Very quick read, compelling and unexpected. I rarely read M/M romance and I'm not really comfortable with master/slave relationships (though the last book I read with this theme, [b:Transformation|618196|Transformation (Rai-Kirah, #1)|Carol Berg|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388179994s/618196.jpg|1198836], which was not romance, was very satisfying and I found the characters intriguing. I should probably revise my opinion about the genre), but this one offers several elements which I enjoyed, like characters development, reflections on identity and varied struggles for freedom, all delivered through a linear and interesting plot.
The first chapter was kind of off-putting, I feared the novel bordered on erotica and there were too many worn-out clichés (naked ornamental slaves, human pets, pleasure slaves training, a decadent court, etc.), which was not what I was looking for, but it turned out to be part of the worldbuilding rather than the real focus of the story. This said, there are sex scenes, there is rape, there is submission, physical pain, and all the tropes about an obnoxious, abusive and astonishingly attractive man and an idealist, straightforward physically imposing man getting involved in a master/slave relationship -let's not forget childhood trauma, royal blood, forbidden love and of course a full cast of handsome men-, and also an undeniable charm.
I did not have particular expectations, I simply wanted to try this book; anyway I was pleasantly surprised because the plot was good, with a few twists (also thanks to the limited third person point of view and, btw, I’m already halfway through the second book of the trilogy), plenty of fights and court intrigue, no loose ends that I could detect, good editing, nice pace and narrative flow, good writing and no rush on romance, at all.
I would not call this original but I was hooked. There is a clever and gradual building of several kinds of tension and good balance between the MC relationship and the plot itself.