Fangirl Review: Tribute by Lisa Henry

When the fearsome warlord Brasius chooses Kynon as his tribute, Kynon tells himself it’s the price of peace, and that he can endure anything. If his slavery will save his father’s kingdom, then he will be a slave and submit to every indignity the warlord and the senate of Segasa require of him. He can live with the shame; it’s the mind-blowing pleasure that frightens him.

But the warlord wants more than a tribute who will respond eagerly to whips and bondage. The warlord might just want the man underneath: the prince, the soldier and the tribute, if Kynon can figure out who that is. On an enforced journey of self-discovery, Kynon learns that being the warlord’s tribute isn’t just about submission. And, to be the tribute that Brasius wants him to be, Kynon will have to defy all the traditions of Segasa and risk the wrath of the senate that really holds his chains.

Publisher's Note: This book is primarily LGBT m/m but contains one or more scenes of m/f sexual interaction. It also contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: strong BDSM theme and elements, dubious consent, violence. Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.

Tribute exemplifies everything I enjoy about Lisa Henry's writing. She puts her characters through hell and puts her readers in the passenger seat for that ride and make no mistake, Kynon goes through hell more than once.

Kynon's journey reminded me quite a bit of Beauty's from The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. The difference being that Kynon is more insightful than Beauty. Well, and Beauty was fickle. Cute lil thing. 

Anyhoo, Kynon is a born prince of Caralis. He's the youngest of the princes and is precocious, outgoing, brave and loyal to the crown. When Caralis gets sacked by the feared Segasain warlord, Brasius, he believes he will be put to death as punishment for Caralis daring to defend itself against invasion. Instead he and several of his friends are taken as tributes with the intent of turning them into sex slaves.

Brasius has chosen Kynon and Alysia (for a short time) to become his. The training process they undergo is grueling. The transition from being a prince to a slave is a near constant struggle for Kynon. He's humiliated and degraded again and again, sodomized, kept naked, collared, drugged, flogged, whipped, bound, teased and shaved. He and Brasius have a brief but memorable backstory which seemingly influenced his choice. It's difficult to tell what exactly Brasius desires from Kynon oftentimes which is precisely what I enjoyed so much about this book.

Tribute is told entirely through Kynon and we are right there for his struggles with the transition as well as trying to understand Brasius. I don't think Kynon has ever failed at anything. He wants to please and keep people happy. The trouble is Brasius is hard to read, intimidating, cruel at times, plainspoken and demanding. At times Kynon hates him and at others sees him as comforting, but there's always a component of striving for obedience. It's the motivation for the obedience that vacillates.

So many times I read dub/non-con wherein the slave accepts his or her situation almost immediately which I find absurd. To go from being free to being a slave has to be, at minimum, difficult even under consensual circumstances much less having your freedom stripped from you. Lisa Henry gets that and showed us just how onerous the experience is especially when you have one too many cooks in the kitchen. 

Mistress Hera complicates matters. Her and Brasius are at cross purposes in Kynon's training which complicates everything. This was really the only point of the novel that confused me. I never understood why she was so fixated on Kynon and Brasius' relationship. In the end, I wanted to kill her. With my bare hands. As did Brasius, I'm sure.

The sex/kink is pretty hot with moderately heavy SM even when I knew I probably shouldn't be thinking it was hot I still did. I think this makes me a terrible person. I blame Lisa Henry. 

There are girly bits, though, just so you know. 
Had they seen something in him that he hadn't even known was there? Maybe there was a part of him that had always wanted to be subjugated.

Truly a stunning debut novel from Ms. Henry. I'm amazed more people haven't read it.
This review was previously posted on Goodreads

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