Title ~ A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3)
Author ~ Alexandr Voinov
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 13th October 2014
Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.
After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his Empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.
Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly-appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.
With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire
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Hi, thank you for hosting me here today. I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and blogging about A Taste for Poison, the third (and last) novel in my Memory of Scorpions series.
I’m deeply curious about how gender and gender roles are constructed and lived out by society – ours and societies that I made up, like the ones in the Memory of Scorpions series.
From those ruminations sprang, fully formed, characters outside the normal gender binary. I didn’t want to “cram them in”, they just happened and they felt appropriate. And cool.
Amrash was actually the first character I knew about in the sequel—apart from Graukar. Amrash represents the sacred hermaphrodite, and thus the perfect human being. S/he sometimes translates gender into a form that the host can understand, by adjusting dress.
I know that the Jaishani have that level of flexibility to accept non-binary people based on clues such as dress and make-up. The uncomfortable “Which pronoun would you prefer?” discussion doesn’t happen in their culture.
The institution of the tanesh is largely equivalent to the eunuch as seen in Byzantine history. Often, eunuchs are seen as effeminate or soft. Well, I’d like to introduce you to Narses, Byzantine general (check him out). Kiran would also beg to differ.
I’m also intrigued by women warriors, so the Lady Protector, daughter of a militarist and full-blooded warrior-tyrant, came from that. If you only have two children and make plans for a warrior dynasty, you’d teach both of them to be nails. So being warriors is absolutely a choice in this world for women, and the Flames are regarded as an elite unit rather than an oddity. I don’t think a militaristic society has much resources or understanding for oddities anyway. She’s been criticised as being “un-feminine”—well, we only see her as a warrior and politician. And almost all female politicians I’m aware of have their “femininity” questioned. Personally, I believe we get to define what femininity and masculinity means to us. And I wouldn’t discard the thought that the Lady Protector might at times arrange flowers in a vase or wear some lacy something to seduce her lover, or even cuddle a cute newborn foal when she feels like it. She’s just not doing any of that on camera or where Kendras can witness.
Runner, of course, plays the “woman in trousers” role, which has been done a lot. I guess she’s also a nod to the whole “weak woman gets raped and is out for revenge” trope, though I’m resolving that in a different manner. She’s also carrying the whole “women are weaker than men and have less aggression hence make bad warriors” argument usually put forward by men who’ve never fought a woman. (I encountered a lot of fighting women in the martial arts and fencing, as well as boxing. Tell them they aren’t proper warriors—or women. Enjoy.) Her response is—education, and technology. If you can load a crossbow, you’re any man’s equal. Besides, technique counts for a lot.
Nhala represents a different kind of female power—there’s no doubt in my mind that she largely controls what’s going on in the palace. She’s one you wouldn’t want to mess with. Yes, she’s pregnant. So what, she’d say.
So, yeah, I enjoyed writing them all and tried to have a more balanced spread of gender identities and gender roles than in traditional fantasy, where women tend to be rescued, raped, or serve as a motivation for the male hero to get his stuff together (or all of those). I think it’s high time, too.
Meet the Author
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.