Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance; m/m romance
Series: Demons of Elysium, #3
Length: 285 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: August 5, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Now that his lover is back in his arms, Belphagor is taking his own sweet time to say the words Vasily longs to hear: “You’re my boy.” And savoring the sweet torture of driving the firespirit into a frenzy of unfulfilled need.
As the undisputed master of Heaven’s gaming tables, Belphagor never plays unless he’s certain of winning. But this time, political machinations send the game—and Vasily—tumbling to the brink of even his formidable control.
Vasily can’t deny enjoying their delightfully edgy play—until the airspirit auctions him off for a night to the one demon with a gift for taking things too far. Seductive Silk, tight-lipped about the end of his relationship with the sweet submissive Phaleg, may also be involved with a new faction threatening the pregnant queen of Heaven.
Belphagor couldn’t be less interested in the games angels play, but when angelic and demonic intrigues overlap, he’s drawn in against his will. And forced to break his one inviolable rule: Never gamble what you can’t afford to lose.
Warning: Contains more than a mouthful of m/m ménage, with intense D/s situations featuring intricate rope work, balaklavas, and a flurry of snow.
Master of the Game is a story on multiple levels; it’s the continuation of Bel’s attempt to rid Raqia of the child slavery ring from King of Thieves (reviewed here), it’s the foreshadowing the dynastic war among the supernal realms that blows into full eruption in The Fallen Queen (reviewed here), and it’s first and foremost the love, sex and domination story between Belphagor and Vasily.
Considering the Vasily is a fire-spirit, it would be correct to call Master of the Game one very hot mess, in a completely captivating way. Everything boils over into delicious decadence.
Master of the Game is still (and always) Belphagor’s story, no matter who might be occupying center stage on any particular page.
After three books of the Demons of the Elysium series, I still see these as the story of how Bel changes from the selfish bastard he presents himself to be (and clearly used to be, based on his history) and the demon who saves the supernal realms in The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy. There had to be a transformation, and this is the way it went.
The first story, Prince of Tricks (reviewed here) was mostly about Bel finally admitting to himself that he actually loved Vasily, and that they weren’t just mutually using each other. The second showed him rescuing a bunch of demon children who had been sold into sexual slavery, meanwhile risking his relationship with Vasily in the process.
Bel does the right thing using some of the wrong methods. And doesn’t learn his lesson, because he does it again in Master of the Game. The difference is that this time Vasily calls him on it when he’s gone too far.
But the stakes are even higher this time. A group of Angels from the higher courts is planning to assassinate the queen, before she gives birth to yet another baby, but one who might be male and cement her husband’s rule.
Instead, the wrong woman is killed and the events that follow set the stage for The Fallen Queen. The child that the queen bears is the daughter who falls.
But the trick is to try to get the King to let go of his idealism about demons, so that he can survive and not be overthrown. At least not now. Later will happen, well, later. Everyone hopes much later.
In the middle of the politics, a very personal quest surfaces. Bel needs to rescue the demon children that he failed to save in King of Thieves from a fate that isn’t worse than death, because it is death.
A very long, painful and drawn out death.
Bel uses everyone and everything around him to get the results he wants. He nearly loses Vasily, again. Vasily nearly gets killed, again. It’s what they do.
But the story that hurts the heart is that of the Angel Phaleg, who admits that he loves the demon Silk so much that he will risk his career and his life for a man that he is not supposed to be seen with on the streets, let alone love.
Angels are allowed to play with demons. Male angels are allowed to play with male demons. But letting it get serious is dangerous and forbidden and everything that Phaleg isn’t supposed to want. But still needs.
He uses his rank to save them all. And loses everything but the man he loves.
Escape Rating A: The world of Raqia and the Devil’s Doorstep is a place that is dangerous and seductive and will steal your soul.
Belphagor is not a good man. He’s not a good demon. But he seems to be what everyone needs to solve every crisis and patch up too many people’s broken places. He’s a savior who always sees himself as a tempter and a player.
He plays to win, but no outsider ever seems to realize that the stakes he is playing for are not the ones on the table. He’s not someone that anyone would be eager to meet in a dark alley–unless he’s their only answer to a prayer. Or a curse.
If you love the darkest of darks in your antiheroes, introduce yourself to Belphagor. He’ll steal your soul and your wallet, and possibly save your life. Or at least put you inside an awesome story.
About Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred is the author of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy, the Demons of Elysium series, and The Devil’s Garden. Born in Billings, Montana, she spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.You can find Jane on her Twitter account and Facebook page and on her website, www.janekindred.com.
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