Have you ever felt torn between wanting to finish a book as quickly as you possibly can because you really need to know how the story ends, and wanting to draw the reading out for as long as possible because you don’t want to ever stop spending time with these characters in their world? Well, THAT.
Do you ever get so involved in a story you want to jump into it and scream at the characters that they’re getting it wrong, that if only the paid attention they’d know everything they wanted, everything they dreamed about and everything they thought they couldn’t have was right in front of them? Well, THAT too .
To say this trilogy captured my imagination would be a gross understatement. The moment I read the first few lines of The Slave I was happily and completely lost in the story. My obsession with the tale and the three characters staring in it only became stronger while The Soldier ripped my heart apart and put it back together. I counted down the days until the release of The Master, planned my writing schedule so today would be free and even put aside a book I would not have thought I’d be able to ignore for any reason.
Lysander, the Master, is the narrator in this book and at last we get explanations for actions which appeared inexplicable in The Slave, Tam’s story and The Soldier, Kai’s book. We discover that Lysander is not quite the in control Master he appears to be.
“Kai thought me a strong man, a master he could look up to. He had only ever seen me in my own house, in control. He had no idea how out of control I truly felt.”
We learn that Lysander’s actions stemmed from love; that his sacrifices as well as his seemingly harsh decisions were made out of selfless concern for others rather than misuse of power, even if Lysander himself can’t see it that way.
Before bed we bathed in the pool, and I scrubbed my skin raw but nothing removed the guilt which had eaten its way into my flesh, as thick and cloying as smoke.”
“I trembled with the effort of keeping everything inside, of keeping tears at bay. If I let them out, they’d consume me, and I needed to be strong. Needed to be the master everyone expected me to be.”
And yet the author didn’t portray this character as a saint anymore than she did the other two men. All three of them are recognisable in their humanity, their doubts, their jealousies and their occasionally petty actions. This doesn’t make them lesser characters, quite the opposite. It brings them to life and makes you love them all the more because they are beautiful and admirable despite and because of their faults and the manner in which they fight and overcome them.
Kate Aaron shows us things are rarely how they appear at first glance. Slaves aren’t ignorant or weak, Masters don’t always get it right and aren’t necessarily the strongest personality in the contorted relationship. The master, the slave and the soldier all have their strengths and weaknesses they complement each other even if they are slow to recognise the fact. All three need to be seen and loved for who they are rather than the role society has thrust upon them.
“Of everyone, only Tam and Kai cared about Lysander, the man, rather than what my position of power could offer them.”
I’m not going to say anything about the revelations in this book. Doing so would be a huge disservice to those who haven’t read the book(s) yet. Suffice to say it all worked beautifully and made for a powerful, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful story. Kate Aaron created characters and a world in such vivid clarity the pictures and voices are vivid in my head and safely lodged in my heart. I won’t forget the slave, the soldier or their master anytime soon and know without a doubt a smile will brighten my face whenever they pop into my thoughts.
I want to end with a quick note on the way I rated this book and series.Each story on its own was a solid five star read for me. The three books as a whole – the story in its entirety – warranted more than just the average of the three scores. Free Men is an exceptional trilogy and more than deserves the six star rating I’ve given it. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on what will, without a doubt, be (one of) the best reading experience(s) you’ll have this year.