I enjoyed the first 80 pages of this book, mostly because the story pushed all my buttons - kidnapping, sexual slavery, abuse, potential revenge. By page 100 I was bored and I stayed bored the rest of the way. I would’ve given this story 4 stars for the first 80 pages, but the other 220 pages were soooo painful that the weight of it dragged down any good feelings from early on.
I’ll start with the things...um thing..I liked about this book. The narrating of the actual kidnapping was pretty good, even if told in flashbacks. If this book had been reduced to only those flashbacks, it would have made a pretty good 40-page short story.
Three things that killed this book for me:
1. There was no tension in the plot. You have a plot involving kidnapping, a slave ring, a villainous father, and quest for revenge, and it should have had lots of tension. But it was had none. Zero. The kidnapping and slavery are told through flashbacks, and once Winston is rescued (p15), it’s basically all over - his rescuers happen to be amazingly powerful and well-connected people who take care of his every need, from getting him his revenge and ending the slave ring, to introducing him to the best tailor and tax attorney. In fact, the last 220 pages of this 300 page book are just about the well-connected rescuers herding him from one to the other, and I could barely skim the final 80 pages or so, it was so badly and blandly written.
2. There is no realism in the MC’s reactions. He calmly accepts being kidnapped, castrated and raped and becomes a model slave. Then when he is rescued, he calmly reunites with his boyfriend, gets a dildo, testifies against his kidnappers and writes a bestselling book. There is no trauma, no therapy, no recovery, no relationship angst - nothing beyond a brief mention of nightmares. Worse, the author tries to explain writing Winston as such a flat character by attributing his unrealistic calm to yoga lessons.
3. Repetition and the throwing in of superfluous information not at all relevant to the story. Why does every character and his friend have to recount the same facts in their own words, except it never felt like their own words, but just the author recapping the events yet again?
I thought maybe my increasing annoyance was leading me to exaggerate the repetitiousness, so I did a search for one of the annoying repetitions and this is what I found:Dani: “Look at that manacle and chain on his leg.”
Stravos: “I’ll bet my next paycheck from il Duca that he was manacled to the mast of that sailboat.”
Marco: “Stavros thinks that the manacle around his leg may have been used to chain him to the mast of the sailboat we found him in.”
Charles: “and based on the manacles around one leg, they figured that he’d been chained to the mast…”
Marco (again): “You were manacled and chained to the mast of a sailboat in the open ocean.”
Frank (FBI): “The fact that there were manacles on one of his legs, complete with attached chain, led them to determine that he’d been chained to the mast.”
Marco (again!): “There was a manacle around one of his lower legs with a long chain locked to it, and the captain surmised that he’d probably been chained to the mast of the sailboat.”
Why are we told that Winston’s rescuers, obviously characters from this author’s other works, are practically immortal? That gets stated at the start and then dropped. Why are we told the names of every restaurant they ate at and what they ordered? And many many other irrelevant details.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you like your stories stripped of all emotion and narrated with lots of repetition and superfluous facts.