Thursday, December 8, 2011

Basilisk (e-novella) by Kate Cotoner

This novella is in Torquere Press's Everyday Spectres line. It's 26,400 words long, which comes out to 70 pages on my Nook.


Clayton King doesn't know how long his work will keep him in London, but he's determined to make the most of his time there. During a lunch break, he spots a gorgeous young man in snakeskin jeans and decides to follow him, hoping to get a chance to talk with him and maybe score a date (and more). The man, Anthony, invites Clayton to come with him to his job that night, and so Clayton does. He's surprised and delighted to learn that Anthony works at a club where everyone has dressed in the most amazing costumes.

Little does Clayton know, those are no costumes. The club is filled with beings straight out of Greek mythology, and Clayton has attracted the attention of a dangerous one: Echidna, Anthony's mother. Will Anthony sacrifice Clayton as he has so many others, or will something about Clayton finally prompt Anthony to stand up to his mother?


I really hate the cover image for this novella – I find it to be both cheap-looking and boring. What attracted me to this work instead was the pet shop aspect of the description, which reminded me vaguely of Pet Shop of Horrors (which this story has absolutely nothing in common with – the pet shop could have been a flower shop and it wouldn't have made a difference). Also, I've always been interested in stories that derive their inspiration from Greek mythology. I couldn't remember ever reading much about Echidna, but I was intrigued by the thought of a basilisk main character.

I'm not really sure what the author was trying to accomplish with this novella. If she was aiming for erotic romance, she failed. The “erotic” part was definitely there, but the “romance” was less than stellar. This is one of those stories where the main characters declare their love for each other before they've even known each other for a full 24 hours.

It was all way, way too fast. Had Clayton and Anthony just been aiming for hot sex throughout the whole thing, I could have believed it, but somehow Cotoner had them talking about being mates and being in love by the end of the novella. My suspension of disbelief can only go so far. I laughed when I got to this bit, said by Clayton, on page 30 on my Nook:
“'I like [Anthony] a lot. He's – he's amazing. Beautiful, you know? And it's not just his looks. He's... Yeah. I really like him.'”
By that point in the novella, Clayton had barely talked to Anthony. At best, he knew really well what it was like to kiss him, and there was a nice scene involving a gift of expensive chocolates. That's it. Later on, Clayton says the same sort of thing again:
“'I've never met anyone who gets me as hot as you do. And it's not just the sex or the way you look. I...I really like you.'” (62)
Notice how, once again, Clayton is unable to say, specifically, what he likes about Anthony that has nothing to do with good sex or Anthony's looks? That's because, by that point in the novella, they'd had sex a couple times but still hadn't talked to each other much. Clayton didn't even know that Anthony had almost killed him just a few hours earlier, and he still thought Anthony was human.

The other thing that bothered me about this novella was how dense Clayton was. I know guys aren't necessarily as hyper-aware of potentially dangerous situations as women, but Clayton agreeing to meet a strange guy to go to an unknown place at 11:30 PM still seemed like a dumb thing to do to me. Some of Clayton's inability to put two and two together and realize that the people at the club weren't just humans in costumes could be blamed on his being drunk/drugged and on people's tendency to see only what they expect to see, but I thought Clayton carried things to the extreme. Medusa could have turned someone to stone right in front of him and he would have chalked it up to excellent special effects.

Clayton just did not act like I would have expected a person in his position to act. Considering the conditions under which he first had sex with Anthony, I would have expected extreme embarrassment and perhaps even anger after the drugs/drink started to wear off. Had he really been in front of a crowd of humans, one of them could have been someone from his job or known someone at his workplace, and his career and reputation might have ended up in the toilet. Instead, Clayton was almost giddy and even offered to join Anthony in future “shows.” Seriously? I found Anthony, with his overbearing mother and his surprised delight any time Clayton did anything nice for him, to be a more interesting and appealing character than Clayton.

Usually, I'm all for story and romance taking precedence over sex scenes, but this is one story that might have been better if the sex scenes had been allowed to take up a greater percentage of the word count. I thought the sex scenes were the best part of the novella, although one of them requires that readers be okay with public sex. I also enjoyed the way Cotoner wrote about the mythological beings - they sounded like fun to be around (possibly dangerous, but fun).

Overall, I didn't like this novella nearly as much as I had hoped to. Cotoner would have been better off not even trying to convince readers that Clayton and Anthony had fallen in love with each other - purely "in lust" would have been more believable.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Pawprints (e-novella) by Anne Cain - This is another one with steamy m/m sex and "I love you"s that come fairly early on in the characters' relationship.
  • The 10th Kingdom (live action TV miniseries) - I thought Cotoner's approach to the mythological beings in Basilisk was fun, and it reminded me of the way The 10th Kingdom handled fairy tale characters. I have written about the novelization.
  • Fantasy Lover (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon - If you'd like another modern take on beings from Greek mythology, you might want to try this book, or possibly one of Kenyon's Dark Hunter novels (the Greek gods usually only play a minor role - Artemis makes the most appearances). This particular book stars Grace, a modern day sex therapist who's been celibate for four years after a really bad relationship, and Julian, a demi-god cursed to be trapped inside a book and act as a sex slave for whoever temporarily frees him.
  • Hot as Hades (e-novella) by Alisha Rai - If all you want is another erotic story that takes its inspiration from Greek mythology, you might want to try this retelling of the Persephone myth.

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