Servant of the Seasons 1: Autumn by Lee Benoit – review

Rating: 8.5/10 ★★★★★★★★½☆ Title: Servant of the Seasons 1: Autumn
Author: Lee Benoit
Genre: Sci-fi/speculative
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US$2.49
Other Information/warnings: m/m, slavery
Summary [from the publisher]:
Kicked out of his home in the Domes, Edor finds himself squatting on abandoned land, taking it on as his own and trying to eke out a meagre living from the infertile soil. When his closest neighbor, Varas, offers to trade his hard-earned crop for him in the town several weeks’ walk away, Edor takes the man up on it.
Months later, when Varas still has not returned, Edor has given his hopes of getting seed for a winter crop and a beast of burden. In fact, he’s just decided that Varas has cheated him when the man returns, two slaves meant to be Edor’s in tow.
Edor frees the slaves as soon as Varas leaves, but to his surprise, the men stay with him and change his life and his land in ways Edor could never have dreamed

My review: I’m an absolute sucker for Robinson Crusoe/survival in the wilderness stories, but they have to be well-done and convincing. Lee Benoit has succeeded not only in creating a wonderfully well-researched ‘man against nature’ story but also in establishing an intriguing world and rounded characters which should carry the reader’s interest easily through the three further planned parts to this series.

What I particularly loved about this was the weaving of myth and science fiction, and the way information is delivered in bits, at the appropriate moment, the mystery being unfolded gracefully, instead of dumped in an ugly lump. She’s also taken a slash stalwart – the master/slave scenario – and cleverly subverted it, so you’re never really sure where this story is going. It ends with many loose ends and questions, but is satisfying as a stand-alone nonetheless. Edor is a complex character we only just begin to get to know, the ‘twins’, Lys and Tywyll mysterious but yet engaging. She makes the villain, Varas, venal rather than monstrous, but his menace is powerful for all that. The backdrop to this story, the domes, the attacks by the Salters, the whole world economy, will surely be further described and elaborated upon in the next parts, but Benoit has given the reader more than enough in this to make them curious for more.

Enjoyable, nicely written (though with Torquere’s customary sloppy formatting), lyrical and often beautiful, this story creates a real sense of place and time which lingers in the mind. Highly recommended.