- "They call us the slave breakers— but that's not what we do."
— Holden, "Bran's Story"
The story of the dysfunctional Jamesen & Larssen family, who train and sell slaves, usually older teenagers, in a world where parents are allowed to sell their children into slavery as soon as they turn fifteen.
The members of the family are:
- Holden - The head of the family who could carry on a conversation with a brick wall if he wanted to.
- Alix - Holden's wife and the real head of the family. She's usually the most grounded and sensible of the group.
- Valor (Val) - Holden and Alix's adopted daughter whose birth mother is Greta. She takes after Holden in that she doesn't always stop to think before she acts.
- Greta - Alix's slave and Valor's mother. Like Alix, she's usually the sensible one.
- Yves - Holden's first slave. A mathematical genius with a rather cheeky sense of humor.
- Jer - A slave who joins the family late in "Bran's Story". He's known Alix and Holden for a long time.
- Bran - A delinquent slave who is sold to the family at the beginning of the first book. He's mostly cheerful, despite all the horrible things he's been through.
Despite the premise and its tendency to not pull any punches, the series' primary genre is hurt/comfort. It is important to note that the story is not BDSM, though it may address themes common with BDSM.
- Abusive Parents: Kind of a precursor to being sold into slavery. A notable exception is Bran's parents, who loved him dearly.
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Valor's girlfriend Robin is one of these in "Lee's Story". It's played straight in that she's not terribly sympathetic, even though her heart is in the right place.
- Asshole Victim: Jesse, though YMMV. It's somewhat understandable that getting your teeth punched out would irk you, even if the action did save your life.
- Hanna, on the other hand, is half this and half Jerkass Woobie.
- Brains and Bondage: Yves and to some extent Holden. Though they're both slight subversions since neither is necessarily into BDSM. Yves, in keeping with his characterization as The Smart Guy, knows a lot about pain and pleasure.Yves: Pain's a funny thing, Bran. Like a catalyst. You know what a catalyst is?Bran: No.Yves: Yeah, Dunaev probably wasn't much on spare time and access to a library. A catalyst is something that— you could say it helps something else happen. (...) It can be... cathartic.
- Beleaguered Childhood Friend: Jer, combined with Fire-Forged Friends, to Holden and Alix. It's made him somewhat bitter.
- Chocolate Baby: A mild example in Valor. Bran notices that despite being Holden's daughter, she doesn't look anything like him. Later, Valor finds out who her real father is and has her own version of this trope.
- Everyone Is Bi: Apparently, a society supported viewpoint, though marriage is still only for the straight couples.
- Financial Abuse: Subverted. See "Abusive Parents" above.
- Happiness in Slavery: Of the type one variety. At least, for the slave breaker's slaves. Other slaves, not so much.
- Has Two Mommies: Though Val calls Alix by her name, she acknowledges that Alix is as much a mother as Greta is.
- Made a Slave: As pointed out by Val, nobody is born a slave — all slaves are sold into it. They do this to discourage breeding, and because slaves are sterilized.
- Servile Snarker: Mostly Jer and Yves, but occasionally Bran will snark. It comes with belonging to Holden, apparently.
- Not to mention Holden was a huge snarker as a slave.
- Sex Slave: The primary type of slavery.
- Slave Liberation: Type A and B at work. The Slave Breakers themselves are trying to save slaves by purchasing them from abusive owners and then reselling them to decent people. However, by the end of "Lee's Story" they begin purchasing them specifically to free them.
- Woobie: Who isn't one? It's almost like it was Mac's goal to give every major character at least one Woobie moment. In story, Bran and Lee are both thought of as woobies by the other characters, mostly because of how broken they were when Holden got them.
- Zen Survivor: Jer. Sad to say, but he doesn't get better.