content notes and warnings: The full content warnings for the actual book is available here. Anything on that list may be mentioned in this review, most prominently monsterfucking, ovipositing (egg-laying), and D/s. Also, heavily features a spider character so arachnophobes may want to skip this one. Also mentions of trans stuff, kink, etc. Contains very slight spoilers of the earlier portions of the book.
Herein, we celebrate the bodies of women of all different sorts, both cis and normal, and find beauty in the strange and even the inhuman.— Introduction
So there I was, attempting to take a hiatus due to some life stuff, not feeling motivated to write anything, with zero attention span for reading, having approximately the sex drive of a stir fried water chestnut, and never having done a book review for my blog before. Naturally, this seemed like a great time to request an advance reader copy of a monsterfucking fantasy erotic novel by an author I’d never read before!
But here’s the thing. I know exactly what I don’t like in erotica—I wrote a whole post about it—and there’s a fair amount I can tolerate in erotica. But rarely do I see an erotic story and go, “Oh, shit! That’s it! That’s what I’m looking for!” But, before even requesting the copy, here’s what I knew about this book:
- Trans-inclusively queer, even
- Fantasy setting
That is, if I may say, The Shit I Do Like, so I decided, hey, what’s the worst that could happen? (A lot of things. Never mind that.) So I got in touch with Natalie Ironside to ask if I could review it, she said “Heck yes” and sent me the PDF, I had my smarter spouse help me put it on my Kindle app, and then I…uh…forgot about it for a couple of weeks.
But then one morning I thought, “I should just start reading…”
I finished it over the course of two mornings and, in between reading it, couldn’t…stop…thinking about it.
In the Court of the Nameless Queen is a novel in four parts: Brood, The Apostate, Transmutation, and the final one bringing all the others together, The Carnival of Carnal Delights. The four parts could probably be read independently of one another (especially Transmutation) but do form a cohesive, chronological narrative. The stories take place within the Queendom of Corynnod, ruled over by the titular Nameless Queen, the goddess of her people, and also a giant creepy-ass spider-woman.
There are several main characters, although the most prominent is Freydis Thorkilsdottir who, in addition to having the coolest name, is a powerful war witch, trans woman, and eventually the Queen’s chief consort and the mother of her children. Other prominent figures include Kristina Kaminski, an ex-nun who flees her land for the more permissive lands of the Queen where she can openly love women; Steff Pelczynski, a wizard and former monk who comes to Corynnod for freedom but struggles to embrace her truth; and, of course, the Nameless Queen, who is an ancient spider entity who doesn’t even remember her own name. The first three stories, more or less, follow the human women in journeys of self-discovery, and the final story puts them together in something more of an adventure, unraveling the mystery of the Carnival and planning the next stage of the war to expand the Queen’s territory.
I really loved this book on several levels. First, there’s the general worldbuilding and fantasy elements. Natalie Ironside has created a world that feels very real, with echoes of our own to keep us grounded, and yet alien enough to be exciting and fascinating to anyone who loves that stuff. It’s distinctly its own world with its own culture, history, and conflicts. We open in the middle of a fantastic war to spread the Queen’s dark territories, and let me tell you something: war stuff and strategy usually bores me to tears when I’m reading fantasy novels, but somehow I was into this? And I think that’s because of my second point:
The characters are phenomenal. Each one, even the side-characters, feel very real, with their own stories going on in the background; but of our point-of-view characters, there’s a richness and a depth that I really enjoyed. The characters each have their distinct personalities, strengths, flaws, and inner lives that make them extremely easy to relate to and care about. Each had distinct needs and goals that I wanted, so badly, for them to achieve.They are also all unapologetically queer, and their queerness is celebrated and romanticized—I teared up when the Queen kept telling Freydis how beautiful she was, and I almost audibly cheered when another character’s pronouns, in the narrative, changed to she—but their queer struggles are not the extent of their characterization, either.
Listen, erotica with less distinct characters isn’t always bad—sometimes you want something you can insert yourself into (hehe) and God knows I’ve written enough like that—but it can be hard to read an entire novel about a flat character, even if they’re having lots of steamy sex, because…the sex doesn’t really matter to the character. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t wanna have sex with boring people, why would I want to watch boring people have sex? But each of these characters were so beautifully fleshed out that their sex lives became richer and more intimate for it.
Which brings me to my final point: The Fuckin’.
So, here’s the thing. In The Court Of The Nameless Queen is filthy, kinky, and spectacular. There’s a heavy element of D/s to most of the sex scenes, which y’all know I’m here for, but it’s explored in different ways, with praise, bondage, dirty talk, and other trappings of BDSM.
There are a few things that are personal squicks, and…I actually didn’t even mind those because they were so well-written! Okay, I did skim the piss play scene, I will confess, but the rest I actually really enjoyed, even when they didn’t necessarily turn me on. I think the strongest example of this was the ovipositing scene that is, of course, to be expected when one of the major characters is a giant sexy spider. I have never been hugely into ovipositing. In the wrong hands it can be a Serious Squick. But goddammit—it was written so vividly, leaning into and embracing the alien nature of it, that it wound up being fascinating; in addition, it was extremely tender in parts, and the act was such a huge triumph for the receiving character that I loved reading every second of it.
In fact, that’s actually what I enjoyed most about the erotic elements of this story. Almost every sex act really meant something to the characters—sometimes learning things about themselves, sometimes finding freedom or validation as they explored their sexuality. In one case, a character accepts that she’s trans by being dommed into it, and it’s an absolutely beautiful sequence. As someone who has a whole tag dedicated to kink as a coping mechanism, I loved seeing sex and kink used to genuinely improve and enrich the characters’ lives.
There’s also heavy focus on consent and discussion (yes, actual kink negotiation! On the page! My favorite!) and a very endearing tenderness, even in the most alien of activities. I also really enjoyed seeing characters realize they were on a different page than their partners and actually discuss things instead of letting it fester. Fucked up relationships in fiction aren’t always a dealbreaker for me if it’s part of the fantasy, but it was actually really pleasant to see all of the relationships being so respectful and kind and healthy. If a giant 4000-year-old spider can clarify the ability to withdraw consent when literally laying eggs in her lover, there is no excuse for shitty doms, okay, thanks.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for trans-inclusive queer erotica, if you love monsters and monsterfucking, if you want to see characters enjoy Better Living Through Kink, if you just want to see an ex-nun slaughter the bigoted priests who oppressed her (oh yeah that’s in there, too), or if you just want to support a queer author, this is a book I cannot recommend enough! It is equal parts tender, sexy, fascinating, and humorous, and I enjoyed it tremendously. It is a bit violent in places, and again, giant spider lady, so if that’s something you aren’t into, be warned.
You can pre-order In the Court of the Nameless Queen on Amazon for $5; it will be released February 13.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions are my own. This post is not sponsored but I am using an affiliate link for Amazon, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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I think I’d really enjoy reading this! I may give it a try 🙂