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Reaction to Owens's Dominion of the Eth
rozen_phoenix
(My original reaction, first posted on Goodreads; that's been changed.)

It started out pretty well. It continued pretty well.

And then Rylis (who is apparently Tanyan from bk 1) got kidnapped by some vines (rolls eyes), gets raped by a reluctant Eth in some kind of ritual, becomes trapped on the other side of the barrier, and then becomes no better than any of the other Melanians.
Actually, even then, it was fine until Rylis realized the dude who's name starts with G could speak his language... and then the wangsty ranting ensued.
It was annoying that Rylis couldn't quite appreciate the parallel ironies of the situation, nor instead take it as an opportunity to empathize further with the Eth. And he STILL doesn't get the point, even after Ghara-whatever tells him (well, yells it) his depressing backstory. No, instead it's poor him trapped here with these crazy fucks who...idk...I'm still not entirely sure why he was so damn...illogical. So, he prides himself in being an awesome commander and shiz, but he was so stupidly petty and irrational. In fact, he seems more like Anyar did, but he had an excuse cuz he was just some little recruit or whatever. (At least, that's how I remember him...)

I don't really have any issues with Rylis's obsession with escape. I just want to know...why? If it's for his men, then I can respect that, but it needs to be stated. If it's for his country, ditto, but again, it needs to be stated. Right now, there are just a bunch of actions and a kind of personality void. He does stuff, but they don't really seem to be backed by much of anything. Except for his mindless need to escape and his ingratitude for how surprisingly well he's treated. I mean, he even briefly entertained the idea of revenge-rapes, but come on. Everyone's pretty much leaving him alone. And poor Tamrin's in love with him. So Rylis is plotting on taking advantage of him.
Oh, and the magically awesome Eth now become the horrible, whatever enemy Eth. I find it hard to believe he would ever have been a commander. He shows so much lack of understanding in others and such an inability to empathize...and is so damn selfish. (That seems to be a common theme in Owens' MCs.)
Heck, it got to the point where I actually resented when Rylis got all domineering. I kind of wanted him to stay the bottom in what was clearly working up into a farce.

Oh, for fu-. It got even worse. Okay, this is all clearly a plot against Tamrin. I see no reason that the Eth society should have been designed so that Tamrin and G-dude should be mistreated. It's clear that they're all conspiring against everyone else to grant Rylis the HEA that apparently he's due. (I guess cuz he was denied Anyar?) Seriously, though, someone needs to take Rylis down a couple notches. Or 10. Instead of this being a contrived HEA for him, (given the way things have played out here; I don't give a flying fuck about what happened in bk 1, since he was just a plot device in that one) I think this would have been more effective as a kind of lesson in humility. And logic, because he apparently needs some. I feel like the Eth should have been the awesomely awesome race that they had been implied to be when Rylis was first there. Because in the end, Rylis was no better than any of the other Melanians. Sure, he didn't beat the fucking crap out of Tamrin for fun, but it still seemed like he treated him like property. Even the first time he fucked Tamrin (I refuse to call that making love), it was a show of his dominance and power over Tamrin. And poor Tamrin is inexplicably in love with him (oooh, Stockholm Syndrome cuz he fed him fruit as a small child. Got it) and so he just gives it to him.

And the gallant Sir Rylis rescued the damsel in distress, Tamrin, from his dark tower and brought him into the light. No. Oh, god. What is this? (Yeah, I'm commenting as I read now; I can't not.) Tamrin's in a blind panic because he's been kidnapped again, but this time he pretty much can't go back cuz of the barrier. So the Melanians drug him. Wonderful. And Rylis is happy.

"Rylis could breathe again, a grin tilting his lips, confidence in what he had done returning. From this moment, things could only get better. He stroked back the white hair, considering what the future would bring. He would bring Tamrin to the capital, to the palace, and there he could show his people that Eths were worth protecting. Tamrin would be Rylis’s—lover—and an ambassador for those of Teeathun. That was a perfectly logical and rational reason for taking Tamrin without giving the healer a choice."
So I don't get it. Is he supposed to sound like a psychotic psychopathic stalker? You see what I mean? He's treating him like a thing. A THING. And he dares think he'll be an "ambassador." Yes, we should try that out and see how well that works. Oh, wait. We can't, because that's considered a violation of human rights and UNETHICAL.
And he knows he's wrong. He says it's unlikely any of the Eth would rescue Tamrin based on the way he was treated by them. RESCUE, not recapture. Guilty as charged?

