Title: Apprenticed to Pleasure
Author: Brandon Fox
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
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Genre: high fantasy
Length: novel (230 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Larissa
Review Summary: One very hot story about sex magic, some very hot men performing said sex magic and a wicked plot with lotsa sweet man- loving. Sense what the theme is here?
Pledged to Magic: Book 1
As a musician in Pella’s finest brothel, Ander thought he knew all about sex between men. He was wrong. One night, two handsome lovers draw him irresistibly to a revelation: intense pleasure can be a gateway to magical realms. As his mind and body reel from passionate new experiences, Ander discovers a destiny far greater than making music for companions and their customers.
Ander’s mentor in this new art—the leader of a small group of insurrectionists against the tyranny of pain—is a mage named Thane, who has paid a terrible price for his knowledge. Ander’s strength and ingenuity are quickly tested against great odds, and although his burgeoning abilities can help his new companions, he’s fully aware that the greatest challenge of all may be winning his mentor’s love.
Sex magic is a theme we don’t come across very often, which surprises me because it’s so very obvious for a genre that thrives on sex and paranormal settings. The times I did come across it, it was viewed as bad, wrong and degrading, because face it; we still have a lot of issues concerning group sex.
Going in to Apprenticed to Pleasure, I suspected a lot of porn and very little plot. I was pleasantly surprised when there was a lot of plot, world building and fleshed out, engaging characters.
The story starts with Ander, who is a musician in a House of Companions (thinks escorts). Together with his best friend Leif, he watches two travelers – Sorel and Nicolai – enter the house. Despite himself, Ander is very attracted to them and it doesn’t take long to strike up a conversation with the two.
Everything is going well and it promises to be a night of hot smexing and debauchery until they are interrupted by a seraskier, a henchman for the Zamindar (think local law and great big evil). Said seraskier has wants to get together with Ander, to put it mildly, and both Ander and the host Lady Tatiana have been refusing him. Then one trips and one meets the wrong end of a blade and the damage is done.
Ander is sucked into the world of a small group of rebels who fight to oppose the Zamindar, using some rather unusual tactics. It’s where Ander meets Thane, the leader of rebels and one haunted by his past. Suddenly life is a lot more interesting that playing in a House of Companions (pun intended).
The world we are introduced to is a pseudo medieval fantasy world with influences from different cultures. The ruler, the Zamindar, rules with an iron fist and his sorcerer’s who use blood magic gained through torture and death. It’s not a bad world to live in as long as you don’t run afoul of the Zamindar and his henchmen.
The world building is seen through Ander and his companions and ranges from details of the world surrounding them to (historical) background stories. It’s very subtly done and not an information dump. It was a good piece of writing.
The magic Thane and his initiates make is not gained through blood or torture, but sex. I suspected there’d be a lot of porn-like scenes with some chanting. It was way more subtly done and original and I praise the imaginative mind behind it. The sex magic is subtle and gentle rather than forceful and fake. Hot damn, you should read some of the scenes. I want some of those oils!
They are all friends and not afraid to love each other. While there are several couples in the story, no one stands being exclusive. There are no jealous characters and all relationships are open. Yet, there is a lot of love between the characters. Granted, you have to love sex to become an initiate.
I really liked this kind of writing and plot. It’s different and very refreshing.
Throughout the story the fight against the Zamindar is central, but there are several subplots woven through it, and they never crowded the story, though it was clear from the beginning that the fight against the Zamindar is central and not easily resolved. In fact, the ending is open, but not in a gigantic ‘leave you hanging’ kind of way.
There is a lot more I could tell you about this story as Apprenticed to Pleasure is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve loved it in its first publication with a different publisher and even more in its second edition by Dreamspinner. Apprenticed to Pleasure is an epic story you have to experience for yourself. Ander, Thane, Sorel and Nicolai leave an impression that’s not easy to shake.