REVIEW: Mindgames by Jasmine Gold

Gabriel, on a mission of mercy, is horrified by what he finds when he arrives in Riviera, a land far from his home. So-called “humans,” bored and decadent, amuse themselves with the senseless torture of their slaves. Yet Gabriel finds unexpected friends. An artist named Animal, who notices everything except Rose, his slavegirl. And Mariah, a slave foisted on Gabriel when he unwittingly prevents her from escaping.

Mariah knows that Master Gabriel’s talk of a different way of life, in which slavery does not exist, is merely the latest and cruelest of the mindgames that humans have inflicted on her for her entire life. She must play along, but actually believing in it would bring disaster to her and to everyone she cares about. Mindgames is about love, and friendship, and the potential for redemption. It is about how one person can change the world, or be destroyed by it.

Warnings: Noncon, Sex Slavery, BDSM, Sexual Torture, some racially charged terminology

Category: M/F, F/M, F/F

Mindgames is an erotic slavefic novel, about a cruel post apocalyptic society where slaves are considered subhuman, and treated with both vicious and casual cruelty. The main character, Gabriel, travels to the land of Riviera to work as a doctor, and finds himself sickened and horrified by what he finds there of the way the people live, and works to change the mindsets of the people around him all the while helping those in need as he can. It’s a little bit of a melodrama, lots of angst and emotional turmoil, and enough BDSM content to make for a very gripping read.

WRITING
The story switches between the POVs of its main cast of characters, and jumps back and forth in the timeline between the present, and the past that Mariah endured. The story involves the ways in which Gabriel challenges the people of Riviera to rethink their treatment of others, and the relationships he forms with the people there, both friendships and slowly building romance. Meanwhile it jumps to Mariah’s story, her experiences from the time she was a child to the time she meets Gabriel, and it is a journey through pain and hardship that, on it’s own might have been too hard to endure reading but interspersed with the happier, more light hearted present feels much more manageable, like a breath of air that enables you to keep swimming. It was really a brilliant decision on the author’s part to tell the story this way; so the darkness of Mariah’s past is never overwhelming, and the lighter more slice of life of Gabriel’s present is never stale.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
The characters themselves are all excellent and exceptionally fun to read. The author did a fantastic job in bringing them all to life, all with very unique personalities and relatable motivations. The dialogue is all very good, and some of my favourite scenes are in some of the conversations that the characters have (especially a fantastic little sex ed scene where Gabriel has to teach someone that masturbation isn’t abnormal). There is a genuine playfulness to the character’s interactions at times that is truly engaging, and some very realistic emotional struggle as well as the characters come to grips with their feelings. On the note of that struggle, the gradual change in character’s perspectives is very beautifully written. It’s slow going, as characters wrestle with how they have been raised to think their whole lives, and have to come to new understandings of life and truth. Even Gabriel is not exempt from confronting his own bias, and I really loved that the book doesn’t let him get away with his own imperfections even as he’s working to bring change to a broken society. He’s not necessarily a hero, nor is he perfect, he’s just a dude trying his best to do the right thing and I really loved that about him.

WORLDBUILDING
This is a dystopic post apocalyptic world, where humanity was almost wiped out, and the surviving humans splintered into masters (those who had resources) and slaves (those who had to beg for resources). It devolved over the generations into an exceptionally cruel and barbaric society, and the history and lay of the land is very well explored by the characters within the text. It’s a bit over the top… the sheer scope of the cruelty is unrealistic enough to make this a very cheesy depiction of BDSM styled slavery, rather than something that can commentate on real world systemic injustice (real world systems of oppression tend to be all the more sinister for being more subtle than this), but if you embrace the over the top nature of it all, it is a pretty entertaining setting to waltz your way through in it’s pages, and it’s revealed and explored very well and in ways that keep the reader very engaged. I loved the way that the world is drawn out in layers, with the past haunting the present and future, showing various pieces of it to the reader as the story progresses. It can be pretty heavy handed, but that’s also for the sake of smut as well, and for a cheesy sci-fi BDSM world it’s fairly well handled.

STEAMINESS
There are, generally, two types of slavefic. Firstly, kink fantasy fiction wherein the point of the text is in the slavery content: in the brutality, the fear, the struggle, and the eventual acquiescence to helplessness and loss of freedom. Then there are the slavefics where the slavery aspect is treated as a problem for the narrative to solve, a hurdle for the characters to overcome and dismantle. This book ends up being both; it’s plot concerns the challenging of the slavery system, but the actual content lingers on it to extents that seem designed to titillate. And there is a very wide array here of various BDSM scenes and scenarios. The sheer creativity present in the sex in this book was impressive, as there is certainly no lack in variety, so I applaud the author for that. There’s so much here if you’re into extreme degradation and humiliation, not to mention all manner of bondage and sadomasochism. I really enjoyed how much the author committed to giving us a glimpse into a truly sex saturated world, and loved the scope of it all. (Of course variety is nice; but it also means there’s more potential to be squicked. I didn’t love the scenes where slaves were forced to do things to each other, but that’s just me. As with any kink work that deals with this kind of breadth of content, proceed with caution.) My only real gripe with the smut content was in particular words the author chose to use, which is always hit and miss with erotica- some people like the word ‘cock’, others prefer ‘dick’, and all that. ‘Butt-fuck’ isn’t my term of choice for anal sex, nor do I love the word ‘penis’ for anything non-clinical, but again: this is merely my own preferences talking.

Mindgames was an incredibly fun read, in equal parts cheesy BDSM porn as well as truly compelling character driven angst and hurt/comfort. I can’t really decide if the over the top nature of the whole thing is a detriment or a benefit to the book to be honest, but I found it enjoyable so I’ll have to call it a plus. Could you tell this story in a more realistic way? Certainly, but would it be as fun? Perhaps not. I had a fantastic time reading it, and couldn’t put it down.

Have you read Mindgames? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Mindgames by Jasmine Gold

  1. Can I ask about the ending? I got about a third into it and gave up because I couldn’t take the squick any more. Basically – I am curious how well the author developed Mariah’s shift from distrust to trust. ALSO – do they just leave, or do they stay and fix the broken society?

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  2. —— SPOILERS BELOW ——-
    Mariah’s perspective shifts quite well, although I agree it took a rather long time. She figures out he’s authentic when there is a mishap that forces him to experience life as a slave. They do simply leave, it doesn’t end with the society fixed, but Animal and Rose stay and it is implied (if not implicit) that they will continue to work to change things. It’s more that the seeds have been sown than any outright progress made just yet. It’s perfectly understandable to find it squicky, it’s got some pretty hardcore content! But I would say that if you were to skip the Mariah Remembers segments you could still enjoy the story of her developing relationship with Gabriel.

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