Daymon has been kidnapped. But can you really call it a kidnapping when Daymon chose to go with his attackers so that they would spare the life of the innocent child they threatened? All he knows is that he’s in pain, being beaten and starved, and holding on to the desperate hope that Rhyder will come for him. Rhyder, captain of his personal guard. Rhyder, the famous Lion of the West. Rhyder, who loves Daymon, was claimed by Daymon, and who Daymon has loved since he was 15 years old.
As days pass, Daymon escapes the pain and misery of his captivity by reliving those early days when he first saw the dark-haired warrior. He remembers every touch, every kiss, every moment and clings to the knowledge that Rhyder will come for him. Until the day brigand shows him the battered silver pin Daymon gave Rhyder as a symbol of his love, until the cruel man whose beatings have left his body bruised and broken recounts, with glee, how a trapped bridge had fallen, killing Daymon’s men… and the man he loves.
As Daymon sinks further into memories, he holds on to the whispered words that echo in his ears from a mother long dead… he will come.
Daymon is the younger prince of his kingdom who, unlike his older brother, Daylor, is cursed with magic. Daymon was given the Evoker’s tattoo when he was four as his powers awakened thanks to the emotional trauma from the loss of his mother. His brother has become his authority figure as their father locked himself away with grief and paranoia, hiding from even his sons. Daymon is a sweet boy, innocent and easily guided. Fortunately, his chosen guides are his brother and Rhyder, both of whom are good men themselves.
Rhyder is a famous warrior who, by the time he came to the palace, had already made quite the name for himself. When he was chosen by the then 15-year-old prince to be the captain of his personal guard, Rhyder easily accepted. There was always a spark there. Daymon has been infatuated with Rhyder since… forever. He knew the stories, and was captivated by the actual man who stood before him. It wasn’t until he was 18 and Rhyder caught him masturbating that their relationship became physical, at Rhyder’s instigation.
There are two ways to read this book. The first is to read it at face value as a young, innocent man who fell in love with his childhood hero, who found the reality to be better than he imagined, and whose love was returned in full. That is a sweet, fairy tale story, but it’s only surface deep. When you actually look at the interactions between Rhyder and Daymon, the story takes a different note.
Daymon doesn’t know what subtlety is. His infatuation over his hero was not hidden — at least, never well-hidden — and Rhyder must have picked up on it. When Rhyder catches Daymon masturbating in the woods, there’s no moment of withdrawal or an offer to give the young man privacy. Instead, Rhyder moves forward to ‘help’ and ends up seducing the young man there on the ground. It’s a bit predatory, to be honest. A later scene has Daymon and Rhyder talking about whether or not their relationship is well known and Rhyder smoothly mentions that people wonder if Daymon will claim him — their version of a marriage or going steady — or give him a title or… something. Daymon seems surprised that Rhyder might want such things and quickly offers, only to have Rhyder brush it away with a “Pray don’t concern yourself.” Daymon, naive young man that he is, claims Rhyder then and there, making him not just the captain of Daymon’s personal guard, but his public and recognized lover. It comes off, again, more than a little predatory, as though Rhyder were gently manipulating him.
Part of the problem is that we never see the story from Rhyder’s point of view, and in Daymon’s eyes, he hangs the stars, sun, and moon. You either take it at face value, or make your own opinion, but even while I read into those scenes — based on phrasing, Rhyder’s actions, and my own biases — I don’t think Rhyder has evil or nefarious urges. He wants Daymon, and wants the recognition of his place at Daymon’s side. I don’t mind Rhyder being less than perfect since Daymon is an unreliable narrator, biased himself by years of hero worship and his need to remember Rhyder as something heroic while he suffers in a dungeon cell.
This is cute, quick, and at least 30% flashbacks — in a 64-page book. To be honest, it’s too many flashbacks. It feels like there’s one per page, including the initial kidnapping scene and, again, it’s only a short book. While I don’t mind flashbacks in theory, and they’re not poorly written, of all the events in the story, the kidnapping should have been more front and center. Instead, it had its teeth pulled because we already knew it had happened. Instead of living through the event, Daymon is recounting it, so there’s no immediacy and it lacks the emotional gut-punch of “I’m being kidnapped!’
While there are hints of a greater plot, with the mentions of Evokers and Rhyder’s gentle pushing for Daymon to take advantage of his rank and do more for Evokers and their mistreatment, they don’t actually have a part of this story. Instead, this is two stories: The first is Daymon’s captivity, rescue, and recovery from the beating, with nightmares and the PTSD that follow, and the second is Daymon’s flashbacks to his meeting with Rhyder and their growing relationship. Perhaps in future books we’ll see more of the mages and politics as this is book one of a series.