When I finished, The Slave, book 1, of Kate Aaron’s trilogy, Free Men, I was crushed. Kudos to the author for the best executed cliffhanger I have ever read. Not knowing what was going to happen next was excruciating. But, thanks to the author and her generosity or maybe her foresight of reader reactions, book 2, The Soldier, was right there…ready to grab and delve back into once again. The Soldier is told, for the most part, in Kai’s voice. He was quiet in the first book, which was understandable considering everything he had gone through and continued to go through.
The Kai we first met was quiet and reserved. He also had an anger problem and was very cautious with handing over his trust. But, whether he trusted them or not, Master trusted him. When the soldiers were burning down their home and murdering anyone in their path, Kai was given a sword to help fight. And, fight he did.
The Granthian soldiers are on a mission of greed. Who they hurt or kill is of no consequence unless you have the information they seek. They have no compassion or sympathy for Kai even though he was one of them just 3 months ago. Granthia, Kai’s homeland, is against two men being together. Finding them in the same bedroom during the attack will only add fuel to the fire. The soldiers are too happy in their quest to throw rude insults and punches. They are crude and oafish in their behavior and nothing like Kai.
Being more concerned for the safety of his two lovers, Master and Tam, Kai takes what they pass out. Your heart will absolutely break for him as he takes abuse after abuse from the Neanderthals that were his fellow countrymen.
Each carried a bladder filled with water, from which he regularly sipped. I looked longingly at the one the man nearest me carried but received only a swift kick in the back of the knee for my trouble.
I fell with a startled cry, and the men laughed as I was jerked along behind the carriage before I could find my feet again. I scrambled to standing, spitting sand out of my mouth as best I could, the grains sticking in the gum collecting at the corner of my lips. My eyes stung, but I refused to let them see me cry.
Regardless to the amount of times Kai finds himself at their mercy, the brunt of their jokes, the insults and punches, he takes all of it. Hopefully, this part of their journey will be just a setback and not their future. With Tam and Master locked behind bars, unable to help Kai, he takes it on himself to find a solution for their rescue. When he is summons before the guards with questions of his living situation for the past 3 months he is confused and hesitant in answering them.
They are asking him things he knows nothing about. They don’t believe him and set out to torture the answers from him. The abuse that he suffers and the torment he is put through is very hard to read.
His punishment is severe and will take months to erase the damage done to his body, if ever. His pain is very palpable and you want so bad to grab him in a hug and hold on tight. Throughout the entirety of this story, Kai hangs onto his convictions, his determination, and his perseverance is mind-blowing. Most would have given up in his situation but not one time did he ever consider backstabbing his lovers or leaving them to their own fate.
Before coming to live with Tam and Master, Kai didn’t know love. He had never had affection, nor had he ever been with a man sexually. He loved his best friend Maal, who had been killed on the battlefield, but he had never spoken the words to him. He really hadn’t even admitted to himself that it was love. However, in the 3 months he has been with Tam and Master, he has found something that he never thought to have of his own. He found love and passion, not with one man, but with two. He also realized as a slave he has far more freedom and choice than he ever did as a soldier.
He has never had feelings of security, safety, and contentment, but he does now and he doesn’t want to lose that. He will struggle with self-doubt and low self-esteem. He will grapple with feelings of unworthiness and nothing to offer his lovers in return. His body is severely damaged and scarred and he’s not sure if his manhood will work properly anymore. It will be up to Master and Tam to assure him they still want them to be together, all three of them.
Kate Aaron continues to weave this storyline with edge of your seat suspense. The dialog is authentic and the events that unfold, hard to read as they were, are told with details and descriptions that were easy to visualize. Every facet of Kai’s journey is hard, yet he shines through with so much strength and vitality. For him to come through this journey victorious will be something that I will be hanging onto very strongly.
This story is not only about Kai even though he is the strong one this time. Kate equally gives Tam and Master a voice, and through expression and patience, healing will begin. The three of them are forming a bond beyond the sexual equation that will become a formidable wall no one will penetrate.
This series is told with originality and an artful blend of creativity and imagination. It grabs you from the beginning and you will quickly become infatuated with each character. Just like the main characters, there are a few side characters that help to add depth to the storyline. The execution of the plot flows seamlessly and you are at the end before you realize it. The Master
is the third and final book in this fast-paced gratifying story and I’m headed their now. An incredible story of love, strength, and perseverance that you don’t want to miss.