Disclaimer: The “Ice Planet Barbarians” franchise is the property of Ruby Dixon. I own nothing, except my own opinions. Though I did write this fun fancast article if you’d like some ideas on who I think should play each role!
Content Warning: In addition to spoilers for the “Ice Planet Barbarian” Series, I occasionally use salty language to describe the events of the books. Have fun!
Claire and Bek – “Ice Planet Holiday”
These two were like oil and water. Although Claire and Bek were together for over a year, it was a bad year. Bek was an oppressive tool and nagged Claire constantly, crushing her spirit. She replied by clamming up and refusing to talk to him. Their break-up, initiated by Claire, was textbook passive-aggression. I’ve seen middle school couples that were more mature than these two.
But I like them as friends! I’m glad they reconciled at Croatoan. That was a nice storyline.
What I Would Like to See: Their friendship is nice, so I’m content with the direction of their relationship.
“Miss Posabule, are you claiming that Lila and Rokan are the worst couple because, as a clingy older sister, their relationship is the literary manifestation of your worst fear? The fear that Bean will abandon you to shack-up with a creepy older man she’s known for three weeks, casting you aside in the role of the jealous, bitter hag, even though all you’ve ever wanted is her happiness?”
First of all, it’s rude to listen in on my therapy sessions. Second, I am fully aware that Bean would ditch me if she met a sexy alien man, and I am fine with that. Third, Rokan and Lila are boring. I could complain about this couple for too long, so instead, I’ll link you to my reviews of Barbarian’s Touch and Barbarian’s Taming.
Also, Rokan was totally going to let Maddie die in that cave-in in Barbarian’s Taming.
What I Would Like To See: I wish Rokan and Lila had been closer in age because he was so mature and she was not. Also, I think if Lila had shown an interest in wanting to be a parent, her running off to “make an alien baby” with Rokan would have felt less creepy. Lastly, Lila was pretty unfeeling when it came to her older sister, so I would have liked to see that conflict play out more, rather than making Maddie the bad guy.
Tiffany and Salukh – “Barbarian’s Prize”
The games to win Tiffany’s heart were already boring (and sexist) and should have been shut down before they even began. I was disappointed that the other women, especially Kira, weren’t more sympathetic to Tiffany’s legitimate fear of angering the men. But alas, this is about Salukh. While I think it’s cool that he was “waiting for resonance” like a little romantic, I found it a lot less romantic when he referred to watching Tiffany like tracking prey. Buddy, if she’s prey, then you’re the predator. Maybe that’s not a great analogy to start your relationship, especially if the object of your affection is clearly recovering from a traumatic experience.
What I Would Like to See: I’d prefer if Salukh not refer to Tiffany as prey and also try to make more of an effort to see the value in her interests beyond “Tee-fah-nee likes this.” Or maybe he could even develop interests of his own. I like to think Salukh is super into making puppets. Also, I think after Tiffany’s traumatic experiences (including that week stranded on the ice planet while battling Type 1 diabetes), I would have liked to see her and Salukh be a couple for a little while longer before babies came into the picture.
Maylak and Kashrem – “Calm”
Maylak is a nice alien lady who cares deeply about the health and well-being of her tribe. Maylak is worried about the tribe, but she lives on a prehistoric death planet and there was a plague only 15 years ago, so I’d say her fears were warranted. Kashrem is her mate, and together they have a family. He wants Maylak to rest more, and Maylak is too busy to rest. There really isn’t much more to them.
What I would Like to See: I would like to see Maylak challenged more in the series. For example, I liked the unexpected turn in “Ice Planet Holiday” when she had no idea how to deliver Georgie’s baby. That was some genuine conflict! The story resolved itself, but I think it would be great to show more of that.
Kate and Harrec – “Barbarian’s Lady”
Harrec is dumb and loud-mouthed, while fluffy-haired Amazonian Kate is defensive and deeply insecure. Their hate-love relationship is based on a minor miscommunication, in which Harrec draws attention to her height, which she interprets as an insult. This is the entire book. Harrec tries to compliment her, she assumes he’s insulting her, and they fight until they don’t. Then they resonate.
