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Book Review: The Acolyte’s Passion by Reed James

Title: The Acolyte’s Passion

Author: Reed James

Publisher:  Naughty Ladies Publications

Publication Date: Jan 13, 2018

Genres: Fantasy, Erotica

Shelves: Female-dominant, Female-fronted

It sounds weird to be talking about world building in the context of an erotic fantasy, but that’s precisely what makes the saga of The Knight and the Acolyte so compelling. Reed James hasn’t just dressed up an erotic story with the trappings of epic fantasy, he has crafted an epic fantasy that is, in both its foundations and its execution, intensely erotic.

At its core, The Acolyte’s Passion is a traditional quest-based fantasy, in which we meet the heroes, learn of prophecy surrounding them, embark upon the quest to (yes) slay the dragon, and gather the rest of the adventuring party along the way. It’s simple storytelling, comfortably familiar to fans of Weis and Hickman, Lackey, Salvatore, and (of course) Tolkien. There is wonder and passion aplenty here, with magical races and incredible monsters defining the world, and complementary magic systems and mythologies making it interesting . . . and all of it driven by sex.

For a priest, priestess, or paladin, their magic was powered by the god or goddess they served. For witches, they merely had an innate ability to control the natural spirits of the world. But for a mage, we needed a powerful source of energy, and nothing was more primal than sexual fluids.

For Angela, Sophia, Xera, and Faoril, sex is something to be enjoyed, free of any sort of inhibitions, in a world that celebrates the entire spectrum of passion, without judgment. Sex is at the heart of both prayer and ritual; it is openly enjoyed in a crowd or with a crowd; and the hermaphroditic nature of the non-human races isn’t a source of fear or disgust, but of appreciation. Even the monsters are sexual, driven to play – quite literally – with their prey. It sounds bizarre, and it most certainly is, but Reed James somehow makes it work.

For instance, there’s an encounter involving a giant spider with a human face and eight human hands at the end of its hairy legs. A terrifyingly bizarre creature that captures its prey, binds them erotically with its webbing, places them in a bimbo-like state of submissive euphoria, and then uses its ovipositor to deposit eggs deep inside them that will soon hatch, leaving baby spiders to devour the surrogate from the inside. It should be gruesome, terrifying stuff – and, to some extent, it is – but it’s also incredibly erotic, driven as much by that bimbo-like submission as the spider’s own sexual delight and appreciation for its victim.

“You are eager to be implanted,” chittered Sliyth. “You are so beautiful. I will always remember you, Sophia.”
“Me too,” I moaned as she crawled over me.

The characters are well-developed, with surprising depth, which makes this more than just a one-handed read. They have backstories, conflict, conflicting desires, and genuine friendships. Sophia is, by far, the most likable of the group, but the sacrifices Angela is forced to make along the way position her as a true hero. Xera is a character I originally mistook for mere fetish fuel, a perpetually naked (and periodically futa) elf, but the scenes with her pregnant wife reveal so much more about her personality and motivation. Faoril we don’t really get to meet until late in the story, with most of her scenes involving displays of sex magic, but there is a tragic aspect to her story that I really hope is further explored in the books to come.

Of course, any good epic fantasy needs a villain, and The Acolyte’s Passion gives us three . . . although there is plenty of room to question the true motives of one of them. These are not cheesy scene-chewing villains, but realistic characters driven by political concerns, family obligations, and as much fear as ambition. They work largely behind the scenes, attempting to manipulate events from afar, but I suspect their involvement may grow as the series progresses.

Finally, I have to say a few words about the writing. I found the opening chapters a bit of a challenge, with the early dialogue dripping with porno-cheesiness. It concerned me, but very few epic fantasies open with perfect polish, and I’m used to feeling an author grow into the narrative as the story progresses, so I kept reading. Fortunately, Reed James begins to hit his stride as soon as Angela and Sophia take to their horses, and nails the delicate balance between erotica author and epic fantasy author with the attack of the panthopus. From there on in, it’s smooth sailing, with a book that had me devouring “just one more chapter” too many times to count.

Bring on The Mage’s Passion, its hulking orc barbarian, and the promise that you can’t keep a good villain down!

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

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