Title: Slow Awakening
Author: M Raiya
Length: 5,300 words
Genre: m/m BDSM, Alternate World Historical
Blurb: In the hills above the castle are caves where, rumor has it, “things” are done to men that leave common soldiers glazed with pleasure. A good king should not even think about such things. If he was caught in the caves, he could lose his crown, if not his life. But to deny forever what he is could cost him his sanity. The night the king visits the caves will either be a night of ecstasy, or a night of doom. It might also be the night he finds the other half of his soul.
Review: I really like this author, but I’ve only ever read her work in the Notice series, so I’ve yet to read anything that isn’t fantasy. I first thought this was a fantasy short from reading the blurb, but though it does take place in an alternate universe in an assumed historical setting, there’s no fantasy involved at all. In fact, there is little more mentioned than the BDSM and the role of the main character who is King of the land.
A King is bound to stricter codes in his role than anyone. That role is complete and binding and at the same time strangling the life out of the main character in this story. Without a name he is simply King, and when he finds the courage to visit the caves that are rumored to hold men who practice in Master and submissive behavior, he is “little one”. The man there he calls Master takes charge of him and allows him, through physical binding, to let go of the roles of behavior he’s bound to, if only for a night. Only, the next day the King is in for a shock.
My one complaint with the vast majority of these charity sips I’ve read are that they try to do too much for the restrictive word limit. This story didn’t fall prey to that, the story is simple and doesn’t try to introduce a world, characters and a romance. In fact, it does little of any of them. Ultimately, we know little about the characters, next to nothing about the world and the setting, and though it could happen for these characters in the future, romance isn’t yet part of the picture. What it does do is meet its objective and deliver the story the blurb promises. I really appreciated that. Less is more, especially with a short story, and that is the reason this story works. Would I have loved to have more? Of course, but for only 5k words, what is presented here is really all there is room for, and the way it is presented really worked for me.
This story is all about labels and roles. They are what out main character is trying to escape from when he visits the caves to seek Domination — King, advisor, leader. At the same time, the man who strips him of those roles is also anonymous — Master, and later named by a role that defines who he is in the light of day. I liked the way that the secrets and roles are presented as light and dark, as distinct sides of the same coin, public and private. The rest of the characters who show up all have proper names.
My only question about the story is a brief interlude after the King wakes up the morning after his sojourn to the caves. He’s disoriented and believes that it was all a dream. There are two men mentioned who took him the previous night to drink in the town and apparently delivered him home to the castle. He also mentions, in a somewhat unclear way, that they’ve done this before. This passage was fairly muddled and I wasn’t quite sure what the objective was to bring up this information. Why does he need to be confused or not remember the night before at all? And what did he mean that this had happened before? Drinking in the town until he passed out? Or that he’d visited, or tried to visit, the caves previously? I’m not sure that it really mattered honestly.
This is a great short short and though it is pretty hot and the BDSM is fairly intense, it’s not overly explicit in the way that some BDSM is — the focus is mostly on the D/s. Recommended.