Tag Archives: violence

18Apr/19

Empire Of Light (Voyance #1) by Alex Harrow

Alex Harrow was recently on WROTE! To hear their interview and check out their work, you can find them on Episode 200: Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Empire of Light has a lot of warnings, including for for graphic violence and explicit sex. The danger with trigger warnings is that the reader will then read the book and think, so where was that violence then? Or where was the sex?

For the former, the author wasn’t kidding. From the get-go, this book has crunchy action scenes, lots of blood and flailing fists from our tough-talking main character, Damian, hitman and mercenary. 

On paper, he doesn’t sound too promising, but I sort of liked him by the end. If Quentin Tarantino had made a sci-fi, it might be something quite similar to this, shot in monochrome with flashes of blood and fire. Turns out Damian has a soft and squishy side, although he does his best to hide it. I would like to take him out for a beer and tell him how to keep in touch with his emotions.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the dizzying pace. It’s well-written, though I would have appreciated a few more calm moments to get to know the characters more.  It has balls-to-the-wall fight scenes, and a man torn between saving his lover and lusting after the man (Raeyn) who has threatened to kill him if he doesn’t do what he wants. There isn’t much in the way of complicated emotion, but we get the picture. Damian is a bit of blunt instrument. In fact, most of the characters are, apart from the blind woman, who I would have liked to get to know a bit. I loved Raeyn’s sense of style, and slinky Aris who seemed to oscillate from good to bad to good again. 

I wouldn’t say the sex is hugely explicit (though it depends what kind of books you usually read I guess) but the language can be coarse (it would be odd if it wasn’t, TBH) and there is an aura of blood-drenched lust running throughout the whole book. 

Good world-building, and a fast-paced, visceral plot. My one quibble would be the last few pages, where a LOT seemed to happen, and it felt as if there were at least one climax too many (if that’s possible.) I felt a bit breathless reading it; not in a sexy way, but in a “please make this stop” way. I fear some subtleties might have been lost in translations, but all in all, a wild ride, and a huge amount of “fist-in-the-face” fun.

BLURB

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

29Jun/18

Blood-Bound (Ace Assassin Book 1) by Kaelan Rhywiol

Kaelan Rhywiol was on our show back in April To find out more about xyr and get links to xyr work, check out Episode 161: The Vale Between Worlds!

Blood-Bound is a haunting and Gothic vampire novel, the first part of the Ace Assassin series, yet can be read as a standalone novel. The story features a strong female lead who is described as grey-aromantic. I wouldn’t normally bang on about a character’s chosen gender or sexuality but it does form a major aspect of the book, and to understand the characters, you kind of have to get a handle on what their preferences are. In this book, the author is very clear from the start, so the main character’s relationships with their closest friends are not in any doubt. Xie has also included a comprehensive glossary at the back of the book, which proved invaluable when I was losing my way with some of the unfamiliar words and meanings, especially pertaining to Welsh folklore. (Welsh does seem a language where consonants are thrown up in the air and where they land, there forms a word….)

So the story revolves around Rhian, who resents being sent to Ontario as an ambassador as it brings her too close to her husband, who she believes betrayed her. Inevitably their paths cross, with messy and sticky circumstances. There are trigger warnings at the beginning of the book, referring to self-harm, violence and sexual violence, but actually, it all worked and didn’t feel gratuitous at all. At times it was a fetid, sometimes sexy, always lusciously described brew of the good, the bad and the ugly. I felt I was in safe hands with the author, despite an initial mis-step. There was an element of confusion to start with, as xie mentioned London, so I started out thinking the action was based in the UK. Rhian definitely speaks with a British accent, so this caused a mental switcheroo when I realised the book was based in Canada. It’s a small thing, but I didn’t need that element of doubt right at the start of the book. It threw me off for a while.

When I did find my stride again, there were two things I really liked about this novel. Despite the brooding atmosphere, there is a slash of humour which tells me it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s very subtle, a hint of a wry smile, but it’s there.

