We’re on evil ex-boyfriend two out of nine, but also 85% of the way through the book. So, clearly that sequel (and presumably one or more others, at this rate) was planned in advance. This one runs into a Hell world and seeks refuge with his level a billion demonic patron. Alaria tries to confront him and negotiate for her ex-master’s life, since the demon lord doesn’t seem super fond of him anyway, and then the demon lord just decides to take Alaria for himself, Ian tries to intervene, it ends poorly for him.
“Go ahead and kill me, asshole,” I said, just waiting for the new ten-second counter to hit zero.
“No,” the demon lord said thoughtfully, “I don’t think so. I know your kind. Warlocks like you are not bound by the normal human rules of death. If I kill you, you’ll just come back to bother me again, like some unnatural pest.” Shit. I had never run across an NPC who understood the mechanics of respawning – but this bastard certainly did. He was right – and both he and I knew it, unfortunately. “No,” the demon grinned. “I think you will serve far better as a slave in my mines.”
Wow, what an awful gaming experience. “Face off against NPCs who know you can respawn and will instead contrive to imprison you forever, rendering useless your toon who you poured dozens if not hundreds of hours into leveling!” Again, Succubus runs into the drawbacks of being an MMO and not just portal fantasy.
“Do you think he loves you?”
Her eyes flickered up at me again, and then she looked down, shamefaced. “Yes. That was why he came with me to kill Odeon.”
Now, see, just a few pages ago I extended Succubus the benefit of the doubt that maybe Alaria being awful may have been going somewhere after all, that maybe the book knew she was abusive. I didn’t really consider it likely that it might also go so far as to recognize that Ian is also awful, because he is the vehicle for shitty wish fulfillment, but hey, at least it could fill in one of the three holes it had dug itself. That third one is the tonal whiplash problem, which just can’t be fixed with any amount of reveal or character development. Regardless of what happens here at the end, the fact is that the beginning involved rape used like sprinkles on a cupcake in order to establish that our villains were bad, and that our hero was heroic for not liking them. Even if Ian turned out to be an actual good person at the end, no one could be blamed for giving up on Succubus at around the 25% mark when Ian staked out his claim to heroism as “opposed to rape.”
I’m not even willing to buy into those first two holes being filled in, though. Ian got within spitting distance of actually standing up for himself, but he didn’t actually do it. In fact, Alaria just immediately turned that around on him and used it to extort sexual favors out of him, and Ian was right back to being wrapped around her finger – despite having just got finished saying that yes, he was unhappy with how she treated him. This isn’t just a relationship that would be abusive if it happened in real life but which our protagonist emerges from unscathed by the power of a naive author, Ian actually is suffering from Alaria’s emotional abuse. That realization lasts all of about a page and a half before we instead have six pages of oral sex. I’m not complaining that the book contains a lot of sex. It’s a book about sex. That would be a weird thing to complain about. I am complaining that the book portrays an abusive relationship and doesn’t seem to realize it’s abusive, but instead devotes multiple pages to how great the sex is, and none at all to how this is bad for Ian. It mentions that it is bad for Ian, but that’s not an actual plot point. It’s foreplay, used by Alaria to set up a sex scene entirely on her own terms, for her own satisfaction.
So when the book shows a brief sign of self-awareness here by admitting that Alaria has used Ian, I have no confidence that it’s going to actually result in the narrative admitting that Alaria is an abuse victim turned abuser who isn’t ready to have a healthy relationship with anyone. For starters, that’s a really weird direction to take for a book about succubus fucking. It’s not a harem plot. If Alaria gets herself eliminated from the running on these grounds, there are no other love interests to take her place.