Thursday, 7 November 2019

Book Review - The Assassin and the Soldier by Carly Morgan

The Assassin and the Soldier

Four Stars

There’s more than a touch of The Hunger Games about The Assassin and the Soldier and that’s no bad thing. Especially when it is done as well as this. This dystopian story would make a cracking Young Adult Fiction book were it not for the frequent steamy sex and spankings which push it firmly into the Proper Actual Adults Fiction section of the virtual bookstore.

The book is set in a grim future where the citizens of what was once North America are governed by the dictatorial Amity party. As we learnt with the Capitol in The Hunger Games, bloodthirsty dictatorships love a bit of reality telly. Here, it’s a gameshow where dangerous convicted criminals are pitted against each other to compete for their freedom.

Kaelia Nemesis has been serving time in a brutal workcamp before she is selected for the show. Being a ruthless assassin with a large number of deaths on her hands isn’t going to win her any popularity points with the audiences at home but then all of the other contestants have pretty dark pasts too. It’s that sort of TV show.

Each contestant is paired with a trainer. The initial indifference and then vague animosity between Kaelia and her trainer, Callan Merone inevitably develops into much more interesting feelings.

Kaelia and Callan. Kinda.

There’s a good reason for this. It’s not just about the sexual chemistry and natural Dom/sub dynamic between two attractive (and frequently half-naked) people. Although that does help, obviously. Kaelia and Callan share a secret and a past which they never expected to share with anyone else again. I am being deliberately coy about what their secret is even though it’ll probably be spoilered in every other review on this page (and, it turns out, the actual book blurb). This is because I read the book not knowing anything about it and found the gradual reveal of Kaelia and Callan’s backstory quite exciting.

I'll just leave this here as a clue to the Big Reveal

Kaelia is an intriguing woman and her growing acceptance of her own vulnerability makes for a satisfying and unusual character arc. Sex between her and Callan is frequent and very hot. The discipline meted out is intense. Which when it comes to spankings, is always a good thing I reckon. I did wince at the scenes where rough anal sex is given as a punishment, though.

The story itself is fast moving with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing throughout. The televised competition seems a bit tame compared to, say, The Hunger Games. Hard to imagine people wanting to watch violent criminals taking part in a general knowledge quiz.  Eventually, though, by the last round all gloves are off. Even so the book’s body count is considerably lower than in dystopian books aimed at children.

Carly Morgan is a great writer but, boy, she does love a simile. Once you start noticing the inventive comparisons, it’s hard to stop. Callan kisses Kaelia “like a sculptor moulding some clay”. Removing her bikini top is “like trying to free a new toy from frustrating anti-theft packaging”. My favourite was the description of Callan’s heart swelling with love being “like a dead thing left out in the sun” which definitely wins points for eww-ness.

Turns out that there's actually a phrase for that 'frustrating anti-theft packaging' thing. Learn something new every day.
Judging by the end of the book, I suspect (and hope!) that there will be at least one sequel. Happily, although the book leaves itself open for more instalments, it doesn’t leave the reader dissatisfied with a “To be continued…” lack of closure.

Our heroes may not quite get their Happily Ever After just yet. But they’re happy for now. They’re enjoying plenty of sex and spanks and they have one another. Which is something to be thankful for even if they do live in a dystopian hellhole.

Want to know more about the book review star rating system? Or find out what other books I've reviewed? Check out this page here.

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