No one knows how or why it happened. One day, half the world was as good as gone, locked behind a shield no one could break. Tantric magic began to work, a sex magic giving women a new power. The metal libidium, when charged with tantric magic, allowed the creation of a flying city, airships, and so much more — suddenly freeing women from the oppression of men. Thus began a new form of government on the floating Amethyst City: A matriarchy.
Now, years later, women like Charlotte fly Liberty Ships, giant air ships that can sneak through the sky as quiet as a whisper and, with the powerful magic wielded by their captains, fly as fast and free as a bird. Liberty Ships will sometimes be called to land, to whisk away women and children who need rescuing, but at the moment, Charlotte is simply visiting Amethyst City to refuel.
What should have been a briefly annoying visit to the city her ex-wife, Lauren, and her new partner call home ends up being so much more exciting when a Doll, a sex golem made of white metal and golden gears, begs Charlotte for help. Maybe it’s just to piss of Major Erin Enright — her ex-wife’s lover and major pain in Charlotte’s ass — or maybe it’s because she can’t not rescue someone in distress, but Charlotte steals the Doll aboard her ship and makes a run for it.
The question is, can they run fast enough?
The first entry in the Tales of the Tantric Aviatrix series, The Clockwork Courtesan does a lot of heavy lifting as far as world building, dropping a load of exposition and history. It’s also a book that feels like it has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek as it deals with sex metals powered by sex magic, captains and crews who have to do sex magic to keep their ships flying, and sex Dolls who are powered by a sex metal and sex magic.
Charlotte is a woman who favors men, though she is bisexual. She’s also a top, giving off a slightly more aggressive female energy. This, in a society that praises all things female, tends to put her somewhat on the fringes, which is why she’s captain of a ship and not living on the city in some form of governance. That, and Lauren and Erin both hold positions of some respect in the city. The matriarchy doesn’t encourage monogamy, as it’s less magically efficient, but does allow for marriages. Charlotte and Lauren had an open relationship, so long as there was honesty. But Lauren and Erin lied to her face, cheating on Charlotte by claiming they weren’t together when they were.
That experience and the fallout have made Charlotte hesitant to trust, so when the Doll, Tash, uses her seduction powers to help convince Charlotte to assist her, it doesn’t go well. Tash knows she did wrong and is quick to apologize, but she needed to leave the city before the city used her to destroy the world.
Tash doesn’t know who she is, or what she is, or why she is. She has no memory beyond waking up, running away from the people chasing her, being shot, and being rescued. And even though she’s made of metal and cogs and gears, she’s very much — in her own belief, at least — a living, feeling, sapient being who does not want to be enslaved for someone else’s desire.
The mystery of Tash is compelling, but the book ends on a cliffhanger, so I have to wait for the next book to see how it plays out. On its own, I think this is a fun little novella if you’re in the mood for a big of light, silly fun. However, if you’re inclined to wait because of the cliffhanger, I completely understand. As it is, I enjoyed this book and think it’s worth taking a chance on.