, which does make the story seem a little thin at times.

There's just one element where Rand falls down in terms of world-building, and its' a pet peeve of mine, so I'm going to have to bring it up though I doubt it will matter much to most readers. Rand's Xhagian Empire features a heredity emperor presiding over a court full of nobles who scheme to become Emperor themselves, generally without success.

Now, see … interstellar empires and heredity aristocracies just don't go well together. If you are going to have an interstellar empire ruled by an hereditary aristocracy set in the distant future, you need to explain why a civilization so technically advanced is being run by a type of government that is clearly archaic even to a bunch of planetbound types like us contemporary Earthlings.

I mean, believing that the best man to govern is automatically going to be the firstborn son of the current ruler implies a certain ignorance of genetics, y.know?

I'm not saying you can't HAVE aristocracies running interstellar empires, I'm saying gimme some handwaving, baby. You know, something along the lines of “although the Xhagians were well aware of the problems posed by succession in an hereditary aristocracy, all other forms of government had proven unworkable due to the Xhagian males' fierce competitiveness, which quickly transformed any government based on merit, popularity or other objective standard into a festering hellhole ruled by paranoid warlords. Aristocracies were stupid, but they weren't as stupid as chaotic hellholes full of rival warlords. It was a matter of government by lesser evil.”

Was that so hard?

In addition to all this, there are hints that Christine is not the simple kidnapped slave girl she seems to be. She has memories of her childhood on Earth, but she has no memory of how she came to be captured in the raid of the Xhagian slavers, or of the days leading up to those events, though there are disturbing dreams that may point to an answer. And there's a religious cult that is gaining power that thinks the way the human slave girls are being treated by the Xhagians is all wrong … they think they should be treated considerably worse!

Rand, in short, really knows how to stir a plot and keep it going, and can write a pretty good slavegirly submissive sex scene. To be fair, for about half of book three and almost all of book four I kind of skimmed the sex scenes, because1) I'm not into bukkake and 2) there's little or no bondage and 3) not all that much slavegirliness stuff to interest me and 4) the plot had cut in big time and that was what I was really interested in.

Frankly, the Xhagian sperm has the effect of making all the slavegirls so happy and eager to have sex with Xhagian men that you kind of get the impression they'd be paying the Xhagian men to have sex with them if they had any money. This eliminates some of the dramatic tension you have in bondage and BDSM, which was especially a problem in the first and second books when the plot had not fully cut in, and so the books were kind of dull until the plot really got rolling in the last half of the second book. (The set up for the world, the society, Christine's situation, etc., keeps you going easily enough through the first book).

I guess what I am saying is, I would have liked to have seen Christine and the other harem slaves struggling more with their new status as slavegirls, despite the effect of Xhagian sperm on their psyches. Hell, have them seriously puzzled and disturbed by what is happening to them. (Christine does have issued with her enslavement, as do the other harem slaves, but not enough to make the harem girls' experience seem all that slavish … it's more like they are a bunch of happy consensual bukkake fetishists who occasionally have a brief doubt about what they are doing. Not exactly the stuff of sex slavery.)

That said, Slave Harems of Xhagia is still a fine series of erotic books. The four books in the series cost just $2.50 each in their Kindle editions, and they run to about 2000-2300 Kindle pages each, which of course are not the same as paperback pages. I'm not sure if it was a long novella or a short novel I read, but I definitely didn't feel shorted, because it was a fun ride and it took a while.

I would say that if you like bukkake as a fetish, buy this book NOW. You could not spend your entertainment dollar more wisely.

If you like generally sexy science fiction, also a very good use of your two bucks fifty, because these books are that. On a stick.

If you like sexy slavegirl themes with a strong element of romance, but aren't into the whole heavy bondage thing, these books are also likely to be winners for you. (The slavegirl themes are undoubtedly what kept me reading because …)

If you like bondage, the books are more problematical, there just isn't that much of it. True, the slavegirls are often thoroughly bound and gagged when they are transported from one location to another, and a couple of passages make it clear that the slavegirls are taught to serve while in restraints, but they don't do a hell of a lot of serving while in restraints or being restrained while not serving. I'd still risk the $2.50 on the first book. The sexy slavegirliness might work for you, too.

If you like bondage with a strong element of drama, with the slave girl fighting it all the way, including fighting her own feelings … these books might not be your cuppa.

All that said, I may not be the best guide for this books' intended audience, as they are definitely romances and I'm a guy. But they're definitely sexy enough to be in the zone of erotica a guy would enjoy reading. I've given you my honest reactions to the books to the best of my ability, which is about all I can do. Read the books and decide for yourself!

And for Teagan Rand, I've got just one bit of advice, perhaps self-serving but I think absolutely accurate: Bukkake just is NOT that popular a fetish. If you want to sell more books, try working a more popular fetish. May I suggest bondage? Fifty Shades of Grey sold seventy million copies, and your books could be the books all those women turn to when they look around for more Fifty Shades of Grey sort of fun reading. You are definitely a good enough writer to grab that brass ring. But you will not succeed by flogging a fetish that has most of your readers going "Eeeew!" and wanting to take a shower.

This is kinda what I imagine a Xhagian bukkake (i.e, bukkan) session is like ... same amount of white stuff, just one penis and one Xhagian man, no women with milk bottles, and the girl looks ecstatic instead of pained. And she's naked. Other than that ... identical! Image source: Public

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