The Collar and the Cavvarach

by Annie Douglass Lima
304 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Ariel_of_Narnia

An engaging read with excellent, relatable characters and clear-set morals.


Fourteen-year-old slave Bensin made a promise to his mom that, one day, his little sister would be free. He's tried twice to no avail and he's soon sold to a new owner, a martial arts instructor. But with this new master comes a hope to free Ellie by another method: his skill in the art of cavvara shil.


Good and bad are clearly defined, no matter how much the main characters struggle and even rationalize their decisions.
Bensin is fiercely loyal to Ellie and puts her needs first; he also cares a good deal about his new owner, Steene. He makes a couple bad decisions and lies several times (all of which are frowned upon and resolved), but is otherwise a model slave, brother, and athlete.
Steene also gets time in the spotlight and has his own problems. His greatest conflict lies in his hypocrisy: owning a slave despite his stance against slavery; he fights with his conscience multiple times. He does treat Bensin well, though, and goes out of his way a couple times for the boy.
One policeman balances the upholding of the law and being compassionate.

Spiritual Content

None that I recall.


It's mentioned multiple times that Bensin's old master lashed him, often for little offences; he is also lashed by the police. He fears that Ellie may receive the same treatment, but she doesn't. A couple slaves are bound and gagged.
There are a good number of sports-related injuries: cavvara shil involves a great deal of kicking and the use of a dull, sword-like weapon.
Bensin defends himself in a street fight and is pretty beat up. He also engages in armed hand-to-hand combat outside of the sports ring once. Elsewhere, he is caught unawares and pummeled. A couple of his injuries are minor and more-or-less everyday scrapes and bumps.
Multiple gunshots are fired; one meets its mark, but not fatally.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Bensin enters a shady part of town, where multiple shops sell betel nut in abundance and the ground sports stains from people having spit out the juice. Bensin approaches a few teens at a bar, two of whom were underage drinking (one is caught and punished).

Sexual Content

It's mentioned multiple times that slave girls are often mistreated; it's never spelled out as to what that mistreatment is, but it's made clear that it's terrible. One man is creepy when talking about a very young slave girl; "cuteness" can lead to trouble for slave children.
It's mentioned that Steene's wife was seeing someone before they divorced.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

There is some name-calling, such as "collar" (a degrading nickname for slaves) and "jerk".
Bensin is made to clean a vividly filthy restroom.


It takes some good storytelling to get me to commit to reading something of this length on the computer (though this is also available in book format), but The Collar and the Cavvarach managed to do exactly that. Set in a modern-day world (albeit "alternate reality", "other dimension", or "near-future" in flavour), this is an engaging story with well-rounded, believable, likeable characters. I was caught up in Bensin's hopes and despairs, in Steene's inner struggles, in the thrill of the climax. There is a lot of character development, a fair amount sports action, and more going on, but the book's core tale of a brother trying to free his sister is never lost.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 11-12

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