Moro has lost everything. As a slave in the arena, he has lost blood, flesh, sweat, and tears. His dignity, his identity, even his own body are no longer his own. But he isn’t broken. Not yet. Every fight he wins — and he wins many — brings Moro that much closer to being able to buy his freedom. Or so he thought.
It turns out Bondmaster Kott, the man who owns him and runs the rape pits — the distasteful arena where Moro, known as Diamond, fights nightly — wasn’t exactly honest with him. Moro wasn’t sold to Kott, but rather rented. And tonight, Moro’s true owner wants him back. The man who claimed and then destroyed the planet where he and his family were teraformers. The man who slaughtered Moro’s family, enslaved, tortured, and killed anyone Moro ever loved and took Moro as a personal slave. A pet. A thing to be used, abused, bound by a collar that brought forth his natural desires to submit, that encouraged his natural desire for pain. Lyton Sardis, one of the most powerful and evil men in the empire, wants his property back.
But Kott isn’t without some sympathy. He sends Moro to the rooftop to wait for Sardis and informs the traumatized young man that the protections keeping people from falling to their deaths will not be active. Not tonight. It’s the most he can do, bound himself by Sardis’ money and machinations. And so Moro stands on the edge, alone for the moment, and contemplates his life.
He can’t go back to Sardis. He can’t. He won’t.
Between panic and despair he sees, on the next building, a young man being attacked by two large and armed thugs. Deciding that if he’s going to die, he’s going to die for a purpose, Moro intervenes and finds himself face-to-face with Valier Antonin Ne’Cama, the man who is going to change his life. Valier is a Camelite, a prince of his people and — despite his perverse and dangerous tastes — a good person. He’s young, he’s beautiful, he’s got personality in spades, and he makes his rescuer an offer: give me the night. Let me give you Cama’s kiss. It’s an offer Moro can’t pass up. After all, if he succumbs to Camalite curse he will be forever changed, he will be a Camelite himself, safe from Kott, safe from Sardis, and free to be his own person. If Cama refuses him, he will die. A painful, but quick death. But it, too, will leave him free from Sardis.
For Valier, Moro — Diamond — is a chance at something he never thought possible. Val is cursed, even beyond Cama’s curse. He is a sadist and finds physical pleasure in causing pain to others, something he cannot share with another Camalite. Cama allows her people to share her thoughts, her emotions, and allows them to share with one another. If his partner has no honest desire for pain, it would be a violation of Cama’s love for all involved. But Moro is a true masochist, even without the collar. He’s also not a Camalite, not yet. It’s a chance for Val to truly let himself go, to have an honest physical relationship with someone. And, if the fates are kind, a chance to fall in love. Valier is a virgin, a romantic, and has been half in love with Diamond, even before he know that Diamond was Moro, the man who rescued him. He’s not going to let Moro get away if he can help it.
But even with the chance of Cama changing Moro’s life forever, Sardis is not a man willing to let go. Not when all his careful plans for Moro are coming to fruition. Not when the World Eaters are getting involved.
There is so much to talk about with this story, and so much of the story I can’t easily talk about. Not without giving things away. So trust me when I say that this is an amazing book. However, this is a dark and violent book with adult subject matter and may not be for everyone. Warnings include: Rape, slavery, sadism, masochism, torture, incest, voyeurism, possession, and mutilation. This is not a light and happy book, but — for those who are willing to take the plunge — it is wonderfully written with lovely characters, a convincing villain, amazing aliens, and a fitting ending. However, I’m aware that not everyone shares my tastes, so be warned. Dark subject matter ahead.
So, that said: I love Val and Moro! Val is a firecracker. He’s so confident and so sure of himself that he’s almost annoying, but he has a good heart underneath it. Part of the strength (and obnoxiousness) of his character is due to his royal lineage. As a prince of the Camalites he has the strongest bond to Cama — an alien symbiote who needs her people to live — and can actually have conversations with her. What Cama feels, her people feel. When she’s happy, so are they. But … when Cama is scared, or angry, or hurt, her people also feel it. And the stronger her emotions, the more they feel, and the more overwhelmed they become. Val has to have the mental and emotional resilience to be able to feel what Cama feels and not be overwhelmed by it, to take all of her distress and pain on himself to spare his people.
Moro has been carefully broken, bit by bit, to keep him on the edge of despair without ever tipping over it. Sardis has been calculated in every viciousness he inflicted upon Moro because he has a use for him. The collar he wears forces him to feel arousal when it’s used, which is a cruelty that only adds to the many rapes and abuses he’s endured over the years. But when Val removes the collar, Moro is finally able to feel his own pain, and his own desire. Moro isn’t an emotional masochist, and Val isn’t an emotional sadist — unlike Sardis. Their physical needs are well matched, but it’s the strength of their wills and personalities and emotional connection that brings them together. I enjoyed them separately, and loved them as a couple. Val may be less experienced and slightly younger in age, but this is by no means an unequal relationship.
Then there’s Sardis. Lyton Sardis is… well, he’s a very good villain. His motives are well thought out, he’s well-written, and he’s perfectly odious. I think he tends to be a touch mustache twirling in a few scenes, but he’s a compelling foil to Moro and Val. Val wants to possess Moro much as Sardis does, which makes them a lovely pair of princes to duel over Moro. Youth versus age, inexperience versus experience, both of them sadists… and both of them want Moro’s heart.
The world building is intricate and layered and beautiful. The world eaters are fascinating and I’d love to see more of them; they’re so wonderfully alien. The details of the teraforming of planets were well-thought out. The author didn’t just hide behind smoke and mirrors; or, if they did, they gave the impression that those mirrors were windows and the smoke outside was clouds in the sky. The writing is excellent, the pace is perfect and there were very few extraneous scenes.
However, the first rape scene — which comes fairly early in the book — felt a touch gratuitous, to me. I could see why it was there, but it didn’t need to be. It felt more like a way to cause Moro more pain and humiliation to pointedly show us how horrible his life was even though we had already been told, at that point, what was and had been happening to him, but that’s purely my opinion. Even so, in dealing with the aftermath of it, because there is an aftermath even in fantasy worlds, felt very sincere. It wasn’t just brushed off as if it hadn’t happened.
I started the first chapter of this book several hours after dinner, just to see what the flavor of the book would be. I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it at three in the morning. Fortunately I’d already set the weekend aside for reading.
The author was genuine with their characters and genuine with their readers and it made for an enjoyable book. However, things to caution people on: this is not a book about BDSM. There is none of the BDSM lifestyle or the slave/master lifestyle in this book. Moro is a slave against his will and when he is collared and bound it is also against his will. There is a happily ever after ending, a small hint at a possible sequel — and if there is I’m going to buy is as soon as it’s out — and for those willing to take the plunge and read Moro’s Price, I really, really hope you like it as much as I did.