Monday, August 26, 2013

Booknote: The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation

Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau, The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation. Riptide Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 9781937551704. (link to publisher site). 

WARNING: This is an LGBT adult title, and it is a very explicit one dealing with themes of non-consent, explicit violence, and some forced incest. For some readers, this may be a trigger experience.

I don't often have to use a warning label, but it is necessary for this title. Let me begin with the basic book description, from the publisher: 

"The Flesh Cartel: an international, multi-billion-dollar black market that trades in lost souls. Or more specifically, their bodies.

Highly organized and frighteningly efficient, the Flesh Cartel could teach even the KGB a thing or two about breaking a human mind. Fortunately for their ultra-rich clients, they’re just as skilled at putting people back together again—as perfect pets, well-trained and eager to please.

No matter what your secret tastes or dark desires, the Flesh Cartel—for the right price, of course—will hand-design the plaything of your dreams."

That is the basic premise, but there is more. This is erotica for readers who like their kink very dark and very rough.  I can say right away that the violence and brutality in torture scenes is relentless, especially in the first episode, entitled Capture (this volume contains two episodes of this fiction serial). Having said that, the book does have some strengths, and if this is the kind of erotica you enjoy reading, you will likely appreciate it.

A strength of the book is in the writing. The prose is very well written, and the authors do know how to deploy good detail and description. The latter may or not be a plus. I say that because there may be moments when showing a bit less may be better. It is the same principle you might apply in a horror work (the decision of whether to show more or less in certain gruesome moments). In fact, we can view this book as a form of erotic horror. I have seen it described as a psychosexual thriller, and that label is pretty applicable. The Flesh Cartel may be very cultured and refined, but that is on the surface. Evil hides underneath as they provide the slaves for their clients' dark desires.

The story is framed by Nikolai, a potential buyer, who is considering his merchandise options. He gives us a small glimpse of the trade from the client's point of view. Nikolai is shopping on behalf of a client we do not know yet. The story overall is that of Doug and Mat, two brothers who are kidnapped by the cartel to be sex slaves. Doug is the handsome, smart one, the desirable one the cartel really wants. Mat is an MMA cage fighter, rough and dangerous to the cartel. Since a guy like Mat is more difficult to train and handle, he is less desirable. However, bad luck means Mat gets captured along with his brother. As their bodies and souls are broken, as they are worn down mentally and physically, the brothers struggle to stay together. The second serial in the set takes us then to the Auction where the brothers will be sold. You will have to read on in the series to find out their fates.

As I mentioned, the writing and prose are very good overall. The series, so far, is a pretty quick read as well, and like a good thriller, once you pick it up, you may find it hard to put down. There is much psychological play involved, so if you enjoy that aspect, this series has something for you as well. There is some character depth in the brothers, but you may find that other characters are only developed superficially. This may be part of the work, or it may be something that will develop over time in the series. For now, that is what I saw as a reader. I picked this up out of curiosity, and I have to say that, intense as it was to read, it is also very alluring. It sucks you in as a reader. It may also make you want to read more.

For now, I would rate it a 3.5 out 5. I am curious enough that I might read another installment, so stay tuned. 

Disclosure note: I received this volume as an electronic review copy via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

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