Author: Thom Lane
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 536 Pages
Category: Fantasy, BDSM
At a Glance: I loved this series as a whole. The world building was excellent, as were the characterizations.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: In Amaranth, there are two kinds of men: slaves and the men who own them. It’s a dark world, full of sex and magic, where privilege rules everything but the human heart.
Note: All of the books in this set have been previously released as individual titles
Review: I hope you’re ready for a long review, because I’ll be reviewing each of the six books individually with the blurb that accompanies each one, and then an overall reaction to the boxed set/series. My method for this series was to read one book, review it, and then move on to the next so that I wouldn’t forget. With six books to read, that seemed the best course of action.
Dark Heart: Tales of Amaranth #1: In Amaranth, the Wayfarers’ Guild attracts all kinds of custom. When Lucan the mage walks into the stable yard with a lame horse in the rain, slave boy Tam runs to serve him — and soon Tam wants to do nothing else. Ever.
Lucan is demanding, ruthless, devastating, in bed and out: everything Tam ever yearned for in a master. He’s also master of the darkest arts, and not blind to Tam’s feelings, but heedless of them. Why would a free man care how a slave feels?
When Tam’s mistress asks for the mage’s help because the guild is under attack, Master Lucan finds other uses for Tam: as a guide to the city, as payment to a demon in hell. But when he doesn’t come back to the guildhouse one night, Tam knows the great man is in trouble – and only an insignificant slave boy can save him…
Review: As the first in a series, I really enjoyed it. Combining slavery—which is not a subject for everyone, I understand—with a bit of BDSM, to a small degree but mostly on the D/s line, and even then it’s questionable given that it’s slavery—another subject not for everyone—I can see how some might shy away from the books. However, I felt it was well done and fitting to the world created. In this fantasy world, slavery is very much alive and well, but it is slavery not based on race but on the rich versus those who are not. When Tam is young, he is caught stealing from a guildhouse and as such, is taken in as a slave. While it’s not the best life, it’s far better than the one he had been living as he has food, clothing, and shelter. When Master Mage Lucan shows up with a lame horse, Tam is quickly drawn to the man in black despite knowing he should fear him, not only as a Master but a Mage as well. But he doesn’t. At least, not any more than he fears the others. And Lucan seems to have taken a shine to him, keeping him at his side at most times. When the Mistress of the guild hires Lucan to help her, Tam continues to assist. He can’t hope for much more, as he belongs to the guild, but maybe, just maybe, Lucan will want him as his own.
While there is clear sex in this book, and it is hot, there seems to be little love. Affection, yes, but not romance. The lines between slave and master are clear, and they are not crossed. While Lucan may at times be indulgent to Tam, he does not stay his hand if the boy has done what he as Master perceives to be a wrong. And Tam knows his place as a slave. While he might risk a few liberties, like stealing a kiss when he feels brave enough, he is very aware of the consequences of his actions, and he often suffers for them. Brutally, at times.
That said, I enjoyed watching Tam’s affection for Lucan grow, and vice-versa. While not traditional romance, it was nevertheless a fascinating world to visit for a short time. I can understand that many people may not enjoy it given the content and rough, realistic treatment of the slaves, but if you’re interested in fantasy and a clear D/s storyline, then this is a book to check out.
Healing Heart: Tales of Amaranth #2: Coryn is the rarest of mages, a young man with the gift of healing. A chance encounter with a sick slave on the road leads to love unimagined, a match for his gentle heart, and the two to a town riven with plague. It’s too much for one inexperienced healer—but still, Coryn will break himself with trying and his new boy’s heart in the process. What will it take to heal a healer’s heart?
Review: The focus of this book is a new set of Master and slave. Coryn is a young mage, just free from training, really, when he runs into a sick slave on the road being chased by men hunting him. As a healer, Coryn is able to help the slave, claim Raff as his own, and go help a town beset by a plague. The same plague that he healed Raff from. Having been saved by the mage, Raff completely devotes himself to Coryn and his well-being. However, the mage doesn’t know his own limits and stretches himself too thin. Dangerously so. And as a result, Raff is sent away to find help in a world where a lone slave wandering is free for the taking by anyone who chooses so.
While I didn’t expect to see Lucan and Tam again, they showed up at one point and I was pleasantly surprised to see them. Though the focus is Coryn and Raff, the established Master and slave are a nice counterpoint to the fledgling pair. Coryn needs to learn more about being a Master and Raff needs to learn his place as a mage’s slave. Their affection and devotion to each other is palpable on the page, and different from that presented in Lucan and Tam.
