Review: Desert Ice by Rose Maefair

Standing under the hot sun in the slave market, Wyl thought his fate couldn’t get worse. He’d been betrayed by his family, exiled, and sentenced to slavery in the desert lands where he doesn't know the language or the customs. Yet, as he faces the scrutiny of an interested buyer, Wyl realizes he was wrong. With an exchange of coins, he could go from life as a warrior and a prince to that of a pleasure slave. 

Lysander finds the stench of the slave-trading city almost unbearable. He longs for the quiet shelter of his home. Yet, Steed’s Hold is under siege and he has come to the city to find a warrior willing to fight for the cost of his freedom. However, Lysander does not expect to find the handsome Northerner or the new desires he sparks inside of Lysander. He also does not expect the terrible stipulation attached to the man’s sale, one that would demand a heavy price of them both.

Lysander is a mage more used to commanding earth, metal, and wood than people. How is he to be master of a slave, and the slave’s desire, when Lysander hasn’t fully mastered his own?

Have you ever seen The English Patient? This reminds me SO MUCH of that movie minus the tragic ending. The whole first half of the book is basically bathing, miscommunication and desert. I almost waved the proverbial white flag numerous times. It took me forever to get through it, but it does pick up around the 60% mark and I ended up liking it overall.

The thing I like best about slavefic is sweet slave boys and Wyl is so not a sweet slave boy. If anything there is a role-reversal and I have a hard time making that switch. Wyl's a Northerner who's been disowned by his family and put up on the auction block in the South. I never really understood what he did that was so unforgiveable, but perhaps I skimmed over that part. At any rate, Lysander buys him because he needs a warrior to help protect his homeland and because he's attracted to him. It's also a somewhat altruistic move on his part since he knows in all likelihood were Wyl to be bought by another he'd face a future as a pleasure slave which would break his warrior's soul. However, he can't communicate any of his altruism because of the language barrier.

Wyl is kind of a jerkface asshat towards Lysander which culminates when he decides to turn the tables on him, a move that creates a rift between the two that he has to work to overcome.

Both are attracted to the other and there is some sex content but not an overabundance of it. UST and longing are the name of the game in this "slavefic". Once the communication barrier dissolves it was easier for me to invest in their story and sink into the romance of it. There is a sweet HEA between them and I liked the evolution of their relationship from bindi/haseid to equal partners even though that's not what I initially bargained for.

There are some intriguing secondary characters that played pivotal roles, good worldbuilding with part of a language, clever usage of magic and some adventure towards the end which helped the tempo. I wish there had been more adventure throughout the narrative. I tend to lose focus in AUs or fantasies without adventure.

My problems were an excessive amount of minutiae that didn't advance the plot, sedate pacing, an excessive use of exclamation points and two characters that I liked but didn't love. However, for a debut novel I see promise in Maefair's writing and wouldn't be opposed to reading more of her works in the future.

I wouldn't recommend this to slavefic fans.

A review copy was provided.

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