Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review of Andre SanThomas' "Ovia"

This review was posted earlier today on Amazon. Here's a link:

Ovia: A Realm of Janos Novel

And here's my review.

What a pleasure to be back in the Realm of Janos, Andre SanThomas' richly-imagined world of erotic High Fantasy. These tales seem to come from a special place in the author's heart, and with "Ovia," the second book in the series, SanThomas demonstrates a growing maturity and confidence, bringing more depth, color and texture to the story-telling; honing and refining her already considerable gifts for beautiful flowing language and vivid, near-cinematic description.

Ovia is barely of age, her training not yet complete, when she is chosen to be the property of Bylar, second man to Kyr, the ruler of Janos. At first the young girl lacks confidence, and this isn't helped by her new owner's attitude. To say that Bylar has been burned in the past by a nightmare of an ex would be an understatement; he is haunted and embittered by that experience, described in the first book, Ielle: A Realm of Janos Novel and now he must struggle with his feelings, overcome his reticence about the past; let go of resentment and purge his heart of so many poisoned memories before he can see the new girl for herself and for what she truly is.

And yet, there are intimations of what might lie in store for these two should their many obstacles be overcome, as in this beautiful passage:

"He released her mouth and cradled her against him, her arms wrapping around his neck even as he tried to get his feelings under control. She was air and sun and water, glistening and flowing. Her hair draped around her, hiding her and revealing her at the same time. He carried her towards the shore. Her naked skin was tight against his own, their warmth flowing back and forth between them."

In "Ovia" the characters and the world around them begin to take on more depth and dimensionality. We are given a fascinating glimpse into the mythology and religion of this realm; something of the philosophy governing society and the harmonious relationship of the sexes. Much of the action centers on the preparations for and execution of an elaborate religious festival and pageant; the story animated by luminous images of erotic dance; swirling masses of bodies swathed in variegated diaphanous fabric. Particularly impressive is the author's eye for the way those fabrics move in harmony with the dancers, her descriptions often assuming the potency of an aphrodisiac. The rituals themselves are unapologetically pagan and overtly, explicitly, magnificently sexual. This makes a most refreshing departure from the tired, chaste dualism of so much contemporary fantasy writing.

The private sex scenes are glorious. SanThomas has imbued her characters with sophisticated inner lives, feelings, conflicts. Her women are not one-dimensional pornographic "objects," but valiant, living, breathing beings with strong wills and deep reservoirs of gumption. Her men, often outwardly macho, are still capable of deep sensitivity and the capacity for change. This is what erotica is supposed to be! Beyond the mere physical descriptions of intimate domination and submission, the author gifts her readers with profound insight into this often-misunderstood form of sex play; what is it to submit to the will of another and at the same time become one with them, yet still retain one's identity as an individual? The certainty of knowing one's place without becoming a mindless sex slave or a faceless drone can in itself become a form of liberation.

My only complaint concerns something the author has left out of the narrative. We are told often that Ovia was chosen before her training was complete--but it is never explained why this was the case. This potentially fascinating and genuinely important aspect of the backstory is glossed over, if not ignored altogether; a serious missed opportunity, not to mention an irritating disappointment. It would have explained much while adding even greater depth to the story--and, let's face it; enquiring minds want to know about this kind of stuff! It is a measure of SanThomas' skill that we are compelled to care so deeply.

"Ovia" is highly recommended. Those new to the series may wish to begin at the beginning with "Ielle," but ultimately, the rewards to be enjoyed in these stories are sumptuous and many, and we look forward to reading more very soon.

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