Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrators: Iggy Toma and Antonio Amato
Length: 6 hours, 25 minutes
For twelve years, Kyou has kept a digital eye on the children of the man who saved his life. However, for the past six years, Brannigan Genovese has made keeping him out of trouble almost a full time job. What started as wanting to protect the children of his savior has become a personal mission to see Brannigan safe and happy. From risky business ventures to derailing bad dates, Kyou is constantly rescuing Brannigan, and although he cares for him, Kyou never expects to ever meet in person. However, after the business mogul buys up real estate in Irish mob territory to revitalize the area and drive them out, and Kyou’s family sort of accidentally exacerbates the situation, Brannigan ends up with a contract on his head.
When Kyou pops up and sweeps Brannigan off to a safe house, Brannigan knows he should be more concerned about the price on his head, but he is simply too overjoyed about finally being able to lay his eyes (and hopefully hands) on the hot hacker. Over the years, Brannigan has become obsessed with the brilliant, elusive man who has kept him safe and has gone to great lengths to garner Kyou’s attention. Hitmen on his tail or no, Brannigan knows this may be his only shot at dating Kyou, so he pulls no punches with the skittish criminal. If he has his way, neither the mob, old enemies, nor Kyou’s fear that being together will place Brannigan in constant danger will stop him from claiming Kyou as his own.
How to Hack a Hacker is the final book in the Unholy Trifecta trilogy, a series about an assassin who adopts a child (after she hires him with pocket change to teach her abuser a lesson), a thief who seduces a sweet doctor in training, and an antisocial hacker who’s assigned himself Protector of All, sleep deprivation be damned. While Kyou cyberstalking Brannigan and snippets of conversations between the pair appear in the previous books, everything about their relationship is established in Hacker, so it can be read as a standalone. However, the bonds between Kyou and his found family are probably richer for having read the entire series, especially as their curiosity about Brannigan and how much he means to Kyou plays a major role in them getting together and the Unholy Trifecta and their significant others are very present and active in the story.
Brannigan is a force of nature who finds Kyou to be the most intriguing person in his world and he has been searching for him for years. He knows Kyou, even without specific details, so meeting in person is like coming home for him, and Brannigan fits right in with the group. Kyou is antisocial, but extremely loyal and protective of those he loves and trusts. With Kyou inserting himself more and more into Brannigan’s daily life, the pair has basically been dating for the last few years so they fall quickly into a relationship, making the falling fast theme in the series feel the most believable. The dynamic between Kyou and Brannigan is established early on with the majority of the story taking place in the safe house with Kyou’s family as the team of criminals work to keep Brannigan safe and neutralize the threat.
The banter is fun and affectionate, the shenanigans alternately deadly and silly, and the family vibe strong. As with books of a comedic, lighthearted tone, the comedy and hijinks may work better for some than others, but Sherwood’s tags are a good indication of the kind of story it is and the high level of suspension of disbelief required to ride this ride. Personally, I’m a fan of Sherwood’s style of irreverent glee so found most of the story to be delightful, although even I had to roll my eyes at the inciting incident as somehow. But if you can roll with it, you’ll probably have fun with the characters. For all the large body count and Kyou’s anxiety, this is a low-angst story with little in the way of drama and much in the way of warm fuzzies, especially as Kyou finds ready-made family acceptance and love he didn’t know he needed.
Iggy Toma and Antonio Amato are a solid duo as narrators for the audiobook. As someone who has mixed feelings about dual narrations, I thought both men worked well together and kept the character voices nicely similar between chapters, though neither has consistent differentiation between the Trifecta’s voices, with Toma’s chapters being the most noticeable as he narrates Kyou’s POV. Having listened to the previous books, it was easier for me to pick out who was who in dialogue, but those only listening to this book may struggle at times. However, both Toma and Amato had good pacing and intonation that fit the tone of the story, making it an enjoyable listen.
If you’re interested in a pansapiosexual billionaire too smugly happy to be worried about death threats, the harried over-caffeinated hacker trying to keep him alive, and the hacker’s lovingly chaotic criminal family, I’d recommend giving the audio version of How to Hack a Hacker a try.