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Stuff I'm reading... Mostly romance and Scifi/Fantasy.

Barbarossa's Bitch

Barbarossa's Bitch - Angelia Sparrow, Naomi Brooks 3.75 stars. Unique post-apocalyptic tale with a D/s bent. One morning most of the people in the world just didn't wake up. The survivors are left to recreate society in the vacuum and things get quite vicious. Dylan, a skinny gay computer programmer wanders from settlement to settlement looking for a place to feel safe. But the need to repopulate and the rise of fundamentalism means gay men are being kicked out of these communities on a regular basis. Finally he sets off for the wild places in the hope of finding acceptance. There he is taken prisoner by one of the wildpacks, a collective of outcast men (often gay) who deal in enforcement and trade within their territories. Their leader, Barbarossa, takes Dylan as a slave. The writing set-up. The story is told in a series of vignettes that occur over the 10 years or so that Dylan rides with the pack. In the foreword the authors imply that these scenes are random but I suspect that they were very carefully chosen because I had no problem following the action. Within the first few scenes we know exactly what happened, how Dylan was taken, and how things are for him as Barbarossa's bitch. I really enjoyed the out of sequence style. It was satisfyingly challenging plus it gave a realistic feel to the tale. Almost like a photo-journalistic essay. The world-building set-up. For much of the story the wildpack is on the road, journeying their territories, putting down rebellions and threats to their people, and trading goods. There is a lot of bonding between the men. I found it interesting to read about the different settlements and how they evolved to survive. Some were good, some not so good. But the wildpack members never seemed to take much of a moral stance against wrongdoing in their domain even though most of the members of the pack are surprisingly kind and ethical. Almost to an unbelievable extent which is one of my gripes. The guys didn't feel that tough to me and the way they act, and the overall tone of the novel is quite... 'sedate' is the word that comes to my mind.The slave set-up. Dylan is one of those slaves who revels in his submission. From the first second he meets Barbarossa he forms an unquestioning devotion to his Lord. Barbarossa uses Dylan to demonstrate his dominance by keeping him naked except for a cock cage and having rough sexual displays in front of his men and the people of the settlement. That was the thing that bugged me the most. Just having hard gay sex didn't really make Barbarossa seem tough to me. If I was one of the settlement people I would have been rolling my eyes rather than being afraid by one of those displays. But of course this is an erotica novel and these scenes are meant more for titillation and in that respect they worked. But I needed more evidence that Barbarossa was mean enough to control the savages. In one scene where Dylan is taken hostage by a rival pack, I would have preferred Barbarossa to have rescued him and laid waste to the interlopers in some big fight scenes. But in fact he is rescued by a child.Dylan gets passed around to the other members of the pack for companionship and sexual favours when Barbarossa feels like it. But they're all down with this and know each other well so it never feels that humiliating although for me personally, not being a fan of polyamory, it dilutes the romance between Barbarossa and Dylan. I wasn't blown away by the relationship but I had fun reading about these characters. Dylan does grow over time. The security that Barbarossa gives him allows him to start finding his place and his beliefs in this new world. Although there is one opportunity that was lost I feel, when Dylan imagines poisoning the men of a particularly bad settlement where the women are horribly treated. I think he should have gone back and done that. It would have made him a more heroic figure to me. This book is only 150 pages but it feels much longer. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic novels I wouldn't let the slave angle or the random sequencing put you off. Neither aspect is as big of an issue as you might think. In terms of post apocalyptic stories I think the book needed more general violence, more of a sense of danger. Everything was just a little too easy and soft and loving for a world gone mad. I'll be interested to see how fans of slave fic receive the story.