REVIEW: Elf Slave by Sarah Hawke

A decadent empire on the brink of collapse. An ambitious emperor yearning for conquest. An elf slave with the power to liberate her people. Prized for their delicate beauty and ageless grace, the “faeyn” elves have long been coveted as pleasure slaves by the ruling noble families of the vast human empire. But Elara is no normal servant. She is one of the “Unbound,” a renegade sorceress blessed with the innate ability to channel magic, and her master believes he can mold her into the ultimate political weapon.

But as she learns to seduce and magically enthrall the most powerful nobles in the Empire, Elara realizes the stakes could not be higher. If her true nature were ever revealed, she and her master would be sacrificed as heretics…but if she succeeds, she could quite literally reshape the world and her people’s role within it.

Warnings: slavery, noncon/dubcon, misogyny and fantasy racism, anti sex-worker attitudes

Category: M/F, F/F

Elf Slave is a series of five novellas. Taken as a whole, they make one big epic novel. Filled with political intrigue and steamy kinky smut, this is a page turner! I was very impressed with it, and had an absolute blast reading it. Spanning the fates of nations, racial tensions, sex slavery and revolution, this is a must read if you’re into big fantasy epics with big side dishes of smut.

WRITING
Written from the first person, Elara details her experiences as an avenari; an elven slave in the human Empire. The story kicks off with her becoming immediately embroiled in politics, as she is being sent to seduce and spy on various members of the nobility by using her innate magical powers. As she becomes more and more involved in the political scheming of the nobles and the war of the Emperor with a rebel faction of elves seeking to free her people, she finds her loyalties begin to shift. The plot moves at a perfect pace; while it remains action packed and gripping, it also has plenty moments of downtime to allow the story and its characters to breath. My only real complaint is that the ending leaves off with the story a little incomplete: I would have liked to see one more book to finish off this series, and as it leaves it I still have questions. That said the journey to get there more than makes up for it, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this story and all of its characters. It immediately brings to mind titles like Kushiel’s Dart, full of political intrigue and sex-worker espionage, but much easier to follow and with more action and magic.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
I loved the slow and gradual development of Elara’s character. She begins the series completely brainwashed by her upbringing, happily submissive and believing in imperial and religious rhetoric about her place as a slave, and fearing the rebel insurgence of her own people who’s goal it is to free elves from slavery. But as the story goes on she is bit by bit brought around to the cause for freedom, as she develops her powers, meets more and more people with different viewpoints, until she is able to shake off the conditioning she has been raised into. The growth felt natural and organic, and Elara was a darling from start to finish. I adored her and her journey, her growing agency and her developing relationships very much. I also loved all of the side characters, Larric especially. They all have such vibrant personalities and stories and it is easy to become invested in each and every one of them. Props to the author for such a lovely character driven story in amidst the political scheming and of course the smut.

WORLDBUILDING
Elf Slave is chock full of interesting worldbuilding, which it fleshes out gradually over the course of its story. It begins like a fairly typical fantasy realm setting, and is very reminiscent of titles like Dragon Age. We have a human-supremacist empire that has subjugated and enslaved other races including elves and orcs, we have a religion that rules over all with an iron fist and regulates the use of magic, where natural born magic users unaffiliated with the church are known as Unbound, and considered heretic and dangerous. There are complex politics going on both in and out of the imperial courts and among the nobility, and multiple rebel factions and enemy armies seeking to destroy the empire from the inside out. All of this is very well put together and engaging to explore, and the author does a lovely job of making this feel like a vibrant, alive world full of all of its own problems and baggage. Even more impressive, the exploration of how various kinds of people living in this world think and feel about things, often times with very opposing viewpoints, is very well done.

STEAMINESS
The sex in this book very strong if you like bondage and slave RP. It is filled with steamy scenes of sexual subjugation and BDSM styled protocols. And while much of the sex involves Elara in bondage and being subjected to humiliation, there is also a strong exploration of her topping from the bottom, using her magic abilities to control her abusers and to direct the sexual encounters in ways that she enjoys, or in ways that will lessen their power over her. This doesn’t always work, however, so there is a bit of a back and forth in the flow of control within these scenes, all of which are heavy with the exchange of power. I do wish that there had been a bit more emotional and experiential descriptions, as it is it is written in a very visual style that I find harder to connect to myself, so a lot of the sex ends up a little less engaging than I’d like it to for me personally. But the content of the smut is incredibly sexy stuff, and I can certainly appreciate the porno quality of it all.

I absolutely loved this book, and will definitely be reading more by this author. I highly recommend it if you enjoy political fantasy epics, but always wanted a bit more sex. There is fantastic amounts of good character engagement here, alongside a gripping plot and some really hot bondage. Villains you love to hate, and heroes you love to root for.

Have you read Elf Slave? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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