Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: No matter how nice he was to look at, she wouldn’t call any man master.
Nadia Green had the perfect life until she is caught stealing and sentenced to life on a prison planet. Upon arrival, Nadia is captured by scavengers and taken to be sold at auction. Purchased by a large and attractive warlord, Nadia struggles to adapt to her surroundings and new life while showing her new master that she is no man’s plaything.
Ivar Holok was born and raised on Tolbas. A warlord who is responsible for the lives of hundreds, Ivar has no time to devote to one woman, yet from first sight, Nadia invades all his thoughts. Always on guard against the Council and their assassination attempts, Ivar suspects Nadia may be a spy and sets out to trap her in her own game. But when things go too far and Nadia is hurt, Ivar realizes that he’s no longer sure who’s the slave and who’s the master.
Ivar’s Prize is a short but full-bodied erotic romance with a strong suspense-filled sci-fi base. Strong characterization, witty dialogue, and a solid foundation open the door to endless arc possibilities as Pennza builds a world filled with aliens, sentient life forms, kleptocratic governments, and vast conspiracies. I do want to warn there is an underlying slave/master dub con theme that plays through the storyline-one scene in particular that pushes some serious boundaries.
The story opens to and introduces us to a young starship commander, Nadia Greene, who has been accused of theft. Trusting her boyfriend to use his connections to help her, she pleads guilty to the crime only to discover he has hung her out to dry. She is quickly sentenced and sent to the planet of Tolbos. Nadia’s bad luck continues to increase once she is on the planet and finds herself stripped of everything-including her freedom. It’s only when Ivar intercedes on her behalf does she stand a chance at survival but like everything else, his help comes at a price.
She could either work her way to freedom in the pit like everyone else, or take the easy way out by earning it on her back.
Nadia refuses Ivar’s proposal to be his bed slave and finds herself in the garbage pits, mining for recyclables. It’s here she learns of the complicated hierarchy of the planet and the true extent of her new life.
I enjoyed meeting Nadia watching the fireworks explode between her and Ivar. Nadia comes off a little pitiful in the beginning but your estimation of her improves dramatically as you get to know her. I found her commitment to herself impressive. Her whole life has been turned upside down and she literally has nothing of her own anymore but her pride and dignity and she refuses to give those up. She is quite impressive in her spirit, sarcasm, and anger. She’s angry at herself for getting into this predicament. Angry at her ex for his betrayal. Angry at Ivar because of her attraction to him.
“I might find it a little hot, playing slave and master, but I am not your slave. You ever take my clothes away again, I promise it will not end well for you.”
The chemistry between Nadia and Ivar is hot and spicy, adding a nice bite to the story along with some mild kink and a same-sex relationship. The romance is slow to build and balances nicely against a mild mystery. Pennza does an excellent job of intertwining the mystery and romance together, using them to showcase the growth and development of Nadia and Ivar as individuals and as a couple when Ivar investigates Nadia as a possible spy sent from the Council. When certain information comes to light, they are both forced to evaluate their feelings for one another and the unknown and possibly long-range intentions of the Council.
Pennza leaves us with questions as she wraps up the story with a hasty ending and a small epilogue. I certainly hope she decides to expand this into a series as I found the world and the variety of characters introduced fascinating and ripe with untold stories.