What I Would Like to See: I like Harrec well enough, but I found Kate to be a little dull. I think their story would have been more interesting if they had resonated sooner in the book, like just after they were separated from everyone else. It would have been interesting to watch them navigate their relationship while being forced to be with each other. I don’t count being alone in a cave as compelling enough. Resonance screams, “You are stuck with this person forever!” so I would have liked to see them handle that before they’d ironed out the kinks in their relationship.
Marlene and Zennec – “Barbarian’s Seduction”
In post-apocalyptic stories, there is always one character who adapts to the dangerous new world a little too well and a little too quickly. You know the kind I’m talking about – they’re likely the first person to consider cannibalism, even if they don’t verbalize those thoughts. Then the next thing you know, they’re imposing martial law on their tiny society in which they are the self-appointed ruler.
That would absolutely be Marlene, except instead of cannibalism, she’s just a little too onboard with breeding with an alien. My pet theory is that she’s a cosplay enthusiast, and Zennec is the sexiest man she could have ever imagined, down to the horns and tail.
Zennec, in turn, is way too overwhelmed by the whole situation, and, honestly, he didn’t even seem to like Marlene, at least until he thought Zolaya was checking her out. The best moments of “Barbarian’s Seduction” were when Marlene met Kemli, her mother-in-law, and when Marlene rescued her family from the Metlaks. That part of the story was great, but the romance between the main characters needed more cooking.
What I Would Like to See: I would have liked to see Zennec fall in love with Marlene over a longer period because it seemed like time and patience were what he needed. The immediate bang-fest between Marlene and Zennec was funny enough, but I think the story would have benefited if Zennec could admit that he wasn’t ready. Also, I want my theory of “Marlene is a cosplayer and maybe a furry” to be confirmed.
Claire needed some help dumping Bek, and instead of just talking to him like a normal person, she enlisted the help of Erevan. Erevan genuinely liked Claire but kept his distance when he realized Bek was closing in on her. Besides that, Erevan’s only notable characteristics are being nice and enjoying raw meat. Claire’s qualities also include being nice and liking Christmas. Together, they are excited to have a baby.
What I Would Like To See: Erevan is a blank-slate in that he’s the only romantic hero with no internal dialogue. Therefore, I would love it if he had a rich inner world and was the most talented and intelligent of the Sa-khui. He’s Erevan the Erudite, while the other Sa-khui men are still hunting with spears and talking about third nipples. I also think it would be amazing if he was the only short Sa-khui (standing at a Smurfish 6 ft).
Summer and Warrec – “Barbarian’s Rescue”
Their story was exciting! I like how quiet Warrec had to break out of his shell and help Summer save the rest of their friends from evil aliens. I wish that had been the plot, rather than “there are now a bunch of new girls, and Summer is jealous.” Summer and Warrec had a great repertoire, and they’re a nice pairing – the anxious chatterbox nerd with the quiet, shy hunter. The only problem with this pairing was the age difference – Warrec is 56 and Summer is 22. I think she even mentions getting kidnapped from her dorm (which is so gross).
I’m less disturbed by their age difference because even though Warrec is technically old enough to be Summer’s dad, he’s not creepy or aggressive, and Summer could easily be aged up to like, 30 without changing her personality. I was also desensitized to the age differences by this point, but I’m still not a fan.
What I would like to see: Make Summer older. Tada. Problem solved.
Stacy and Pashov – “Barbarian’s Heart”
I enjoyed “Barbarian’s Heart.” I thought it was a heartfelt story about two people falling back in love. I liked reading the adventure the tribe embarked upon to find their new home. And the addition of the dirt beaks was fun! However, I did not enjoy Stacy and Pashov’s characters, who felt undefined. Both Stacy and Pashov are kind of bland and nice (though I think Stacey forgiving Maddie shows character strength). They both enjoy eating, which is less a characteristic and more a basic necessity of life. Though I agree with Stacy that eggs are amazing.
What I Would Like to See: Why was Stacy so content with her life after landing on Not-Hoth? Sure, she was in love with Pashov, and the combination of baby/cooking stuff kept her busy, but I would have liked to see what Stacy was like back on Earth. My pet theory is that she was massively in debt, and the alien kidnapping took care of that little problem for her.
