This book as well as it’s prequel The Duke’s Handmaid focus in on prejudices and the practice of slavery in the fantasy world of Byntar. Vahn has lost and acquired back his favorite slaves that were not yet freed or lost their lives as the result of neglect or abuse by another owner. He has also had both his own son and the son of one of his lost slaves taken hostage in Ganluc – the one into black markets bound for slavery or death.
In Nor Iron Bars Vahn’s twin Arx (who is also the king) is running back to his palace in the North after dealing with a traitor. Arx has commandeered a merchant vessel with cargo that is destined for a southern neighbor. Vahn is attempting to compel his brother to use alternate transportation in the interest of commerce. The vessel’s captain becomes a valuable ally to Vahn later on as a result of this exchange.
Despite the divisions and prejudices between Itzi and Elva in their society, Vahn takes an Itzi slave as optimess (basically the “head house slave”) and his mate though they are unable to publicly acknowledge the second relationship even at home. As a result of a Countess's petty jealousy when he refuses to marry her and his own impetuous acceptance of a challenge without knowing the true nature, he ends up experiencing slavery firsthand in this countess's household for a period of two months including nearly a month of training at the local “slave academy and penal institution” – ITC.
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There are also reviews by Michael Heald and Donna Sundblad