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REVIEW: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead

Dear Ms. Mead,

075821642401mzzzzzzz.jpgI don’t share Jane’s reservations about the succubus story, even in novels billed as romances. These days I take the romance label on spines with a grain of salt since there are an increasing number of books shelved in the romance section that are anything but. So I had no problem with the idea of a succubus having sex with everyone except for her boyfriend. It made sense to me. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any criticism. Because in addition to not being very romantic to a romance reader, its meandering plot and inconsistent characterizations failed to work for this fantasy reader as well.

Let’s start with Georgina. Ignoring the discussion of the strict heterosexuality of the succubi/incubi and preachy moralizing brought up in Jane’s review (which I also agree with), Georgina just doesn’t act and think like a succubus. When Seth’s novella is published and her co-workers assume the elevator-loving dominatrix character is based on her, her first reaction is outrage and embarrassment. Why? She’s been a succubus for several centuries. That can’t possibly be the most outrageous and humiliating thing that’s ever happened to her. We know it’s not. How can she be so blasé about being raped when talking about her past with Seth and so upset when people think she likes kinky sex?

Then there’s her incubi friend Sebastien and their scheme to take down the conservative talk show host. For two demons who specialize in sex and temptation, they can be rather unobservant about sex and temptation. I figured out the deal with Dana halfway through the book. Why did it take them until the very end to puzzle out the exact same thing? It makes me wonder if all sex demons are this incompetent, if Georgina and Sebastien are considered the cream of the crop.

As for the plot, why does the main storyline involving Georgina’s co-worker Doug take until Chapter 15 to get going? All the previous chapters were devoted to Georgina’s relationship issues with Seth and Georgina’s disastrous attempts to help Sebastien corrupt the conservative talk show host. Neither of those storylines are strong nor compelling enough to carry a book, but including them in the same novel doesn’t result in a cumulative effect either. Instead I’m left with a book that has a few smaller storylines but no main attraction and certainly nothing tying everything together.

After reading Succubus Blues and Succubus on Top, I can honestly say I have no idea what this series is aiming for. It doesn’t work as a romance because Seth is so passively accepting of their uneven relationship that we’re left to rely on Georgina’s internal conflict and that only emphasizes how inconsistent her thoughts and beliefs are with being a centuries-old succubus. It doesn’t work as a fantasy because the plot lacks focus and wanders aimlessly for the first 15 chapters of the book. There’s little drive to push the reader along. If it’s trying for both, I’m not sure how either group of readers will be satisfied.

Combined with preachy moralizing that was as subtle as an anvil dropping on my head, this proved to be a very unsatisfying read. And I’m afraid I feel absolutely no compulsion to pick up the next one. C-

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback format. No ebook I could find.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

5 Comments

  1. Chantal
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 10:38:44

    I liked Succubus blues very much, so I was excited for this one. I was pretty disappointed though.
    Georgina is incredibly inconsistent, I didn’t like her in this book.
    I’m glad I read Succubus Blues first, because if I had started with SOT I would have given up on the wanting to read anything else in the series.

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  2. Kitten
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 11:20:59

    I’m so happy to hear that other people agree with my opinions on this book. I had really enjoyed the first novel in the series and was excited to read this one, but it’s now sitting in my “to be given away” pile of books.

    Also, Jia, I just read your biography, and I’d like to recommend the book “Sloppy Firsts” as a YA novel that is fairly good. You might have already read it, but I thought I’d point it out.

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  3. Jia
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 12:45:28

    Chantal: I was lukewarm on Succubus Blues myself, but I’d hoped that the books would improve as the series continued.

    Kitten: Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve heard of those books, but I’ve never actually picked them up.

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  4. carolyn Jean
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 17:26:34

    Jia,

    I don’t comment here much, but I’ve really been enjoying your thoughtful reviews and your focus on fantasy.

    I’ve been meaning to pick up this Succubus on Top, and I still will, just because I think I liked the first one a bit more than you did. But I wholeheartedly agree with your demand for characters to add up. Keep up the great work; I’m happy you’re here.

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  5. Jia
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 09:58:19

    Carolyn Jean: Thanks! Since there are many cross-genre books being published nowadays, I think it’s useful to have another perspective on them, particularly from someone who identifies as a not-primarily romance reader.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask for character consistency. I like reading about all sorts of characters, even those that are “unlikeable” (provided it’s a deliberate choice on the author’s part and not a misfire), but it just needs to make sense.

    ReplyReply

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