“Thousands of years ago, by edict of the gods, several Viking clans fled to the harsh, wintry Arctic and built a civilization deep below it in the earth’s belly. The prophets warned them to keep to themselves, to stay below the ground, for one day the perverse Outsiders – those who dwell above the ground – would taint the laws of the gods and destroy themselves in the process. And then, once again, the Vikings would rule the entire world.
The modern Alaskan tundra is a rugged, largely unexplored terrain. The three kingdoms of the Underground, New Sweden, New Daneland and New Norway, continue to thrive, their ways and cultures untainted by time. The Vikings never go above the ground, with one great exception. They venture into the world of the Outsiders to hunt… Women.”
And so begins a new series by Jaid Black. The author introduces a world which to modern Western civilisation seems quaint and filed with contradictions. It’s a world of old customs and religion, primitive dwellings and technological inventions, a world were women are kidnapped or bought, yet cherished and valued, and finally – a world of traditional gender divisions (men are the protectors and providers, women take care of the household). And yet, even though the modern girl in us finds it sexist, ridiculous and unbearable somehow when you dive into this world filled with mutual respect and unquenchable passion we are immediately enthralled.
The series comprises four novellas released by various publishers hence the erotic tone explicitly varies. You can easily find the short plot description online so in here I’ll just quickly list the books that comprise the series. Book 1, Besieged (in The Hunted anthology with JW McKenna) published by Ellora’s Cave is not surprisingly the most sexually explicit since the publishing house is known for its steamy novels. Book 2, The Hunter’s Right (in Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down anthology with Sherrilyn Kenyon and Melanie Rowan) is probably the least steamy of all four books. It introduces us to the New Sweden on the verge of The Revolution. However, the details are not revealed until Books 4. Book 3, Hunter’s Oath (in Playing Easy to Get anthology with Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kresley Cole) has been already reviewed in this blog. The plot focuses on one of the outer colonies of New Sweden hence the political turmoil is only mentioned in a background. Book 4, Deep, Dark and Dangerous from Pocket Books, is a self-standing novel. It happens parallel to Book 2 and focuses more around the nitty-gritty of the Revolution.
I suppose the most controversial aspect is the initial act of procuring the future bride, be it kidnapping or a bride auction. Furthermore, in order to get away with it and persuade the women to stay and give the new union a try the men use psychological tricks and coercion, not far better than Pavlov’s infamous dogs, and still somehow you can’t really stay mad at them. They truly believe that in capturing a bride they show stealth and cunningness, combined with physical strength and bravery they combine the essence of a warrior. In their culture the notion of marital love and happiness is romanticised and the bride is the centre of warrior’s world, hence her happiness is the ultimate goal and as important to them as their honour. I believe this is the detail which eventually gets to every heroine. Of course the fact that each of them looks like a demigod, with beautiful, large bodies, filled with virility, stamina and sexual prowess is not a bad deal.
What I enjoyed most in all books was the fact that the characters are mature in their years and experiences and the process of them finding the way to each other after the rocky beginning (i.e. kidnapping) leads through conversation, mutual understanding and tolerance (and, yes, some psychological coercion). Combine that with sexual attraction (let’s face it – who wouldn’t be attracted to a 6ft8in demigod, kidnapping be damned) and you have a recipe for a strong and passionate love. Let me assure you here that the books deserve their erotic nomenclature – the sex is filled with passion and skilfully described, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. However, as mentioned above, the level of sexual explicitness depends on the publisher.
I will not voice any comment regarding the traditional role division since it’s a reoccurring motive in all romantic novels be it a Greek billionaire, Earl of Sth Sth or a Vampire King. A woman end up in a sack with a well-off handsome devil and let’s face it – it’s difficult to concentrate on Kamasutra, when Thames Water is cutting off your water supply.
I must say that I’m really looking forward to Book 5 which, according to Jade Black’s website, will be release sometime in 2013.