This book is tricky because Bek does a profoundly shitty thing. He bargains with aliens to bring female slaves to planet Not-Hoth to serve as mates for the single hunters. That’s really, really, really, really bad.
I can’t even say that he had good intentions because it wasn’t like he was thinking about what was best for the women he purchased. He may be ignorant of the concept of slavery, but he’s not ignorant to the concept of “women hate it when you force them to do stuff.” It would be easy for me to blame Bek alone for being such a dickhead, but the problem lies with Sa-khui culture.
In Sa-khui culture, single men feel like they don’t have a purpose unless they have a mate. The mated hunters are given preferential treatment because they have a “family to provide for” and all that nonsense. So for every single hunter left, well, tough titties, your life is meaningless. Go hunt a dvisti or something.
Bek spent like 10 years watching other aliens mack on each other and was all, “My loneliness is killing me,” so he did what he had to do. Was it good? No. Do I support his choice? As a reader, yes, as a person with a conscience, Hell no.
I liked Elly! She had gumption and stood up for herself. The poor girl had been through hell and back, so she deserved a little tenderness. I was a little moved when reading about Bek and Elly falling in love. Bek admired her from the moment he met her, and even though she smelled like garbage, he was devoted to her.
My biggest criticism will probably be obvious: Elly has been a slave for a decade since she was a child. Now that’s she in her early 20s, she immediately resonates and has about 14 months before motherhood. That’s kind of a bummer. I feel like she deserves more time to just be Elly without having to be “Elly, the mom.” Sure, Bek is thrilled, but his life’s purpose is to find a mate and have a baby, which is drastically different from Elly’s purpose of “surviving.”
What I Would Like to See: Give Elly a long, drama-free pregnancy. Take advantage of the full three years that Sa-khui babies need to gestate so that Elly can have time to just be herself. Elly’s life has existed without choice and joy, and throwing a baby into the mix so soon feels like a terrible idea.
Our first couple! We have the luxury of examining their relationship over several books. I’m not going to count the first story so much as that book was mostly laying down the series’s premise. Vektal and Georgie have a few nice moments together, though their time is usually split between fretting over the tribe and getting freaky with each other.
Some of my favorite moments with these two are when they’re leading the tribe, like in “Aftershocks.” It was pretty refreshing to read about the two of them interacting without it devolving into weird alien sex (not to knock the weird alien sex – we all know why these books are so addictive). Though they’re far from perfect – Vektal is not the sharpest spear in the supply cave, and Georgie has been insensitive to the other women in several books (Ariana and Tiffany, especially). Despite their shortcomings, I thought the Honeymoon story did a good job showing how much the two care about each other and their tribe, so I hope to see more stories like that.
What I Would Like to See: The Sa-khui should be a matriarchy, and Georgie should become the leader of the tribe. Let’s be real here, Vektal might know the land, but Georgie is the one who manages our people. So I think the series should acknowledge Georgie as the true leader of the Sa-khui/human tribe, and Vektal can be the first gentleman.
Asha and Hemalo – “Barbarian’s Hope”
It wasn’t even their book that sold me on them. In “Barbarian’s Taming”, the tribal cave was collapsing in on itself. Yet, even though Asha and Hemalo were sleeping in separate caves, he still raced to save her. Without Hemalo’s help, Hassen could not have saved Asha and Maddie. Despite all that they’ve been through, Hemalo loves Asha more than ever.
He just has no idea how to deal with her. After the tragic loss of their newborn daughter, Asha slunk into a deep depression, which only got worse when the human women arrived and began pooping out babies like the Duggars. His response to her anguish was to just kind of… do nothing? His intention was to give her space to think, which was clearly the wrong idea because it made Asha even more miserable. Plus, there were Asha’s attempts at infidelity, which were clearly just a cry for help disguised as attention-seeking behavior.
What I’m saying is that Asha and Hemalo are flawed but decent people who love each other and deserve a second chance. What I found most romantic about their story was near the end when they acknowledged that they had no control over the future, but no matter what, they would deal with it together.
