Author ~ Adrienne Wilder
Published ~ 27 March 2016
Genre ~ Dark M/M Paranormal/Fantasy, BDSM
Kaleb Holten’s father’s debt to an underground group The Association has just been called in, and the man can’t pay the loan. Instead of turning over his wealth, he releases his son and Kaleb finds himself thrown into a world where a class of men see themselves as untouchable. Going so far as to call themselves gods.
After the Great Economic Collapse there are no laws that cannot be broken. And Kaleb is forced into a ten-year sentence of servitude where he will have no say, no rights, no value and yet be coveted and protected as if he were a priceless treasure.
Leo Roan, has slipped the noose the Association bound him with by breaking his addiction to ambrosia and Kaleb Holten was supposed to be his last assignment as a doxie Master. But something about the boy begins weaving a new net that will not only ensnare him but the conscious darkness inside, that craves pain, agony, suffering, and death.
This was an intense start to a new, dark and dirty paranormal series. Set in the United States after the Great Economic Collapse, there is intrigue, a wealthy and powerful group called the Association and the mysterious men involved with it that are not quite human. This story won’t be for everyone and includes dubious consent, kink and references to past rape.
Kaleb Holten is 18 years old and prepared to start college, he’s hoping to get out from his father’s overwhelming control, when everything comes crashing down. Finding out that he is the collateral for his father’s massive debt, created for the sole purpose of being sent into 10 years of servitude and sex slavery with Alton McKinely and the Association rather than his father having to part with any of his money, leaves him with an agonizing choice to make. Yes, Kaleb has a choice, but he accepts the contract out of equal parts naivete and love for his siblings, especially 16 year old Sonny who is hoping to transition to male but is being blocked by their father who is planning to fix her by marrying her off to an older business acquaintance as soon as possible.
Known by some as a god, Leo is a man, but within him also exists the Chimera, a beast that was spawned from violence and thrives on the suffering of others. He has weaned himself off of the ambrosia that gives him immortality and is planning to pick up Kaleb, keep and train him as a doxie for a year, then pass him off and then be done with the Association. He is already feeling the effects of stopping the ambrosia on his newly mortal body. Despite his qualms about Kaleb’s youth, innocence and lack of knowledge of what he is, Leo begins training Kaleb to serve. Leo knows that Kaleb must be special from the way he and the Chimera react to him, as well as the way Alton wanted him collected and trained by Leo specifically. The more time he spends near Kaleb, the more he realizes that the boy was seemingly created to be perfect for him.
Gods such as Leo need ambrosia to maintain their immortality. It is addictive and the flower that is its natural source is limited. That’s where doxies come in. They are young men bred and trained to produce the flower’s nectar once they ingest it. It’s produced by their suffering and the release of their adrenalin. They are held in high esteem to the extent that anyone that harms them, be it god or mortal, earns a death sentence. At the same time, they are stripped of everything and made to serve for the pleasure of and at the will of the gods or the mortals rich enough to contract them. They are at the same time, both nothing and everything to these people.
Poor Kaleb is in way over his head. I don’t know how many times I yelled “Don’t do it!” in just the beginning of the book. Kaleb’s father is horrible and I’m already hoping to see him die a slow and painful death. Kaleb is clueless about everything that is happening and a virgin with a pure heart. Leo is cognizant and concerned, but it won’t stop him from doing what needs to be done; breaking Kaleb down and building him back up. It’s not “a BDSM lifestyle”, there are no safewords. Leo is in control and will decide when Kaleb has reached his limits. Kaleb has no power, no say. Kaleb is both terrified of Leo, yet inexplicably drawn to him; he sees that he has the power to affect Leo through sex and that confuses things even more. Leo sets him up to fail and punishes him. Leo pleasures him and then hurts him because it pleases Leo.
Adrienne Wilder knows how to write dark stories with plenty of emotion. She had me wanting to cry with Kaleb at one moment and me wanting to see him submit to Leo in all ways the next. So wrong at first, but undeniably hot as Leo jumps right into Kaleb’s reeducation. There is a strong connection that both of the men are only starting to feel and already you can tell Leo will never be able to let him go and Kaleb soon won’t want him to. The sex is intense, dosed with plenty of kink (pain, humiliation and exhibitionism to start) and there is nothing romantic about it.
I was glad to get both Kaleb’s and Leo’s points of view. Without being in Leo’s head, he would likely come off as nothing but an evil monster. Leo is complex. We see compassion from him towards Kaleb and the others in his house, but he is also a killer and in his job as a Master, cold and cruel. We are given some background on him, but he still remains mostly a mystery. There is a mission that arises at the end of this book that will presumably take Leo away from Kaleb. Leo is not thrilled at the prospect of leaving Kaleb during his training, but we do get to see just a bit of the feelings and possessiveness he is already developing for Kaleb in spite of all of his intentions to leave this world behind.
There are some secondary characters that make quite an impression including Kaleb’s transitioning younger sister, now known as Sonny. He is only on page briefly but is obviously strong, feisty and very protective of Kaleb. We are also introduced to one more of the gods, Zen, who has his own powers and flair. I absolutely loved the little bit we got of this sexy troublemaker and hope there will be a lot more of him to come. Finally, there is also Alton, the man behind the Association. Part businessman and part scientist, he is one of those characters that you’re not sure if he’s good or bad (he’s probably somewhere in between) or what his motive and end game are.
This is the first book in a serialized story that will consist of at least 4 parts. There was a lot of initial setting up of the characters and the world, but it didn’t overwhelm the story and I had no trouble understanding what was happening. I was immediately drawn in and taking sides. With a bit of mystery developing at the end of the installment and the promise of getting to know more of the gods and see into the depraved world of the Association, I’m really looking forward to continuing on with the story.