Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dorian's Story by Stephanie Vaughan

The king's reward for a year's hard work. A little something for himself – that was all Tasim was supposed to be.

When the king distributed his largess, Dorian thought only to gain a bedmate to help ease the boredom of long winter nights. But Tasim quickly became so much more, disturbing the delicate balance between an unstable monarch and his favorite. Dorian must now walk the razor's edge between his king's pleasure and his heart's desire.
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There were several things I liked about this story, which follows up an earlier piece, "Tasim's Tale." And several things I didn't.

Set in the land of Kundara, this story follows Dorian, the captain of soldiers who received Tasim as a prize of war, a pilorum, to be servant, bedmate, and if need be, a pass-around pack for his buddies. Dorian's feelings for his slave have grown far more complex than simple ownership, and he'd like nothing better than to leave the life at court and settle happily with the young man he's come to care for.

This is a complicated court (think Caligula) and the king's secrets are Dorian's secrets, too, in a way that was both simple and surprising. Dorian's interactions with the king are one of the best parts of this story, because he plays the king like a very cranky zither. The way Dorian plays politics here is beautifully manipulative, and he solves his problem in a far less direct way than was occurring to me by page 30. (I was wondering who was next in line for the throne.)

Dorian's homecoming scene early in the story was both illustrative of the king and Dorian's relationship with both the king and Tasim, and so disturbing that I put the book down for a couple of days. Call me squeamish. I also wasn't too happy with sex as therapy for what was essentially rape ('nuf said), and then we have a candle (valuable) left burning unattended (dangerous) for what could have been several hours (wasteful) just so there'd (conveniently) be light for sex.

The world-building was a little sloppy, mixing Viking, Greek, and Roman names into what was otherwise a fairly coherent society, which tended to pull me out of the story. This applied to the first story, too, but there were other issues in "Tasim's Tale" that far overwhelmed this one. "Dorian's Story" is a more coherent read and while it's a good companion piece, I think you could read it alone if you're willing to sink deeply into the world.


Buy here.

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