“The more hidden the venom, the more dangerous it is.” ― Marguerite de Valois
Do you find that you judge a book by its cover? The old adage says we’re not supposed to, but if you ask me, the cover of a book is like the curb appeal of a home—if the cover doesn’t make you want to stop and look to see what’s inside, you’re most likely going to move on to the next one. Well, let me tell you, whether you love the cover of this book (which I do), or find it only mildly intriguing, or you find it downright disturbing, what’s inside, I think, is well worth stopping in to take a peek.
You don’t have to be a horror devotee or a zombie enthusiast to read Stung. Though I admit I am (the scary/squickier, the better), the zombies really only play a secondary role in this storyline. This is not a book that centers about the moaning and ambling undead who want to eat brains; this is a story that centers about a man, Victor, who has been wrongfully imprisoned for a mistake he made which ultimately revealed his sexuality to the wrong man, a powerful man who runs a penal colony that produces honey in a most unusual and icktastical fashion.
Victor is a man whose sedate city life has done nothing to prepare him for the hard work and harsh conditions he’s about to face when he steps off the wagon and into a punishment he’s done nothing to deserve. He immediately captures the eye of a prison guard who is called Crunch, for good reason, who could be Victor’s salvation. Or he could be Victor’s ruination, because Victor has also caught the eye of a guard called Sharpe, whose ambition and suspicion could be the death—or the undeath—of poor Victor.
There’s a lot to sink your teeth into within the cover of this book (Sorry. Couldn’t resist). I loved this story; loved the action and suspense and the originality; loved that it was macabre without being overly so; loved the oppressive setting (it’s not often you find a book set in a dystopian past), the feeling of helplessness, the feeling of hope where there should have been none; loved the honey-sweet temptation of the imagery and sensuality; and loved the characters (even the baddies, and even their names), and I especially loved the connection between Victor and Crunch, which was not traditionally romantic but was incredibly erotic and held a layer of mistrust and suspicion that only added to the mystique.
There was plenty of tension built into their alliance because of the mistrust that weighed heavily against the need these two men developed for each other in such a short time, and the inherent danger of their discovery—being guard and prisoner, forbidden lovers, and ultimately, co-conspirators—not to mention Crunch has a secret he’s trying very hard to hide, even from Victor, one that ultimately exacts a price.
I want a sequel to this book. Very badly. Sooner would be better, thank you very much.