Author: Yamila Abraham
Artist: Ero Pinku
Publisher: Yaoi Prose
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: June 2012
Synopsis: “Caleb knew he was from a special race born to serve the Crystalline gods. Monks trained him as a priest until he reached adulthood, and then he went to Crystalline palace to serve his masters—as a sex slave. Caleb’s world is shattered. His beloved gods are lascivious pigs. He can’t accept that the righteous faith he built his whole life around is a farce. Caleb flees the gods’ harem to try to be a missionary for them. He hopes putting some distance between him and his new duties will somehow bring back the ideals he had growing up. Unfortunately for Caleb the Crystalline gods aren’t the only ones who desire his kind. General Caine, a high-ranking demon for the Crystalline gods’ worst enemy, is looking for a mate just like Caleb. When his ship is destroyed he’s marooned on an icy world with his new demon suitor.”
Well, this was a really fast read, which is something I look for in this type of book, but for once I sort of felt cheated. Tender Master went by in a blur and read more like the outline for what could be a really great story.
Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to really get to know Caleb, the main character and narrator. While the author tells us everything that happens to him, how he feels about it all and why he feels that way, I never got the chance to feel any of that with him, or through him. In the end, that feeling of disconnect left me on the outside of the tale, rather than allowing me to immerse myself in it. Not only does that mean I couldn’t connect emotionally to the character, but also that the sex scenes ended up reading mechanical rather than exciting.
There is suck a rich world to develop, complete with a strong belief structure, political adversaries and a complex caste system, all just begging to be exploited for all the potential conflict they could offer the story. That never happened. We are given the barest hint of the world in which the character lives before he runs away to a whole new environment, and neither society is truly explored. We are left with a character supposedly striving to maintain a sense of self in a world that has failed to live up to his expectations, and we are told he is suffering a crisis of faith, but I never really feel it.
Finally, the physical conflict that rounds out the novel should bring about some sort of character growth, as well as some sort of relationship angst, but even that never actually materializes.
Illustrator, Ero Pinku did a wonderful job with the cover, however, and I was strongly drawn to her visual. Enough so that I keep coming back to look at it. It has more life, for me, than the story did. I kind of wish there had been more illustrations inside.
Overall, I finally found the book dissatisfying, even with all the wonderful potential it has for being a rich and character-driven story with lots of action and adventure. It has very good bones, but unfortunately, was not fleshed out to its full potential. Tender Master just felt a little pale, and if it was meant to be a PWP (‘Porn WithOut Plot’) story, well, it didn’t paint the characters with enough colour to make me care even about that.
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Digital review copy provided by Yaoi Prose