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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Angela Knight: Wicked Games Anthology

Author:  Angela Knight
Title:  Wicked Games   
Plot Type: Erotic Fantasy     
Publisher:  Berkley (4/2014)  

     In the first paragraph of her "Foreword," Knight warns readers that, "If you're one of those people who thinks my MAGEVERSE books are too sexy, put Wicked Games down and back slowly away. It's nasty. Spankings. Bondage. Assorted sex toys, magical and otherwise….And then they get down to bid'ness. Like I said, nasty." On Knight's web site, she posts another warning: "The Once and Future Lover" is much more erotic than the rest of the MAGEVERSE series, featuring elements of bondage and submission." Consider yourself warned.

     Even though I read Knight's warnings, I was not really prepared for the extreme level of female degradation in these three stories. The three female lead characters are definitely not willing players, particularly in the two short novellas. All three women are physically overpowered by über-alpha sadists who force all kinds of extremely kinkyactually, beyond kinkyperversions on them. And then—unbelievably!each woman actually begins to enjoy and yearn for more of the debasement, pain, and humiliation and decides that this is the man with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life. 

     In Knight's "Foreword," she whiplashes back and forth on the subject of male rapists. First, she says that "Any bastard who'd take a woman against her will needs to have a bullet put tenderly into his brain stem." Then, a paragraph later, she says, "In real-life BDSM, nobody plays any game until everybody consents to whatever happens." (Trust me, the women in these stories do NOT consent to their treatment as unwilling submissives, and they are given NO safewords.) Finally, Knight gives us a history lesson in male-female relationships: "Before iPhones, before Fifth Avenue penthouses, before indoor plumbing…men were men and women were women….A girl needed somebody quick, strong, and ferociously protective to make sure she and the kiddies had enough for lunch without becoming lunch for some saber-toothed kitty cat. If you survived, there was a good chance it was because you were sleeping with an aggressive son of a bitch who was handy with a club. A couple of hundred thousand years later we're still looking for aggressiveif lovingSOBs." Really? Modern women are looking for violent, arrogant, rapists with clubs (and dildos)? How does that square up with Knight's "bullet in the brain stem" sentence just a few paragraphs back? Knight winds things up by claiming that "For some of us...there's something about being tied up and banged like a kettle drum by a guy who looks like The Rock." If that person is you, you'll probably love this book. Clearly, that person is not me, so I didn't enjoy it at all.

     The first novella is a MAGEVERSE prequel that tells the story of how Arthur and his crew drank from Merlin's Grail and were transformed from normal humans into immortal super-strong, shape-shifting vampires and magic-wielding witches. Click HERE to read my review of the MAGEVERSE series, which includes an explanation of the world-building.

     Knight wrote the other two novellas way back in 1990 (long before Fifty Shades of Grey was even a sadomasochistic glint in E.L. James's eye). The stories weren't published until 2001, when they appeared as part of an e-book anthology entitled Bodice Rippers under the pseudonym Anastasia Day.

            NOVELLA 1:  "The Once and Future Lover"            
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality5; Humor—1 

     This novel-length story (217 pages) takes place in 500 AD, when the legendary King Arthur led his knights against the Saxon invaders of Britain. In Knight's mythology, Arthur and his wife, Gwen (aka Guinevere) have a loving, faithful marriage. When Arthur was just 17, before he met Gwen, he had a one-night stand with Morgana (aka Morgan le Fay), which resulted in the birth of Arthur's bastard son, Mordred, the villain of this novella. 

     As the story begins, the wizard Merlin and his lover, the witch Nimue, appear out of thin air before Arthur and his followers. They offer a drink from the Grail to the winner of a fight to the death between Arthur and Mordred, who has just challenged Arthur for the title of king. In this version of the legend, Gwen and Morgana have become close friends, and Arthur and Gwen have done their best to bring Mordred into their familybut without success. Mordred hates Arthur and lusts after Gwen. The story follows the events that take place after Arthur wins the battle, drinks from the Grail, and is transformed into the first Magus (vampire). Then, Gwen drinks from the Grail and becomes the first Maja (witch). Eventually, Merlin transforms a total of 12 men and 12 women into immortal Magi and Majae.

     The process of changing from human to Magi involves a day or two of unconsciousness followed immediately by a period of fierce bloodlust, with emphasis on the lust. If you remember Arthur as the nerdy but genial oddball from the MAGEVERSE novels, you'll be sorry to meet him here as a newly emerging Magus because he turns into a lust-driven thug who loses his temper, refuses to listen to reason, and forces Gwen to submit sexually to him without her consent. (I believe that is called rape.) Gwen actually comes across as the stronger, more likable character in this little tale.

     In a violently sexual scene midway through the story, we get Knight's version of what really happened between Gwen and Lancelot to sour their relationship. Although there is plenty of graphically described sexual activity in this story, it pales in comparison to the two short novellas that complete this volume. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "The Once and Future Lover."

    The book also contains one more piece of MAGEVERSE: an excerpt from Morgana's story, "Oath of Service," which will appear in Love Bites, Knight's anthology of three erotic vampire fantasies (to be published in August 2014). In that BDSM novel-length story, Morgan will be dominated by three of Arthur's knights: Percival, Cador, and Marrok.  

            NOVELLA 2:  "Bondage, Beauty and the Beast"            
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality5; Humor—0 

     In this BDSM version of Beauty and the Beast, a beautiful noblewoman is sold into slavery by her wicked stepson after her husband's death. The buyer is a fur-covered, horned beast who has been cursed by a witch. The entire story consists of the Beast and his sidekick putting the woman through one sadistic torture after another. Unbelievably, though, she begins to enjoy being hung up in harnesses, tied up in various horrific positions, gagged, clamped, spanked, beaten with a whip, and penetrated in every possible orifice. By the end of the story, she's begging for more.

            NOVELLA 3:  "A Question of Pleasure"            
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality5; Humor—0 

     Take all of the BDSM activity of novella 2 and change the scene to America during the Civil War. The Beast in this tale is a Union officer, and his victim is a lovely female spy who posed as his lover to gain information for the South. He catches her in the act of searching his desk and does to her everything that I described in the the previous review. He even adds something new: handing her off to a fellow officera more experienced torturerfor even more humiliation and pain. Once again, the story ends with their HEBDSMA (Happily Ever BDSM After). This story has no paranormal elements.

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