Voluntary bondage is a subject begging for examination in fiction. Most fiction dealing with bondage, dominance, and sexual slavery does so by using forced situations in which a heroine reluctantly accepts her status as a slave. Boddice-ripper stories tend to follow this model as do romance novels that involve a splash of kink. Kingsbridge Book 1: Jeanine by Orpheus forgoes such tropes and presents a young female protagonist who chooses to become a sexual slave.
A common claim of such stories is that it gives the writer the excuse to present open misogyny. Orpheus’s literary world is not set up as a male-dominated paradise. This is not a Gorean landscape being presented. Unlike the real world where sexual slavery is still largely misunderstood and considered repugnant, the world of Kingsbridge embraces such sexual play.In this world young women choose to enter slave training as a means to gain a future with a secure Master. The titular school is the most prestigious of such academies, the Ivy League of slave training. The training is rigorous and the rewards are promising and only the best are accepted from hundreds of applicants. For the young women who choose this path, they see a career as well as a lifestyle becoming available to them. Orpheus builds this world with care and presents one young woman who has her heart set on joining this life.
Recently I posted a blog entry about women, self-esteem, and female empowerment, which would seem to contradict a positive review of a novella like Kingsbridge. The idea of a woman voluntarily taking on such a role does not contradict female empowerment. Rather it is an expression of it, just like choosing a career or becoming a wife and mother. So far Orpheus chooses to show a traditional Master/Slave dynamic with men in positions of authority and women becoming slaves. As this is only a short novella covering the application process, there is not a great deal more revealed about the Kingsbridge academy or its full faculty. The idea of a woman serving as a Mistress would not seem out of place in this world and I hope as I continue this series that such an occurrence does occur. Master/Slave is not about gender roles but the ability for one person to willingly give over control to another.
The women are not mistreated in the story. They undergo a small piece of the training they will experience pending acceptance into the program. The analogy is presented as similar to military training with the design being to break down the person and re-forge them in a better, more confidant version. Sexuality is a weapon that can be used for power. For Jeanine, she discovers through the application process that her body is the weapon and gives her the power. Such relationships in the real world are the most committed found in this community and Orpheus makes sure to show that the women are given due respect and consideration.
The novella is the first in a serialized story. Kingsbridge Book 1 is briskly-paced, taking enough time to provide necessary details but not spending too much time on superfluous fluff. Sufficient time is spent establishing Jeanine’s background as an individual and her desire to join this academy. The majority of the novel is spent going through the rigorous application period. While it’s almost assured that Jeanine will get in, Orpheus teases the reader with just enough uncertainty to make the story fun. The other applicants are given enough characteristics to stand out as more than just one-dimensional carbon copies.
Stylistically Orpheus shows excellent care with word choice and structure. Dialogue is written in such a way that the characters feel distinct from one another. The pen name chosen is an interesting one, complete with notes of Greek tragedy. I’m left wondering how much, if any, of those tragic elements of Greek storytelling will appear in the series. The desire for something only to have it snatched away at the last moment is a storytelling trope that never gets old. It’s as essential as successfully completing one’s quest. Orpheus’ series promises excellent storytelling mixed with a presentation of some of the most dedicated aspects of the bondage lifestyle.