Author: 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 Wizard places traitors in Stasis, a dreamless frozen state.
Ennek is the Chief’s younger son. He has grown up without much of a purpose, a man who cannot fulfill his true desires and who skates on the edge of the law. But he is also haunted by the plight of one man, a prisoner for whom Stasis appears to be a truly horrible fate. If Ennek is to save that prisoner, he must explore Praesidium’s deepest secrets as well as his own.
I first read this book five years ago when I was new to the MM genre. Never having been a fan of fantasy, I was nevertheless captivated by this story of Ennick and Miner, two men who ostensibly seemed to have no future together, but in the hands of a great storyteller like Kim Fielding, they were able to find a solution for their immediate issues and strike out on what might turn out to be a grand adventure—to be completed in two future sequels (one of which I plan to listen to on audio).
What struck me most about this story is the fantastic world-building as the author first laid the foundation of the main character’s family and the circumstances under which the population was living, and then she began to add more depth to the characters while painting the picture of the evolving romantic relationship between two men who should have been diametrically different, but instead, were fated to be lovers. Ennick is the youngest son of the chief of the principality, perfectly content in being second son and finding his niche as the Portmaster, a role in which his skills can greatly benefit and support his father and his brother, the heir.
But Ennick has a secret—he knows what lies below the castle in the Under, the area guarded to keep others away from the fate of the prisoners below. Criminals in this city-state are banished to a state of stasis for a set period of time—usually hundreds of years—after which they become bond slaves. Ennick once saw one of those in stasis and he’s never been able to get the man from his mind. In fact, he eventually goes back down and rescues the man, only to find out the Chief’s Wizard is aware that he’s taken the prisoner to his room. The Wizard helps bring the criminal out of stasis but blackmails Ennick into becoming his apprentice, apparently seeing magic in Ennick that he may want to exploit in the future.
Ennick nourishes the man, later learning his name is Miner and that he was put into stasis 300 years earlier. And though Ennick may harbor feelings for Miner that are more than that of a master for his slave, their close proximity and ultimate friendship make him reexamine everything he’s thought to be true about his life so far.
When Ennick’s brother’s family is killed in an earthquake while they are on vacation, he and Miner realize there may have been more to the earthquake than the forces Mother Nature provided and Ennick starts to make plans for his and Miner’s escape. By this time in the story, I was rapidly flipping pages while looking forward to the resolution—it was a definite nail-biter. I did not recall the details of the story from five years ago, and in a way, I’m glad I didn’t because it was as if I read the story fresh and I now that I’ve read hundreds of fantasies since then I have a much greater appreciation for both the genre and the author.
If you are at all interested in a fantasy adventure with fantastic characters and a ton of suspense, by all means, pick this one up.