Oh my goodness! Bend me over, spread me wide, and put a smile on my face because The King's Prize is a story that pushed all the right buttons for me! I strongly suspect that I will be seeking out more of what the glorious Mr. Mansfield has to offer very soon.
Here we have an alien fantasy world, one that is subtly different from our own. On the surface, it looks very much like the world of any medieval fantasy tale, but there are a few interesting touches that remind us we're not on Earth . . . or, at least, the Earth we know and love. The most interesting of those differences is the fact that, on this world, homosexuality is not only accepted, it is openly embraced as the King's sexual expression of choice. As a result, when ape-like soldiers arrive at Pan's farm to claim him for the King's harem, there are the usual tears and sorrow over losing a son, but parents and siblings are actually proud that he was chosen, and excited about the prestige that his appointment will bring the family.
There's no shame here. There's no embarrassment. There's no guilt. There's just the fear of the unknown . . . and the curiosity of new experiences.
The darker side of my soul loved the way in which the soldiers took advantage of Pan on their journey, roughly taking their pleasure of him, all the while preparing him for the King. No longer a virgin, gently loosened up, and accustomed to the taste of men, Pan comes before the King ready to win himself a place of honour. The romantic side of my soul loved that the tender, heart-felt, loving sexuality of his scenes with the King, a romantic infatuation that I found incredibly sexy. While the rough scenes on the road are a bit rushed, Mansfield pays careful attention to the erotic details between Pan and his King, giving us the full range of sights, smells, and tastes of life within the harem.
The story does end rather abruptly, leaving me to wonder whether my copy was missing something, but it does end (for the most part) on a happy note. There's some definite tension and some real danger just before that end, but it serves to provide the King with a chance to demonstrate that his love for young Pan is just that - love, and not just some lust for the new boy.
I would love to see a sequel, or perhaps a novella length expansion of the story, but what is included here works very well. I loved it . . . even if I was, perhaps, a little too guilty of sharing the harem's jealousy over Pan. He is one very lucky boy!
[Reviewed by Bobbi]