Review: Undone by Morgan Noel and R. Phoenix

UndoneRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


The Lucky Blight. It’s a place where dreams are bought and sold, where nightmares come true, and where Leandro rules with the iron fist of a tyrant. It’s a casino where you can wager your money, your freedom, and your soul. But just remember this: The house always wins. Leandro always wins.

The Lucky Blight exists on a thin spot where the magical touch of the fae realm brushes against the reality of the human world, where time slips just a little to the side. This is Kol’tso’s home, where he serves as the obedient — and sometimes willing — slave to his fae master, flitting from table to table, encouraging guests to gamble just a little more, risk just a little more, and sometimes offers (and is sometimes offered) as an extra little incentive.

Kolt is an incubus, a fae creature that feeds up on emotions, be they joy or sorrow or — most powerful of all — lust. He has been Leandro’s slave for years, though of late the shackles have begun to chafe and his fae master isn’t as oblivious as Kolt thinks to his little rebellions. One night, while attempting to refuse to ‘entertain’ Barsum, a regular patron and powerful visitor to the casino, Kolt lets his temper flare perhaps a bit too brightly. He draws the attention of Gideon, the Lucky Blight’s bouncer and, unfortunately, Leandro himself. In order to pacify Barsum and reprimand Kolt, Leandro makes the man an offer: Barsum and Kolt are going to play a little game. Whichever of them can get a random person into the greatest debt wins. Barsum would win Kolt for the night, and Kolt would win a night not having to pander to the obnoxious man.

It was a wager that would destroy the casino, destroy Kolt’s sanity, and change everything.

Detective Bryce Ackerman somehow finds himself in the Lucky Blight, happy to have an endless supply of drinks and cards, but is even happier to follow the lovely young man upstairs to a private room. He doesn’t know the lithe blonde is an incubus, he only knows that he is getting the fucking of his life. He leaves the room deliriously happy, more than a little drunk, and is forced to sober up quickly when he finds himself face to face with the furious fae. Leandro may allow people certain privileges with his Kolt, but not one of them is allowed to fuck the incubus. That right is his and his alone, and Kolt had let the detetctive have him. He’d let a human fuck him. Bryce finds himself deeply in debt to Leandro, wholly embarrassed, and more than a little furious.

Gideon watches the events unfold, aware of the potential of their ending, but unable — or unwilling — to interfere. As a nephilim, a being half human and half divine, he had the ability of foresight. The future he saw taking shape between Leandro and Kolt was a dark and uncertain one, leading to visions of death and destruction. But he had his job to do, to be security for the casino; he had Leandro’s orders to obey. What he didn’t have was a right to interfere.

Leandro is furious with Kolt for what he allowed to happen. No matter how many showers or baths he will always have the taint of that human on him. It enrages him. Kolt has to be punished, but more than that, he has to be reminded to whom he belongs : Leandro. To Leandro and only Leandro. In order to prove that point, in order to drive home the reality of Kolt’s situation, the fae makes a decision that will come close to destroying Kol’tso. It will cost them both their sanity and cause the deaths of innocent humans.

There are no heroes in this book. There are monsters and mobsters, good but weak men, passive witnesses, and broken souls. There is death and violence and sex. There is pain and suffering and torment. This is not an easy book to read and contains rape, breath play, murder, and torture, but if you choose to read it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not a brilliant sunshine yellow or a happy rainbow, but it’s a light. It’s a story about toxic relationships and the obsession that can be mistaken for love. There is a plethora of sex, not all of it consensual, but none of it gratuitous. The authors use the word fuck like I use dashes and commas, gleefully and with abandon, so if vulgarity offends you, you might want to try a different book.

This is not the first story to offer up an incubus as a protagonist, but it’s the one that does it best, in my opinion. When we think of an incubus (or succubus) we think of a creature that delights in sex, that feeds off of it. But what if the creature in question isn’t willing? Doesn’t want to give a blowjob or a handjob or just doesn’t feel like getting fucked? Can  you even rape an incubus? This book says yes, you can. That an incubus can be and is just as much a person as any human or angel or fae and will suffer the same as anyone when forced against their will, even if it is in their nature to feed from sexual energy.

Leandro is a sadist. A powerful fae who delights in and gets off on bending others to his will. He’s owned Kolt for quite some time and adores his pet in the same way he might adore his car, his favorite watch, or an expensive artwork. He doesn’t love Kolt — I don’t think he can love — but he’s fixated on owning him. Kolt’s betrayal of him, of preferring a human over him, is a punch in the gut and he reacts by putting a bracelet on the incubus that keeps him from feeding. No matter how many men he goes to, no matter how much he pleases them, he won’t be able to feed from them. He can only feed from Leandro, and Leandro has decided to give him a week of silence as a lesson.

