Review: The Flesh Cartel



From Goodreads:
In this first installment of the exciting new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel, orphaned brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael are stolen in the night from their own home. Taken to a horrifying processing facility, they are assessed, microchipped, and subjected to unspeakable brutality—all in preparation for sale to the highest bidder.

In a world where every person has a price, the beautiful and subduable PhD student Dougie is highly prized. His brother, a rough-edged MMA fighter, is less desirable—and potentially too dangerous—but he still has his own appeal.

Abused and locked up under round the clock surveillance, with no idea where they are or even why they’ve been taken, escape seems impossible, which leaves staying together their only hope. And after being separated once by the foster system, they'll do anything to keep it from happening again. Anything at all.

~ The Flesh Cartel
 by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau



Recently while browsing the Riptide Publishing website, I came upon an interesting concept that I had not yet tried, called serial fiction.  I was curious, and the series that Riptide was offering was The Flesh Cartel.  So, I read the warnings, themes, and kinks, made a little yuck face, and jumped right in.  Read on for a non-spoilery review of The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation.


  
Episode 1 starts off with Nikolai Petrovic, a boutique sex slave trainer, and an introduction to the auction process.  We learn that the process begins when an individual is kidnapped and taken to a procurement facility.  They are put through horrific torture, cleansing, and an evaluation.  Pictures and video are done for each person.  When it’s time for an auction, the individual and information are sent to an auction house.  Nikolai and other trainers bid on the “merchandise” and train them, like pets, for their clients or for their own personal use.  It vaguely reminded me of Zsadist’s past experience in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, except on a much more complex level.
        
The main characters, Mat and Dougie are devoted brothers.  Their parents are dead, and they only have each other.  Mat is twenty-nine.  He is a bouncer and does MMA fighting for a living in order to support them and to fund Dougie's schooling.  Mat struggles with feelings of failure for not winning fights.  He feels he has to be the “strong one” for them both.  Dougie is twenty-three and still Mat’s “baby brother”.  He has a Master’s in social work and is working on his Ph.D in clinical psychology.  Dougie is softer around the edges, and equally worries about his brother.  He looks forward to finishing his degree, finding a good job, and hopefully getting his brother to quit fighting.  Each of them feels that the other one sacrifices more.  

In the beginning, we learn that Mat is gay and Dougie is straight.  So far, in Episodes 1 & 2, I haven’t seen how that is very relevant to the story, except for the shock factor in Dougie's abuse.  Both brothers are viciously kidnapped from their home.  Madame decides to keep Mat, rather than have him killed, and so Mat and Dougie’s journey through hell begins.  It breaks my heart to see how Dougie's insecurity at not being the "tough one" is shaping his thoughts and decisions throughout this process.  Meanwhile, Mat's mind seems to be holding up pretty well, except when he worries about how Dougie is dealing with it.
It was fucking evil, what he'd done to Mat...Mat was principled.  Willing to die and leave what was left of their dignity intact.  Dougie was a fucking coward.  ~Dougie, TFC #1: Capture
Dougie had long since stopped trying to protect Mat the same way.  Good, Mat told himself.  He could take the punishment.  Was a fucking pro at it.  But Dougie...Dougie was just a kid, and academic, soft and sensitive and sweet.  Whether he'd still be when they got out of here...  ~Mat, TFC #2: Auction                     
Episode 2 begins again with Nikolai.  I am more intrigued by him now.  He wants to buy Mat to train for a very special request by a client.  Finding a slave like Mat is unusual in this business, with his hardness and tenacity.  Dougie is more desirable for his beauty, refinement, and malleability.  Dougie is going to be a high-end slave, while Mat could be sold for much less.  Nikolai's problem is that it appears that they are to be sold together.  Episode 2 continues on with Mat and Dougie being prepared for the auction process.  It concludes with the auction itself.    

Now it's time to get real about how hard-core this series is.  The following "kinks" are listed for this series:  barebacking, bondage, caging/confinement, chastity, cum-play, double penetration, electrical play, enema, face-fucking, forced orgasm, hate-sex/angry sex, humiliation, impact play, incest (actual), insertion, power exchange, rimming, sadomasochism, slavery (real), and total power exchange.  I'm putting myself out there by even admitting that I am reading this, much less that I will continue reading it, and even more, that I actually think that it's good!  I do think that the brutality is overdone, but I also think that it's a worthwhile read so far.  Looking ahead to Season 2, I noticed that there were no more warnings of "forced incest" listed.  Thank goodness for small favors!      
        
