Author: Angel Martinez
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Narrator: Greg Bordreaux
Vassily Belikov, composer and pampered son of privilege, suffered neurological damage in the accident that killed his father. Resentful of being treated as an invalid, he lives as a recluse, dependent on his mother. That changes the day she brings home a new husband with two sons of his own.
When deep-space pirates capture Vassily’s mother, he’s left to the mercy of his cruel, amoral stepfather. Fighting addiction and his physical shortcomings, he’s forced to seek out the criminal mastermind Baba Yaga for a crucial piece of equipment. While she agrees to deal with him if he beats his Exoticus addiction, paranoia and mysterious intentions infuse her household. Drawn to her fierce, suspicious youngest son, certain his actions are all carefully observed, Vassily must find the courage to face both his fears and his desires if he expects to survive.
Listening to this audiobook was an unexpected pleasure. It was not as dark, nor as complex, as I originally feared it might be. And Vassily was not as vapid as I thought he might be—based on the blurb and the cover image. Speaking of which, I found the cover totally unappealing and if not for the attraction of a narrator for whom I have a great deal of respect, I likely would not have read this story, nor listened to the audiobook.
The early part of the story was depressing and difficult to get through because the author managed to endear the beautiful and damaged Vassily to me right from the start, and the horrors his stepfather put him through when his mother left on a business trip were frightening and painful to live through with him. His struggles to carry out the mission that miserable excuse for a man sent him on were equally difficult to listen to, as was the physical turmoil he went through during drug withdrawal. Nuff said, as I don’t want to give away any more detail and spoil the story for others.
However, the love story that ensued was terrific. Very slowly, very reluctantly, Vassily’s chosen mate was able to overcome his own hurdles to relationships while getting to know the deep inner beauty of Vassily’s personality. At the same time, Vassily was overcoming additional challenges set forth by the great criminal mastermind, Baba Yaga, since he knew it was the only way he could survive to fight to stay alive and achieve his goals, one of which was to hopefully be reunited with his mother someday. This book is unquestionably complex, and yet it was not difficult to follow as the narrator provided clear enunciation, accompanied by distinctive voices for each of the characters. It’s such a pleasure to listen to audio in the voice(s) of a gifted performer and this book is certainly worth purchasing in audio. Highly recommended.