This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Blending adventure in the form of a quest and intrigue along with deep character driven plot sets this book apart from many lighter, and I go so far as to say, lesser works in the fantasy romance and historical paranormal romance categories. I was amazed by what happened along with the physical journey as well as, for lack of a better term, the spiritual journey between a human and the elf he sought to bend to his wishes even while promising himself and the elf that it was for a greater good.
James’ family once had a special token of luck given them by the elves that the removal of which took any good from their family and their lands. His only hope to save it all is to recover the luck and he knows where it is. It was used so that a mortal could gain access to the elven lands of In Between. To retrieve it, he needs an elf to guide him so he uses his gambling skills and wins an elven slave from his master.
Loren has been used and abused by mortals for so long that he only feels hate and fear toward them. His new master, James, swears he only wants him to lead him into elven lands to find his family’s luck and then he will free Loren. How could he possibly trust a man who may be an improvement on his last master, but in all essentials is still holding him as a slave?
The two make their way north moving from hostility to wary neutrality to even friendship as they share so much. James brings Loren home to his lands just ahead of those who would take Loren from him. Now that things have changed between them and he knows of Loren’s sufferings and has learned to know and like Loren, he is wracked with guilt for the slave collar that he refuses to remove and with guilt for feeling the way he does for the elf. On Loren’s side, he feels much differently toward James and even likes him, but he cannot forgive him with a slave collar around his neck.
I was caught up in the story from page one. The slavery issue in this story and what it did to those tainted by it was so masterfully handled that I acknowledge it as the strongest piece to me. Right behind it was my enthrallment with the characters of James and Loren. No easy fantasy romance for these two or merely an enemies to lovers romance. It was so much more. It was a trust and a friendship that led to a fierce love that had to be set aside because of the gulf between them.
Speaking of the romance, this book contains dark subject matter in that its about an abused slave, but it is not erotica. There is passion, but it is not acted upon for some time because it is not the focus until all the barriers have been hard fought and pushed aside. In my opinion, this way of writing in the romantic plot was the best way of doing it that would make sense with all the other stuff going on.
So in the end, I was so sated by this story that I can only recommend it heartily and without reservation to those who love m/m fantasy romance or even historical paranormal romance.
Thank you to Net Galley for providing the book for review purposes.