"Rylis heaved a sigh of relief as they passed through the thick portico and into the safety of the city. Here was culture and civilization. Here was sanity."
My, how quickly his mind was changed. What happened to "he was surprised by how...cultured it all was" or whatever in Tamrin's house?

"Immediately the Eth froze, such a look of fear and loathing on his face that Rylis flinched from the force of it.
He had forgotten, foolishly forgotten what Kiell had been involved in so long ago and how it linked to his Eth. It had not occurred to him how it would affect both males when they met."
Of course he did. He's an egotistical fucker. Why should he think of the welfare of other? (Okay, I know this is quickly devolving into an angry rant, but seriously. This bastard deserves it. I don't even care anymore that his mom apparently abused him. Actually, I'm starting to think very uncharitable thoughts towards pretty much everyone who isn't Tamrin.

'“He is not a prisoner, Uncle.” Always had the king insisted that he use that title. “I have brought him as an ambassador of his people, so that we might learn of them, stop the animosity and bloodshed.”'
"I brought him here drugged and bound as an ambassador. You have to believe me. I'm so completely serious I can't even imagine joking about this." Me: Oh, just shut up already. You're not fooling anyone.
It gets better. Why do I now hate EVERYONE? Behold:

"Kiell looked at him fully then, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. “Is that what you have told yourself, my boy? I think you fool yourself. Eths have a magic about them that makes all who meet them want to possess, to own. I have felt it, your father felt it. It takes over your mind, makes you do things you would never ordinarily consider. They have an aura of sexuality that blurs the lines of right and wrong. They are not beings who belong here, among us. Their energies, whatever they might be like in Teeathun, outside create a madness among us. Whatever your excuses, Rylis, you will do things to him you had never considered possible. He will bring out a darkness within you that you never knew you possessed.”

I am now about 2/3 of the way through and am dying a little inside the more I read.

"Finally Rylis squatted down so they were face to face. “I did not do this to hurt you,” he whispered, wishing with all his might that he could get his sentiments through to the healer. “You are so much better off with me, away from there. Here you will live as the royalty you are—my companion, my lover.” He reached out to touch Tamrin’s cheek, and the Eth turned away sharply, lips drawing back from sharp teeth."
How dare he? Really, I'm feeling supremely sorry for Tamrin for falling in love with such a conniving, heartless, self-centered, egocentric bastard.

I can already tell Tamrin's going to end up forgiving Rylis and my heart aches for him. He needs to get away from this abusive bastard. Away. Far, far, far, far away.

"When he woke the next morning, Tamrin had not moved, nor apparently had he slept. Dark circles lay beneath the golden eyes, and Rylis felt concern rise within him. If only the Eth would be reasonable, Rylis could remove the iron so Tamrin could take strength from the earth."
Yes, because it's Tamrin the one who's being unreasonable. Rylis is completely free of fault; how dare Tamrin be so foolish and stupid as to be sunk into despair at his situation? He should be happy at the prospect of being Rylis's fucktoy for the rest of his life! Oh, yeah, I have empathy for the characters, but not the way Owens intended, I don't think.

'“At least I ate.” Rylis murmured. “Don’t be so stubborn that you harm yourself, Tamrin. Even I was not stupid enough to weaken myself in such a way.”'
The nerve of that bastard. Tamrin can't possibly be depressed by his situation (he gets to be my royal fucktoy, a role I'm trying to disguise as a royal consort; what fault could he see in that?) so he must be willfully defiant.

'“Give in to me,” Rylis whispered. “If you love me, give me what I want.”'
I've gotten beyond the point of heated anger and am now moving into the dangerous realm of cold anger. He's taking something beautiful - Tamrin's love - and manipulating it for his own gains.

"The golden eyes held his, something in their depths holding a hint of resignation, a bit of surrender that made Rylis’s heart pound with triumph. With time, this response would become more prevalent, and Tamrin would be his completely. He had been right all along."
Death is really too good for this bastard. I think I would hate him less if he hadn't pretended to be different from the other Melanians. It was because he pretended to be more humane, more ethical, more freaking <i>moral</i> that I take especial offense. That's only part of the reason. Man, Anyar really got lucky when he escaped his possessive bastard. He's not even possessive in a sexy way. It's a creepy, psychotic stalker way.

