So, this was my first ever foray into the m/m genre. And in terms of style and tropes this is probably one of the top ranked of its kind. Since I don’t have much experience with said genre I read it as I would any book set in a fantasy world. Unsurprisingly, judged as a fantasy novel this does not hold up. Too many aspects of the society depicted remain unexplained.
For instance, where are all the women and what is their role in a society that is so dominated by men?
Yes, they are there on the side-lines and they actually seem to have the same rights and privileges as men as far as I could tell (they keep their own pleasure slaves and are allowed to all kinds of courtly events). And of course they play their part in reproduction and there are heterosexual marriages. I even kind of like that this is not really an issue in the book. It doesn’t need to be stated that there is no gender discrimination in that way. A few (important) female characters would have been nice though. I know this is something that is left out due to the genre of the novel.
Another aspect that is common in m/m novels is of course the erotic elements and sex scenes between men. Reading this as a fantasy novel these scenes came to be somehow unexpectedly and I kept trying to figure out their function. This is of course overthinking it. There’s no need to explain or discuss the function of sex scenes in an erotic novel. I like, however, how sexual actions of any kind are actually explained as part of the culture. Sex in this society has two dominant purposes – pleasure and power. The cruelty in some of the scenes made me pretty uncomfortable though. Good thing there weren’t too many of them.
Apart from these two aspects (the lack of female characters and the depiction of sexual acts) I did quite like the story. If you ignore the fact that this is supposed to be an erotic novel, there is a lot more to find here. Pacat can write! She is good at creating characters and plotlines. The political intrigues and the prince-to-slave idea are both gripping and interesting. The supposed bad guy is absolutely fascinating and makes up for the rather dull protagonist (I’m looking at you, Damen!).
So, yeah I liked it. I could’ve done without the rape and cruelty. But I liked it. And I want to know what happens next.