Alpha Within
by Mima, fantasy (2008)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-402-5


Mima is confusing me, I must say. Every book in her Bonded series so far - and there are three of them, including this one - varies differently in terms of writing style that I wonder whether there are actually more than one person writing behind the name Mima. You see, the previous book, Wild Within, is a pretty good sober Gor-style fantasy romance with nary a drop of campy humor, but Alpha Within, on the other hand, has characters speaking like Valley girls ("Ummm. Just, you know, do the egg thing. Can you do it?") and I don't know whether this is some kind of intentional thing on the author's part.

Having said that, I like what the author is trying to do here. Don't laugh, people, but with the characters in this fantasy setting obsessed with babies, our heroine Luna is the equivalent of a planned parenthood specialist in that setting. Luna can, with a touch on the relevant parts of the body, tell whether a woman is ovulating or not at that time (or, conversely, whether a man is able to sire children with his sperm count) and dispenses advice accordingly ("Wait at least twelve hours before you come, sir, to make sure Freezha’s egg has dropped. I think it will work."). She can also cast spells to increase the fertility of her patients.

This is why our hero Dar needs Luna's help. His Snowcat clan is dying off and he wants Luna to use her magic touch to get those babies coming as well as to teach her magic to the "bodymages" of his people. Luna is rather apprehensive about leaving her city to live among the Beasts, as furry folks like Dar are called, especially when it comes to the principles behind Dar's beautiful plans for his people.

Luna flung off the fur and stumbled over the stones away from him. "Let me get this straight. You are going to get a whole bunch of women to come here, strangers to the men, and you want me to help impregnate every single one of them, even if one of the men has already fathered a child on someone else!"

"Yes. You have a problem with the idea that one man can fuck two different women?"

"When he knows he's starting two different families, yes!"

Dar rolled his mouth in a thoughtful way as he looked at her. "Why is it two different families? Each child has the same father. They would be brothers. It is the same family."

"You have more than one mate?"

"Of course not. They are not mates, they are mothers."

Luna let out a groan of exasperation and crossed her arms.

However, it isn't long before Luna is swept up in the whole erotic lifestyle of the Snowcats. This isn't a typical romance because as you can probably tell from the excerpt above, the Snowcats don't do "romance" like typical folks.

To be honest, I don't really find the characters too memorable as they seem to be standard archetypes in "Mate! Mate! Mate!" erotic romances. However, I do find the whole concept of this story most interesting. I hope I am making sense here, heh. Alpha Within seems to be some kind of a gentler take on the "role of males and females on a primal level" thing with some elements of feminism present as an undertone. This is a most interesting story. It's also a most readable one.

The only quibble I have is the very modern tone of the conversations in this story. Call me a purist, but I like my fantasy stories to reflect a different world and culture. Having the characters in the story speaking as if they have spent way too much time on their Livejournals is not what I'd like to come across in my fantasy stories.

The author really should figure out a writing style that she's most comfortable with and stick with it - perhaps that would give her series a sense of consistency. At any rate, I think the author has some pretty good ideas and interesting concepts here. It is this, rather than the writing style or the romance, that makes Alpha Within a memorable story in my opinion. If anything, this one only shows how the author is like some kind of unpolished diamond. If she manages to get her act together better, she may do some amazing things. Who knows?

Rating: 80


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