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REVIEW: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead

Dear Ms. Mead:

075821642401mzzzzzzz.jpgThank you for sending us a copy of this book. I know that Jia will be reading it sometime so you may get a different review from her than from me and won’t regret sending it. Overall I think that I am not well suited for the succubus story, particularly one that is trying to be a romance. Having sex with other guys while professing to love the one you aren’t having sex with never seems terribly romantic to me.

I didn’t have a super clear recollection of what went on in book one of the series, Succubus Blues, so I think that readers who are new to you won’t have a trouble entering the series at book 2. The series is based on the life of succubus, Georgina Kincaid, who has lived for over 400 years.

Currently, Georgina is in a sexless relationship with her boyfriend, Seth, due to the fact that when they have intimate contact, Georgina can suck the life energy out of Seth and reduce his life span. So they sleep together and have other small intimacies but mostly their relationship is defined by their non sexual activities. Weird things are going on at work with her co worker’s band taking off and an old friend turning up. It’s clear to the reader, but not to Georgina, that something strange is afoot.

What strains the idea of this “true love” match is that Georgina must, on a regular basis, “feed” which consists of engaging in sexual acts with another person. I think that you try to soften this blow by alluding to the fact that these acts by Georgina are more compulsions and because they are something she must do, it really has no impact on her relationship with Seth. I can’t really buy into this because Georgina enjoys these sexual encounters so much that the compulsive overlay appears contrived.

What I really found odd in this book was the constant moralizing that was coming out of the characters’ mouths – mostly Georgina, a succubus, and Bastien, an incubus. The book had strong politically correct overtones to the point that I felt hammered down midway through the book.

Bastien, an old friend of Georgina, comes to town to take down the head of a right wing conservative coalition. The reason? Not for the pure pleasure of sucking souls out of people to serve hell. Instead,

When I manage to lure the illustrious Mrs. Dailey into physical pleasures surpassing her wildest dreams, there’ll be a camera rolling. We’re going to record this for posterity, then go to the press. Full exposure, full takedown. No more radio empire preaching to the masses to return to pure, decent ways. Even her husband’s political campaign will be marred, thus opening the door for some liberal upstart to take his place and help get this area back into the corrupt rut it so desperately longs for.

These characters are equal opportunity moralizers – there are the customers who return books that they’ve read that keep hell in business:

I finished up with the customer, telling him nicely that we couldn’t accept books in this condition. Maybe if the alleged other books were in better shape, he could bring those in. He pouted and argued a bit before finally skulking off. I rolled my eyes once he was gone. One thing that never changed among humans: there were always those who wanted to get something for nothing. It was what kept hell in business.

To the support of intellectual property of bra designers and the suffering of third world labor:

He held up the black mesh bra and peered at me through it, as though imagining how it would look on. “Although I still don’t know why you buy this stuff. Just shape-shift it.”
“I have a respect for ‘intellectual property.’ Whoever designed this deserves their pay.”
“Even if it was constructed by third-world labor?”
I made a face. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

If Bastien and Georgina are really minions of the evil underlord, wouldn’t they be thrilled with the hypocritical right wing faction as well as third world labor? Let’s assume that Georgina has a conscience, does every immortal being working for the devil also have one? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I got really tired of Bastien and Georgina proselytizing about the evils of the right wing conspiracy and that whole story line was really dull, probably because there was so little movement.

As for Seth, is there a more emasculated man in romance right now? He’s held up as this heroic fellow because he doesn’t need to sleep with Georgina to have a relationship with her and he’ll still be with her despite the fact that she goes out on a regular basis to screw other men (has to get her fix); and she goes out with other men, spends the night with them (just like she and Seth spend the night together). Seth is so understanding that I think he must be a non-sentient being. He’s an automaton.

I can’t figure out what she is giving Seth that is of any worth. She’s not honest with him. Her intimacies are no different than she has with other men. He’s not a special confidante of hers. She’ll confide in just about anyone. She can’t be physical with him. What’s left?

Weirdly there are almost no other decent women in the book. There’s a minor role played by a subjugated female who seems normal and “nice” but everyone else is a minion of hell or “crazy-bitch-dyke”. So of course, Georgina’s entire circle is men.

I thought when I first read this series that it was going to be subversive; that the story would take the original mythology and turn its on its head. Instead I find that the story has only a slight basis in the myth which is Georgina’s need for regular sex. In nearly every other way, Georgina is merely the average romance heroine who is trying to be pure in heart even though she can’t be pure in body. Her constant questioning of whether she was “in love” with Seth showed me that she really wasn’t.

The story picked up steam when the mystery of Georgina’s co-worker takes center stage but that is not until Chapter 18 or so. Georgina and Seth’s relationship which serves as so much of the emotional plot for this story reads too false for me to be interested and the mystery, while good, took far too long to develop. I think this is probably the end of the line for me and Georgina. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

9 Comments

  1. jmc
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 15:24:31

    Weirdly there are almost no other decent women in the book. There's a minor role played by a subjugated female who seems normal and “nice” but everyone else is a minion of hell or “crazy-bitch-dyke”. So of course, Georgina's entire circle is men.

    I noticed this in Succubus Blues. I understood (sort of) why Georgie’s circle was mostly men — assuming there was a sexual undertone to all relationships for a succubus, and in Romancelandia that meant hetero only. But I was disappointed that all of the peripheral female characters were evil or caricatures.

  2. Jane
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 15:28:32

    One thing that I really didn’t understand is whether succubi/incubi where strictly hetereosexual because that played a big role in this book and I wasn’t sure whether they were or were not. I.e., if they were not, why didn’t Georgina seduce more women? Why was it exclusively men?

  3. jmc
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 15:42:04

    I had assumed heterosexual based on the first book, because I don’t think that Georgie had sex (or mentioned having sex ever) with another woman. Which does beg the question, why would succubi/incubi limit their prey?

  4. Jane
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 15:44:52

    I wonder why there are even gendered demons, i.e., if you can shapeshift, why not be both when the need arises?

  5. Jane
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 15:45:21

    err, I suppose that should read “either” instead of “both” but . . .

  6. Charlene Teglia
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 16:10:11

    It’s been a very long time since I read it so I could be wrong, but I think Tanith Lee did that, wrote one character that “flipped” from succubus to incubus. Of course, I’ve forgotten the name of the book…I do remember it gave me the creeping horrors, though. She’s one to read with the lights on!

  7. jmc
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 16:15:11

    err, I suppose that should read “either” instead of “both” but . . .

    *snickers* Now I’m imagining hermaphrodite demons a la Bell Thorn from the Vorkosigan books. :)

  8. DS
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 18:00:52

    Can’t remember where I read it, but the incubus/succubus in the wild as it were was said to be a female with a man and a male with a woman. The sucubus used the semen obtained from the man when having sex with the woman.

  9. Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary » Blog Archive » REVIEW: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead
    Jan 30, 2008 @ 04:00:42

    [...] 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 [...]

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