For Kolt, this isn’t just a punishment; he’s starving. Leandro is quite literally trying to kill him. When Leandro finally allows him to feed, the sex is violent and punishing, which only drives Kolt further away. It’s in this time that Ackerman’s presence begins to be felt in the story because Bryce asked — if only to piss Leandro off – if Kolt wanted to be free. Leandro’s torture makes Kolt decide that yes, yes he does want freedom. This puts Bryce in a difficult place because he doesn’t actually know if he can do what he somewhat promised.

Bryce has become — at Leandro’s orders — a member of the Organization, a branch of law enforcement that oversees the interactions between humans and fae. He’s Leandro’s eyes and ears, or is supposed to be, and he’s trying his best to get Kolt away from the fae. In part to piss of Leandro but also because of Kolt. He wants to prove that he’s not just a disgraced detective that the Organization took because it couldn’t afford to turn him away, and maybe he sees himself, just a little, as a hero. Someone who can save the damaged young man he sees Kolt as.

It’s said that the touch of an incubus can be addictive, and perhaps it’s that that keeps bringing Bryce back to the incubus. It’s also said that it’s not wise to be the only source of energy for an incubus, which makes Leandro tying Kolt’s feeding only to him a danger, a fact Kolt proves when Leandro finally calls him to bed. Kolt pushes Leandro to rise to the occasion again and again and again, feeding until the Fae is too exhausted and falls unconscious. It’s meant to be a lesson from Kolt to Leandro, to show him how dangerous it is to starve him, to show him that the bracelet has to come off. Instead, it only makes Kolt more of an animal and more of a badly behaved on in Leandro’s eyes.

Gideon can see the events unfolding but feels himself powerless to stop it. Powerless by choice, perhaps, because he does feel for Kolt, he does despise Leandro, and he knows Bryce won’t be able to help. Instead events lead to a string of deaths beginning with an innocent motorist and ending in a strip club where dozens of bodies end up strewn over the floor. It’s Gideon who finds Kolt, disgusted that he could not stop it, Gideon who sees his own failure looking back at him from every unseeing eye. The nephilim’s character arc is a slow one, taking place more in the last half of the book. He feels pity for Kolt, but is reluctant to do more than feel until, at last, he sees no choice but death for the incubus. Perhaps it’s the realization that it’s his own action — by choosing inaction — that would bring that future into being that makes him, for the first time, act. Perhaps it’s because he sees Kolt in pain, breaking and broken and dying as much from despair as hunger.

Gideon and Bryce each try, in their own way, to help Kolt. Bryce wants to be a decent guy but has no ambition, no drive, and no desire to do anything but get by. He wants Kolt the way he’d want a drink or a good meal. He wants Kolt because he knows Kolt is worth wanting. Gideon doesn’t want to just save Kolt, doesn’t want to rescue him or put him on a pedestal. He wants Kolt to be free. To have a choice and the freedom to follow his own choice, whether that’s to stay with Leandro, go with Bryce, or vanish into the mortal world.

Kolt has lived so long with Leandro as the focus of his obsession that it’s hard not to want to stay. Leandro is safe, after all. Kolt knows how he likes his drinks, what he wants in bed, he knows Leandro will take care of him, even if Kolt hates him. Bryce is human and weak. He can’t sustain an incubus’ hunger and he can’t really protect him from Leandro even though he tries. Bryce’s image of Kolt is as someone weak, small, and helpless and vulnerable. Gideon and Kolt have never even kissed; when Gideon comes to save him, it’s not because of the infatuation or the addiction, it’s because it’s the right thing to do. As a being unable to be swayed by the glamours of an incubus, he sees Kolt for who he truly is. Tall or short, red haired or blonde, he doesn’t care. His desire is Kolt as he is, not as his magic makes him.

This book spends such a long time with Kolt’s descent into despair and madness that the ending (coming in the last 7% of the book) might seem a bit rushed. Leandro and Bryce’s fates happen off screen and second-hand, and yet I think it works. This isn’t Leandro’s story, nor is it Bryce’s. This is Kolt’s story, of his path to freedom and self. He learns that he likes candles, that he can have a choice in what he wears, how he wants to be fucked and if, what he wants to eat. His ending may not seem the happiest to some, but I think it’s a perfect ending for this book.

elizabeth sig

Comments

  1. This certainly sounds compelling, but I can tell it’s not for me. I appreciate having read your thoughts, Elizabeth, to make that determination.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Not everyone enjoys the same thing, which is good! It makes for more interesting conversations. 😛

  2. I read this several weeks ago, and quite enjoyed it — although it’s not your standard romance, just FYI. Very strong writing, and original plot twists. I could never tell where it was going to go next.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I am really happy I was the one to review this book. I like darker stories and darker characters, and this was a book that had beautiful examples of all the shades of grey.

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