Why I read them: A number of people have recommended these books to me – most recently Sirius from Dear Author.
CLAIMINGS, TAILS AND OTHER ALIEN ARTIFACTS
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Liam loves his life as a linguist and trader on the Rownt homeworld, but he has ignored his heart and sexual needs for years. He won’t risk letting anyone come too close because he won’t risk letting anyone see his deeply submissive nature. For him, submission comes with pain. Life burned that lesson into his soul from a young age. This fear keeps him from noticing that the Rownt trader Ondry cares for him.
Ondry may not understand humans, but he recognizes a wounded soul, and his need to protect Liam is quickly outpacing his common sense. They may have laws, culture, and incompatible genitalia in their way, but Ondry knows that he can find a way to overcome all that if he can just overcome the ghosts of Liam’s past. Only then can he take possession of a man he has grown to love.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): This first book is a lot shorter than the other two in the series (so far – dare I hope for another?), at less than a hundred pages (the second book is the longest and the third is in between). I was impressed with the world building Gala was able to portray in a short word count and fascinated by the Rownt and the way they think. I love the way she used the Rownt to examine some things about people which are weird or don’t make sense and, seeing these things from an outsider point of view was deeply interesting. In particular, the way Dominance and submission is portrayed here is unique and quite charming.
This is the courtship novella I think. Liam doesn’t realise it, but Ondry has been courting him (Rownt-style) for some time. When a new commander humiliates Liam in public, Ondry takes decisive action. What happens in the temple remains a mystery – some factoids are let slip in the later books but the upshot of it is that the “Grandmothers” (Rownt elders/ruling council) have “given” Liam to Ondry to take care of and protect. When Liam is chained to a wall it is not because he is a prisoner, but rather, because Ondry knows he needs to feel safe and protected and valued and wanted. So the chain represents these things to them rather than bondage in the slavery sense. Liam, of course, recognises that many humans wouldn’t see the situation the same way and urges discretion but I loved the way Ondry’s motivations made all the difference to my perception of what was happening.
The sex is inventive to say the least and their mutual pleasure is clear but it is vastly different to what one might expect to read in a human/human story. Let’s just say Ondry has a tail which he puts to good use.
The story is told entirely from Liam’s POV and so by the end, Ondry is still a bit of a mystery. Still, I enjoyed the read greatly and picked up the next book straight away.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Ondry and Liam have settled into a good life, but their trading is still tied up with humans, and humans are always messy. When political changes at the human base lead Ondry to attempt a difficult trade, the pair find themselves entangled in human affairs. Liam wants to help the people he left and the worlds being torn apart. He also wants to serve Ondry with not only the pleasures of the nest but also by bringing human profits.
Ondry has no hope of understanding human psychology in general, he only knows that he will hold onto his palteia with the last breath in his body, and he’d like to keep his status and his wealth too. Unfortunately, new humans bring new conflicts and he is not sure how to protect Liam. He does know one thing that humans seem to constantly forget—that the peaceful Rownt are predators and when their families are threatened, Rownt become deadly killers. Liam is his family, and Ondry will protect him with his last breath… assuming that he can recognize the dangers in time to do so.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Liam’s and Ondry’s story picks up a few months later. They have worked through some communication glitches in the meantime and Liam is safe, secure and happy with Ondry. They have found ways to give each other mutual pleasure – in areas of trade and status and also in the physical realm. What Ondry gains from Liam’s sexual submission pleases his dominant side but he doesn’t feel sexual pleasure from it. His satisfaction derives entirely from Liam’s happiness. Liam serves Ondry in the physical pleasure realm by stroking his “fora” but this isn’t sexual pleasure as I understand it. It is a sensual pleasure but the Rownt don’t appear to feel sexual desire. A commenter at Dear Author said she considered Ondry asexual and I think she’s on to something. “Sex” for the Rownt is about procreation. It is not about a relationship and it is definitely not about pleasure (it hurts). So Ondry doesn’t see what he and Liam share in their “nest” as sexual at all really. My impression was that, over time, Ondry did come to reference it that way (‘non-procreative sex”) but more because that was how Liam saw it than because he did.
The D/s relationship portrayed in here is one of mutual service but each has a different way of expressing that. It is clearly presented that Liam wants someone else to lead and that is how he feels safe and secure. At the same time, he is not presented as weak or foolish. He is a gift that Ondry values and a charge he takes very seriously, putting Liam above all other things, including status and trade (which, for the Rownt, is a Very Big Deal).
