Review: The Fifth Son by Blaine Arden

A prince without power 

In a land where magic is commonplace, Prince Llyskel has none. He can’t command spells, he has never been taught to fight, and as the fifth son of the King, he will never rule. Everyone believes he’s a weakling, most of all himself. 

Powerlessness is Llyskel’s problem—and his pleasure. In his secret fantasies, the prince dreams of nothing more than finding himself helpless at another man's hands… particularly the hands of Captain Ariv of the Guards. 

Then Ariv makes Llyskel’s dream a reality, and as the powerless prince surrenders to the soldier’s desire, he finds his own true strength at last. But a web of royal politics is closing around Llyskel, threatening to tear him from his lover, and it will take all his newfound courage to escape…

 ___________________________ contains five shaded black-and-white illustrations by Yana Goya 

NOTE: This is the second revised/re-edited edition of The Fifth Son. It was previously published by Storm Moon Press.

This may sound like a cop out and it probably is, but I have a really hard time reviewing shorts. I love reading them, though so I'm hopeful that practice will make perfect. I get caught up in the cycle of, 'the world building could've been better' or some derivation thereof followed shortly thereafter by, 'but it's a short. Don't be a pill.' 

And on and on it goes.

I will say this little fantasy did surprise me with some kinky rope bondage and an unexpected fetish that I'll get back to shortly. The story is told from Llyskel's perspective. Llyskel is the fifth son and has been cursed with having no magical powers which may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but magical abilities are the primary means of protection. Thus, Llyskel was prevented from playing or training with his siblings because he was "helpless". Llyskel's all protected out and has taken to sneaking outside of castle grounds to paint and just be without the constant supervision of his protector, Neia. Llyskel's a sympathetic character having always being treated as fragile has taken its toll. Little does everyone know (including Llyskel) perhaps he didn't need to be treated like glass after all.

Even though I know this is a short I still think the world building could've been weightier. What are they harvesting? The harvest is mentioned multiple times, but I've no idea what they're harvesting. I know it takes place in fields but are we talking fields of barley or those fields in The Matrix? Big difference. Why do they need an armed force when they seemingly have no enemies? Why does Llyskel need constant protection within his own kingdom? Not to mention they all have magical powers which would make a military force redundant, right? I know some of these things should probably just be accepted as norms, but it would've been helpful to have them mentioned in context to flesh out this AU. Then again, maybe I'm just a picky pill.

The Fifth Son mainly focuses on Llyskel's relationship with Captain Ariv. Did I mention Llyskel's a ginger? A ginger with an… interesting kink. Naughty boy is full of surprises. Luckily for Llyskel Ariv knows just what a naughty boy needs. 

Did not see that coming but boy howdy did I enjoy that surprise. What's more that wasn't even the pièce de résistance! Not telling but I did squeal a teensy lil bit. Also, there are excellent illustrations. I kind of felt like a kid reading a picture book, but the illustration of the rope bondage… yeah, I looked at that for a long time (and possibly went back and looked at it again. Allegedly.)

This author is new to me and I liked this well enough to try another offering from her. I'd happily read something else from this universe. Llyskel has several brothers and Vik from Atan piqued my interest as well. It wasn't perfect but I like her writing style. Recommend for people who enjoy high fantasy with a touch of kink.

An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest opinion.

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