Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau

★★★★
Mat is a MMA fighter/bouncer that has sacrificed a lot to continually support and provide for his younger brother, Dougie, a virtuous and respectable college student. They share a strong and inseparable bond strengthened since the death of their parents when they were children. Both brothers are abducted from their home, repeatedly sexually assaulted, tortured, humiliated, and imprisoned before being sold through an elaborate auction. This is the first season in The Flesh Cartel serial short story series that includes The Flesh Cartel #1: Capture and The Flesh Cartel #2: Abduction.

Flesh Cartel Season 1: Damnation is a dark and brutal introduction into what promises to be a captivating and shocking series. This book has a lot of warning labels and for good reasons. I feel I should reiterate that this is not a romance but an explicit depiction of nonconsensual BDSM specifically focused on M-M sexuality. A majority of the scenes were too hardcore for me to find personally arousing.

I love stories that can illicit a strong emotional response from me. These stories terrified me in a way that no other book has ever done before. This had a lot to do with how well written and immersive the stories were.  The prose was engaging, fast paced, and flowed well. While the descriptions and imagery were vivid.

The stories are told from both Mat and Dougie's perspective. The main characters have different personalities and distinct voices.  The viewpoint transitions were a bit awkward at times and made me wish they were labeled.

The characters had amazing characterization that made them feel authentic and added depth to the story. I found it intriguing to witness how both characters uniquely processed, endured, and adapted in order to continue surviving their harrowing experience. It was heartening to read their devotion to one another and painful when that bond was used against them.

I also enjoyed the chapters from the auction attendee, Nikolai. The chapters were strategically placed before and after each story. These chapters were able to get across his personality while instilling a strong presence and foreboding future for the main characters.

Flesh Cartel Season 1: Damnation was a perfect example of great serial short fiction. Both serial short stories were able to tell compelling stories with dynamic characters while implementing impactful cliffhangers that either from great story telling or morbid curiosity made me want to continue reading the series.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher Riptide Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review]

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