Raised as a prototype for the Georgian Bratva’s obedience drug, 221 fails to think, act, or live for himself; he’s his master’s perfectly-crafted killing puppet. Standing at six-foot-six, weighing two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, and unrivaled in to-the-death combat, 221 successfully secures business for the Georgian Mafiya Boss of NYC, who rules the dark world of the criminal underground. Until his enemies capture him.
Talia Tolstaia dreams to break from the heavy clutches of Bratva life. She dreams of another life–away from the stifling leash of her Russian Bratva Boss father and from the brutality of her work at The Dungeon, her criminal family’s underground death-match enterprise. But when she stumbles upon her family’s captive who is more monster than man, she starts to see the man underneath. A powerful, beautiful, damaged man whose heart calls to hers. But sacrifices must be made–blood for blood…life for life…souls for scarred souls…
I am ashamed to admit that I have not read Raze yet. I had planned to read it before reading Reap, but I got my review schedule confused and didn’t have a chance to do so. That said, I didn’t feel the least bit lost at what was going on in Reap. There is a possibility that I missed some of the series thread nuances, but as far as Zaal (221) and Talia’s story goes, I had no problem following along. And what a story it was.
Not being familiar with what was done to Raze/Luka, I got to witness the horrors of Zaal’s time as 221 without any preparation. It is appalling to think that there are people in the world capable of the cruelty that Jakhua and the other Bratva bosses engage in over the course of Reap – yet, I know there are. That what was done to Zaal started when he was EIGHT is horrifying. But there is no doubting that 221 was a finely tuned killing machine. Thankfully, when Luka learns that his friend’s twin brother has been found, he stops at nothing to rescue him from the monster that has turned him into a mindless killer. Unfortunately for Luka’s sister, Talia, the only place Luka can secure 221 is at the family’s home in the Hamptons – the place Talia has gone for two months in order to escape the pressures of being a Bratva boss’s daughter. Although Talia is at first disgusted by her brother’s actions to save a Kostava, she soon finds herself drawn to him. Much like Kisa calms Luka, when Talia is forced to make physical contact with him, we find that she calms 221. As they spend time together, Talia finds that her hatred for all things Kostava is soon replaced by feelings of compassion, affection, and attraction for Zaal. When Jakhua returns to collect his “dog,” Talia finds out just how much Zaal returns her feelings.
I really enjoyed Reap. I’ve read books where drugs were used to create super-soldiers and mercenaries. I’ve read mafia books. But this is the first I’ve read that combines the two and Cole makes it work wonderfully. Watching the relationship that develops between Zaal and Talia is very sweet in its own way. To see the Bratva princess tame the savage beast within (literally), and help him learn to live in the world as a free man was actually heartwarming – not something I’d expect from a mafia book, even if it is a romance. But Cole does a great job of off-setting all that sweet with some seriously action-packed scenes as Luka taps back into Raze to rescue Zaal – twice – and make Jakhua pay for Anri’s death. The final scene in the Epilogue is an excellent hook for the next book because I have to know what happens next. Until then, I get to backtrack and read Raze and I am really looking forward to it.