Rating: 4.25 stars
Raine O’ Kelley was different. Inside the Domed City, conformity was the rule, starting with your physical attributes. White blond hair and blue gray eyes are the norm, but not Raine. His hair was the color of gold and his eyes were a deep green. The fact that he varied from the norm was enough to guarantee that no woman would ever choose him as a husband. He wouldn’t even be employed if his influential father had not interceded with the government to get him a job. He was too different even for his father, and his father knew his deepest secret, the manner in which Raine was truly, criminally different.
In a society where nature was outlawed and any possession of vegetation considered a felony, Raine could communicate with plants. He could make them grow, and they sang to him. In fact, plants were as necessary to Raine as was oxygen and blood. His mother was gifted or cursed in the same way and because his father loved her, he allowed her a plant or two even though the government forbade it. When she died, his father removed all the plants only to watch his son sicken and fade. So his father brought one back, but only because Raine was the last link he had to the woman he loved.
Now Raine works for the government and hides his gift behind locked doors in his apartment, where his bedroom has a living carpet of grass and forbidden plants take up all available space. Then he is found out and sent to prison for life. Abused daily by the guards and with no contact with plants, Raine starts to die. The guards throw him to the Beast, a fearsome monster kept to dispose of prisoners, and a miracle happens. The Beast protects him, takes care of him. The Beast turns out to be more a tortured man than animal and the two are drawn together. When Raine discovers the Beast comes from Outside the City and that the guards intend to kill them, escape becomes paramount. Will their relationship hold firm in the face of obstacles both inside and outside of the City? Or will the animalistic nature of the Beast destroy their bond first?
This story both frustrated and delighted me. Lyn’s Domed City is a dystopian society that we have seen before. A city ruled by an oppressive government is walled off from all nature. It’s inhabitants live a grey life in a grey city under a dome that let’s in very little light. While the idea is not original, the author does a wonderful job with her descriptions of the uniformity of city life and its denizens. But where she shines is in her creation of Raine O’Kelley. Raine’s life force is intertwined with plants, energy and love flowing between them. So vivid are the description of Raine’s interaction with nature that the story dimmed as the plot took a different direction.
The Beast is Ashlon, lost son of the chief of the Katria. Betrayed into captivity by one of his own people, Ashlon was taken into the Dome where he has been tortured and beaten for years in the prison under the City. His memory of his life outside has dimmed and his Beast has taken control in order to survive. The prologue tells the story of Ashlon’s capture from his POV and gives us a strong introduction to the Beast. Ashlon’s confusion and rage comes through so beautifully that it was a little jolting to have him then disappear for chapters before we see him again.
Raine has obtained his seeds and plants through the black market and I loved the glimpses we are given of the nature underground that manages to survive the Government interdict. When Raine’s secret garden is discovered and he is arrested at work, he manages to send a message to an anonymous source who wisks away his plants before the guards can destroy them. What a tantalizing glimpse into a forbidden section of society. I wanted more, much more of this plot line. Instead, we get Raine convicted of his crime and sent to prison, where he is gang raped each night, and forced into a work detail by day. Not surprisingly, Raine starts to die. A trip to the infirmary becomes a death sentence and a trip to the Beast’s cell.
Raine’s introduction to the Beast is a little muddled as his thoughts seem surprisingly clear for someone as sick and abused as he is. Previous descriptions show Raine broken and fading from the nightly sexual abuse by the prison guards but that seems to disappear inside the Beast’s cell. As both men become aroused by close contact with each other, I kept waiting for an appropriate response from Raine that would be in keeping with that of a rape victim. It never happened. There is a few fleeting mentions, once when Raine and the Beast are attacked by the Head Guard, and one in the village, but then it goes away completely. And with that lack of reaction, the character of Raine became less real in my mind which was a shame as he is such a unique creation.
The plot redeems itself as the two main characters flee the prison and the City. Again, the author rewards us with lush descriptions of the Outside and Katrian life inside their village. But each time Raine’ gift comes forward in neat, creative little ways, I mourn the loss of a totally different plot and wish the story had taken a different turn. Especially during a major fight towards the end, where the symbiotic nature between Raine and the plants comes to the fore. I loved this! And it was such a strong part of the plot that the shifter side of the story seemed a little mundane.
So while I did enjoy this book, the shadow of a greater one lurking behind it kept me from giving it a higher rating. I look forward to more books by Lyn and the fulfillment of the promise of an extraordinary story shown here.
Cover: The cover is terrific. From the terrific graphics to the font style, the cover design both delights and informs you of the story within. Great job.
Melanie will review the second book in this series, The Beast’s Promise, later on today.