*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
As the blurb suggests, this was a gritty, fight-filled dystopian with a pretty strong focus on the romance. I liked the gritty feel of the world, and I do enjoy romance, so I was glad the book lived up to the blurb in that way.
As for the rest, it wasn’t bad, but it felt like (and was, from what I understand) the author’s first book. There was some showing but also some telling, and it got repetitive at times, especially in Justin’s thoughts. Dialogue sometimes seemed too direct and forward, and characters just knew and perceived too much. There was sometimes too much description of side characters who didn’t seem important. The main characters were a little underdeveloped. Info about the world and backstory didn’t always flow well with the narrative. The world-building was spotty. But none of these issues were extreme, and the only reason I pointed out the first book thing was to say that I think the author has potential to improve; I’d be willing to read more books that he writes.
And I do have to give credit where credit is due and say that the sex scene was one of the most realistic, imperfect—but still sexy—first-time sex scenes I’ve ever read. (Well, technically it wasn’t the first for either, but it was the first time with another man for both.) I, for one, appreciate realistic sex scenes. Hale was kind of a jerk as a top though. He didn’t do anything without consent, but he was impatient and seemed to care more about his pleasure than Justin’s discomfort. I’d love to see him bottom in Book 2 just to see him get his comeuppance since, as he said himself, turnabout’s fair play ;-)
I also thought the flirting between the two men was fun. The innuendos were so lame and obvious that I couldn’t help but smile because, I mean, that was realistic too. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what innuendos sound like—really clever when you’re the one saying them and you’re in the moment flirting with someone, but actually really lame in reality lol.
The scene when they first met made me smile too because Justin reacted the way I imagine a fangirl would react to their favorite celebrity (which was essentially what the meeting was).
So overall, the writing, world-building, and character development were maybe not as good as they could’ve been, but they weren’t bad either, I liked the gritty feel of the world, I appreciated the realistic sex scene, some of the scenes made me smile, and I think the author and story have potential!
Anyone who likes gritty dystopian, hand-to-hand fight scenes, and M/M romance.
Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.
No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.
Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.