“Infinity yawned both above and below, and in between there was only me. If Donato released me, I would cease to exist. I’d be swallowed by the sky. But he held me fast, and I breathed deep. I drank the night. I tasted the stars. I made love to the sea. The enormity of it brought tears to my eyes. I felt wondrously alive – wild and pure and achingly free.” – A.M. Sexton
Title: Release (Davlova: Book One)
Author: A.M. Sexton
Pages/Word Count: 244 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Davlova: a poverty-ridden city-state ruled by a tyrannical upper class. Resources are scarce and technology is illegal. But in the slums, revolution is brewing.
Misha is a common pickpocket until his boss gives him a new job. Disguised as a whore, Misha is sent to work for one of the most powerful men in the city. But his real task is far more dangerous: get close to Miguel Donato, and find something – anything – that will help topple Davlova’s corrupt government.
Misha is plunged into the decadent world of the upper class, where slaves are common and even the most perverse pleasure can be found. Although he’s sure Davlova’s elite is involved in something horrific, proof is hard to come by, and Misha begins to fall in love with the man he’s supposed to betray. Then Misha meets Ayo – a sex slave forced by the neural implant in his brain to take pleasure from pain – and everything changes. As the lower class pushes toward a bloody revolution, Misha will find himself caught between his surprising feelings for Donato, his obligations to his clan, and his determination to save Ayo.
Warning: This book contains graphic descriptions of violent sexual acts of questionable consent that may be disturbing to some readers.
Review: A.M. Sexton’s Release is RIVETING. You know how people describe books as page-turners? Or, claim “I couldn’t put it down!”? That was this book for me. It was in equal turns beautiful and disturbing – and, I could NOT put it down.
A dystopian tale set in the fictional city-state of Davlova, Release is extremely raw and dark. Our protagonist, Misha, is a pick-pocket who is tasked by his clan leader to become the whore of one of the noble pureborn who run the city, in order to spy on him and bring information back to the trenches that would help fuel the revolution that is brewing beyond the Upper City.
Misha’s mark is Miguel Donato, one of the most powerful men in Davlova, who has many secrets, as well as an overpowering violent streak. Misha soon learns to anticipate – and sometimes diffuse – Donato’s moods, and identifies with him separately as either Donato, the terrifying and abusive man he is meant to betray, or Miguel, the kinder half of his master.
The thing that made this book VERY difficult to read at times, is obviously the abuse that Donato inflicts on both Misha and Ayo, a sex slave Misha meets while at Donato’s house. The abuse escalates as the story progresses – and Donato’s place in the governing of the city becomes more stressful – and Misha finds himself hating the man that he has also grown to love. The author does a fantastic job of creating this relationship in the midst of the horrifying abuse pattern, which alternately shows us both the beast, Donato, as well as the incredibly loving and tender, Miguel, who Misha finds himself hopelessly drawn to and in love with. Some of the scenes are extremely rough. There are warnings attached to the book on Amazon, and rightfully so. However, I found myself getting further and further sucked in to the story and the characters. As sort of an aside, I also found it interesting, in hindsight, that though there is a LOT of sex in this story it in no way felt superfluous or distracting. Often this amount of sex would seem over-the-top to me…but, it wasn’t here. I felt it in every way added to the character development, or moved the story along.
The world that Sexton has created here is fascinating. Her storytelling and writing are so strong, that even as I was questioning myself for enjoying the book so much, I was incapable of stopping. Some of her prose when describing Misha’s feelings and observations (as in the quote I chose above) is absolutely breathtaking. The descriptions of both the opulence and decadence of the Upper City, as well as the conditions and poverty in the trenches, are also stunning. As a leading character, Misha is likeable, feisty, extremely bright, and also incredibly sexy. Ayo is beautifully heart-breaking and fascinating, and Misha finds himself becoming increasingly drawn to and protective of him as well. The pace of the story was perfect, and the ending was thrilling – and surprising! I can’t wait for Return to come out in the fall so we can see what happened to some of the supporting cast (whose characters were also rich and very well-written), and get the conclusion of the story!
You can buy Release (Davlova: Book One) here: