Book Review: A Kiss of Shadows (Merry Gentry #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Each month, Dark Flower reads and reviews a book as part of their Seattle Erotic Book Club. Join us for our first review - a Kiss of Shadows (Merry Gentry #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton.

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This stunningly well dressed book is a great read for the the fae lover in all. The heroine is a strong female character with a zest for life, a strong set of values, and an amazing rack. All of the protagonists were hot, and were so described in stunning amounts of detail. The villains were hot. Everyone was hot, except the one guy with a cthulhu chest, and he was still arguably hot.  

On a more serious note, the character’s attractiveness is used to normalize sex in a wonderful way. Merry revels in sexuality as a main aspect of her character and as a cornerstone of fae society. The main antagonist is villainized through lengthy descriptions of her barring access to sex, as well as how she violates fae society’s sexual norms. It’s a refreshing change of pace from erotic books that treat sex as secretive, taboo, or otherwise unacceptable - which is the norm when discussing kink-focused literature.

This is also a good book for a book club. Even the people that did not like it found more than an hour of topics to pull out of the depths of this cute fae’s adventures. There were several memorable scenes to touch on, the world building was fantastic, and the court intrigue fairly solid. Everyone had a favorite guard, and it was fun to discuss who liked which one and why.

That said - please do not look for any emotional depth in this sex-fueled roller coaster. Not even rape or sexual torture seems to cause anyone in this book any long term psychological impact. The main character seems to single-mindedly focus on her goal of reproduction, and does not especially reflect on how she and her guard are being used or abused. It comes up later in the series, but the first book is a prozac candy train of masturbatory scenes.

In addition, character development is mostly expressed through clothing design and sexual interaction, rather than an exploration of a character’s motivations or fears. Merry has her harem, and the members come and go in an array of spectacularly hot couplings, but you could swap the guard members names on a good number of the sex scenes and probably not realize it happened.

We’d say that in the context of other books we’ve read for our book club, it’s better than Fanny Hill (a mid-eighteenth century classic famous for being involved in obscenity cases), but worse than Sex with Shakespeare (a stunningly good book with emotions and kink!)

At the end of the day, though, we’d argue that this is the best erotic faerie book we’ve read in a while. Fight us in the comments and recommend one better.

Overall:

Kink Rating: Two rough sex scenes out of ten.

There were a few vaguely kinky sex scenes, which were not always consent-centric and really didn’t involve much in the way of negotiation. We would not say this is a kinky book, but for erotica it checked all the boxes and the scenes were admittedly hot. But with a full harem of suitors, we did expect a lot more variety in the sexual interests in the characters.

Story quality: Six and a half handfuls of popcorn out of ten.

The world building was quite good. The character development and conflict resolution between the characters (protip: fucking doesn’t solve everything), not so good.

That said, Firestory binged five of the nine books over the course of five days, and did talk about the series with multiple friends afterwards, so it did make her feel feelings. And what is art but something that makes you feel feelings?

Consider this book a good handful of junk food at the end of a long day - it’s satisfying if not nutritionally valuable, which is what most people want in erotica and porn.

Would I read this again?

Probably in an airport, or when someone asks “hey, what’s the name of that book with all the fae that banged until they established a government?”

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