As a child, the only sweetness Miel every knew was at the tender hand of his grandmother. When sickness ravaged her and left her for dead, Miel took the only thing of value in their decrepit apartment—his grandmother’s wedding jewels—and fled for the mean streets of Zenith, slum of the ruined Earth.
Innocent of the sheer depravity and desperation commanding the lives of anyone not lucky enough to be Corporate, Miel struggles to find a scrap of kindness. He gives his grandmother’s necklace to the first person who takes pity on him, an old crone with a soft spot for kids. In return, he is given shelter for the night and the money she makes for him selling the jewelry. That’s the last bit of kindness he gets for a literal lifetime.
Strapped for cash, Miel quickly learns the easiest way for a nobody like himself to scrape together a living is to start selling the only commodity he has: a svelte body and androgynous good looks. Stripping at the Diamond Heel brings in a modest income and a touch of friendship in the form of another male dancer, Eden. Together, they form a friendship that staves off the worst of their penniless plight. Except as the days turn to months and the harsh world saps the money from stripping, Eden’s drug habit turns consuming and soon, he’s gone in the dead of night.
Miel is broken in spirit and heart and also in funds, having been suckered out of his savings. Determined to move on and move above his hand-to-mouth station, Miel transforms into Blue…cutting the innocent little boy out of his life and dancing for all he’s worth. In a chance meeting with a robber gone awry, Blue meets Mikas. Unlike Eden, who only thought of himself, Mikas gravitates towards Blue. Soon, they fall into a friendship that chains them together as much as it tears them each apart.
Things turn sour when Blue is forced into prostitution to pay the bills—it costs Blue more than pride to see his body, it costs him Mikas’ respect. Despite the rift rent between them, they cannot quit one another—their curious bonds are stronger than loathing of Blue’s whoring or Mikas’ involvement in a local drug running gang. Time and again, Blue patches Mikas up, determined to show the depth of his feeling and always hoping to break down the walls around Mikas’ heart.
What Blue doesn’t count on is the chance encounter with an enticing Mechi, sentient robots fashioned in the likeness of humans, named Loki. The physical attraction is instant and visceral and when Blue and Mikas are on the outs, Blue spares a scant thought for cool Mikas before igniting the undeniable passion between himself and Loki. When Mikas eventually learns Blue has made a Mechi into a lover, he is beyond livid, disappearing from Blue’s life. Losing Mikas hurts, but Blue is not about to give up the only person who has ever truly shown Blue any real affection since his grandmother died.
When the forces that destroyed the Earth come round Zenith looking to finish the job, tragedy strikes and the blow is nearly too much for Blue to handle…but he’s lost everything before and clawed his way above—he can do it again.
Confession: I did not know this was part of a series until I started flipping through it on my Kindle and saw “Book Five of the Lacuna Chronicles.” Whoops! BUT, you’ll be pleased to know that if that intro sounds at all appealing, this can be read as a pretty satisfying standalone.
What this book does and does exceptionally well is share a set of utterly absorbing characters with you. And the part that floors me is that most of the time, they’re not even really LIKABLE people, but I still got super invested in the main characters. Take Eden, for example. He is the main counterpart to Miel in the first “book” (of which there are five, further subdivided into chapters) and my little OTP-normative heart immediately starts rooting for Miel/Eden 4EVAR. As we watch Eden, crass and selfish, slowly descend into his drug habit, I’m there waiting for Blue’s love to pull him out of the abyss. When Eden’s out of the picture, when Miel/Blue remembers him years later, I wonder just as fervently as Miel/Blue does about whatever happened to Miel. I got the same feels, but a lot stronger, for Mikas who is the main counterpart for Blue for two lengthy books and still very much present in Blue’s mind, if not on page, for the rest of the book. Those times when Blue’s thinking about his relationship with the in absentia Mikas and the wrap up book at the end (which gives a slight inkling of how Mikas’ life turns out) make me actively wonder what Mikas’ story was…what he was really doing when he wasn’t with Blue.
So the characters are amazing. If you’ll allow me to skip to the romance for a bit, Miel/Blue has three main love interests throughout the story. Eden, Mikas, and Loki. It was super interesting how each of these characters overlapped in the timeline. I enjoyed reading how Miel/Blue interacted/reacted with each of these. The best, though, was the emotional drama Blue felt as his connection to Mikas began to decrescendo and his connection to Loki began to crescendo. Like Blue, I was invested in Mikas…he’d been on page a lot longer, had a lot more loaded interactions with Blue, always the undercurrent of “does this mean he feels more for me than just friendship” on both sides. When Loki comes on the scene, I was a bit peeved that Blue’s got instaboner for the hot robot…but then, I didn’t want to deny Blue having at least ONE connection where he actually could enjoy himself. Watching the relationship unfold between Blue and Loki was so tender, so sweet…the scene where Loki proves that despite being a sentient machine, he feels more deeply for Blue than anyone else probably ever had was just…breathtaking.
And around all this amazing character development and interaction is a world rich in dystopian dysfunction. It’s consistently described and portrayed as a gritty, ugly place. I like how the action focuses on the city of Zenith, but extends into other surrounding areas. Each have their own character, which helps bring the world to life beyond the obvious cultural values displayed by the characters.
Based on the characters and the basic development of the story, I would highly recommend this book to anyone…who had days to read this. For reals, the book didn’t feel as long as it was because the characters are just so engrossing. Still, that means there is a lot of attention to detail and even I noticed how the basic eras (defined by lovers Eden, Mikas, Loki) have a certain groundhog day quality to them. This makes the book feel longer. There are countless days we spend with Blue as he spends the night dancing for money and sexing it up with Eden, or whoring for rent and pining for Mikas. The only other “flaw” particular to this book is the end…it comes at you hard and fast and while it certainly qualifies for the label “happily ever after,” it feels either too fast or too slow. There is a big SURPRISE! at the end that is kind of shoddily propped up by things all explained right there in those last few chapters. I would have rather had the big surprise, seen a sweet little end, and fade to black instead of all the running around tying up loose ends that didn’t need to be tied up.
All together, this would be a great book for anyone who wants an in-depth read featuring characters that sink deep into your skin. There’s plenty of romantic angst and lots of sex (some of it even just because the characters actually have feelings for one another!) set against a gritty backdrop.