Fans of the first book will definitely like this one. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, and I truly could not figure out what was happening with the plague spreading through the city. As with the first, there is fantasy and there is a D/s line, if not directly BDSM. That said, because this series deals with slavery, read at your risk if that is a trigger for you. I found it to be well done, as in the first book, and fitting for this world Thom Lane created.
Hidden Heart: Tales of Amaranth #3: Tiffin is a slave boy, branded and chained, trained to serve and eager to please. That’s all he knows; his past life is a mystery, wiped from his mind. Sold to a grim fortress and facing a bleak future, he seeks comfort where he can find it, in the arms and at the feet of Sergeant Zander. He’s happy to give over control of his body to that dominant, delightful man — but someone else keeps stealing into his mind, taking over.
Tiffin doesn’t know how or who. All he knows is how much trouble he’s in, and how much worse it’s going to get…unless Zander can help him discover what’s going on, before he literally loses his mind.
Review: It seems like every book in this series adds a new element to it, which keeps the interest of the reader going. Tiffin is one of many slaves brought to serve at a fortress, and lucky… unlucky?… for him, he’s caught the eye of Sergeant Zander for a simple errand. What begins as a simple errand ends up keeping him in the fortress rather than the fields where he’ll be a little more at ease. Plus, at night, there’s always Sergeant Zander who can come and claim him.
Tiffin has no memory of his past. He only remembers his brand and collar, and nothing before that moment. So when he starts acting strangely, forgetting himself and wandering into places a slave should never be, touching things he never should, Zander and the others know something is wrong. But what?
Part of me was frustrated with Tiffin, but I still enjoyed his character. Zander as well. The setting is different from the first two books. While it is in the same world, it takes place mostly in a fortress that terrifies people rather than the open countryside or the city of Amaranth itself. Of course, this is Amaranth so who would show up but Master Lucan and Tam? Again, I was thrilled to see them and how they interacted with Zander and Tiffin.
As with the other books, there is some abuse, D/s, dubious consent, slavery, and more. If you dislike any of those topics or they are triggers for you, I’d advise you to keep back from this series. However, as with the other books, it is once again handled deftly. The men truly care about each other as much as their land allows Masters and slaves to care for the other, and it shows in their little nuances of daily life.
Runaway Heart: Tales of Amaranth #4: On a drunken bet, Marc broke into Baron Thiviers’ mansion to steal something precious. Discovered and almost caught, he’s being hunted by the baron and his hounds when Finn, the runaway slave boy, saves his life. Marc claims possession of Finn, to redeem that foolish bet–what’s more precious than a beautiful boy? But his so-called friends reject him, and the baron comes after him relentlessly, so he takes the boy and flees again.
Yet it’s Finn the baron can track, by means of renegade magic, and in the end, Finn has no choice. He runs from the new young master he’s come to love and confronts the chasing baron, sacrificing himself to save Marc’s life. Except that Marc too is in love, and so comes after his errant boy, throwing his own life into danger yet again.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: strong BDSM theme and elements, male/male sexual practices, master/slave dynamic.
Review: When I started this book, I honestly didn’t think I would like it. It’s different from the others because Marc is a cocky young Master who is so sure of himself it’s painful to watch. And then there’s Finn, who wants to please and is happy to be away from the Baron but is unsure of his new master, even as he wants to be there. As I kept reading, I liked Marc less and less and wondered if I would even be able to finish the story… but then in one well-written scene, I found myself tearing up and sympathizing with poor, foolish Marc, and my heart utterly broke for him and Finn. After that, I knew I needed to finish the story to find out if they would be okay.
Marc has been tasked with stealing something from the local Baron to prove himself to his “friends.” After nearly being caught, he runs into Finn in the forest, who has escaped the clutches of his horrible Master some weeks earlier. Torn between saving himself and helping a man the Baron is clearly after, Finn takes Marc in. As a result, he finds his hard-won freedom gone in seconds, and his future once again dictated by the whims of his Master.
But the Baron doesn’t like being stolen from, and he wants his missing slave back. He’ll stop at nothing to get them.
It took about half the story to really care about Marc, but I finally did. I thought he was a spoiled young man who fell in with a bad group and was suffering because of it. Finn, well, I wanted him to be happy and couldn’t see a way out of the mess for him. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the resolution. I honestly though Master Lucan and Tam would come riding to the rescue, but they were sadly missing from this book. While I missed them, seeing Marc and Finn navigate their new circumstances on their own was a nice change of pace. I just wish there was more to see what would happen to them next.
