Though it may come as a surprise to some, I’ve only been reading romance novels for a few years now. I’ve always secretly enjoyed romance plots when they come up in other books I’ve read or movies I watched, and I’m the first to worship two characters at the barest hint of chemistry, but it took a friend sending her copy of The Hating Game to my Kindle for me to slide hard and fast down the slippery slope of devourable romances.
That slope slid right through paranormal sexy detectives and into Ice Planet Barbarians. This speculative romance series, written by Ruby Dixon, is about a group of women crash landing on an Ice Planet populated by, you guessed it, Barbarians. The mostly male barbarians are humanoid except they are giant and blue with tails, horns, and ridges all over their body (all over).
At first recommendation, I thought that no way was this series for me. But I soon caved and spent the better part of two months absolutely devouring ten to fifteen books out of the twenty-something book series (not to mention other series’ with other creatures in the same universe).
The Premise of Ice Planet Barbarians
The first book begins on a spaceship. A number of young women have been abducted from Earth with the intention of being sold into slavery, sexual or otherwise. Very luckily, before the ship can reach its destination, it crash lands onto a planet covered in snow and ice populated by the afore-mentioned aliens, known as sa-khui.
Each book follows one of the girls and her big blue love interest, and along the way other human women find their way to the planet. The main plot device of the books is the khui, a parasite that each sa-khui and human must be implanted with in order to survive.
The khui helps them stay warm in the constant snow and easily heal from whatever harm they might encounter on the dangerous planet. But, most importantly, the khuis know when two people would make perfect mates and are ready to make a baby — and tells their hosts so by vibrating in their chest.
This “resonance” makes up the main conflict of most books. Whether the two newly resonating mates already hate each other, or two non-resonating lovers desperately wish to resonate already, there are a whole lot of half-human, half-sa-khui babies running around by the middle of the series.
Wait, you’re thinking, this sounds very heterosexual. And does each book end with babies? Well, yes on both counts. The romances almost always occur between a male sa-khui and female human, with a few male/female sa-khui stories to spice things up. There has so far not been a hint of same sex relationships, and every human woman who ends up on the planet is happy to only mate with males (I would actually love to see Ruby Dixon write a same-sex barbarian and/or human love stories).
And yes, the khui’s goal is to make people make babies, which is particularly important to the sa-khui because a terrible disease wiped out most of their women several years back, leaving many horny, single men excited to welcome the human women.
So if extreme heteronormativity is your thing, or if you don’t mind it in your otherwise funny, well thought out, and super steamy romances, this series is for you. What I particularly appreciate is the books’ approach to consent. At first, the sa-khui don’t understand the humans’ hesitation to mate with them — their khuis are resonating, which means they must mate.
But the human women explain why consent is important (and, later, why slavery is bad) in clear terms that I think would be helpful for many human males, and even though the sa-khui don’t understand it, they do respect it. Even when they are resonating so hard they can hardly see straight, the sa-khui respect the word no.
And when consent is given — well. Female pleasure is prioritized, and the human women are able to introduce a number of sex acts to the sa-khui, including, extremely charmingly, kissing. It’s a nice change up of the archetypes to have a big strong protective man relinquish the sexual lead to the woman so fully. And the women are not afraid to take their pleasure.
My Takeaway from Ice Planet Barbarians
I was similarly pleasantly surprised at the characterization of the human women throughout the series. Even if they are nearly all thin, white, 20-something Americans with no one back home to miss them, they are all full, distinct characters. Some are more scared than others, some are excited to brave the snow and make a new life, some are solitary and prefer to hunt rather than stay close to the community.
As the series matures, more diversity begins to appear in race, body type, and ability (all the sa-khui learn sign language!), but there is not any in depth discussion of, for example, how a Black woman might feel about being kidnapped for slavery versus a white woman.
There are certainly critiques to be made of this series, similar to critiques that could be made of a book in any other genre. But in a society that loves to see men overpower women physically and mentally in the name of romance and eroticism, Ice Planet Barbarian shows how consent can be extremely sexy.
Marina is a West Coast native living in Washington, DC. She loves writing anything, from sci-fi to creative non-fiction to romance, often drawing inspiration from the frequent travel required by her day job. Her work has appeared in such literary magazines as DistrictLit and Corner Bar Magazine. When she’s not writing, you can find her hosting bar trivia, baking something involving peaches, or bothering her extremely patient dog, Daisy. You can read more of her work at marinabarakatt.com and find pictures of Daisy at @marinabarakatt.