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Release Day Review: The Kitchen Boy, by August Li

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Release Day Review: The Kitchen Boy, by August Li

Book Info

About the Author

Gus's Books are available at Dreamspinner Press, Silver Publishing, Yaoi Press, and Storm Moon Press.

Gus has much love for readers and book enthusiasts. Communication and friendship is encouraged!
Publication Date
April 04, 2016
Chapter One

YOLI JOGGED to keep up with the long, brisk strides of the wizard, Vaald. As he followed the taller, thinner man through the torch-lit corridors, Yoli curled his hands around the fabric of his tattered tunic. Palms sweating, he prayed to any god who might be willing to hear a person as lowly as himself. Let it just be the headache, he chanted over and over again in his mind. The headache he might be able to relieve, but if it was the fit—

“Quickly, Yoli,” Vaald said in his crisp voice. Yoli supposed he could just ask the sorcerer, but he chose to stay silent and follow a few feet behind him. Vaald had always treated Yoli well enough; he was one of the few men who’d bothered to learn Yoli’s name in the twelve years he’d been at the fortress of Vyon. Even so, Vaald intimidated Yoli. Yoli hated to be alone with him and spoke to him as little as possible as they hurried through badly lit, narrow passageways and ascended stone stairs. With every step the anxiety coursing through Yoli’s veins increased.

The first time, he’d had no idea what was happening when Vaald dragged High Commander Koehen, the Uniter of Freilund, out of the dining hall and into the kitchen.

Yoli, barefoot, shirtless, and on his hands and knees, looked up from the grease he was scrubbing from the floor as the wizard supported the commander between himself and another man.

“Kitchen boy,” Vaald said, not unkindly, as he lowered the commander’s head into Yoli’s lap. “Keep an eye on him whilst I fetch my potions. Never speak of this.” He met Yoli’s gaze with his amber eyes before sweeping his hood up over his white-blond hair. Both of the men hurried away, leaving Yoli to wonder what they expected of him.

Little gasps and whimpers came from the man resting against Yoli’s thighs. When he looked down, Yoli saw more pain than he’d ever imagined a single face could express. High Commander Koehen’s lips stretched taut, pale and trembling amongst his close-cropped whiskers, and deep furrows gathered at the corners of his eyes and across his forehead. Tears escaped from between the commander’s golden-brown eyelashes and ran down his tanned cheeks into his beard. As Yoli watched him suffer, his intimidation at being in the presence of the great man melted away as compassion pushed it aside. Gingerly, unsure of what was proper, he laid his hand across the commander’s forehead. The gesture earned a grateful groan from Lord Koehen, so Yoli dared move his fingers in tight circles against the commander’s temple. The stress on the man’s face dissolved a little, the lines around his eyes and mouth softening, so Yoli continued, moving his hands through Lord Koehen’s hair and down to the curls at the base of his skull. He found the muscles there taut and tried to knead the tension out of them. With his other hand, Yoli rubbed the man’s clenched jaw.

Yoli, without realizing it, began to sing: a single verse from a lullaby he thought he remembered his mother singing over his bed. He repeated it over and over. High Commander Koehen’s eyes opened slowly, the orbs bloodshot and glossy, and he met Yoli’s gaze.

“Please sing on, kitchen boy,” he said in a harsh whisper broken by misery. “Please—”

Yoli, so lost in reminiscence, didn’t realize he and Vaald had reached the High Commander’s door. Lord Koehen’s room sat on the top floor of the tower overlooking the unbroken plain to the north. Vaald stopped, and Yoli nearly crashed into his back. The sorcerer didn’t bother knocking before entering; he never did. Vaald simply pushed the heavy wooden door open and stepped into the chamber with Yoli following sheepishly.

“Yoli, my lord,” Vaald said with an insincere bow.

“Thank you, my friend,” said a rich, velvety voice from within. It raised gooseflesh over Yoli’s limbs that had nothing to do with the early spring chill.

The wizard bowed again, and Yoli could see nothing but the mischievous bend of his full lips as he took a few steps backward, melding into the darkness of the hall. His hood shrouded his eyes and any emotion they might have conveyed. Yoli hurried away from him, closing the door and stepping into the light of the hearth. He scanned the shadows for his sovereign. Lord Koehen had spoken coherently; he couldn’t speak so when gripped by one of his fits. Yoli felt a scrap of hope.

“My lord?” he asked, searching the large room.

“Here, Yoli. Come here.”

Yoli moved toward the voice in the darkness, to a table near a spear-shaped window hewn in the stone. He regarded High Commander Koehen by the light of a single candle at the center of the table. Lord Koehen’s eyes looked clear and alert, without the creases of pain that surrounded them when he usually summoned Yoli. It relieved Yoli to see the fit hadn’t seized his sovereign, but it confused him that the commander had summoned him when he didn’t even seem to suffer a headache.