The other thing is the author’s mix of Welsh folklore and unabashed attempts to challenge the reader’s expectations of a character’s sexuality and gender. It was cleverly done and didn’t feel arch or “topic of the moment.” In a world of shape-shifters and vampires, it was a good introduction to the challenges of being a world-class human being.

And, of course, there are the lashings of sex and violence, which is always welcome (by me, anyway) set against a glamorous backdrop that I could picture perfectly. The cover, though, beautiful, almost suggests a book of sparkling vampires and teenage angst, but this is far from it. This is a very adult book, and a challenging, exciting read.

BLURB

Rhian is content in her life. As a pwca, a Welsh shapeshifter, she is bound to the Dark God Arawn as an assassin. So when he assigns her as ambassador to oversee Ontario for him, it’s a shock.

Her new job? To find out who murdered her predecessor and bring them to justice, as well as to oversee the otherkin and clean up their messes before the humans find them—all to preserve the illusion that magic and supernatural creatures do not exist.

The problem? One of the otherkin she’s supposed to oversee is her estranged husband, Kai, the only person Rhian never regretted having sex with, and the only one she can’t forgive.

30Oct/17

A Matter Of Courage by J C Long

We recently had the pleasure of J C Long’s company at WROTE! To learn more about them and get links to their work, check out Episode 127: I’m Not Whitewashing Hong Kong

This was a joy to read, a book set in the backstreets of Hong Kong, where two fictional gangs mainly keep out of each other’s way until one is suspected of murdering a member of the other.

There was more than a whiff of The Fast & The Furious about this, with muscle cars, sassy side characters and a young man trying to prove himself in order to be accepted by the people he looks up to. And I loved it for that. The action scenes were well-written and not too long, and didn’t seem gratuitously shoe-horned in, adding sparkle to an already interesting plot. Show me a beefed-up Mustang and you’ve got me at the first rev, TBH. The family scenes provided grounding and balance, and the sex just added extra spice where needed.

I had no idea that besties jerked off together “just for fun.” It seemed that everyone knew about Winston and Steel, other than the two main protagonists, which got a little frustrating by the end when it was teased out to the max. (No spoilers.) Yet it’s so refreshing to read an M/M romance that is a) not set in the US and b) brash and ballsy but at the same time, adorable (and not in a “pass the bucket” type of way,) whilst not playing by the rules. The head of the “good” gang, The Dragons, is tough but fair, happily paired up with Noah, a cultured Englishman. I was kept guessing throughout the book as to whose side Noah was on, and it was clever touches like that, as well as the growing tensions between Winston and Steel, that made it such an enjoyable read.

I loved the way that all the gay characters are positive ones. The real issue Winston had was whether Steel was interested in him as more than a friend. Steel’s sexuality was fluid. He was a mesmerising character, strong yet vulnerable, with a deep sense of loyalty. I didn’t pick up any angst of whether friends and family would accept them being together. The world of the Dragons was an accepting place for a diverse selection of people. And that was a beautiful thing.

Finally, this book held a definite Asian flavour. It is easy to slip into the mindset that city life is the same all over the world, but it’s important to make the distinction between cultures, and I found that it worked here, from names of the characters to the attitudes and family rituals, and that gave the book its soul.

So this book had it all for me; a burgeoning romance between friends who actually like each other, ferocious street racing, the importance of family, tension between rival gangs, set against the colourful backdrop of Hong Kong. A great book.

BLURB

Winston Chang has spent much of his young life admiring the Dragons who have kept his area safe and fought off the gangs that would bring violence to their area. Now that he’s an adult, he wants nothing more than to join the Dragons and live up to those standards.

The opportunity presents itself when his passion and knowledge of cars is just what the Dragons need. One of their own has been killed and his death seems linked to his involvement with the illegal racing scene known as the Dark Streets. Winston is needed to infiltrate the scene and find out who is responsible and why.

Steel has always been Winston’s best friend, and Winston has always been there to get him out of trouble. Just as the stress in Winston’s life reaches its peak, the relationship between Winston and Steel begins to change in ways neither of them expected.

Will Winston and Steel be able to find the courage to face not only the unknown killer stalking the Dark Streets racers but also their growing feelings?