The conflict in this book is all external. Liam and Ondry adore one another and are very happy in their nest. But a new commander arrives at the human base and with him comes Susan Diallo, a xenolinguistics expert who wants to learn from Liam and from the Rownt about their culture and language and discuss the possibility of greater trade between the two races. She has hidden motives as well and this doesn’t go well later in the book and things get very interesting indeed.
I loved the way these events felt both organic and surprising. I didn’t really know where the story was going but I was happy to let the author take me wherever it was she was headed.
Assimilation is told mainly from Ondry’s POV but there are some sections from Liam’s perspective. I found this much more satisfying as a reader and I felt I had a far better handle on who Ondry was this way. There were plenty of examples of Liam’s and Ondry’s mutual devotion and between that and the fascinating world-building and the Rownt in general, I loved it.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) A desire for status has brought Ondry and Liam to a human world to trade, but dealing with humans has brought up all the old pain in Liam’s heart. Even though Ondry would do anything to protect his beloved palteia, he doesn’t know how to protect Liam from himself. Worse, Ondry isn’t sure how to shield Liam from the shifting politics on the Rownt ship where the Calti Grandmothers are nothing like the ones they left behind on the planet.
With everything in their lives changing, Ondry and Liam have only each other. If Ondry can’t find a way to defend Liam from the ghosts of the past and overcome the impossibly short life span of a human, their small family might be over long before either of them is ready to let go. Ondry has always been a dominant and possessive Rownt, and with Liam in danger, those traits are necessary as he challenges the world to protect his lover.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): One of the things Ondry has concerns about is Liam’s far shorter lifespan. Rownt live over a thousand years, barring unforeseen disasters, but Liam can expect maybe 80 and this is unacceptable. Ondry has a long term plan to trade with the Imshee for an alteration to Liam’s genetics to make his lifespan Rownt-like. The first part of that, is gaining “tuk” status, as only one ranked so highly can trade with the Imshee. The second, is to amass significant wealth as what he seeks will not be cheap. While this goal is not achieved in this book, that is the motivation for Ondry and Liam to leave Prarownt and move aboard the homeship Calti. The Grandmothers have requested Liam’s assistance in negotiating trade with the humans there there is the very real threat of disaster if the two races are unable to understand each other. Dangerous assumptions and misunderstandings could lead to war or annihilation.
While Liam and Ondry and the Calti Grandmothers are on Earth, Liam reconnects with those of his former frontline unit and this leads him to confront feelings and memories he has long since locked away. Machinations and plots within plots mean that, as in Assimilation, surprising turns are taken. When I thought things were calm, it turned out they were at their most dangerous.
On a more personal front, Liam questions his ability to make good decisions about his life and this causes Ondry much distress. Ondry hates to see Liam hurt and he struggles with the idea that he can’t fix everything and that some things have to be gone through rather than solved. Ondry also has things to worry about. His aims for tuk status but it seems the Grandmothers on the Calti are very unlikely to ever give this to him and his dream of genetic alteration to Liam to lengthen his lifespan seems further out of reach. However, because Ondry’s “prime directive” is to care for Liam, he will not allow him to be mistreated in anyway, even by the Grandmothers (albeit this is unintentional on their parts). Standing up to them seems likely to seal his fate but he, as always, puts Liam first.
The dynamic between Liam and Ondry is so lovely. They are deeply devoted to one another and I just adore them together. Once again, the conflict is external but this is a very good thing. I didn’t need or want Liam and Ondry to break up or anything. Watching them navigate difficulties and challenges and keep their relationship on track is very satisfying. The external conflict ensured the plot didn’t meander or become too saccharine and revealed more about the Rownt – all of which I vastly enjoyed
The series overall: The Rownt and the general world building of the series are both endlessly fascinating to me. The reader is given enough information about them to understand what’s happening but not enough to overwhelm and it never feels like an info-dump. My sense is the author has a clear picture of her creation but doesn’t feel the need to prove it on every page by giving us chapter and verse of Rownt history. There is more for the reader to know but the reader is also not left in the dark about what is happening and why.
I loved the dynamic between Liam and Ondry and was thoroughly charmed by the series. I do hope there will be another book (at least) where, perhaps we see Liam and Ondry interact with the Imshee and their HEA is embiggened to Rownt span.