oracne - Victoria Janssen (oracne) wrote,
oracne - Victoria Janssen
oracne

Dayton, THE COMPASS ROSE & THE BARBED ROSE

Over the weekend I read Gail Dayton's two books for Luna, The Compass Rose and The Barbed Rose, partly on recommendation from lmhammer and partly after reading a review at All About Romance.

I was interested because the plot involves polyamorous romance mixed in with the fantasy. The Adarans, the matriarchal main culture shown to the reader, organize their families in groups of adults, usually at least four, who jointly care for any children from the union. It's revealed later that the precursor for this arrangement came from magical bonds between a naitan, or magic user, and people who held magic that she or he could draw from, a situation that arose from being Godmarked by their deity, The One. When the first book opens, the Godmarking is considered mostly mythical. The naitani are still around, some of them with domestic talents (improving crop yield, waterproofing cloth) and others military, like the protagonist, Kallista, who can throw lightning. Military naitani are each assigned a bodyguard to which she (women outnumber men in the military) becomes very close. Kallista has been with her male bodyguard, Torchay Omvir, for nine years, and the emotional tension between them is obvious from the first, though Adara is being attacked by a vastly superior force from Tibre and battle is imminent. In desperation, the naitan calls upon The One for help.



Kallista is godmarked and is able to destroy most of Tibre's army within a certain range. By this point we've also been introduced to a couple of male Tibrans, paired (but not sexually) soldiers named Stone and Fox, and a female Tibran named Aisse who is trying to escape her oppressive existence in the confusion. Any point of view character eventually ends up with Kallista's group in one way or another, so I'm not sure how much I'm spoiling here.

After the battle, Stone is taken prisoner. He has a mark on the back of his neck and keeps trying to claw his way out of his cell. It turns out he is also godmarked, having opened himself to his warrior god Kralsh before the battle. Part of the magical link means he is drawn to Kallista inexorably, and once he reaches her, cannot depart beyond a certain distance until their link is fully formed. For romantic plot purposes, the link carries with it pleasure that is often sexual in nature.

Throughout the two books, more of the godmarked are discovered and must be brought into the group, or ilias. That was, I felt, the main failing of the books; so much time is spent acquiring new partners and getting over their initial problems that an in-depth exploration of their individual characters and larger issues, and how they integrated with the whole, got shorter shrift than I would have liked. It all centers on Kallista, but this is less annoying because she can be quite stupid at times, and is far from perfect at managing all these relationships. I am hoping that the third book, due out in 2007, will finally deal with the many relationships in more depth. Hopefully all that will not be lost in the fantasy plot, which involves using the group's magic to destroy demons. The secondary thing that disappointed me was the unrelenting heterosexual nature of the liasions, at least so far; I am not sure I count the magical/sexual linkages of more than two people which do take place, though I suspect I am supposed to count them. They count as sex, I suppose, though it's unclear how aware the participants are of the proceedings beyond physical/mental pleasure; I want specifics of how the individuals are feeling towards each other in those scenes. I'm a romance reader and erotica writer, of course I have a prurient interest in this aspect of their characterization!

I was amused by Dayton's use of various Romance tropes throughout, forced marriage being the first and most obvious; the second book even has a male/male moment, "oh no we have no choice but to kiss!", though alas it is left unconsummated. There is also an "I must tie you up for your own good" scene. I had a good time reading these, despite my complaints.

Tags: books, romance, sf/f
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 3 comments