How to describe to describe "A Year Less Three Days" by authors Alyx J. Shaw and Mychael Black:
MAJOR TRAIN WRECK
If I could individually list all of "A Year Less Three Days" missteps, this review would possibly as long as the novella, because I honestly don't know where to begin. It was circling the 1 Heart rating from 20%, but I tend to give books a chance, maybe the plot turns in a different direction, etc
Not so with this book.
In fact, each chapter got progressively worse which is a feat in itself. It was like reading a 'What Not to Put in a Romance' how-to-guide. I have so many quotes and plot holes highlighted...*sigh* This will probably be a spoiler-y review.
What I got from the blurb: a heterosexual woodman (Lias)'s wife is presumed kidnapped and while searching for her, he is kidnapped into slavery. He he is tortured for a period of time and saved by a new Master, a knight who made a deal with a devil. Somehow master and slave, both damaged men, find a way to love one another. A romance.
What this story actually delivered: A mess of the plot. At different points, you can read the authors coming up with extraneous tidbits and plot devices with no explanation as the story moved along. Crazy things such as a wizard who is stuck as a creature, a horse who plays chess or another horse that can climb stairs, open doors and curl in bed like a dog, demons and special demon knights, a knight of some special order with no explanation, a mage that heals strangers by just knowing, a straight man who is raped and tortured but seems to have no PTSD, an adamantly straight man who by the grace of two conversations with different strangers automatically is gay when his homosexual master tells him he wants to bed him...oh while both are deathly ill...so they can have sex.
Find the plot in this mess.
While the blurb mentions two triggers, here are the additional warnings the book did not give:
- Major Character Death
I'm a reader whose limits are pretty open, but not every reader would read a story with those two warnings attached. Or are they supposed to be lumped under the "violence" warning?
Necromis is the master and knight of the white bear in a fantasy land where demons exist. He made a deal with a demon to make an abused, tortured straight slave fall in love with his master. Lias is the fifth slave to enter Necromis's mansion/castle (the dwelling types switched a few times) Lias is saved, but never shows he was traumatized or abused. And hates his master, he fights his master and looks down on Necromis being gay.
Necromis doesn't care because he's the prettiest (no lie) knight in the land, the meanest mean girl knight with long silvery hair down to the floor. Necromis likes to belittle those he deems beneath him (there was an equivalent to a "you can't sit with us" scene), takes his anger out on Lias by nearly killing him and then somehow falls in love. Without showing the reader how it happened. The instalove doesn't stop there, Lias gets told by two strangers that he should love Necromis and he gathers that he should just do it in gratitude for Necromis finding his children...that Lias figured out on his own.
I think a horror fairytale themed romance is what the authors were trying to convey. And there were one or two scenes where it got spooky, but the plot holes and wacky random ideas made the read ridiculous and took away from any semblance to a plot. The best thing going for the book is the cover- though it implies both men are equals and for the majority of the book, Lias is not. He's scarred, whipped and chained more than not...so it's not accurate.
Since I can't cover all of the problems with this book, I'll try to summarize the main areas with a few examples.
The Plot (or lack thereof) - to say it was rushed is the least of this story's problems. There were so many random things added to the tale, that it made no sense. Lias was remarried and lost his wife, who he loved. I get the plot was supposed to entice the 'make a straight man gay' theme, since it was stressed, Necromis would need to get a straight slave to end his curse. But there was no effort into trying to show either man falling in love. It goes from I hate you--I'm dying-okay, I'll fuck you because someone told me to--and fuck me too while you're at it, because butt sex will cement a relationship that literally started at 70%. Since the previous 70% was filled with the horse farts and many side characters that added nothing to the weak plot.
What was up with all the horse farts? Every other page would have a description of someone or something farting. If it was supposed to be funny, the timing is way off. And if this was supposed to be a parody...it should have been clear. I can't see this story as something serious.
The Plot Holes - they were abundant, they overtook the story.
Filled with ass gas? Maybe?
Here are a few:
- Since the story tried to jam in an entire novella's worth of sex in roughly 20%, it seemed that the men didn't spend enough time together previously to know how the "exact way" Necromis would want to be stroked off during their first hand job scene.
- How about Necromis making a deal with Bonecracker, the big bad demon in this story to be rich enough to buy his original love...and becomes a white bear knight. Does being a knight automatically mean you're rich? I'm guessing not if there weren't as many rich knights? Is there a parallel the reader should just assume?
- It's told that Lias comes from a modest section of the country, where nakedness is kept behind closed doors. He even reacts to Necromis's exhibitionist side negatively. How is it that Lias's comfortable to be naked and fondling another naked man in front of his children? And his children from the same part of the land don't react to the nakedness? They're cool about it? No hiding their faces? No reaction?
Here's a better question: why wouldn't the adults cover up in front of the children? Is their fucking that important? Must everyone see their big ol' dicks?
- The tortured, abused, raped slave has no problems with having sex, gay sex at that. In fact, he can deep throat without an issue.
I won't even touch the actual penis sorcery performed to make an already humongous dick into tree trunk proportions. Because sex can't make up for the lack of development which leads to...
The Characters - they were as dimensional as a pocket of air. No explanation as to what the knights did. Necromis is a knight of a white bear. What does that mean? Someone was a knight of a boar. Why are animals being thrown out without explanations? These "knights" were worse than children. All of the adults read like sulky, bratty teens. We have the head knight telling any one how beautiful he was with his long silver hair to the floor, which makes no sense in battle to me, but I guess makes sense in this world. The characters just like the plot holes and plot were random and flat. Any emotion couldn't and wasn't shown, just told. Lias kept talking about how uneducated and straight he was. I guess to hype up the GFY/ slave angle. If written differently, he could deliver more than that. There was promise in the beginning but the poor writing style ruined any chance of the promise being realized. More yelling at the slave, threatening him and treating him like an animal rather than talking to him. It just was a big...horse fart bubble.
The Writing Style - All telling and junior high school telling at thatt with nothing shown. I will give the story something, it read like one voice rather than two, so at least the tones melded. But the story couldn't stick to one lane - horror, erotica, a mystery, paranormal, fantasy. It's not like it couldn't be done - I've read it written in more competent hands.
I had an imaginary red pen going through just about every paragraph and was left too many questions. Simple questions could have easily shaved this novella in half - did this add to the story? No? Then, it's a throwaway.
"It is as my mistress says, men who favor other men are all romance and foolishness."
Why this quote was even used in a gay romance novel when it adds nothing to the plot or overall story? It was said by a tertiary character who basically had one scene and did nothing for the plot.
This was a throwaway scene and character. Not needed and inflammatory for no good reason.
I've read one of the authors in this pairing in the past and enjoyed. But this...was a mess all around. I don't know if it was a first draft? The lowest that I can rate on Netgalley is one and I feel it's still too high. It's memorable for all the wrong reasons. The romance is dumped the moment the former slave who said he will never fall in love with another man other than Necromis...does the opposite and falls for another man after his lover dies.
Not recommended to anyone I know who can read.
Maybe not even non-readers either.