Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Party Favor by Sara James

Gender-swap or gender-transformation fiction that’s more than just a quick bit of internet porn is often hard to come by (no pun intended). Most of the stories top out at around 20 pages, titillation usually wins out over things like plot or character development, and you can’t expect an exploration of any sort of serious themes. That’s why The Party Favor is such a pleasant surprise. Sara James really tells three overlapping, interlaced stories here, and they all contribute to a novella that’s really quite delightful. While they don’t overwhelm the story, themes of abuse, self-confidence, and female empowerment certainly help to elevate her work and make it both important and entertaining.

It all starts out with an extended, lovingly detailed story about a party game of gender-transformation involving a pair of magic rings. They look like wedding rings, and must be used accordingly – with a man wearing the plain gold band, and the woman wearing the diamond. Whatever couple happens to be wearing them has total control over their partner, allowing them to enhance, accentuate, or completely remake their physical appearance. Sara has a lot of fun with the concept, allowing multiple couples to have their fun, with their own unique motivations and hidden feelings inserting a little innocent fun or subconscious cruelty into the game.

As for those transformations, they’re as fluid as they are painless. It’s like having your body become soft clay or melted max, flowing and molding into new shapes. Some of the transformations are very sensual, some are wildly kinky, and others are just plain odd. It isn’t until Tom and Jane, platonic workplace friends, decide to give it a try that the story kicks into high gear. Just to see if it’s possible, to test the limits of the magic, Jane asks permission to remake Tom into a woman. He’s not at all sure about the idea, but likes her too much to refuse. By the time she’s done, Tom looks like a wet dream, a perfectly exaggerated woman of porn star proportions.

What follows from there is a story of mistaken identities, confused roles, and awkward encounters. Along the way, Sara does a superb job of exploring how much body image dictates our lives, how the need to be loved can blind us to the cruelties of abuse, and how it really is the mind and the heart that define a person. The Party Favor gets rather dark in parts, and goes down some unexpected avenues, but it’s all for a good reason  - and the happily-ever-after is just about as perfect as we could hope, even if it wasn’t what we expected.

No comments:

Post a Comment