While plans proceed for Daniel's investiture as king of the North American cubi, the young man himself still isn't completely sure he will be up to the task. The prospect would be daunting enough, without the added responsibility of being practically in a state of war with rogue elements of the human military. Meanwhile, freed “breeder” Alex is having trouble adjusting to life outside the cubi world. He felt used as a sex slave by the cubi, but now that he's home with his homophobic parents and working a thankless job in a stock room, he begins to see his former life in a new light.
Although you would think, five volumes in, that this series would be winding up, it will apparently go on for at least another two books. Yet it continues to surprise with new story lines and sub-plots. While Daniel's rise to power during the simmering conflict with humans remain the central theme, this installment features a strong converging plot line focusing on Alex. Although he plays a somewhat pivotal role in the first few books, allowing us to understand the character of Seldon as well as the developing relationship between Daniel and Seldon, Alex was still a minor character and when he was freed by the cubi as they were attacked, it seemed that he would disappear from the story line. He didn't appear in the previous volume at all.
Alex proves to be quite an interesting and complex character. A good portion of the story is told from his point of view, as he struggles to find his self-worth with his newfound freedom. It's a rather minor plot point (so not really spoiling anything) but I rather liked the thought experiment of what it might be like for Alex, in effect suffering withdrawal-like symptoms once he's no longer getting dosed by the cubi regularly. It's just one aspect of someone forced to re-examine their beliefs as they're trying to find their place in the world.
While Alex's story may be interesting, it's just one of a few threads running through this book. In the end, they all weave back through Daniel and his quest to be the kind of king his people need. While Seldon and Daniel have been the two constant main characters throughout all five books, we continue to learn more about them, and see them adapt to the new challenges that face them. Daniel not only relies on his lovers, and effective regents, Seldon and Caledon to guide him, he also relies heavily on Elakdon, King of the Northern European cubi, to help him understand the role of the royals in cubi society, as well as their history.
The books have built quite a convincing world where succubi and incubi really exist. This installment even pokes a little fun at itself by suggesting that popular fiction such as this are all part of the cubi plan to reveal themselves to the world of ordinary humans. Perhaps the best part of this series is how it's managed to remain fresh, with new sub-plots that complement the major story arc. So many series spanning more than three or four volumes end up being repetitive, with the protagonists facing the same villains over and over again, but these books so far have been very successful in introducing new ideas and exploring different aspects of the fantasy world they've created.
“Natural Beauty” is available from Amazon.