Review: 'Bonds of Silver, Bonds of Gold', by Kristina Tracer
This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region. (publisher’s advisory)
In an anthropomorphic mixed-species medieval world, Stannis, the eighteen-year-old rabbit narrator, sells himself into slavery at the Slavers’ Guildhall in Jazinsk’s capital for the 100 ducats it will bring to his impoverished mother, and to remove one mouth to feed among his large family. He immediately begins to learn his new status:
The [slave] lynx’s eyes widened, snapping away from mine to look over my shoulder. A moment later, a single clawtip touched the back of my neck, just above the collar that had already begun to itch. ‘That was your one free mistake,’ the [raccoon] slaver said, her voice suddenly full of ice. ‘I warned you before you crossed that threshold: your life is no longer your own. At this point, it no longer matters what happens to you. If I were a harsh master, I’d have beaten you the instant you spoke. If I were a cruel one, I’d have beat you before I collared you and made you thank me for being owned. You won’t always be told the rules. They may change without warning. They may not exist. Regardless, you must do your best to obey. Eventually, you’ll fail, and even if you don’t, you’ll still suffer for it. I’ll try to teach you the basics of your new life, but I will not hesitate to reprimand you, even for rules you do not yet know. Do you understand?’ (p. 8)
Bonds of Silver, Bonds of Gold is a novel of humiliation. Primarily sexual humiliation, described in graphic detail, but whatever kind his masters, their families, and his fellow slaves can put Stannis into.
One of his early owners, Miss Aida (lynx), has her slaves perform sexually in front of paying voyeurs:
Though they’d been told never to harm me, her other slaves were free to embarrass me to their heart’s content. Fila was fond of making me look as feminine as possible, dressing me in her skirts and kerchiefs, then calling attention to my maleness in front of the guests. Tani, in contrast, seemed most eager to test my limits for pain and discomfort, leaving clothespins on my ears or shackling me in awkward positions. The others mostly just took to seeing how long they could keep me on the edge of release without letting me achieve it. Most of the Blue Moon’s visitors got a laugh out of Miss Aida’s girls’ antics, and those who didn’t felt at least a pang of sympathy. Both of these encouraged the freer flowing of coin, either to her employees or my beggar’s bowl. (pgs. 41-42)
Stannis has not been employed at the Blue Moon for long when Mister Dion, an important vole customer, asks for him specifically for a night’s entertainment. Dion is so pleased that he buys Stannis from Miss Aida; though she does not wish to sell, Dion is too influential a person to turn down. Dion is a diplomat from Barony Deterikh and a counsel to its young Baron Erik, a sorcerous wolf/rabbit halfbreed.
Dion returns to Deterikh with Stannis, but just inside the border he stops at the isolated home of the raccoon alchemist Aura, an exile from Deterikh’s court. As Stannis overhears in conversation, political tensions between Deterikh and Stannis’ own Barony Jazinsk are at a breaking point. Dion and Baron Erik’s wolfess Aunt Datsia fear that the newly-crowned Erik, trying to keep the peace through diplomacy, will leave Deterikh poorly prepared for war with the rapidly-militarising Jazinsk. They hope to distract or discredit him from governance by giving him Stannis as a sex toy, after Stannis has been appropriately sorcerously enhanced by Aura.
The modification includes giving Stannis the new identity of Taneh. At first it seems to go as Dion has planned. Erik is besotted with the sexier Stannis/Taneh, and seemingly cannot be without him:
Baris Keep’s main hall was a huge room, lined with benches and littered with seats and tables, most of which were occupied. Pages walked the room with trays of food and mugs, while merchants, soldiers, and farmers’ speakers mingled and talked, all at once. My master had me on a lead behind him as he circled the room, sampling from the conversations, and it was all I could do to follow his words, much less anyone else’s. […] His mood began to fall rapidly, though, as conversations paused as we approached, as silences lingered upon his departure, and as the occasional giggle followed in his wake. The third time I heard someone trying to suppress a laugh, I knew it had to be because of me. (p. 123)
Valentin, Erik’s lynx sergeant-at-arms, tries to warn him:
The lynx shook his head, then put a paw on my master’s shoulder. ‘Listen, Erik, it’s not just your new plaything, and it’s not even Datsia. I know you try not to listen to gossip, but –‘ He stopped himself sharply, then lowered his voice. ‘There are people starting to say you’re not fit for the throne.’ (p. 125)
When Valentin is alone with Stannis/Taneh, he offers to help the bunny sextoy escape if he will leave Deterikh:
Mister Valentin grinned, showing pointed teeth. ‘Listen. I’ll make you a deal. If you get up right now, walk to that door, and leave the room by yourself, I’ll escort you to the edge of Baris and send you back to Jazinsk with all the coin in my pocket. The Baron will be in court most of the day; he won’t know you were gone until it’s far too late.’
My heart froze in my chest. A chill spread down from my ears, and my paws felt damp. ‘I … I couldn’t, sir.’
‘Why not?’ The lynx cocked his head to the side, then rose and stepped away from the couch. ‘You’ve a clear line of escape.’ He drew a knife from his belt and balanced it across one paw. ‘It’s no spear, but it’ll do. Take the first step to freedom, and I’ll give you the rest.’
‘Sir, I …’ I swallowed heavily, and my gaze snapped back from the door to the lynx and back. ‘I CAN’T.’ (p. 128)
Masochism, or is the conditioning from Miss Aura preventing him from leaving Erik? Almost certainly the latter, but Stannis/Taneh doesn’t really care. He LIKES being a sextoy now; the more humiliated the better.
Erik, Valentin, and Stannis/Taneh form a threesome, to plan how to prove Erik’s fitness to rule under cover of their having sex together – not that the cover isn’t very enjoyable. Complications ensue, of course …
There is a good dramatic plot here, but it is buried under the constant nonstop graphic sex, the beatings, and the humiliation. The beatings and the humiliation are Stannis’ alone; everybody participates in the sex. Buy according to your taste for this sort of thing.
Furry names get farther and farther out. This book’s cover is by Turbine Divinity.