I chose The Flesh Cartel because I wanted to try the serial fiction format.  I became intrigued after reading the blurb because The Flesh Cartel is a series that pushes all human boundaries to unthinkable levels.  This book series is seriously disturbing.  They are very violent, completely debasing, and just when you think Mat and Dougie will get a break, they don't.  I was really shocked at the end of Episode 2.  Yet, there's a part of me that needs to keep reading.  It’s a bit like watching the Saw movies.  They are terrifying, but because there is a clever plot, I can stand to watch it.  Particularly for this series, I have to have hope for an HEA (Happily Ever After).  Jericho Barrons would call me an idealistic fool.  Guilty as charged.  I cannot fathom how an HEA can come out of this story.  You can bet that I will stay tuned to find out, and I am rooting for the “good guys”.  I am "all in", and looking forward to the next installment.

Series order:
The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation

  • The Flesh Cartel #1: Capture
  • The Flesh Cartel #2: Auction
The Flesh Cartel, Season 2: Fragmentation

  • The Flesh Cartel #3: Choices, 1/7/2013
  • The Flesh Cartel #4: Consequences, 2/4/2013
  • The Flesh Cartel #5: Wins and Losses, 3/4/2013
  • The Flesh Cartel #6: Brotherhood, 4/1/2013
These are available for purchase at www.riptidepublishing.com.  

I'd love to know if anyone else has tried the serial fiction format, and if so, are there series you would recommend?  Has anyone else read a book or series that you felt embarrassed to admit you were reading?






Comments

  1. I've never tried serial fiction before, but I am very interested, especially with this book. Can't wait to start it!
    The only time I've ever been embarrassed is when I started reading my smut books. Now, not so much. ;-)

    Great review, BTW. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Jaymie! It's kind of a neat format, but the constant cliffhangers might not be for everyone. I imagine that they will become more "nail-biters" as it goes on. Cliffhangers drive me bananas...until something shiny distracts me (so like Ty Grady :-) ).

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  2. Ha! Now I know why I couldn't keep reading much after book 1. I wasn't much for the Saw movies, either. I'm really intrigued by the story, and like you said, the plot is complex and interesting and I really want to know what happens next. Maybe i'll wait for the next several installments to be released; if I know there is redemption it will make some of the "debasement" a bit easier to handle.

    Great work highlighting all the great things about this story while giving fair warning to those who haven't read yet and are thinking about picking them up. :)

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    1. Thanks, Veronica! That's a great idea, to wait until they are all finished to see if there is redemption. Meanwhile, I'm just holding on to hope. Now that I've started down the path, I've got to keep reading as they come out.

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    2. Wonderful review Amanda. You have pulled me along on this rollercoaster and I really need to know everything is going to be okay. Veronica you are so right, there had better be redemption / sanity and some kind of happy ending at the all of this, or I may be very, very drunk and depressed by the end of the serial.

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    3. LOL Thanks, Angela! I love to pull my friends along for a great literary ride. :-)

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  3. I can't imagine my reading this series and not having the HEA-book (hopefully there will be one eventually)on my Kindle or somewhere close enough to peek at it when I feel like the world comes crashing down. And I feel like with this series it will happen more often than I'm comfortable with.

    Excellent review, Amanda and I can't wait to have at least the next two installments and start reading it, because right now, this is too much for my fickle, spo-ho heart.

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  4. I can't imagine my reading this series and not having the HEA-book (hopefully there will be one eventually)on my Kindle or somewhere close enough to peek at it when I feel like the world comes crashing down. And I feel like with this series it will happen more often than I'm comfortable with.

    Excellent review, Amanda and I can't wait to have at least the next two installments and start reading it, because right now, this is too much for my fickle, spo-ho heart.

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  5. Loved your review, Amanda! I still want to read these books, but now I'm thinking that I'll probably wait until they are all out and make sure of that HEA before I read them. It's not the kinks and warnings that put me off the series, just the thought that it might not have a HEA ending! Plus I hate cliffhangers and waiting for them to be resolved. So yep, this series will definitely be on my TBR-When-They're-Completed list. :D

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