What I Would Like to See: It would be nice if the rest of the tribe acknowledged the depth of Asha’s suffering without treating her like a nuisance. I’m glad Asha had Nora and Claire as friends. It would also be nice to see more of Hemalo’s internal dialogue.
Farli and Mardok – “Barbarian’s Choice”
We’ve watched Farli grow up and have witnessed countless examples of her kind, selfless, and open-hearted nature. Whether taking care of baby dvisti or befriending tribal outcasts, Farli is a little sweetie, and I want the best for her. Thus, enter Mardok, a cynical mechanic who sees Farli and instantly recognizes her for the angel she is.
The main drama is “should Farli leave the ice planet to travel the galaxy with Mardok?” Of course, we know she won’t because she has so many reasons to stay, and Mardok has, like, no family and nothing to live for out in the universe. But at the same time, I completely understood why Mardok was like, “we need to leave this fucking paleolithic ice nightmare world because there’s no running water or central heating, and it sucks ass.” So either way, the series is called “Ice Planet Barbarians,” not “Mostly Ice Planet but Some Space Barbarians.”
What I Would Like to See: I’ve got no notes. Normally I’d say something like “Farli should be older,” but even though she’s only 22, we know that Farli is an intelligent woman who knows herself, who’d also grown up with the romantic narrative of resonance. So if Farli wants to run off with a 38-year-old jaded space mechanic, then I say go for it, Honey Bun.
These two are nice. Rukh’s an alien savage who likes to rock out with his cock out, and she’s a brilliant cancer patient in remission. I liked Harlow – she was given a second chance at life and took it. She’s clever, empathetic, and stands up for herself. On the other hand, Rukh is kind of grimy with his unwashed hair and everything, but he knows what a treasure Harlow is, even if he doesn’t understand why. He’s a big dumb idiot, and she’s the center of his universe.
What I Would Like to See: Rukh should take a bath sooner. Also, I would like to see more of Harlow’s ingenuity and what drives her to tinker and create. Although she was studying to be a veterinarian, I think it makes more sense that she would have been studying engineering because she clearly likes it and has a knack for it.
Brooke and Taushen – “Barbarian’s Tease”
They may have gotten off to a rough start, but I was rooting for these crazy kids. Brooke is so cool and confident, but she’s also deeply empathetic. Poor Taushen is a Grumpasaurus Rex for the same reason as Bek. However, Bek still has a surviving family in his sister Maylak and cousin Asha, whereas Taushen is a sad, lonely orphan that the tribe patronizes. Even writing that made me sad. Damn.
I didn’t love that Taushen “kidnapped” Brooke. Like, dude, if you had just told her your plan of going away with her, she would have been down. Why the need for sneaky underhandedness? I love that Brooke turned the tables on him and made her kidnapping a “fun vacation” for both of them. I thought that showed Brooke’s cleverness and resiliency, and then watching her and Taushen progress from friends to lovers (as equals) was nice.
What I Would Like to See: I think it would have been nice if Taushen had one living relative. His parents had a three-way marriage, so I would have liked it if one of his parents had survived the khui sickness. It would make his circumstances feel less crushingly depressing. Don’t get me wrong – Taushen would still want a girlfriend, but his loneliness would seem less dire. Also, I want to see more Brooke. Maybe Dixon could write a book about them after they return to Croatoan?
God, I love sweet Dagesh, that brainless idiot. Poor Nora has to do all their thinking, but that doesn’t mean Dagesh doesn’t try. Nora is lovely in that she’s demonstrably kind, going out of her way to befriend Asha and thinking about other people’s feelings.
Their book had one of the funniest storylines. Dagesh notices that Nora isn’t all that happy on the Ice Planet, so he throws her a wedding. He goes to all the effort of creating a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony for Nora, only for her response to be, “Uh, this is nice, but I need you to spank me when we fuck.” Move over, Romeo and Juliet; there is a new romantic tragedy to usurp you.
