“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” ― George Orwell, 1984
Author: Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 382 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Twenty years after a deadly pandemic ravaged the world, Darragh Fergus Anluan and the people of his village have carved out a hard but simple life in the Irish countryside. But with winter comes sickness, and Darragh must travel to Dublin in search of medicine. What he finds there is a ruined city ruled by a madman, where scavenging is punishable by death . . . or conscription.
Ciaran Daly came to Ireland with aid and optimism, but instead was enslaved by the so-called King of Dublin. After months of abuse from the king and his men, he has no reason to believe this newcomer will be any different. Except Ciaran finds himself increasingly drawn to Darragh, whose brutish looks mask how sweet and gentle he really is.
The tenderness Darragh feels for the king’s treasured pet is treason, but it’s hardly the only betrayal brewing in this rotten kingdom. Rebellions and rival gangs threaten the king’s power, but not nearly as much as Darragh and Ciaran—whose only hope for freedom is the fall of the king.
* This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.
Review: I’ve read Lisa Henry before and loved her books. This is my first time reading Heidi Belleau. I will say, after reading King of Dublin, I hope they have plans for future collaborations. This book was absolutely amazing, although it’s not going to be for everyone. The non-consensual sex is very graphic, brutal and may be very hard to read for some. I thought it was done very well and set the dark tone of the story.
Dystopian fiction is kind of new to me, and I feel the authors do a great job submersing the reader into this world. Twenty years after a pandemic took out most of the world’s population, the quest for survival is a delicate task for sure. Some survive on pure instinct, some take on the responsibility of others and do all they can to ensure their safety and well being. While others jump at the chance to gain power and spread fear among those left behind.
The two main characters, Ciaran and Darragh, are inadvertently caught up in King Boru’s psychotic world. One is cruelly used as a play thing for the king and the men he surrounds himself with. The other innocently joins the king’s ranks in order to get the medicine he sought when he came to Dublin. Neither one knew how important the other would be in the quest for survival and eventual escape. But for now, they must each play their role if they want to get out alive.
With the fast pace and non-stop action, these authors take the reader on an incredible journey. The bleakness of the future is devastating and scary. I loved how they divided the book into two, with the first half showing the cruelty of this self-proclaimed King of Dublin, King Buro. We get a bird’s eye view of his court. The atrocious way he treats the people of Dublin. The horrific, malicious way he handles Ciaran. Buro’s brutality towards him knows no limit. I felt he was all about having control and power. I pity the person who questions his actions, you’ll find his head on a stick. Even though I would’ve loved to have known what brought him to his place of crazy, I didn’t feel I was missing anything by not knowing. He is who he is, and I was okay with that.
In the second part of the story, we see Darragh and Ciaran’s attraction towards one another grow. I loved seeing the bond between these two morph into an understanding and appreciation for one another. I thought the authors did a great justice to Ciaran’s character. I was a little confused at times by his words and actions, but as the story unfolded I saw it was the fear and anger driving him. We see when he was full of life, hopeful, even a little naive in his thinking. To look at him now, broken and damaged after years of abuse, was heartbreaking.
Darragh, I loved his character. For all the madness going on around him, he never lost hope. He never lost who he was, a caring, kind, compassionate soul. He took one look at Ciaran and knew he had to save them both. I’m not saying he was perfect and didn’t make mistakes, he certainly did, but what I loved most about his character was his determination to never lose sight of his true self. I believe just because you may have to do bad things doesn’t mean you have to be a bad person. In a sense, that basically sums up Darragh’s character.
Although this story is set in a very dark place, I believe the authors evenly balanced the good and evil. The writing just flowed without missing a beat. Through the murky, dank storyline comes the beacon of light and hope. I found myself not being able to put this one down. I cheered for Darragh and Ciaran all the way, with nail biting nervousness. Let’s just say, their story has only begun.