I should not have started this book when I did. I had books to read for review (with deadlines looming over my head), several reviews to write and another book halfway finished. But after being drawn to it by a review from a Goodreads friend, I bought it and started it immediately. Everything else came to a screeching halt until I finished.
This book gripped me in a way that very few books can manage. It starts off with unimaginable sexual brutality but if you’re able to recover from the first few chapters of grue and pain you should be ready to deal with all that happens later. I knew what I was getting into, having read some spoilerific reviews but it was still . . . shocking.
Yhalen is a young, beautiful, carefree forest dwelling human who spends his time flirting and having sex with his closest male friends. He is blissfully ignorant of what lurks beyond the boundaries of the safe haven his people call home. Political machinations mean nothing to him but everything in Yhalen’s world is shattered when he is attacked by a group of violent ogres. REALLY bad things happen to Yhalen. He only manages to survive by tapping into power he hadn’t realized he had. Scary, awful, forest destroying powers that frighten him and shake him to the core. And as if all this weren’t bad enough he’s given to Bloodraven, a half-human/half-ogre warlord who chains him up like a dog and uses him as a sexual toy.
Sounds truly awful, doesn’t it? Well, it is! But I’ll be honest. I could not stop reading. The world is vivid, the writing thoroughly captivating and it never lets up. Yhalen maintains his spirit despite everything and does not make a good submissive slave. He has a strong will to survive and after all he’s been through at the hands of the ogres he has to admit that Bloodraven isn’t as bad as all that. He’s afraid, he’s tormented and he despises Bloodraven’s touch but he submits because he hasn’t a choice. As time goes by he realizes that there is more to Bloodraven than his brutal ogre side and he is shamed to find his body responding to Bloodraven. Though raised by ogres he is much smarter than any full blood ogre, he’s ambitious (some may say insanely ambitious) and has grand plans to save other half-lings from the torment they’re currently exposed to in the ogre camp. Bloodraven’s plans include Yhalen, who he’s growing increasingly fond of. As the story progresses the two forge an uneasy relationship that will be tested time and again.
Their relationship is a slow building and tenuous thing that changes as circumstances change. Both characters have major struggles to overcome and inner issues. This is not a “shove all the bad stuff under the carpet and forget about it while you declare your undying love and live happy ever after” type of story. It’s rough and pain-filled and in the end very believable. There are no unrealistic revelations of undying love on either side but what they have is strong and it worked for me on so many levels. I could have spent another 500 pages with these two and still wanted more. The story was darkly fascinating. 5 stars all the way.