Gambling Heart: Tales of Amaranth #5: Jay should be a very happy slave boy. His new master is young, hot, affectionate, and no stricter than he needs to be. Also rich now, thanks to one night’s hectic gambling. But the man who lost all that money – and his slave boy too – wants his revenge. He wants everything back, including Jay, and he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his goal.
It’s dangerous to challenge so much wealth and influence, let alone to defeat them – and that’s only the start of the trouble for Jay and his master Jensen. Jay has a secret that he’s kept hidden from all the men who’ve owned him. Now that’s going to lead him and his master too down strange roads in stranger company, and into deadly danger, eventually into Hell itself…
Review: It’s hard to pick favorites in this series, but I honestly think this one might be it. There’s so much more to the Master/slave relationship than with the others. Jay is not your typical slave boy, and his Master isn’t as careful as one should be, especially one who has just won a lot of money and a young slave to boot.
Jay has had his fair share of unpleasant Masters, but he’s finally found the one he wants in Jensen. Though his new Master is rather lazy and has a bad habit of gambling, he’s been won and that’s the way he wants to keep it. Of course, he should have known his former owner would want him back. It’s a matter of pride, and the wealthy young man does not want to be shown up by a wastrel like Jensen. But Jay has a way of keeping the odds in his favor, and he’ll do what he has to in order to keep himself and his new Master safe.
Jay was such a pleasant change to the other slaves. While I liked each of them, Jay is different from the rest, and no one really knows how. At least, no one does until, you guessed it, Master Lucan and Tam show up. I was thrilled to see them make a return after their absence from the previous book, and I was intrigued by how Jay and Jensen would get out of their mess. As with the others, I wish this story was longer. There is so much left to explore where it concerns Jensen and Jay and the new road before them.
Same warnings apply to this one as with the other books. I won’t be too repetitive here.
Heart’s Hunt: Tales of Amaranth #6: Once Martel was a thieftaker, an honourable young man working an honourable profession with his father, keeping the city safe. Then came revolution and chaos. Now he’s alone and living as a bounty hunter, as low as he can fall. Rumour says the last of the overthrown royal family is hiding in the forest that borders Amaranth. Prince Joslyn would be a better prize than runaway slaves and murderers; the price on that boy’s head would make Martel for life, and give him a chance to rebuild his reputation.
When he rides into the charcoal-burner’s clearing, he doesn’t find a depraved young aristocrat hiding out with his loyal servant. Rather, he finds a displaced old man doing the best he can with only a slave to help. A willing, beautiful, poorly trained slave. From their first encounter, Martel can’t keep his hands off the boy – and sees no reason to, when the master doesn’t care and the inexperienced boy is sullen and frightened and eager all at once. This is the last thing he was looking for – but can one hot night change the course of a life, of two lives…?
Review: This book is a part of the Tales of Amaranth, but is more loosely related. Set in a neighboring country where the monarchy has been deposed and they are looking for a remaining heir, Martel is a former thieftaker who is looking for the lost Princeling Joslyn. When he runs into an old charcoal burner and his young slave, he gives them some advice to get out of the country while they can, before the Counsel descends on them and thinks the nameless slave boy is the lost Prince Joslyn.
Much shorter than the other stories, this one is told solely from Martel’s POV, which left some intrigue as to who the slave boy was. Of course, in the end it becomes clear, and I liked not knowing everything about him, but as with the others, I wanted to know what would become of them once Martel made up his mind and took his new slave away.
Sadly, Master Lucan and Tam do not show up in this story, but after reading it I wondered if Martel and his slave boy show up in another book in this series. Part of me feels like I had read about them before, but I can’t be sure.
Same warnings of the first five books apply.
Overall: I loved this series as a whole. The world building was excellent, as were the characterizations. I like that Thom Lane managed to work Master Mage Lucan and Tam into most of the other books because they were what drew me into the series.
While each book can stand alone and be read separately, it’s fun to read them in order because you see the small progression of Lucan and Tam’s relationship while other couples are being established.
As for the slavery, it’s handled well. There are cruel owners, yes, but the main characters are not the cruel ones, and it fits in this world where mages exist and some can open the door between this plane and hell.
If you like historical-like worlds with fantasy and do not mind characters who are slaves, or you like BDSM or D/s, then I highly recommend this entire series. Not a single book disappoints, and I honestly hope there are more books—or at least short stories—that will come out eventually, because I am not ready to leave Amaranth.
You can buy Tales of Amaranth: The Boxed Set here: