The One Gold Slave
(Atlaind Book 1)
by Christian Kennedy
Waitingstar Publishing, New York, 2011
[Challenge # 5: A Free book]
Ah, my first finished read of 2018, by which things are starting smashingly well.
First up: A Freebie, in this case, an Amazon giveaway by the author. I knew full well what kind of book it was by the word slave and the well-coifed beefcake on the book’s cover (which, incidentally, did nothing for me: I like skinnier, angstier types, with cigarettes and dreadlocks) that stood as a pictorial representation for BDSM and other kinky stuff. In past years fanfic and original yaoi archives satisfied my appetite for slavefics like these, until there was just too much of it and it became too time-consuming to sift through. Self-publishing rose to fill in the gap, until that, too, became too tedious to sift through, so now, when it gets dropped into my lap I take a look. Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy and Pauline Reage’s The Story of O continue to be my benchmarks for a good kinky read, balancing stylization, the sensual, a driving, overarching plot, and hardcore, varied sex acts that aren’t too belabored.
The One Gold Slave follows the Sleeping Beauty model that takes place in a fantasy world removed from our own. This unnamed kingdom consists of small fiefdoms ruled by magically-talented Kings and Queens who owe allegiance to an Emperor. The estates are staffed by slaves, and they are happy to be slaves, as the snippets of slave instruction manuals before each chapter suggest. There are no commoners, no middle class. This is, economically, kind of whack-a-doo – after all, who’s in charge of the slave business? — but after all it is an erotic fantasy, and if sufficiently differentiated from the mundane world, it could work.
Unfortunately, it never did for me, and this lack of… authorial investment at otherworldiness, I guess… made the read lightweight for me and, for want of a better word, silly. At least in Sleeping Beauty we knew we were getting a fairy tale by the language and structure, and subject matter, and stylizations, but the writing of this one was far too casual. The slaves behaved less like peons under threat of life and death from their masters than a bunch of dim college students dormered together at some not very demanding summer job. Their dialogue was way too modern for this mythical world, as was their romantic banter, a lot of which I skipped to get to the action.
The hero of the book is a pleasure-slave named Zsash who, at the ripe age of 30, graduates slave-school and goes up for auction in the first chapter. Aside from that horrible name he’s completely unremarkable, so no one bids on him. In desperation he starts yelling, which incites a beating; but he’s also bought by a powerful Mistress, Queen Isavayne, for the gold piece of the title, and at age 30 he begins his slave career as her bath-slave. He narrates the book, and he’s the worst offender as far as the colloquial dialogue goes. He also seems to have had no life before the story begins. Assuming he’s started his lessons at puberty, surely it wouldn’t take 15 years to learn how to have sex? While a newbie to the estate was needed for the purposes of the plot, he comes across as way too ignorant of the world to be 20, let alone 30. He’s beaten a lot throughout the book, too, his physically hurts described in a long winded way, and I wonder if the author was purposely trying to make him a Beta, as opposed to the Alpha males that are in vogue these days. (Note: I’m not fond of Alphas myself, in fact I detest the very concept of males split into Alphas and Betas. I mention this only in the context of contemporary romance novels.)
If she was going for a Beta, she went too far in the other direction. This didn’t stop me from reading, as I wanted to see what scrapes he got into. But it did strain credibility for me in that I just didn’t believe in him as a character. That is, from the first pages, I saw him as a young, not too bright acting student trying to improvise his way through a sword-and-sandal epic and not convincing anybody of anything.
The first 2/3 of the book was mostly setup, and though it didn’t strain me too much to read it, I also skimmed a lot because it wasn’t too interesting and didn’t have much bearing on the plot. I guess the hero slept through slave-school because in these chapters he did all the things a slave shouldn’t: flirting with the household staff, mouthing off, asking the wrong questions, keeping a dangerous weapon, and stealing his Mistress’s panties, wine, and drugs. Why Queen Isavayne, who is actually the most epic and kick-ass character in the book, let him get away with it is beyond me. Why masters would allow their slaves sharp weapons is beyond me. On an estate full of able-bodied slaves, who or what is keeping them in line? My mind kept wandering to questions like this, and it’s safe to say I’m probably not part of the audience for this kind of erotic romance… there was a lot of going on about nothing.
To be fair, the story picked up 3/4 of the way through when, after an umpteenth beating, the hero is sentenced to fight in the Emperor’s gladiatorial contest against his nemesis and rival, and the fight and aftermath, including a return of romantic attraction between the hero and the Mistress’s right-hand slave did get my blood racing. After that there was a nice revelation of the book’s villains and a few nicely perverted sex scenes. Finally, things were moving. If the whole book had been like that, I would have been happier.