Review: Stasis (Ennek Trilogy #1) by Kim Fielding

Praesidium is the most prosperous city-state in the world, due not only to its location at the mouth of a great bay but also to its strict laws, stringently enforced. Ordinary criminals become bond-slaves, but the worst punishment—to be suspended in a dreamless frozen state known as Stasis—is doled out by the wizard and reserved for only the most serious of traitors.

Ennek is the youngest son of Praesidium’s strict Chief. Though now a successful portmaster, Ennek grew up without much of a purpose, unable to fulfill his true desires and always skating on the edge of the law. But he is also haunted by the plight of one man, Miner, a prisoner for whom Stasis appears to be a truly horrible fate. If Ennek is to save Miner, he must explore Praesidium’s deepest secrets as well as his own.

Kim Fielding really knows how to construct an alternate universe. Bits of darkness are throughout the character's backstories that ratchet up the poignancy and make it impossible to not root for them. She's exceedingly talented at creating these worlds and handling the dynamics therein and she does it again here with Praesidium giving us yet another of her trademark damaged couples that will pull on the heartstrings in Ennek and Miner.

Ennek tells the story of Stasis. A story that starts off with him as a boy sneaking into Under with his precocious friend Gory and progresses until he's nearly thirty and in his first relationship. I'm sure he wouldn't understand why his story is so heart wrenching simply because it's his norm which is precisely what makes it so. He's the second son of the Chief and a deviant. Being gay in Praesidium is tantamount to a death sentence, if you're lucky. Otherwise you get put into stasis or become a bond-slave for who knows how long and that's just one of their draconian laws. 

Ennek's accepted his lonely fate and believes he will likely never amount to anything. He enjoys his simple pleasures-hiking, being on the water, horseback riding. He drinks too much. He thinks himself a coward yet he saves the life of the man who's haunted his dreams since he first laid eyes on him in that manmade spider's web when he was twelve yrs old.
He reminded Ennek of ocean waves, white foam over sea green. But Miner was also warm and soft, with a shy little smile and a slight blush on his cheeks. Ennek wanted to drown in him.
The relationship between these two men is gradual. Miner is confined to Ennek's rooms since no one can know he's no longer in stasis thereby making him his slave. There's not a lot of angst but there is a lot of awkwardness over how to handle their relationship so they become friends. Gradually over the course of nearly a year Miner begins the painstaking process of living again in a situation and a time that are completely foreign. They begin to trust each other and have the most exquisite quiet moments. Those moments of vulnerability and devastating honesty that made me feel like a voyeur. But there seems to be this ever present sense of something lacking, something just beyond their reach that neither knows how to overcome.

Unfortunately the only person that could bring Miner out of stasis is Praesidium's wizard, Thelius. Thelius blackmails Ennek into becoming his intern in wizardry in exchange for his silence. He's a classically evil character who has a wealth of secrets about the polis and Ennek. Those secrets are what pushed the plot forward and held my interest. Most are answered, some weren't.

The tension between Ennek and Miner is still in its infancy and there is no on page sex. I'm hopeful in the next book things progress between them but I don't expect it to turn into a Jake Jaxson film either. Undoubtedly they've got a lot of travails to suffer through before getting to their HEA.

There certainly is a 'to be continued...' ending but I wouldn't characterize it as a cliffhanger. The next is already on my kindle and would recommend Stasis to fans of Kim Fielding, AU and/or slow burn romances.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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