Ringmaster by Aurelia T. Evans
Totally Bound, 2015
What is it about dark side that draws us? What is the lure of the forbidden, the attraction of the taboo, the terrible, irresistible appeal of cruel power and evil shadows? If I could answer this question, I could explain the unrelenting fascination of Aurelia T. Evans’ demon circus Arcanium.
Ringmaster is the fourth book in this erotic horror series, and, in my opinion, the best so far. This is the first novel where the focus character is one of Arcanium’s true Oddities—not a human cursed into the circus through his or her own unfortunate wishes, but someone born a freak and living with that destiny.
Kitty, a real-life bearded woman, has been part of Arcanium for nearly two decades. A victim of some genetic aberration, she has fast growing hair all over her body. After years of shaving, plucking, trying every strategy to hide her abnormality, she finally realized the futility of these endeavors. She joined the circus, where she could live comfortably among other societal outcasts.
Kitty has embraced her freakishness. She works miracles with her flowing tresses, artistically braids her beard, and shows off her voluptuous, hairy body to the astonished and embarrassed crowds who stroll along Arcanium’s Oddity Row.
Through Kitty, Ms. Evans explores society’s attitudes toward people who are obviously “different”. From little kids who stare without self-consciousness, to men attracted to the novelty of sex with a bearded woman, to violent bigots who actively attack Kitty and Arcanium’s other Oddities, the world is full of so-called “normal” people who really don’t know how to deal with “freaks”. All of the Arcanium books have considered these issues, but Ringmaster looks at them more closely. The book helps the reader understand the world from a well-adjusted freak’s point of view. Kitty doesn’t want to give up her special qualities. In fact, she has deliberately used up all her wishes, in order to avoid the temptation to wish her hair away.
As a voluntary who deliberately entered the circus, Kitty has more freedom than those whose wishes have been turned against them by the enigmatic jinn Bell Madoc, the master and creator of Arcanium. In particular, she’s free to leave the circus bounds and have sexual encounters with people from the outside world. In Ringmaster, she discovers that her long-time though occasional lover Victor is dying from a congenital disease. To save his life, she offers him the chance to join Arcanium and be cured.
Victor’s decision to become one of Bell’s Oddities in return for a second chance at life upsets the emotional balance in Arcanium. Jealousy, lust and violence flare, in some cases triggered by the denizens of the circus, in others by ignorant and biased individuals from outside the iron gates. Crimes are committed. Punishments are inflicted. Be prepared for gore and death, as well as sex so rough it feels like battle. This is Arcanium.
Kitty has appeared as a secondary character in all the previous novels of the series. One has the impression of a woman almost unbelievably healthy from an emotional perspective, mature and balanced, especially compared to most of the other circus members. She’s warm, generous, a sort of mother figure who has the informal role of helping newcomers to the circus adapt to the constraints and consolations of life in Arcanium. She’s very sure of her identity as the sexy, furry Kitty Cat. She’s honest about her desires, while never leading her lovers to expect more than she can give.
One wonders how someone so seemingly normal can survive in the twisted environment of Bell’s circus. In Ringmaster, however, we finally get to see the darkness she keeps hidden.
He slapped her ass and her thighs as he finger-fucked her, speeding up his thrusts until she was arching her back each time, the partition pressing against her pubic bone in painful but delicious pressure.“Damn you!” he shouted. He yanked his hand out of her and shook it. A few drops of her juices hit her back. “Damn you into my hell, woman. Don’t you know that I would have you like this on my dining room table, three pairs of anguish inside you, one in your rectum, one in your cunt and the other in your pretty little mouth? I would shave every inch of you so that you couldn’t have a single pretty hair on your vain body, everything beautiful about you stripped away until you were nothing. I would flog this skin”—he smoothed his hands over her back and cupped her sides where her ribs met her breasts—“with tails that ended in glass to gouge you into a mess of bloody meat, but it wouldn’t kill you. Oh no. There’s no death where I would take you. And take you. And take you. And take you until you were raw and bleeding and too broken to scream, so I would have my other slaves scream for you, because that is music to my ears, Katharine. Do you understand?”He grabbed her braid above her hands, which pulled on her head and neck and on her wrists. She cried out, her mouth dropping open. When he lifted her up, her breasts hung heavy beneath her, and her nipples brushed the wood in agonizing tickles. All balance and control were lost. He had her helpless in his grip.“I’m not going to take you with the magic making it easy,” the Ringmaster said in her ear. “Tell me not to.”“No,” she gasped.“That’s right,” he said, jerking her braid again. “Tell me not to.”“No,” she whispered. She turned to peer up at him. He smoldered with hellfire black not just in his eyes but everywhere on his face, in his posture, in the tension of his muscles, everywhere. “Don’t stop.”
Kitty consorts with the cruelest and most vicious demon in Arcanium. Something draws them together, into bloody, painful, violent conflagrations of lust (like the one above). Indeed, their paradoxical complementarity goes beyond mere lust. It’s deeper, darker, far more hypnotic. One hesitates to call it love, but the connection binds them to one another at least as tightly.
The scenes between Kitty and the Ringmaster eclipsed everything else in this novel, for me. (I’m a bit uncomfortable admitting this. What, after all, does that say about me?) They left me stunned, crushed, and unbelievably aroused. Although I applaud an author who can create this kind of effect, I worry about what Ms. Evans’ can do for an encore. Once you’ve gone over to the dark side, human sex, even human love, seems pale and weak by comparison.