'“You are being stubborn, Tamrin. Again.” Would this foolish behavior never end? Six months now, and still the Eth resisted. Less and less with time, but still, Rylis had hoped for better results than this. He did not have the time to cope with this nonsense. Kiell had fallen ill three weeks ago, and the outlook for his recovery was not promising. Rylis had suddenly found himself floundering in a morass of duty and emotion that left him exhausted and without patience
at the end of the day. He needed a warm body, not a sullen child.'
O_O I never thought he'd actually admit that he treats Tamrin like a mere sex slave. What he feels is not love; it's possession.

"His people had only seen the collar. Tamrin had not helped, because he refused to show his manners, refused to show his intelligence. To top the whole disaster off, Rylis had become increasingly aware of the lust-filled glances that followed his Eth wherever he was, and the possessive fury that seemed to be a large part of his relationship with the Eth came into full flower."
And it's still all Tamrin's fault. 

"Rylis felt a catch in his heart at this reminder of how his Eth had once looked. That pride was wearing thin, his early anger and resistance fading into something—less.
Rylis just wished that Tamrin could understand, could accept. Then things would be perfect. That stubbornness was giving them all grief."
So, Tamrin's coming closer to regaining what he was before and Rylis feels a twinge of pride, soon followed by...the reaffirmation that Tamrin just needs to hurry up and accept being just a thing.
Oh, god. Tamrin. My heart aches for him so much.

"Rylis heard Tamrin trail after him and turned to face him once he reached the huge bed. He frowned in annoyance as he saw the Eth had not stripped at all."
Need I illustrate further? At this point, this is the only way I'm able to force myself through this book. 

'"I don’t want conflict, not here, not in the bedchamber, not in my own rooms. I need comfort here, none of the strife that lies beyond these walls.”
Tamrin shivered at his touch, but did not reply, did not tense. Rylis smiled against the pale flesh.
“I knew you would understand. I do what I do for your own good, Tamrin. You are so much better off here, and you will grow to understand that if you just let yourself,” he whispered, kissing a smooth
shoulder. “You love me. That should be enough for now. Let it go, my Eth, let it all go…”'
The feelings aren't reciprocated, but what bothers me is that Rylis either truly thinks or is pretending that they are. That he loves Tamrin, when he so clearly does not.

"Tamrin caught his breath, hands fisting in the sheets, and Rylis could see him swallow hard, eyes squeezed shut. Rylis pushed himself up on his hands, beginning to thrust with deep, slow strokes of his hips. The compliance where before there had been resistance soothed him, and he was less forceful than he normally was, less aggravated.
This was what kept him whole, kept him sane.
One day, he would be able to have the time to be gentle again."
What? WHAT? "he would be able to"- I call bullshit. I call fucking bullshit. When is there ever no time to be gentle?

"He let his head fall back upon the high back of the chair, watching Grannian lay the uniform over the back of the long couch for his dresser to find and tend to. Grannian turned and eyed him in some concern, letting his gaze rove over his commander with a critical frown.
“You need sleep, Your Majesty—you have not slept well for weeks, and today was beyond tiring.” His gaze moved away and swept the room, the frown etching further upon his brow. “Where is Tamrin? He should be tending to you.”'
Oh, Tamrin. I don't know how much more my heart could break for you.

And then Rylis bitches about how weird it feels for him to be king and how much he feels like an imposter. Yeah, yeah. We don't give a fuck about you anymore.

"There were times when the hold he had over his needs was perilously thin, his primal obsession regarding the Eth rising to the surface and overcoming all sense.
Last night had been such a time.
He could not even remember what he had done, only that there had been blood on the sheets in the morning, and Tamrin had been huddled in the next room, sleeping beneath a table, the blankets around him concealing the worst of the damage. Rylis had wanted to crawl under the furniture with him, wanted to soothe away the hurt and reassure the Eth he was loved and cared for, but then the servants had arrived to prepare him for the ceremony of his crowning."
Again, I call bullshit.

