Author: Jean Woolf
Genre: Steampunk / Alternate World
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4 Hearts
Blurb: In the city of Tessera in the twenty-third century, the law can be as ruthless as those who break it. Li, hustler by night and drug runner by day, is caught in the crossfire.
His best friend and occasional lover is a prostitute, like himself. His nemesis and occasional savior is a man with a secret identity. But then, everyone’s identity is a secret in Tessera. Everyone is a shadow. If he plans to survive, Li must blend in—he must remain quiet and unseen, passed from hand to carnivorous hand without getting captured by a single one.
But what happens when he is captured? Will the shadow, once trapped, manage to escape? Or will Li fade away into the endless night, a shadow among shadows, one death among many?
Review: Well hello, I loved this book. Do I seem surprised? Yes, I am, because frankly the blurb or the title didn’t prepare me of what exactly I was going to read. See the blurb made me think that something “shadowy” was going on and it could be I’ve been reading too much paranormal lately, but I somehow got that feeling that this book would have something of a paranormal element in it. My bad though.
So this story locates in an alternate world and has the Steampunk feel in it. Li is an unfortunate kid out of many who hustles himself for survival under the protection of Mother Hen. He’s expected to work all night, every night, turning all profits except a small amount that barely is enough for food. So are all the other prostitutes that work for Hen. His clients are rarely gentle, that’s not what they pay for, but the most brutal of them all is Li’s first client ever.
Yes, we witness a fair amount of non-consensual intercourse here. Li is being the perfect profile of a degraded human being whose life means nothing and is expendable in a heartbeat should he not conform with what his life throws at him. Pain is a constant in his life, thus his character is always gloomy and sullen. That acceptance of the inevitable usually doesn’t make me like a character, but I have to say that Li has a certain charm about him that draws you like a moth to flame almost unwillingly. There is also strength about this character and a spark of life that is carefully revealed through the story. That actually happens when a dangerous client approaches him. Honestly when Soren makes his appearance I thought he was this dark character and the story would be about dark cravings and some D/s relationship between a whore and his client. I was wrong.
When Li meets Soren it seems like another encounter in his line of job, albeit a dangerous one. Danger though he gets, Soren is nothing what Li expected, and he finds himself unwillingly pulled in the middle of a fed/drug lord war. To comply with Soren means probable death at the corner, not to means imminent death by Soren’s hand, but the stakes rise when the life of his best friend and the only person Li can still call family is threatened. Because no matter the choice Li would’ve made he’s the most compliant pawn when Matt is concerned.
Ok, so, did I say I loved this book? I did, very much so. The dynamics between the characters were fantastic. Matt and Li were simply perfect together, so sensual and sweet in the midst of all that degradation and despair. Li and Soren were astonishing. I did not expect that. Soren for the icy and chilly character he was displayed broke my heart. In the end I felt so, so sorry for him. I almost wished Li had stayed with the lonely agent; nah scratch that, I do wish Li and Soren had stayed together. Meh, that doesn’t bode well with the HEA of the story right? As for the other characters, yeah they were pretty solid as well. The cruel drug Lord, the unfeeling brothel owner, the non-committal, and detached agents, they all had their charms. I loved them, each of them and the writing style was fantastic. When the end came, although it was a happy end, what made me pin for it even more was the fact that the author maintained that melancholic touch that seems to follow Li in every step. There was this bittersweet taste in it due to the fact that Soren was left behind, and damn it I’m still feeling so sad for him, so much so that I wish a sequel will follow and give him a story of his own.
In any case I hope I gave you a hint of what this book is about without revealing too much and destroying it for you. For me it was a delightful read, just my cup of tea. J