What I would like to see: Nothing. Actually, never mind, of course, I have notes. Dagesh has unresolved trauma from losing his family, and I would have liked to see that explored just a little more. Maybe there should be another Nora and Dagesh book? We could learn why Nora thought it was a good idea to name her children after the most overrated Disney movie!
I’ve probably angered someone by not putting them up higher on the list, but what if I told you they were the couple that made me go, “I guess I’m reading the entire series now.” Liz and Raahosh are what sold me on Ice Planet Barbarians. Or rather, Liz is incredible, and she needs her own series. Everything she says is gold, and I’m so glad she plays a supporting role in Icehome.
Their relationship gets off to a weird start. Raahosh kidnaps her and tries to put her in a situation where she’s completely dependent on him, which is profoundly fucked up. His intentions were to kidnap her, get her preggers, and bring her back to the tribe when she was visibly pregnant. This is a bad way to start a relationship, and it began a dangerous precedent in the series in which men would “kidnap” women as a romantic gesture. It’s like a caveman version of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” I think what makes their story work is that Liz was way more than Raahosh could handle or even hope for, so I’m glad these two freaks found each other.
What I would like to see: It would have been nice if the tribe acknowledged why kidnapping a woman was bad beyond “it puts a life-bringer in danger.” Raahosh took a massive risk, was briefly exiled for like, a week, and then was handsomely rewarded for his crime when Liz got herself exiled as well. In terms of a romance novel, fine, I’m cool with it. But when you look at it over a series of books, it’s less okay, as it inspired several copy-cat crimes.
Oh, and on a plot note, I think Liz and Raahosh should have discovered the fruit cave.
I bet Kira has watched the BBC “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries a hundred times. She strikes me as someone who has always wanted love and a family but felt like her infertility put up a wall between her and every man she’s ever liked.
Thus, enter Aehako, who’s determined to break down her emotional wall like he’s the goddamn Kool-Aid Man. His fixation on Kira bordered on obsessive and weird, but considering the trauma Kira endured, I think she needed someone to be a little obsessive about her. I think their story was helped because it contained an actual plot: the aliens from the first book have come back to settle some scores, and now it’s up to Kira to save the day. It was a good book!
Kira learns to embrace joy and love, and Aehako doesn’t really advance as a character, but he was great as-is, so no worries.
What I Would Like to See: I think Kira was single for reasons beyond her infertility. My guess was when she went out with someone, she would ask him if he wanted kids before they ordered their entrees. In my experience, that’s a good way to avoid a second date. I’d also like to learn more about her experience as the first abductee. Does she still think about her time in the cargo bay?
Ariana and Zolaya – “Barbarian’s Beloved”
My hot take is that Ariana and Zolaya are the only couples who would still get together if they were to meet on Earth. Boom, I said it. My evidence for this claim is nonexistent. I just get a vibe from them.
I appreciated that Zolaya was such a friendly, charming guy but was sensitive enough to realize when Ariana was terrified and overwhelmed. He was kind and empathetic and went out of his way to cheer up his fragile girl. I’m glad he has a larger role in Icehome! Meanwhile, throughout this series, Ariana has been dragged through the mud. She’s consistently referred to as “high-maintenance” and “annoying” by the rest of the tribe. When we finally get to know her, we learn that she is too aware of her unlikeable personality. How many of us have been in that position? It hurts to draw negative attention to yourself and become known as the “problematic one.” My heart went out to her, and I wanted her to be happy. She seemed like a good person caught in a crazy situation, and she handled it poorly. I think that makes her a lot more relatable than most of the heroines in romance novels.
I like that she was the only human girl to show genuine interest in Sa-khui customs. As an academic, Ariana may be disappointed that so many of those customs revolve around cunnilingus. But, as a woman, she’ll be fine with it.
What I Would Like to See: Ariana and Zolaya are a sweet couple, and I have no notes, except that I think the Sa-khui culture needs a bit of development. For example, their birth rituals, funeral rituals, calendar system, songs, etc. Ariana is technically living an archaeologist’s dream, so let’s give her a few things to write down aside from “the Sa-khui hunters love to eat pussy.”
