Title: Sentries 1: Marked Yours
Author: Elizabeth Noble
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Marked Yours (Sentries)
Genre: Paranormal, BDSM, Fantasy
Length: Novel (220 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Larissa
Review Summary: A thrilling supernatural story with an alternate take on slavery and two strong characters.
Sentries: Book One
Three hundred years ago, natural disaster reformed the face of North America, and the people who lived in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains would never be the same.
Now, the master/slave bond in New Colorado has become a sacred rite of service, protection, and, sometimes, for the lucky, love. Nick and his intended Master, Todd Ruger, a sentry of the territories, have grown up knowing that they were pledged to this bond. They’re looking forward to the ritual with both excitement and trepidation—it’s something they’ve prepared for their entire lives. But New Colorado’s institution of slavery has made dangerous enemies on a frontier fraught with trouble, and they are unprepared for the trials their new relationship will face. Their bond needs to grow very strong, very fast if it’s going to survive the collision of old superstition, new beliefs, and the ever-present danger of the natural and supernatural frontier.
The first book in the Sentries series introduces us to a futuristic, alternated earth. The eruption of a super volcano in Wyoming reshaped the face of North America and the rest of the earth at large. Not only changing the earth itself, but society as well. Slavery was reinstituted, but different. A woman of child bearing age could volunteer a child to later be bound as slave.
Nick is such a child. One with special abilities as well. As a child he is bound to the sentry Todd Ruger. Sentries or hunters are those who live on the edge of society guarding the world against the creepy crawlies who came along with the new world.
The story starts when Nick has completed his training and is about to be bound to his new Master. He’s never met Todd before though they did write. Marked Yours is a character driven story. It focuses on both Nick and Todd and their growing relationship/friendship and their new roles. There is a subplot, but again that mostly supports the characters rather than the story itself. Not that this is a bad thing, because Todd and Nick have their own story to tell.
Going into this story I expected the ‘standard’ master/slave relationship with choices taken away and humiliation and degradation, despite the supernatural element of the story. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slavery has become a thing of the New Colorado society. As the reader comes to understand, not all new countries and states etc. reinstituted society or condone it.
Todd might be a master, but he loathes slavery and it’s both interesting and funny to see how he and Nick work with their boundaries as owner and slave.
Todd is all the rough, tough, headstrong hunter on the outside, but he has a tender and caring side that especially comes out in everything concerning Nick. The master/slave bond was not his initial choice, but that of his mentor Jimmy Cantor. His reticence in treating Nick as society deems a slave should be treated shows every time they are out in public.
Nevertheless, they develop a dominant/submissive relationship in bed, a sweet one at that. Todd and Nick have a BDSM-light thing going on in bed that makes this story very hot. Funnily enough, despite Todd not liking slavery and Nick not knowing any different, they very much act the part in bed and it suits their characters.
Nick is a very strong character. He’s survived his childhood as a slave in training and without any care and loving. Despite that, he has his weaknesses. He comes to care deeply for Todd and fears any form of abandonment. He’s his own man, despite being a slave, but reading the story I had my moments wondering how Nick would fare on his own or with a harsher master. At the same time Nick is smart and flourishes under Todd and Jimmy’s care.
While I loved this story on a personal level, the story would have benefited from a stronger world-building. The reader is given a prologue as to what happened to the world and the reinstitution of slavery and there are (historic) hints throughout the story, but only weak ones. Because of the lack of information on slavery, especially the why of it, and how the world at large now works, it gives the reader the idea that slavery was there just for the setting of Todd and Nick’s story. It would have been better if there was more background info.
There is a subplot later in the story when Todd and Nick are captured in a state that has outlawed slavery and shoots owners on the spot, no questions asked. While the subplot is an adventure in itself and serves to strengthen the relationship between Todd and Nick, it was also an overly big hint that not all slavery is bad and to almost justify the characters’ relationship.
Overall the first installment of the Sentries series is a good, strong one. It builds on the relationship between Todd and Nick while giving hints of further adventures.