Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bone: Slip of the Tongue by ID Locke

Title: Bone: Slip of the Tongue
Author: ID Locke
Cover Artist: BS Clay
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: fantasy
Length: 23k words, 74 pages

Ivriah is a Battle Mage specializing in summoning demons to fight for his country, Islafar. He also uses his summoning skills to call male demons to see to his baser needs as same-sex relationships are illegal and ruthlessly punished in Islafar. Incorrect wording in a summons leads to him calling for the Bone Demon, Orajin, instead of the demon intended. While Ivriah finds Orajin very attractive, the fighting demon is far too cheeky for Ivriah’s bedroom tastes.

Orajin is thrilled to finally be called to Ivriah’s bed as he’s been secretly in love with the mage for years. Orajin does his best to show Ivriah that they are very compatible in bed and sets out to prove to the mage that they are perfect for each other. In a sneaky move, Orajin gives Ivriah a bone spur as a “token of affection” that is actually a symbol of engagement among Orajin’s people.

Their developing relationship and Ivriah’s safety and life are threatened when the authorities are alerted to it. Orajin swoops in to the rescue and offers Ivriah a chance to have his heart’s desire if he’s brave enough to take it.

This story commences after a battle. Ivriah the mage is horny enough after battle to summon a demon for some sex, but tired enough to muddle his spell and then be flummoxed by the demon when he finally appears. The banter is funny and a little appalling—Ivriah could have summoned something far less well-disposed towards him, and he loses the battle of wits on every turn. It’s a loss he ends up not minding much.

This is definitely the high point of the story, because the war is told in infodumps and exists mostly as background. Who is fighting and why is irrelevant. How and why Ivriah gets emotionally attached to the demon is offscreen, somewhere in the nine months that gets mentioned as the duration of the war and their sexual relationship. Orajin’s fondness for the mage was a done deal before he was ever summoned. The relationship is basically a given, and the first half of the book is their first sexual encounter. Witty in spots, and somewhat driving the plot, but not substituting for plot.

Once we skip ahead nine months and almost all of the relationship development, we get a bit of plot. Ivriah’s country is extremely homophobic and now he’s in trouble for his proclivities. Under questioning by the authorities, Ivriah considers his prospective lifespan to be very short. Summoning the battle demon who’s deeply in love with him doesn’t seem to be a viable option for anything other than sentiment.

Moment of thought here. Battle. Demon.

There are some nice touches here, like a peek into the true meaning of “demon” and what are his home life and his most private thoughts, which are both tender and sometimes amusing. There are also some very heavy handed treatments. This story contains a lot of repetition, as if readers won’t recall a bone demon is bone colored, or that demon blood is purple as Ivriah’s hair were we not reminded periodically. Ivriah is occasionally reduced to thinking of himself in the third person, which becomes yet another instance of infodumping. Orajin, were he not a battle demon, would make a good pop psychologist: he worries about inflated egos and repressed trauma.

Ivriah certainly has on screen trauma; his inquisition by the authorities is sexually sadistic and qualifies as a rape. The scene is likely to be triggery for some readers. The aftermath invokes the trope I found distasteful: while at first the story seemed sensitive to a victim not feeling entirely sexual, it whisked past that quickly. There was a plot reason for doing so, but the execution did not maintain the sensitivity, and it became “sex heals rape.” The best that can be said here is that while anal sex is mentioned and negotiated about, it doesn’t occur.

While the story certainly had witty moments, they are overwhelmed by the infodumps and strange tone, veering from Freudian to skater punk in the same character’s voice. In moments that require action, the characters stop for long stilted speeches. The external plot presents mostly as sexual torture or extraneous issues, and the relationship development shows only the moment of mutual attraction and the explosion into HEA. There are very few plot points not mentioned in the blurb, and I was left feeling like I’d read half a story. 2.25 marbles

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