Damn, their story was so good. I loved reading about Megan’s internal struggles. Their first story, “Having the Barbarian’s Baby” was fine, and I like that it developed Cashol’s character as a caring but goofy guy, but I wanted to know more about Megan. In addition to being kidnapped from Earth, her pregnancy was forcibly removed, but she was mated to Cashol before we could learn more about her. I wanted to know what was on her mind and if she was truly so happy, and I think it was genuine that she was anxious and frightened about her future.
I will always enjoy watching people at odds with each other reach a mutual understanding. Even though Cashol liked Megan, he didn’t know her, so how could he help her and be the person she needed? Once the two talked and Megan could confess her (reasonable) fears to Cashol, then they could be happy. It was interesting to relive the early days of the women’s arrival with Megan.
What I Would Like to See: More feet jokes.
Maddie has an interesting internal dialogue. She spends much of the book hating herself and her circumstances and beating herself up for not being more supportive to her younger sister. Except for every time she mentions Lila, she rhapsodizes about Lila’s good qualities or is celebrating her achievements. Bad people don’t do that. I think Maddie’s a great character and easily the most relatable of the heroines.
Maddie feels ostracized for a good reason. First, she committed the cardinal sin of caring too much about her younger sister being kidnapped, and then she committed the next sin of not being thrilled about living on a shitty prehistoric ice planet. Thus, she wanders Not-Hoth searching for purpose and someone to understand her, and she finds that in the very man who kidnapped her sister in the first place.
It’s a weird situation, but it works because Maddie sees beyond Hassen’s foolish actions to the person underneath. A lonely, desperate man. And she wants to break herself off a piece of that.
Near the end of the story, I would have been totally okay if Maddie and Hassen had wandered off and started their own tribe. But Hassen needs his people as much as he needs Maddie, and being apart from the tribe was killing him, so Maddie does what it takes to get him accepted again. They are the couple that brings out the best in each other.
What I would Like to See: Maddie spends too much time thinking about Lila’s well-being, and I wish that care had been reciprocated. It would have been nice to see the two of them having fun together instead of constant conflict and sadness. I’m also not crazy about the message that you don’t need anyone else if you have your man. The story would have been a lot stronger if Lila and Maddie acknowledged that they still needed each other, but their relationship would have to change as they grew up. As for Hassen, it would have been dope if he’d learned a lesson beyond “Make sure you steal the right sister.”
These two were meant to be. From the first moment he met her, Haeden was drawn to Josie, even if he thought she was an annoying loudmouth. He reacted to that instant attraction by being rude and overbearing, doing everything he could to push her away because he didn’t know how to handle his attraction to her.
I thought Josie’s thought process made complete sense – as a foster child, she had been subject to constant abuse, and now she did not want to raise a child in an abusive environment. Josie had no reason to believe that Haeden would magically transform into the man of her dreams just because the two resonated.
Then, after a lot of push and pull, the two of them had a conversation. They spoke to each other like adults. And they considered the other person’s perspective! It was incredible! It was also clear that the two had never tried to understand each other before. Finally, after curbing him for weeks, Josie consented to let Haeden smash.
I think this book is a good example of “It’s not the destination, but the journey.” I know that the two will end up together in the end, but the exciting part is learning how and why I want them to be together. I think it’s interesting that some readers found Josie annoying for not giving into resonance sooner. These books are addictive for many reasons; one reason is that resonance (or any forced relationship) is an interesting plot device. What do you do when your choice is taken away from you? Do you give in to it and accept that your life will not pan out the way you’d dreamed? Or do you fight it? Josie has spent most of her life powerless, and when confronted with a dismal choice, she tries to fight the inevitable. Eventually, she has to choose to stop fighting, but I admire her for doing it on her own terms.
What I Would Like to See: I have no notes! Though it would have been cool if Josie could visit her island. Maybe she hitches a ride on a Sky-Claw? That’d be awesome.
Kemli, Borran, and Vadren – “Barbarian’s Seduction”
Good for you, little freaks. Have fun in your sunset years.
What I Would Like to See: Their book, obviously.
Alright readers, now that I’ve ranked the couples, I’m curious – who do you think is the best IPB couple?