Yoli bent at the waist, not sure if he bowed properly. No one had ever bothered to teach him such etiquette. “Tell me how I can serve you, my lord,” he said softly, his eyes on the uneven stone blocks comprising the floor.

“Sit with me,” Lord Koehen said, pointing toward the chair across the small table.

Bowing again, sick with nerves, Yoli nodded as he moved toward the proffered seat and took it. This wasn’t what usually happened when Vaald delivered him to the high commander. Normally, Yoli found the man facedown on the bed, eager for Yoli to massage away the pain of his headache. On his third visit, when Lord Koehen had rolled to his back and guided Yoli’s hand to his root, Yoli had simply done to his master what he sometimes did to himself on his ragged pallet in the root cellar. Though it had felt strange that first time, one such as Yoli didn’t deny the wishes of the high commander. It pleased Yoli to bring his master release, to ease his pain with the simple ministrations of his hand. Since that night their encounters had ended in the same way. Yoli expected to rub Lord Koehen’s face and neck, then his chest and down his belly before ending at his manhood. He also expected to be sent back to his mat in the kitchen swollen with the idea of it, the memory, but left to take care of his own needs.

Tonight something seemed different.
Kitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

First Edition published by Silver Publishing, 2013.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

(Updated: April 04, 2016)
Cover – Lovely
POV – 3rd person
Would I read it again – Definitely!
Genre – LGBT, Historical, gay, fantasy


WARNING: I found it very hard to write this review without spoiling the story. So please beware that there may be spoilers ahead, though I've tried
very hard not to let them slip in.

Gosh, what can I say? This is my first August Li book, although I've got some others that I haven't got around to yet, and I couldn't be happier. Not only does the writing style work perfectly to tell the story to its best advantage, but the characters were fantastic.

The world created here was brilliantly crafted and well explored to the last detail. The threat of the Imperium seemed imminent and ever threatening, while their brutality was crystal clearly told in the story Vaald told Yoli, as well as their treatment of Yoli once he was captured. However, once Brunarius entered the picture, it became clear that there were always two sides to every story.

I absolutely loved Yoli, as a main character. He was interesting to read, always kept my attention, but he was also plain spoken and more perceptive than anyone had given him credit for. The way he looked up to Vaald and Koehen was adorable one minute, but also like love the next. I did leave off feeling that the relationship between Yoli and Vaald wasn't fully explored; that maybe there should have been some challenging moment, to test how far their love for one another extended. Still, the not knowing is kind of sweet too. Because it's clear that Yoli loves Koehen and that no one can turn his head from that love, even with torture. And Vaald did promise, after all.

As a second main character, Koehen was intriguing. His feelings weren't ever as clear as Yoli's, but that was also apt for his status and his troubles. His condition of what I presume to be epileptic fits, was perfectly portrayed with the right amount of sympathy, understanding and concern over it being discovered. The way that the condition created a bond between Yoli and Koehen was simply breathtaking, as the most tender moments of their relationship occurred in this time.

For all the sex scenes, which were steaming hot and nicely help to appropriate moments, I have to say that the most thrilling parts were when Yoli was conflicted, but unable to resist Koehen. The emotional chemistry between them was off the charts and it was both exciting and worrying to see it blossom, while Yoli didn't know where his place was anymore.

Although limited to one instance, I liked the flashback of Yoli and Koehen's first moment together, during one of his episodes. It spoke of the reason they had built trust and tenderness between them, while giving us an insight into how it all began.

Quite honestly, the way the story was told and brought us through so many different transitions of emotions had me spellbound. I was quite happy for Yoli to be in love with Koehen. Then, when Brunarious came along, so insightful and having such a profound effect on Yoli – and that journal entry! - I could easily have been convinced to let them live out their happily ever after, if that was how the story was going to go. Again, when Koehen wasn't around and Yoli told Vaald he loved him, under the influence of his potion, I was easily tempted to let them be together, as well. None of this was because Yoli was easy, because that kid is a firecracker, but I felt sure that he would safe with any one of them and that he could live a happy,
satisfying life with them.

2016 has been a year for a lot of books involving kidnapped characters, who are then tortured. I've read about 6 of them so far and this one has to be one of the best. It's certainly up there, with my two other favourites of this year, holding an equal first place. The emotion, the charm and the characterisation are one thing, but creating a world that sucks me in on page one and doesn't let up until it's over, is quite another.

Congratulations August Li, you've just found yourself a dedicated fan.


Favourite Quote

“He did this for Yoli, as the ultimate tribute. For Yoli, he offered his fighters, his cause, his stronghold, his victory, and even his life. He wanted to lay everything he had at Yoli's feet and hope Yoli might accept it.”
#1 Reviewer 127 reviews
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