Alpha males and Omega women clash in this erotic fantasy novel about the power dynamics of sex and gender.
It’s a great risk for Omega woman Claire to enter Thólos Citadel, where brutish Alpha males live, but she has no choice. Disguised and ostensibly aided by blue pills that she’s been taking that suppress her “heat,” she seeks a man named “the Shepherd,” who may be able to help her; the few Omega women left are starving, and Claire is on a mission to save them. Shepherd rescues her from a dangerous situation, but he’s also quick to take advantage of her sexually, as she’s currently fertile, or “broadcasting a heat cycle.” He then reveals that he wants to enslave the Omega women, not help them. Claire is trapped for weeks before she can escape and get the help of Corday, a Beta male who has more free will than other men. It turns out that something more menacing is planned for the Omegas and that the blue pills that Claire has been taking are not at all what they seem. As tensions rise between the Omegas and the Alphas, more is revealed about Claire’s history. Intense dialogue keeps the story moving, although it’s sometimes muddled by the extensive jargon (“pair-bonded,” “Da’rin markings,” “castoffs”) that populates the novel. There’s no shortage of drama as alliances form and surprising betrayals are revealed. The dynamic between the men and women in this dystopia is a disturbing allegory, and the erotic scenes between Claire and the Shepherd start as sensual and become violent. However, the secondary characters, including the kind Corday and the spirited Nona, one of the Omega women, are ultimately more intriguing than Shepherd and Claire’s tortured relationship. There are apparent attempts to make Shepherd into a more sympathetic character, but readers will likely find it hard to see him as anything more than the brute he is.
An ambitious, if sometimes-flummoxing, dystopian offering.