"He gritted his teeth, self-hatred rising like a flame. If only the Eth did not affect him in such a fashion, if only…"
And again, it's all Tamran's fault. Oh, not Tamrin. "The Eth."
"Officer, he was begging to be raped; I swear. Well...no, he didn't say so, but he might as well have been. It's just the way he...is, you know?" (Of course, for those of you who can't empathize, just substitute all of the "he"s in the statement to "she." [Yes, guys can be raped, but I feel like our society doesn't necessarily acknowledge/understand that.])

"He passed through the huge rooms with only the sound of his footsteps for company, feeling a sense of loneliness and desperation that seemed to throb through his entire being. He needed Tamrin’s touch, needed the sense of his love."
The man is mad. Psychotic. Obsessed in completely the wrong way. This isn't healthy. This is abuse, plain as day.

"Tamrin lay unmoving against him. There was no sound of breath, no twitch of muscle to indicate life.
Dear gods, what had he done?
Every unkind word, every temper-driven strike seemed to resound in his mind, in his memory as clear as though each were standing before him in judgment. The veil of greed and possession seemed to fall away, and he was left with the clarity of utter sanity, and the reality of what he had perpetrated.
He had taken love, true love, genuine and pure, and treated it as if it were his right, not his privilege. He had desecrated a being of light and joy, sullied Tamrin until he was brought down to Rylis’s own level. He had destroyed beauty, crushed it to suit his own needs, his own disbelief in love itself.
He had become his own father.
He had done what he had reviled as a child. That child who had known so clearly that what had been done was wrong. Very, very wrong. Yet somewhere along the way, scared of being hurt, that child had grown into a selfish adult, capable only of seeing to his own needs, of manipulating to create his own comfort. He had seen love as something to use, something to control Tamrin with, to force him to stay with Rylis, not for anything noble as he had once believed, but in the most selfish of ways.
He had become everything he despised in others. He was no better than those who had imprisoned the Eths in the town of Raleigh. No, he was worse. At least those Melanians had been truthful in that they wanted the Eths for sex alone.
Rylis had done nothing but lie—to himself, to others, and above all to Tamrin.
The Eth had offered everything he was, given everything he was, suffered at the touch of the iron at his throat, at the separation from Teeathun, not to mention the subtle slights he received daily from the Melanians at court who refused to see him as anything other than a sexual toy.
And why should they?
Did Rylis not provide the example? He had shamed Tamrin utterly, pretending to treat him as an equal with words and yet showing others how little he respected him.
Rylis gritted his teeth, putting out a shaking hand to brush back the white hair from the frozen cheek.
“Tamrin, dear gods, forgive me. I have been the greatest of fools—” his voice choked off, self-hatred consuming him utterly.
He pulled a thick blanket close, carefully wrapping both of them in its embrace as he pulled the Eth into his arms, praying for a miracle. He flinched at the frigid touch of Tamrin’s body, but set his jaw and endured, rocking slightly to impart comfort, though his rational mind knew the Eth was beyond feeling such a thing.
This was all his doing."
...what...the...FUCK. Was THAT the whole point of this? Some stupid, misguided lesson for the abusive fuck to pretty much crush the one who loves him until he finally realizes what a damn bastard he is?

Oh my god. Now I'm feeling slightly shell-shocked.

That was brutal. Just...brutal. Oh, wow. Now that I got here...DANG. That was so subtle.

(changes 1 star rating to a 5...)

Oh, dang. Now I'm feeling guilty. And slightly unsettled. Because I bought into that. I had thought that Rylis was beyond saving and just needed to be put out of his misery for the sake of the world.
"If he could have asked the gods why Tamrin had come into his life, would this have been their answer? For the Eth had shown Rylis a mirror of himself, and it was an ugly image he had seen."
It was that. Exactly that, but for ourselves in a subtly different way.
Now that I'm over that, it's creepy what he named his kids. Jussaying.
As again with this book, I got bored of it a little over half-way through and had to force myself to finish it so I could reasonably criticize the first part. 
*Correction.*
Yeah, I've been commenting as I go, so let me just add this (the above was written probably about half-way through my play-by-play commentary in the spoiler tags).
I get it... (I need to keep this short; I'm running out of characters).
4.5 overall, b/c of the ending...

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