Phae is a clone who has spent most of his life alone on a deserted space ship. His only companion was the clone who created him who died when Phae was a child, and a human who has been in suspended animation for decades, that Phae calls Prince. Phae’s sole and only purpose is to watch over Prince as he sleeps until the ship arrives at its destination.
When an alien attack on the ship initializes Prince’s wakening process, Prince shows Phae the meaning of love and the wonders of intimate contact. Their time together is short as the mission is certainly not what Phae has always believed and the world Prince lived in no longer exists.
Their destination is another world. A world that is not free. A world where clones are kept as slaves and are “recycled” when they no longer have a purpose.
Well, that synopsis sounds interesting right? I certainly thought so and then Phae happens. Phae, a sad, lonely, isolated, dedicated clone who works his way in and becomes the star of the book within the first chapter and elevates this book from just interesting to heartbreaking, as well as heartwarming.
Sheltered is too mild of a word to describe Phae as he is so beyond sheltered. He was born on the ship and only lived for a few years with the man who created him. The only letters he knows are the code for the emergency console. The only human he has ever seen is Prince and Prince has always been asleep. Phae does not even understand that he is lonely, he just knows there is a void as he gazes upon Prince daily.
This story is lighter on the sci-fi end to start with and heavier on the erotic nature of the story. When Prince awakens due to events set off by an alien ship, his first thoughts after basically being brought back to life is teaching Phae about pleasure. Prince has been in suspended animation for decades, the reasons slowly coming back to him. There are aliens attacking their ship, but Phae will give Prince anything, do anything for him. Phae is such a moving character and the idea here is just to embrace the eroticism between the men. And it’s certainly amazing what a really long sleep will do to Prince’s outlook. Prince’s past comes at us in flashes and Phae dramatically alters him forever. Prince makes a promise and only time will tell if he is able to keep it. The story then gets a bit more into the sci-fi end as a new world is reached but, not before Phae has to endure even more loneliness that becomes more heartbreaking.
Phae is still childlike in many ways and has limited knowledge due to his isolation. Much of this well done. There are a few times, to advance the conversation, that his vocabulary exceeds his knowledge. For instance, when Phae is scared that Prince’s tone becomes sarcastic, I questioned how he knew the word sarcasm or recognized it as such. These issues happened infrequently, so when they did, they stood out.
As a side note, in many of the books I have read in this genre the women are often portrayed in a less than positive light. There is one female character here who is only briefly in a scene or two, but it is refreshing to see a female character portrayed positively and to be an ally to the men.
Hard core sci-fi fans may have some issues here as this story is primarily a romance and goes less in depth on the sci-fi. While there are plenty of elements to tie in the sci-fi feel, the story is on the shorter side, which then did not allow for full exploration of some issues. Would I have liked more on what happened to Earth? Sure. More on the aliens and the magical ball? Absolutely. More time with Prince and the Senator? Perhaps. More time to see Phae grow in his new surroundings and more time for the men to love each other? Most definitely, as I certainly was not ready for the book to end when it did. But, what we do have is an incredible story of love, loyalty, and promises kept. And, we have Phae.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.