A Year Less Three Days
So. Romance and slavery don’t really go hand-in-hand, do they? Well, I decided to give this novella a chance regardless. I read a whole lot of off-the-wall stories, so this should fit in, right? Yeah, nope. At about 130 pages in total, A Year Less Three Days attempts to cram the romance into about thirty or so pages, which just does not work. The build-up before hand really focuses on the slavery and the issues between the two characters, which are vast and varied, but as a result, the romance not only suffers, it is basically non-existent.
Before I say anything else, though, I will say this – if you have trouble with violence or darkness in your stories (and I mean a lot of darkness), no matter how interesting this sounds, pass it by. While the blurb definitely caught my interest, it is not light or fluffy by any stretch of the imagination. In case the whole slavery topic hasn’t already given that away…
As for the plot, we start with Lias, and a bit of his background. He has lovely children and is on his second wife, after the first died some years ago. But that second wife is kidnapped, and when he goes after her to try and get her back, he is captured, enslaved, and repeatedly sold to a variety of masters, each one worse than the one before. When the story proper begins, Lias is practically feral, and has a “hit first” mentality; he’s going to be raped or beaten anyway, so he might as well deserve it. All he wants is to escape and find his way back to his children, whom he left with a close neighbor some years ago. But his latest master, Necromis, is both kinder than his previous masters, and more devious.
As you may have guessed from his name, Necromis is more than just another noble. After years among the knights, he has become a member of the Order of the White Bear, the highest in the land. He has ingratiated himself with the king enough that he has been named heir, as the king is without issue. He is ridiculously beautiful. Oh, and he kills and eats people to stave off a curse from a demon pact he made to get enough power in order to bind his first love to him. Unfortunately, that first love was killed, and the only way to break the curse is to take a broken man and get him to fall in love. With Necromis.
It’s almost as if Beauty and the Beast took a really, really, really dark turn.
I have several issues with how this story progresses. First, if you had been repeatedly raped, would you really be okay with (and fabulous at, apparently) sex? Specifically with being penetrated, as well as doing the penetrating? Personally, I can’t see how I would be fine with it, especially with the trauma being such a recent thing. Second, we don’t even have any convincing Stockholm Syndrome working for us here. Necromis treats Lias like a pampered pet instead of a mangy dog, but there’s absolutely no evidence, up until the sex, that he sees his slave as a human. Lias is just a means to an end. And third, when Lias finally gets his children back (subplot! A pretty predictable one, actually), he basically goes “Well, Necromis helped me, so I guess I’ll let him fuck me.” Really, Lias? Really? I just don’t even. Argh. I guess you could say this is consensual, but I’d call that a pretty dubious distinction.
Plus, for reasons which seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, Necromis allows his horse to sleep in the bed with him. His horse. Seriously. Who apparently has some gas issues. Just…why?
I really thought this would be a romance where one cursed man helps a slave regain his humanity and his freedom, and they would fall in love in the process. That is by no means what happens here. Instead we get a broken man who basically remains broken, kinda cares for his newest master, who doesn’t beat him for no reason, and gets his children and freedom by the end of the story. We get a second hero who willingly made a pact with a demon, who is hiding behind his status and his beauty, and whose time is running out. It sounds like it should be interesting. It’s really not.
Although we generally try to stay away from any spoilers here at AAR, I will say this – there are two additional triggers I really think potential readers need to know about. First, there are the mentions of cannibalism. It’s nothing even close to the rape/torture aspects of the book, and of slavery in general, but it’s definitely a major plot point. Necromis literally has to eat his victims alive. Second, a major character dies. As a result, I would really hesitate to call this a romance. In fact, if I had known in advance, I wouldn’t have read this at all. I was literally waiting during the last part of the book to see if the character was going to mysteriously come back to life (which actually would have fit in with the rest of the plot pretty well), but found myself almost yelling at my phone when it told me the book was over. Generally speaking, romances require a happily ever after. There is a distinct lack of that here. There’s a content ever after, I suppose, but that’s really not the same thing.