Robert is an aging pleasure pet. He still has his looks, but the years are beginning to take their toll. He’s had more than a few Masters and now he’s too often passed over in favor of younger, prettier pets. Now Robert has fallen so low to be available by mail order. When he’s sent to Aylian, he finds a planet in flux. They are still rebuilding after a vicious demon attack and simultaneously trying to establish a lasting peace with those same demons. And Robert’s new Master is none other than the very powerful and very young, Duke Thomar.
As a younger and spare son, Thomar was sent to be raised by the N’Ptalini, a warrior race. When his family is murdered, Thomar is torn away from the home he has known, thrust into the role of leader, and finds himself uneasy among at his own people. His decision to order Robert is calculated, as is Thomar’s every action. Kept in luxury and for the first time treated as something more than a simple pet, Robert finds himself falling for the headstrong and wildly unpredictable Thomar. But being the pet, even the cherished pet, of a powerful ruler is never safe and Robert finds himself swept up into an increasingly dangerous world as Thomar confronts friends and enemies alike. If they survive, Thomar and Robert might manage to forge something new and permanent between them.
The Pet and His Duke is set in the world of the Virasana Empire and, while you don’t have to have read the Sir Yaden books to follow the story, reading the first in that series, The Demon of Hagermarsh, might help with some of the background world building. It’s really your choice and The Pet and His Duke can be read as a standalone. Trigger warning — there are mentions of rape and abuse on page, so please be aware.
Robert and Thomar are both interesting characters, though neither have as much complexity as I would like. They fit well together and Thomar’s acceptance of Robert as a person rather than a pet gives their relationship a much needed equality. The authors play with role reversals and power exchange between Robert and Thomar and, while again these encounters to lack a measure of depth, they still feel in character for both men.
The world building in The Pet and His Duke, as well as the rest of the Virasana series, can best be described as chaotic. It’s clear the authors have a vision for their universe, but I’m not always sure they manage to translate it to the reader. It’s a bizarre blend of modern day speech and technology, but also fantasy elements and more advanced sci-fi technology. It tends to read as rather jumbled and I find I never have a full understanding of the overall world.
My only real issue with The Pet and His Duke concerns the pacing and overall flow of the story. The action from chapter to chapter tends to be choppy and jarring. Events occur and then are often forgotten or even disregarded. Robert suffers multiple attacks throughout the book, but usually things get wrapped up in the same chapter they occur. So the narrative reads as jagged, with the transitions failing to smoothly blend the previous narrative with present. It just made reading the book more work than it should have been.
The Pet and His Duke was, on the whole, enjoyable, despite its flaws. The main characters are relatively captivating and their journey together was the strongest part of the book. The world building, transitioning and pacing aren’t as smooth as they could be, but they don’t undermine the ultimately strong foundations of the book. I think most fantasy lovers will find something to like here.