Confession time! I totally judged this book by its cover and that's the only reason I read it. I mean, how can you look at that and not want to read what’s inside? So I got it and I was ready for a parade of tentacle-sex WTFckery. Instead, I got a very interesting and well written horror story that kept me on the edge of my seat and only freaked me out a bit. Yes, there’s tentacle-sex, but the craziness level is surprisingly low once you get used to the monster.
Edouard Montreuil was mortally wounded during battle when a voice asked him if he wanted to live. He said yes without knowing that the voice belonged to a monster who wanted something in exchange. Ever since then he’s been part of the crew of the Flèche, a submarine captained by the same monster that saved his life, cured his wounds and now demands that Edouard surrenders his body every night. The Captain is an otherworldly creature that disguises itself as human by hiding his tentacles and real appearance under human flesh.
After living like this for over a year, Edouard decides to do something about it. While on shore he calls his old friend, Farid Ruiz, and asks him for help. Ruiz and Edouard used to be Legionnaires and served together under another kind of monster, a human one. They care for each other and even though Edouard doesn’t tell Ruiz exactly what they are about to face, Ruiz decides to help him. But will they succeed? The Captain isn’t the only monster on board of the Flèche and he isn’t the only one who wants a piece of Edouard, so their escape depends on a very weak plan and whole bunch of luck.
As you can probably tell this novella is full of suspense and horror. The whole story is interesting and gripping, once I started I couldn’t stop reading and it was impossible for me to tell whether this was going to end well or not. It isn’t a nice and light read, though, there are uncomfortable subjects like dubious-consent sex and child abuse, they take place off camera but just the fact that they are mentioned was enough to make me feel bad. I don’t think that the violence was gratuitous, but I understand how this isn’t a book for everyone.
The relationship between Edouard and the Captain was complex to say the least. There was something the Captain needed from Edouard, but I’m not so sure exactly what that was. Some things are hinted at but never explained and this became annoying. I’m not sure if the sexual aspect of their relationship was dub-con sex or just plain rape (although, honestly, I don’t particularly get the difference between the two). Edouard was more bothered by the fact that he wasn’t free than by the actual sex, in fact, at times he seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps the dubious nature of their relationship was because Edouard had no choice and after one year he was used to it and was able to tune it out. I’m defining it as rape, because rape isn’t about sex as much as it is about control and power, and that’s exactly what was going on in the book. But again, I’m not sure if the Captain was getting sexual pleasure from the encounters or something more vital to him, maybe he was getting both.
There’s an air of mystery surrounding the book and the author never tells, always shows, so you need to read the whole thing to get the overall picture, and even then, there were things left unexplained. This made the story slightly confusing although by the end of it I had a pretty clear picture of what was going on. So pay attention to the book because you don’t want to miss anything.
My main issue with the story was that I never quite understood what was keeping Edouard from escaping. There’s some contract/spell written on his body that binds him to the monster, at least that’s what it seemed to me, but how does it work? The Captain kept talking about how he will always find Edouard, no matter where he hides, so that’s why I think the contract plays some important part into that, but it’s never explained. So by the end of the book I wasn’t sure how I should feel about the resolution. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s more of a happy-for-now story.
The book is dark, and it reads more like a horror story than a romance, in fact, the romance is so scarce that I wasn’t even sure if Edouard and Ruiz had some type of romantic involvement in the past or if they had feelings for each other now. The sex isn’t particularly explicit but I’m giving this one a McBurning just because of the nature of the scenes. I loved both Edouard and Ruiz, there was a lot of chemistry between them, and even though their relationship isn’t really clear (nothing in the book is) by the end of the book I was sure that they truly cared for each other.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It wasn’t what I expected and I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and read it. If you can see past the ick factor of the tentacle sex (and this happens off-camera so don’t worry about having to deal with a graphic scene) then I think you should go for it. I enjoyed it a lot and I can’t wait to read more from this talented author. I also hope there’s a sequel because I have a lot of questions left and I want some answers. As long as you know what you’re getting into then you should enjoy it as well.
Review by Brie
What price would you pay to survive?
In the darkness of a WWI battlefield, young Legionnaire Edouard Montreuil lies dying. As teeth nibble his flesh, a voice whispers, Frightened and desperate, Edouard bargains his freedom for a second chance.
Aboard the Flèche, a grim submarine captained by the nightmare who granted Edouard new life, Edouard pays the price for his survival. Each night, he gives his body to his captain as the bells sound first watch. But surviving is not living, and as the days stretch into months beneath the waves, Edouard grows desperate for escape.
Can Edouard’s old comrade Farid Ruiz help him break this devil's bargain, or will Ruiz fall to the same fate, trapped beneath the waves at the mercy of a monster whose hunger knows no bounds? Edouard and Ruiz served together once before, and slept together too, but courage and passion failed to save them from the eldritch beasts who roamed the night. This time, the cost of failure is nothing so clean or simple as death, and the spoils of victory are not just life, but love.
Riptide Publishing; October 30, 2011.