(Scarred Souls #1)
by Tillie Cole
Publication date: Dec. 29, 2014
Genre: Dark Romance
To take back life, one must first face death…
One man stripped of his freedom, his morals…his life.
Conditioned in captivity to maim, to kill and to slaughter, prisoner 818 becomes an unremorseful, unrivaled and unstoppable fighter in the ring. Violence is all he knows. Death and brutality are the masters of his fate.
After years of incarceration in an underground hell, only one thought occupies his mind: revenge…bloody, slow and violent revenge.
Revenge on the man who lied.
Revenge on the man who wronged him.
Revenge on the man who condemned him and turned him into this: a rage-fueled killing machine. A monster void of humanity; a monster filled with hate.
And no one will stand in the way of getting what he wants.
One woman stripped of her freedom, her morals…her life.
Kisa Volkova is the only daughter of Kirill ‘The Silencer’ Volkov, head of the infamous ‘Triad’ bosses of New York’s Russian Bratva. Her life is protected. In reality, it’s a virtual prison. Her father’s savage treatment of his rivals and his lucrative and coveted underground gambling ring—The Dungeon—ensures too many enemies lurk at their door.
She dreams to be set free.
Kisa has known only cruelty and loss in her short life. As manager of her father’s death match enterprise, only grief and pain fill her days. Her mafia boss father, in her world, rules absolute. And her fiancé, Alik Durov, is no better; the Dungeon’s five-time champion, a stone-cold killer, the treasured son of her father’s best friend, and her very own—and much resented—personal guard. Unrivaled in both strength and social standing, Alik controls every facet of Kisa’s life, dominates her every move; keeps her subdued and dead inside…then one night changes everything.
818 has no idea who he is or how he came to be in a slave to the Gulag, an underground fighting pit to the death. All he can remember is fighting day after day, killing his opponents, ensuring he lives to see another day. However, there is one thing he does know, he must seek revenge in Brooklyn, NY and kill the man responsible for him ending up in the gulag. When the prisoners/fighters overpower the guards and make break for freedom, there’s only one think on 808’s mind and that’s revenge.
“362 had been the one to make me write Durov’s name on my cell wall, I didn’t remember him doing that, but he told me he has when I first arrived. He too had a name on his wall. Those inscriptions drove us. They gave us a past when there wasn’t one left in our heads. They gave us a reason to live.”
I wasn’t overly sure what I was going to get with this story. I’ve never read the author’s work but the concept sounded interesting. While I’ve read fighter romances, I’ve never quite read one where the fighter was actually a slave who was imprisoned to kill other fighters for people’s enjoyment. I also can’t say I’ve read any Bratva (Russian Mafia) romances, either. So this what a whole new ballpark for me and I wasn’t sure what I was in store for. The author definitely wrote some dark stuff. I mean, you have beatings, killing, blood, rape, and crude language. You have a man who’s been conditioned to do nothing but kill. He’s been rewired that anyone who comes near him means him harm. So, when his path crosses with Kisa, he starts to find some calm in life. There’s something about her that soothes him and lets him know that she won’t hurt him. With that he starts to remember, little by little, his past.
The connection between these two characters and 818’s story is gut-wrenching and so hard to not get immersed in. The story takes place in both of the POV’s and I’m really glad we got both because you understood 818 a lot more. While he is a killing machine, and is a bit crazed with blood-lust when we first meet him, you start to see the little boy that was suppressed within him. The little boy who was taken from his home and thrust into this dark, underground, slave fight ring. Not only did he have kill or be killed, but they injected him with drugs, did shock therapy to recondition his brain, beat him, and some guards took liberties with the boys. So, it came as no surprised that he was always in fight mode. As he started to get his memories back, due to no longer being doped up on whatever drugs they were pumping into his system, you saw 818 start to become conflicted with himself. Seeing his confusion was really sad and made you want to reach out and hug him… at your own risk, of course.
“The boy in the mirror quickly became 818 from the Gulag: location unknown.
I blocked it all out. I took the beatings, the drugs, the torture… and everything else they threw at me.
I did everything I was ordered to do.
And I survived.”
Kisa, well, she was a whole other story. While I LOVED 818, I didn’t care so much for Kisa. I mean, here she is this mafia princess and she this meek little thing. No surprise there that her fiance calls her “little mouse.” I mean, her brother and boyfriend die and she immediately takes to this other guy. A guy who scared her, but I guess he’s showing you attention (you know the creepy attention he’s been showing you) and now that you have no boyfriend, might as well let him has his way and shack up with him. What?! NO! So, when her fiance claims her as his, and proposes marriage, she goes along with it. Sure, she’s “dead inside” and is just going through the motions but still, I just wasn’t buying that the Bratva princess was such a pushover. She should be stomping on men with his 5″ heels, not hiding away in over-sized turtlenecks because her fiance likes to “get rough” and leaves bruises on her when other men look at her. I was really shocked that given all this girl had been through, and her already bad impression of this guy, and she’s slotted to marry him! Yeah, I was not a fan of Kisa at all.
I really enjoyed 818’s story but Raze as a whole just left me feeling off. Maybe it was the over-use of crude language, all the unnecessary rape scenes between Kisa and her fiance, or maybe it was just Kisa herself. Either way, the only thing keeping me going was 818. He was so fascinating. Given everything he went through, only to escape and have to fight to the death again. Add on top of that that his revenge leads him back to his hometown where he’s living right under family and friends noses without them even realizing who he is. Just watching him slowly get his memory back and seeing part of his personality shine through even though he was obviously damaged and confused really pulled at me. If it wasn’t for 818 I wouldn’t have finished the story. In all honesty, I don’t know if I will continue with the series. I’m conflicted. While I loved 818, I didn’t care for the vast majority of the story or the heroine… at all. Honestly, any time the story revolved around Kisa I sort of tuned out. She was this story’s downfall, in my personal opinion.
“Death had a unique smell, a unique taste. I had breathed it in day and night, tasted it for so long that I found it difficult to breather in the clean freshness of the outdoors.”