This is my second attempt at writing this review. The first one was very long and gave too much away. This is the sort of book that leaves me wanting to share and rave. I would love to go into minute detail about everything I thought and felt while reading, but that would be a huge disservice to anyone who hasn’t read the book yet. Not only because it might spoil the story. A huge part of the enjoyment reading this book brought me, stemmed from the feelings it ignited in me and the way they developed as the story progressed. Every reader should have the opportunity to experience that for themselves. So, in this second version, I’ll try to restrain myself.
‘The Slave’ is an intriguing story with fascinating characters. That isn’t the main reason it blew me away though. The way the story was told and the manner in which Kate Aaron tackled potentially controversial topics impressed me more than I can adequately put into words.
A story about two slaves and their master could so easily turn into something uncomfortable and dark. The fact that Tam has been with his master since he was twelve could have made this a disturbing read. Yet the impression I was left with when I finished the book, was one of light, love and beauty. That, and an immense appreciation for Kate Aaron’s storytelling powers.
Tam and Kai go through big transformations in this story. Tam has to come to terms with a rival for his beloved master’s affections as well as his growing feelings for the man he sees as his potential replacement. At the same time, Kai has to not only resign himself to the fact he’s no longer a free man but also come to terms with his developing feelings for the man who has bought him, as well as the man who holds him captive. Those changes are so fluent and gradual as to be almost imperceptible. As a result you never question events as they unfold or feelings as they come to the service.
The dynamics in this story are fascinating. Tam and Kai are slaves, be it to a benevolent master. The book beautifully expresses the humiliation resulting from being (made) a slave, the love that can blossom because/despite/in the midst of this unequal situation and the conflicting emotions resulting from that discrepancy.
This story is told from Tam’s perspective and it’s impossible not to fall in love with him as we read. All his feelings, worries, fears and delights were palatable and I for one couldn’t help but become invested in his happiness.
Through Tam’s eyes we get a pretty good idea who Kai is. We may not be able to share the former soldier’s thoughts but Tam spends enough time with him to read him well and share his impressions. Watching Kai slowly change from hostile through friendly to invested in the complicated relationship dynamics was a pure delight.
Master remains much more of an enigma in this book. Tam is almost too close and too dependent on the man who owns him, to give us an objective view of what might be motivating him. The reader gets a few clues, but since they’re delivered from Tam’s perspective it remains to be seen if they can be trusted.
Only after finishing the book did I realise Kate Aaron had made me think about a potentially controversial subject. Slavery is of course a despicable state of affairs. But, as Tam and Kai discuss, was Kai really free when he was a soldier? Or did he move from one form of slavery to another? There is also the issue of Tam’s love for his master. Is this a form of Stockholm Syndrome, as Kai is inclined to believe, or do Tam’s feelings stem from a deeper, more powerful connection?
And before I forget, I should mention this book is both incredibly hot and heartbreakingly tender. The dynamics between the three men took my breath away. The brushing of each other’s hair, the shaving and all the other loving touches they bestow on each other were delightful.
I should probably warn you. This book ends on one hell of a cliff-hanger. Since Kate Aaron was kind enough to release books one and book two, ‘The Soldier’, on the same day, this shouldn’t be a huge issue for you. Of course, the downside of being given an ARC of ‘The Slave’ is that I now have to wait nine days to find out what happens next. I have no doubt Tam and Kai will be living in my thoughts all that time.