Claimed by the Order: When gods play rough…
I’ll never forget the beginning of the novel, how young god Marduk within just a few pages is tied to a bed to have sex with two goddesses. Wait! Had I missed something? Wasn’t this a gay novel? Or MM anyway? J. Johanis novel Claimed by the Order had me in a tight grip from the first page. This from the guy who doesn’t like Erotica, isn’t thrilled with dozens of sex scenes lined after each other. But before I try to explain how exactly this author was captivated by the book nonetheless, let me – for the sake of full disclosure – tell you how I came to read this book.
I met J. Johanis at GRL in San Diego last year, she was my newbie. As a “veteran” I had volunteered to take a newcomer under my wings and that person just happened to be Jenna. We talked briefly online before we actually met in San Diego and I invited her along to a group outing. I was afraid it would be the last we’d see of her, but she did just fine, blending in with the rest of that remarkable, but somewhat over the top, group. I was curious to read a book from her and she recommended Claimed by the Order as being a “typical” book for her writing. So that’s that.
Back to Marduk. As is with Erotica, the overall plot usually plays a secondary role, erotica is about the sex, but Ms. Johanis book is different. To be able to screw the sex (literally and figuratively) a couple of notches, her protagonists aren’t your average John and Jane Doe, but they are gods, ancient gods to be exact, an imaginary world she creates mixing gods from Mesopotamia (Marduk), with those of Egypt, Greece and elsewhere. You don’t even have to be knowledgeable in ancient theology to enjoy the book. It is, after all, not about the gods as they were originally revered, but rather a modernized version of them. Quite the contrary, I found that my knowledge of e.g. Poseidon got in the way of reading the story, as the character in the book is so totally different from the god I once studied.
Ms. Johanis does an excellent job at setting the stage, creating a sort of “resort” where the younger gods meet to study and learn, and it just so happens that the most important knowledge that gods need to study is all things sex… Of course, this is Erotica after all. But there is a twist, and while I thought that a Marduk tied to a bed post was about as kinky and BDSM as this would get, I was wrong.
Dead wrong. Just shows you how naïve I still am… #facepalm
Ms Johanis creates a world that is dark, very dark, violent, very violent. And somewhere in there, she lost me. I have already told her this, and this isn’t a bad review, quite the contrary, but imagine me reading erotica (I don’t like it), and here I was reading dark erotica, with very violent and sex, sex that is so rough at times that I will not even try to explain it.
Marduk suffers, he hurts, but there is also hope (and there are some very tender and endearing (sex) scenes, hope that someone will come to his rescue. I finished reading the book, and I was relieved to find that I could enjoy the plot, the story that bound it together. Ms Johanis is a brilliant writer and she hit the jackpot with her gods. Having just written an erotic novel, I know how difficult it is to write that (the Kama Sutra has already been written, so how do us mere mortals vary our sex?), to keep it interesting? Going down the supernatural road, using gods with their super powers, allows Ms Johanis to write sex that you won’t normally find in any earthly bedroom. Smart! She is able to use violence without damaging her characters. Brilliant! They are, after all, gods, and gods are immortal. Gods heal, quickly.
Weaving the sex scenes into an almost thriller like plot (I still think that the story itself is brilliant) where nothing is what you thought it would be, with a twist toward the end that is quite unexpected, I found myself longing to read the second book of her S-Gods series. I don’t think there is higher praise than that! I want to know how things continue to develop for young Marduk.
Now, I could say a lot about some of the assumptions that are part of Ms Johanis world building, like the meaning of topping and bottoming in gay sex. From a queer point of view, I found some of the premises almost painful, but on the other hand, it is how much of the world still sees gay men and male homosexuality. It is a discussion I may have with Jenna next time we meet. I believe that authors have a duty to educate the world, not reinforce stereotypes.
If you like your sex on the edgy, rough and kinky side of things, if you enjoy those scenes to be embedded in an exciting and very well written plot, this is definitely your book. This isn’t just a string of sex scenes, this is a very well written story that just happens to have lots, lots and lots of on the page sex.
Claimed by the Order is definitely a must read for lovers of Dark Erotica! And I have a hunch that Ms Johanis has a brilliant writing career ahead of her.
Please join me again on Friday, with another reader interview, an exciting person for sure, and a regular visitor to the traveling circus that is gay literary conventions: Hanne Lie.
Enjoy your hump (sic) day…