Gaven 2: The Bonding by J.C. Owens
Gaven learns that being Vlar’s pupil in all things is a mixture of pain and pleasure. He hates his Finnarian teacher…doesn’t he? Yet his body betrays him time and again, especially when he experiences the sexual ecstasy of a Finnarian bite and the giving of his own blood.
There seems to be so much more in their relationship than either of them can understand, so Vlar calls in his father, a Finnarian prince. What he tells them shakes Gaven to his core and he fears he cannot possibly live up to what Vlar wishes of him. Then when they seem to be on the edge of truly discovering each other, a shadow from Gaven’s past comes to shatter it all to pieces.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Gaven 2: The Bonding is a successful sequel to JC Owen’s intriguing new world. The first book introduced Gaven, set up his sexual relationship with Vlar and now that relationship becomes more complicated with a final happy ending in the sequel. The story is decent but once again what really shines is Owen’s solid writing, gift for description, and ability to incorporate violence and angst while still feeling like an easy, absorbing read. You can read this one on its own or go back and read the first if you’re a stickler for series but there’s enough background you can pick it up alone.
The story starts where the previous book left off, after Gaven and Vlar were sexually united. Vlar is now Gaven’s teacher both in military training and sexually. Gaven must submit to whatever Vlar wants but the relationship is almost mechanic. It’s merely a formality that all soldiers go through and it doesn’t mean anything special. Except Gaven wants more from Vlar and he’s starting to fall for the taciturn older man. Gaven is confused whether he should give up trying to understand Vlar or push for a more meaningful relationship. Just when Gaven may have figured things out, an old enemy threatens Gaven’s newfound happiness.
The strength of the novel is once again in Owen’s writing. She’s a gifted writer with a flare for description and angst. Gaven is the first person narrator once again and he has some considerable angst through the story. He struggles with Vlar’s hot/cold behavior. Gaven deeply craves someone to love him, want him, and to validate his life so Vlar’s dismissive attitude is hurtful. Gaven spends a lot of time internally musing about what he wants, why he can’t have it, if he’ll ever be happy and so on. Some of this could get old and whiney but the writing keeps the pace quick and doesn’t dwell too much to annoy the reader.
The characters are once again intriguing, though they change gradually over the course of the story. Unfortunately with Gaven as the narrator, the various personalities and actions are all filtered through Gaven’s heavily biased view. Thus Vlar seems to make wild changes and swings from extremely hurtful actions towards Gaven to very loving. Gaven is still pretty immature and thus he doesn’t see motivations and reasons beyond the surface. So to really enjoy the story, you have to accept and furthermore like Gaven, even for all his flaws. Personally I really liked him despite everything and thus was satisfied to see him get a happy ending.
Some things I didn’t appreciate are the repeated violence scenes. From the stag kill to the later abuse, there is a lot of violence in the story. The easy hand to this helps negate some of the negative reaction and a lot of the later violence happens off page. The world building remains pretty sparse and ultimately I never truly bought into the connection between Gaven and Vlar. They’re an interesting couple and the obvious choice for romance but I found the connection between Vlar’s father and his dragon lover to be more appealing.
Overall this is a good solid sequel. The writing is the real draw and the characters and fantasy story are entertaining and absorbing; definitely an engaging story to pass the time and worth reading. As much as I like Gaven, I’m ok if there are no more stories featuring him and would rather delve into something else new and interesting. If you haven’t read either books, I’d recommend them.
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