A vampire prince is on a mission to destroy other vamp clans to stop them from feeding off humans. Using his enemies to feed from, Prince Jai is determined to bring the King of vamps to his knees and force all of his kind to feed only from the willing, thus banishing the use of human blood slaves for good. Inspired by stories of an ancient human woman known as Adelaide about a time when different species from werewolves to human to vampires lived in respectful harmony, Jai and his small army press on. They successfully take down clan after clan until he is confronted by one in the south who wants to strike a temporary truce before engaging in battle.
In exchange for a three month truce, the clan lord gives Jai his favored blood slave, Ash, and his own son, Ryu, along with a few of his soldiers for Jai and his men to feed from during the wait. However, Jai refuses to use Ash as either a blood slave or as a sexual partner and slowly realizes that Ash has been denied blood all his life. When he feeds Ash, the icy reserve that the slave has always had slips away and real emotions come to the fore. Now Ash will be trained to fight for himself and take down the very clan lord who has used him so horribly for so many years.
Caitlin Ricci offers up an interesting twist to the m/m paranormal genre with her latest novel, Blood Slave. Jai likes to be called Prince Jai the Merciless, when in reality he is both gentle and altruistic. The idea that he and his small clan could rid the world of all those who seek to harm humans against their will seems like a staggering task and yet, he moves on relentlessly seeking the crown for himself only so he can enact the law that will halt the use of human blood slaves. What he didn’t bargain for is falling in love—even while fighting against it tooth and nail.
Ash is initially a bit of a conundrum. Unsure exactly what he is–vampire, werewolf, human, or some mix, Jai treats him as though he doesn’t exist until he feeds him for the first time. The blood Ash ingests makes him experience the full spectrum of human emotions and feelings—including pain. Watching Ash writhe and scream as the pain hits him solidifies the idea for Jai that he cannot ever return Ash to the former clan lord who abused him so harshly. But Jai is a vampire of his word and Ash was not given to him—only lended to be used. Instead Jai channels the feelings he harbors for his captive into nightly training sessions and feedings that strengthen Ash and make him a fighter to be reckoned with in the end.
If you are looking for some huge emotional declarations of love from this story, you are looking in vain. Neither Jai or Ash are given to big demonstrative moments; in fact, there are no actual full on sex scenes or descriptions in the entirety of the novel. Instead there was a partially thought out character driven story that keeps the reader in the moment. We never really understand where Ash came from or hear Jai’s full history either. Instead we are deposited into the middle of Jai’s fight and carried along to its conclusion. Unfortunately, even those fight scenes and raids were glossed over and therefore the novel had almost a sterile feel to it—as if it was being recounted from a distance—told as an afterthought.
Given that we were reading about vampires, I thought that the disaffected air about Jai and Ash were just part of the story, but I was disappointed when I read further and found that neither character actually grew or morphed into something more. I grant that Ash became more open about his feelings, but with a word of dismissal from Jai even those moments were short lived. I was also unsure as to what Adelaide held over Jai to make him report back to her on his progress. After reading that she and her human guards initially captured him, I thought we would get a bit of back-story on what made Jai so adamant about the freeing of human blood slaves but instead this plot point was left undeveloped as well.
All in all, Blood Slave was a really excellent twist on a typical vampire story, but failed to fully follow through and give us the pieces needed to invest full in the novel.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.