Top positive review
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Engrossing, deftly written m/m romance
on July 22, 2011
Skaia is the story of a young Gaul abducted from his homeland to serve in Rome as a slave. Sold to a wealthy Roman family, his red hair and good looks attract the attention of family's patriarch. Thaddeus is a proud man, mindful of his place in society. Intrigued by Skaia's looks and spirit, he gives the young slave to his son, Glaucus. The two boys grow up together, developing a deep bond of affection - too deep for Thaddeus' comfort. The bond is severed when Glaucus reaches adolescence and embarks on an important rite of manhood for noble young Roman males, a lengthy tour of the Empire. Thaddeus assumes ownership of Skaia in his son's absence, determined to mold Skaia into his vision of the perfect slave.
This clash of wills gives Skaia much of its emotional impact. As a slave, Skaia has no power to defy his autocratic master. In spite of slavery's crushing oppression, he nonetheless retains a core of strength which, all too often, puts him in conflict with a man who will tolerate none. Yet Thaddeus is not a monster, merely a product of his time and culture, and he slowly, reluctantly, begins to change. With the change, a new bond develops, one that may prove deeper and more challenging for Skaia than the one he treasures with Glaucus.
Ayden and I share a publisher and a friendship, so this review is not completely without bias. That said, I find her writing to be tight and her characters three-dimensional and believable. The supporting cast is equally well-rounded. I'm not an expert on ancient Rome - far from it - but Ayden's settings and the politics swirling around the main action felt realistic to me.
Ayden writes in third-person omniscient (or third-person multiple). It's a style I'm not terribly fond of, to be honest, but she transitions from one viewpoint to another sparingly so I didn't find it as disconcerting as I usually do. Certain parts of Skaia may be difficult for some people to read, e.g., scenes of rape, violence or dubious consent. Those who take offense at the idea of a slave loving a master should probably steer clear. For the rest of us, Skaia is immersive and satisfying. If you're looking for a way to escape the tedium of reality for awhile, this is a damned good one.