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Davlova: a poverty-ridden city-state ruled by a tyrannical upper class. Resources are scarce and technology is illegal. But in the slums, revolution is brewing.
Misha is a common pickpocket until his boss gives him a new job. Disguised as a whore, Misha is sent to work for one of the most powerful men in the city. But his real task is far more dangerous: get close to Miguel Donato, and find something – anything – that will help topple Davlova’s corrupt government.
Misha is plunged into the decadent world of the upper class, where slaves are common and even the most perverse pleasure can be found. Although he’s sure Davlova’s elite is involved in something horrific, proof is hard to come by, and Misha begins to fall in love with the man he’s supposed to betray. Then Misha meets Ayo – a sex slave forced by the neural implant in his brain to take pleasure from pain – and everything changes. As the lower class pushes toward a bloody revolution, Misha will find himself caught between his surprising feelings for Donato, his obligations to his clan, and his determination to save Ayo
Never thought I’d read a Marie Sexton due to the reason pictured below…
But will you look at this! Marie Sexton goes dark and creepy, you guys! She even adopted a new pen name, A.M. Sexton, for what she calls a “dark, kinky, semi-cyberpunk novel”. It’s a shame I can’t make comparisons to Sexton’s ‘fluffier’ works, as I haven’t read any of those yet. But what I can do , is comment on the promised darkness of this story. Was it really necessary to adopt a new pen name for this book? For the fans of her earlier work; perhaps so. Release will probably throw you if you pick it up expecting a romantic stroll in the park. At the same time, the overall tone and atmosphere of this book aren’t THAT grim. This is not your average romance, but with the exception of maybe two uncomfortable scenes, neither is this book a stomach-churning or chilling experience.
More than anything, Sexton takes you on an adventure against the backdrop of a society that’s on the verge of collapse. When MC Misha agrees to spy on a highly positioned member of the despised elite by becoming his exclusive rent boy, he accepts a dangerous double role. And with a revolution brewing, there’s always the inevitable risk of getting caught on the wrong side in the heat of the moment.
Most interesting I found the confusing relationship Misha develops with his dangerous client Donato. Now, it’s probably only logical that lines tend to get blurry when your existence revolves around being a rich man’s favorite, spoilt fuck toy. More exciting is the seeming complexity Sexton provides Donato with. He is not a cookie-cutter villain, nor is he the knight in shining armor in what could easily have become a Pretty Woman trope. Think of him as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say that he, too, suffers from a multiple-personality disorder, with the difference that he is well aware of both his personalities. While I basically enjoyed the anguish and the potential for heartbreak Donato’s character offered, I would have preferred a less cut-out psychological disorder. An undercurrent of continued unpredictability and creepiness would’ve packed more of a punch than a character who, let’s say, announces his Mr. Hyde in advance, after which the author simply turns the switch, et voilà.
As I mentioned, I have no idea what Sexton’s other works are like, but I found Release to be stronger plot-wise than character-wise. In fact, despite the first person past tense narrative, that usually allows you as a reader to form an intimate bond with the MC, Misha was surprisingly forgettable. Though his exotic looks and afro hairdo deserve special mention. Add to that Donato, a man in his forties with grey temples, and I feel the urge to rave a little. To be presented with not one, but two MCs who don’t fit the popular Ken doll mold, woah!
For Release’s world, characters and plot to convince this should’ve been a much longer book. It’s nearly impossible to not rush creating a complex society and highlight and flesh out its various key players, incorporate an espionage act that has the potential to evolve into either a Stockholm Syndrome-ish or romantic connection, rough sex scenes and, on top of that, include an storyline involving an abused sex doll (a technological masterpiece whose existence is a mystery on its own) in only 220 (ebook) pages! No wonder that several somethings have to give. Most noticeably; depth in general. Release is therefore a successful exploration of multiple interesting darker ideas, but it doesn’t completely satisfy. I guess it’s up to the sequel to come up with answers and wrap up a number of loose threads. I’m looking forward to it!
Title: Release (Davlova #1)
Author: A.M. Sexton
Publisher: Self pub
Pages: 220 (ebook), 280 (paperback)
Release Date: June 24th 2014
Purchase Links: Smashwords