Monday 27 October 2014

THE SOLDIER by Kate Aaron, Release Day Review

THE SOLDIER by Kate Aaron
Pages: 170
Date: 27/10/2014
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 2 Free Men
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

“Three months. That’s all it took for Kai to forsake freedom and learn to love his new life as pleasureslave to a wealthy Thirskan Underlord.

Finding himself surrounded by his own people once more, Kai should have been happy: relieved to be rescued from slavery, and out of the clutches of a man who was the sworn enemy of his people. Yet his people are not how he remembers them. Distrustful of Kai, and disgusted by his relationship with not one man but two, they make it abundantly clear he no longer fits in.

Beaten, starved, and tortured, when the chance comes to escape, Kai is barely strong enough to make the journey. Even if he succeeds, how could anybody ever love the thing he’s become in order to survive?”

My thoughts:

In my review of “The Slave I tried to be objective and talk about the story and all the subjects it addresses without getting to gushy about it. I can’t do that again. Every review bone in my body is screaming at me to quote from and gush about this book, and so I will.

This is Kai’s story. We got to know him through Tam’s eyes in “The Slave”. In “The Soldier” we hear what happens after Tam, Master and Kai were attacked at the end of the first book, leaving both characters and readers on a knife’s edge.

This book takes us into the heart and mind of the soldier who lost the man he loved before being captured and sold as a slave. The sentiments with which he remembers those moments in the desert stole my breath.

“I wished it [the sand] would swallow me, wished I could disappear completely beneath the surface and sleep the eternal dreamless sleep.”

And that was just the first of many times Kai’s pain tore at me. Be prepared to have your heart broken as you watch him suffer. I almost wanted to curse Kate Aaron’s descriptive powers as I could almost smell his scorched skin, as his pain became so vivid I could almost feel it.

“I was my agony.”

Kai is a beautiful soul. His first concerns are always for the two men he’s grown to love during the three months of his enslavement. Being back among his own people doesn’t change that loyalty and neither does the torture he has to endure. His fears for their safety are bigger than concerns about his own life. Kai’s biggest fear is that the damage done by the torture he endures at the hands of his own people might turn both Master and Tam away from him in disgust.

“Yet, despite everything, I couldn’t find it within me to wish I’d never been his slave.”

With ‘The Slave’, Kate Aaron gave us a relatively pain and angst free story with a massive cliff-hanger at the end. The Soldier is anything but pain and angst free. Physical as well as emotional pain is visited upon all three men. Poor Kai is lost. While Tam and Master at least have the certainty of having been captured by enemies, Kai is left with what feels to him like nothing. The people who captured him are his own but don’t want him anymore. Tam and Master feel closer to his heart than any of those who hold them prisoner, but is he still with them now that the situation has changed?

“We could never go back to the way life was before, but as long as Master and Tam would have me, I was theirs.”

I did mention Master was an enigma in my review of ‘The Slave’, didn’t I? Well, an enigma he remains. More suggestions are made and a few veils are lifted, but the story seems to present more new questions than it answers old ones. Who the Master is and what his motives are remains something of a mystery. One which I guess won’t be solved until the final book.

Like I said, your heart will break, time and again and not just because of the ordeals Kai has to face and the feelings he is struggling with. Tam is suffering at least as much.

“I can’t do this again, Kai. I can’t. When they attacked, when I thought Master was dead and I was going to have to watch them murder you too, I couldn’t bear it. I wanted it to be over. When you hit me, before I passed out, do you know what my last thought was? (...) I thought you’d killed me, and my last thought was ‘thank you.’ – Tam

Kate Aaron’s language is beautiful whether she uses it to describe her men, the ordeals they face or Kai’s inner thoughts:

“Overhead, the rings glowed cold and white, indifferent to the toils of one small man lost and alone in the middle of the vast and unending desert.”

Oh Kai, how you broke my heart.

“I cried for what I could not have because if I allowed myself to cry for all the things I had lost, I feared I would never stop.”

And this, o my God, all the feels:

“Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, because I want to believe you so badly, and if you’re wrong, it will only hurt me more.”

Just in case you’re starting to worry this book is all violence, pain and heartbreak, let me reassure you. There are moments of astounding tenderness, life confirming selflessness and pure beauty a plenty.

“We were more than possessions, more than dumb animals of inanimate things. We were men; we got to choose who owned us. In that moment we both chose him.”

I fell in love with Tam when I read his book. Now that I’ve read Kai’s story I feel like a bit of a traitor. I still adore Tam but my heart firmly belongs to Kai. The precarious balance between his strength when it comes to physical challenges and his fragility when dealing with matters of the heart touched me on a very deep level.

Four weeks from today the final part in this trilogy will be released. I will be marking of the days between now and November 24th. The world Kate Aaron has created has sucked me in. Her characters have lodged themselves in my heart. And her words, her beautiful words, have made me a fan for life. 

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