Doing it at: 47%
Catnip: Mortal Kombat, Russian Mobsters, Amnesia, Revenge, Dangerous Criminal Villain, Star-crossed Lovers, Virgin
Shame Scale: Low.
Fantasy Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy
TO TAKE BACK LIFE, ONE MUST FIRST FACE DEATH…
Conditioned in captivity to maim, to kill and to slaughter, prisoner 818 becomes an unrivaled and unstoppable fighter in the ring. Violence is all he knows. After years of incarceration in an underground hell, only one thought occupies his mind: revenge… bloody, slow and violent revenge. Revenge on the man who wronged him.
Kisa Volkova is the only daughter of Kirill ‘The Silencer’ Volkov, head of the infamous ‘Red’ bosses of New York’s Russian Bratva. Her life is protected. In reality, it’s a virtual prison. Her father’s savage treatment of his rivals and his lucrative and coveted underground gambling ring-The Dungeon-ensures too many enemies lurk at their door. She dreams to be set free. Kisa has known only cruelty and loss in her short life. While working for her church-the only reprieve in her constant surveillance-Kisa stumbles across a tattooed, scarred, but stunningly beautiful homeless man on the streets. Something about him stirs feelings deep within her; familiar yet impossibly forbidden desires. He doesn’t talk. Doesn’t communicate with anyone.
He’s a man beyond saving. But Kisa becomes obsessed with him. Yearns for him. Craves his touch. Needs to possess this mysterious man… … this man they call Raze.
Tillie Cole really impressed us with her Hades Hangmen series, so I was super excited to tuck into Raze, the first book of four in the Scarred Souls series: Russian mafia, underground Mortal Kombat fighting, star-crossed lovers, and amnesia. It basically has everything.
Prisoner 818 (Raze) has been imprisoned in an underground cell in a deplorable Russian Gulag prison/fighting club for as long as he can remember. Like, he literally can’t remember anything before being brought there as a boy years ago; he has been shocked, tortured, and drugged till he had no recollection of his identity. He has been forced into death match fighting, and he is a monstrous killing machine filled with nothing but hate, with over 600 kills under his belt. His only goal is revenge on the man who did this to him; he has a name and an address in Brooklyn carved on the wall of his cell. Raze has no idea about the specifics of why he needs revenge, but the wall says he needs to kill him, so, YOLO. Then one day the prisoners overpower the guards and he escapes. With nothing on his mind but revenge, he heads to NY.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Kisa is living that good life of a Russian Bratva princess. She runs their underground fight club, “The Dungeon,” and her fiancee, Alik, a psychopathic enforcer, is the heir to the whole organization. Alik is awful though, think: controlling, jealous, abusive animal. For example, his instructions on dressing for church:
“Wear something that covers you, all of you. I don’t wanna have to kill some fucker for staring at your tits. You’ve got to think about these things, Myshka. When you’re my wife, when I own you completely, there’ll be no mistakes. I’ll whip you into shape soon enough. You’ll be an example to all the Brava wives.”
Also, he calls her Myshka (mouse), and every time I saw it, my brain went straight to Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse. And I’m pretty sure that having a boyfriend who’s twee pet name for you conjures up thoughts of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse would be pretty horrid. Alik fights at The Dungeon as an outlet for his need to hurt people, I guess – which is where Raze comes back into the story.
Alik is the man who’s name and address was written on his cell wall. When Raze tracks Alik down in NY and realizes that he fights at The Dungeon, he sees the opportunity for his revenge; he will enter the fights and destroy Alik in the ring.
So I loved the plot in this one. Like I said, it had everything. Action and drama, horror and romance. In a genre that often feels played out with the same old tropes, this book felt refreshingly original.
Raze, Kisa, and Alik all have a childhood connection, and the star-crossed lovers aspect in this book was poignant and sentimental without being overly saccharine. Raze was imprisoned when he was a boy, so his romantic experience is almost nonexistent, limited to things he can’t remember from “before,” and abuse he suffered at the Gulag. Somehow Cole manages to pull that off in a way that is simultaneously the saddest thing ever, and scorchingly sexy; all instincts and animalistic urges. Raze was really doing it for me, you guys.
He was smelling me, a deep rumbling growling in his chest as he inhaled my floral perfume. The attention he was giving me was almost primitive… Neolithic. It was like Raze had been stripped bare of any manners, ripped from the Stone Age and stripped of any boundaries
As a villain, Alik was everything you want in a book. He felt like a legitimate threat, giving this book an overwhelming feeling of suspense right from the beginning, with an absolutely terrifying climax. You expect a Happily Ever After in romance novels, but with this one I really worried that we might not get one.
Overall, a fantastic dark read. It was on a par with what we’ve come to expect from a Tillie Cole novel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of this series.
Check it out:
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Or pay $2 more and wait another six months to get them in one volume! 😉