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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Release & Review - Ravage (Scarred Souls #3) by Tillie Cole

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Ravage
(Scarred Souls #3)
Author: Tillie Cole
Publication Date: August 16th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Taken by the Jakhua Clan as a teen, 194 was stripped of his name, his identity, and his freewill, meticulously honed to be a ruthless, soulless killing machine, trained solely to spill blood and stop hearts. This is a role he resents with every fiber of his being, but one he embraces to gain back the precious leverage the Georgians wield as their weapon of control: his younger sister, 152.

Mzia Kostava is in shock. After fleeing her mafia family's massacre in Georgia as a child, Mzia lives in secret, hiding from her enemies in the dark shadows of Manhattan. At age twenty-five, believing all her family is dead, word reaches Mzia that her brother Zaal is very much alive... and living with their family's greatest enemy: the Volkov Bratva in Brooklyn.

Yearning to be reunited with her beloved Zaal, Mzia risks her safety and anonymity for the brother she had mourned since childhood. But just as she reaches Zaal's apartment, Mzia is seized and taken captive by a strange man, who is strong, dark, and brutal... Unyielding, he demands her utter obedience as he locks her away in darkness. He is highly skilled in torture and inflicting pain, and demands to know everything about her brother Zaal and everything about her. He is a man that'll do anything to get what he wants.

Sometimes love requires the sacrifice and betrayal of those held most dear. But is finding one's true love worth committing the greatest sacrifice of all?

Buy Links: Amazon
3.5 "Scars, torture and monsters" STARS. 

ARC via Netgalley.

Thank you, St. Martin's Griffin!

Rating this book isn’t an easy task, but neither was reading it. Not because it was bad, but because it was dark and disturbing at times. Not a surprise considering the blurb, right?

This is the third book in the Scarred Souls series, and though I haven’t read the first two, I could follow the story without any major problems. In Ravage, we meet “194” when he was simply Valentim, a young Russian boy living with his little sister at an orphanage. They’re both taken from that place and enslaved. Valentim is turned into a killing machine (194) and his sister is held as sex slave/addict. Mistress, the monster responsible for training, torturing and even raping Valentim, not only drugs him so he responds to her commands (no matter how awful they are), but also threatens his sister to convince him to cooperate. The poor man is so broken that he does anything Mistress wants; and what she wants now is Zaal Kostova’s head.

Zaal is the LI from the second novel, and since I didn’t read that one I don’t know much about him. But I know that, like Valentim, he was once a victim of the same obedience drug Mistress has been using on 194. Zaal’s family was slaughtered when he was a kid, and he thought his sister had died too, but Zoya is alive. She was rescued from the massacre and raised by people loyal to her family. When Zoya learns her brother is alive, she goes looking for him just to be captured by 194.

That’s when things get really dark. I mean, torture and mind games and pleasure-for-pain dark. 194 takes Zoya and tortures her in ways that will make you cringe. He does that because he thinks she has on Zaal -- he also does that because Mistress has instructed him to get Zaal not matter the costs or she'll send 194's sister away. But Zoya stays strong. She doesn’t give in, and when 194 is in between obedience drug shots, Zoya starts to see there’s a human inside the monster torturing her.

For 194, torturing Zoya is one of the hardest things he’s ever done. When he’s lucid enough to think, he’s surprised and in awe of Zoya’s strength. He’s also extremely attracted to the little Georgian girl that refuses to break. Since Mistress in also Georgian, he holds on to  his hatred for people like her as long as he can, but Zoya breaks through his every barrier and, with kindness, starts to pull Valentim from the darkness taking over him.

As you can see, the first 40% of the book isn't an easy read, but it's interesting and intriguing. It kept me turning pages because I wanted to see these two broken souls come together. I liked how Zoya’s refusal to give up and give in made her strong enough to fight for the man she saw inside the monster trying to break her. I especially liked seeing 194 fight the obedience drug in order to rescue the man that was still inside him. Poor guy was broken in so many pieces it was hard to see him as a whole person, you know? The things that had been done to him were more than enough to drive anyone insane, but through his love for his sister he held on to that little bit of sanity, and that’s what saved him in the end. That’s what allowed him to see the hand Zoya was stretching out to him.

Bottom line, I was really into the first half of the story. It was dark, disturbing, but also hopeful and HOT!

Then things kind of turned south for me.

That’s also when this review starts to get spoiler-y. So here's the warning:

My first problem with the book was the insta-love. I needed more time. Not a lot, but a little more of Zoya trying to get through to Valentim, and 194 disappearing so the man could take over. I needed more of Valentim earning Zoya’s trust and forgiveness before she was declaring her love for him.

Look, I get why these two fell for each other. Zoya’s fascination with that tale about the Tiblisi Forest monster was a great piece of information. You can see how she’s one of those people that live to fix what’s broken, even when she’s broken herself. And Valentim needed that. He thought he was beyond repair, but Zoya wanted to show him otherwise. I don’t know what it says about the longevity of a relationship like that, but in that moment Valentim and Zoya were perfect for each other. Still, she shouldn’t have fallen for her torturer that fast. It screams Stockholm syndrome to me, which isn’t exactly something I can get behind in a romance book. If there’d been more time to let those two get to know each other, get under each other's skin, mend what was broken, then I would’ve been happier about the outcome. The romance would’ve felt real to me, and not as rushed as it ended up feeling.

My second problem was that 194, who’s supposed to be Mistress' most dangerous killer, doesn’t do anything to prove that. When Mistress shows up where he was keeping Zoya, he doesn’t fight back. He doesn’t try to stop her from taking them. He kind of surrenders. I initially thought he was doing that for the same reason he did everything since he was a boy – to protect his sister. But then, in the end, I felt like he was more focused on rescuing Zoya than his sister, which contradicts my theory. I guess I just expected more from the one who’s supposed to be this super killer. It was a bit disappointing. 

Everything else after Mistress shows up was also a bit rushed. Maybe if the author had chosen to cut Luka's (the LI from book 1) POV, she could've added more scenes with the main couple from this story. Maybe that's just the "I haven't read the first two books" reader talking, but yeah... 

Like I said, I truly enjoyed the first half of the book, but I wish things had been different toward the end. After the 50% mark, the story kind of lost focus and the characters didn’t act according to what was expected of them, in my opinion. It was still an intense and original story, so I don’t regret reading it. And if you're a fan of dark romances, you should probably give this series a chance, though I'd advise you to start with book 1.

*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

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