I admit to being very conflicted on this review. There are several triggers here: noncon, abuse, torture, etc., that were graphic and frequent enough to be stomach turning. Add in a very unbelievable and almost inst-luv situation amidst all that violence and the ending can feel very suspect. But there are also many layers here and, as seems to be the case with Lisa Henry’s books, no easy answers or simple characters.
Story: Society is falling apart except in the City of Beulah – a master planned community of the future. The walled city is safe and clean – rare criminal activity (usually from visitors outside the City) are sentenced to rehabilitation through servility to those they wronged. When newcomer to the City Rory is unexpectedly attacked by a thief, the captured criminal is forced to work for Rory (live at his house, cook, clean, and perhaps more..) to make up for his assault. But what Rory doesn’t know is that the thief, Tate, has been implanted with a neural chip enforcing servility – and that human nature means there are those who would take advantage of that condition.
This book rates a solid three stars for the depth and nuances of the characters. Very compelling and intriguing reasons were given to support how such a mind-altering chip could actually work. As well, there are no evil or good men – just those willing (or less willing) to give in to baser desires. We all know there really is no utopia that could ever survive its inhabitants. Authors Henry and Belleau give yet another compelling view of just how wrong one can go.
There are quibbles here: I didn’t believe the worldbuilding nor the characters as much. As noted earlier, the romance/instaluv, while not silly, was underwritten enough as to not ring completely true at the end. But the book, while a bit slow in the middle, was compelling enough to keep me reading throughout.
I’m not sure how I feel about the continual non con rapes and violence. It makes the book hard hitting but also can leave a bad taste in the mouth for quite a bit afterwards (you may feel like you have to shower afterwards for a lingering dirty feeling). Reviewed from an ARC.