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Betrayed opens with our hero Meldrick rotting in a prison camp, captured by ogres during the war and imprisoned for months. As a favorite knight of the king, Meldrick isn’t killed, but instead tortured and abused in hopes of getting information out of him. Not only is Meldrick raped, starved, and otherwise left to rot in squalor, he is forced to abuse his fellow prisoners. Although he tried to resist early on, the ogres killed prisoners when Meldrick refused. He has become a hard man, so different from the person he was before the war. Although Meldrick dreams of his lover Faldor, he never imagines he will see him again, or be worthy of Faldor’s love if he does.
When Meldrick finds himself suddenly free, he relief is tempered by his belief that Faldor is dead, along with his self-loathing for the man he has become. Yet when he finds out Faldor is actually alive, Meldrick goes to him, unable to resist the lure of the man he loves. But Meldrick really is a different person now. Hardened by imprisonment and the horrific things he experienced and was forced to do to others, he isn’t sure there is enough good left in him to deserve Faldor. While Faldor is thrilled to have his lover back seemingly from the dead, he worries he can not reach this man who has changed in so many ways and is so clearly mentally wounded from his time in captivity. Faldor has many questions about how Meldrick escaped and, although Meldrick has told Faldor much of what happened while he was imprisoned, there are clearly still secrets he is afraid to share. The men must figure out if the love they have for one another is enough to put their relationship back together in the face of so much trauma and change between them.
This was my first story by DC Juris and I must say I was totally captivated by this dark fantasy. Juris writes with so much description and detail. I could hear the rain pattering Meldrick’s cell bars and smell the dirty mud and squalor around the camp. And I could completely picture the bedraggled Meldrick showing up at Faldor’s door, wasted away and practically out of his mind. I could feel the mental pain and anguish these men experienced as they tried to put their lives back together again. The wonderful writing helped me feel completely immersed in the characters and the story and kept me eagerly turning pages.
Now I won’t say this is always an easy story. Meldrick is in an impossible position and forced to do terrible things. Although it is not described in detail, there is some on page rape and it is clear that horrible things are happening. What is even harder is that part of Meldrick grows to enjoy the pain and the power. He hates himself for it, but even once he is free, those feelings haunt him. He doesn’t want to bring that darkness back to the man he loves and worries he can never be good enough for Faldor after all he has seen and done. I could really feel for Meldrick as he tries to find his place back in his old life after almost three years away. He is no longer the man he once was, and isn’t sure he can ever be again. It is only Faldor’s gentle patience that helps bring Meldrick back. On one hand Faldor is fearful of the man his lover has become, as well as worried that he will not be enough to help Meldrick. But at the same time, he loves this man and is totally committed to being with Meldrick and helping him find himself again. The two men were really great together, the love between them so clear and the only thing that truly hold the holds them together after so much trauma.
In addition to the relationship between the men, the story is full of intrigue, betrayal, and secrets. I don’t want to go into much detail to avoid ruining the story, but it kept me completely captivated. This is a short novella, but Juris packs in such great world building, layered characters, and rich details, all tied together by strong love story. I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it, especially to fans of fantasy. I definitely look forward to reading more of Juris’ work in the future.