"'You have committed a vile and savage act, one that any other nation would punish with death. Our punishment, on the other hand, will only be to give you what you want. You have sought to live in a world without boundaries of civilization, and such a world shall henceforth be your dwelling place.'"
A cold-hearted murderer. A vicious abuser. A young man hiding a shameful secret. A bewildered immigrant. A pure-minded spy.
All of these men have found their appointed places at Mercy Life Prison, where it is easy to tell who your enemies are. But a new visitor to Mercy is about to challenge decades-old customs. Now these men's worst enemies may be hiding behind masks . . . and so may their closest allies.
A runner-up in the Rainbow Awards 2014, the book bundle "Mercy's Prisoner" can be read on its own or as the first volume in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.
Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative fiction: Arthurian-inspired mythic historical fantasy, gaslamp alternate history, and retrofuture science fiction. Amidst dangerous events, love often occurs in the stories: family affection, friendship, platonic life-companionships, and romance (f/m and m/m). Visit duskpeterson.com for serials, series resources, e-book previews, and notices of new releases.
the first and the last story were very good—the first being almost entirely excellent and novel.
the middle stories suffered from a lack of dramatic tension and a propensity for self indulgent review of (AU) historical context that didn't really heighten anything.
I am also dissatisfied at there not being a resolution to any of the major arcs introduced with any of the main characters, but apparently this first volume is one of three, and I might see satisfaction in the future.
I had trouble sleeping that night. I don't know why; sleep had always been my one blessing at Mercy, transporting me back to the pleasant days preceding my arrest. I usually woke with a smile on my face. But tonight, tired though I was, I found myself staring up at the ceiling, hour after tedious hour, wishing there were cracks there that I could count.
Some of the prisoners had started a debate the previous year over what was most painful about Mercy. Was it the separation from family and friends? The beatings? The humiliations? The backbreaking work? The rapes? The list went on and on.
I hadn't participated in the debate, which, like all such conversations, had taken the form of shouts exchanged between the cells. There was a reason I'd been granted the luxury of a single-man cell: my last three cellmates had been prepared to murder me rather than live another moment with me. Since the death of a prisoner was not, alas, one of the many pains permitted at a life prison, Mercy's Keeper had finally dealt with the problem by giving me a cell of my own – which, of course, had been my plan all along. It was irritating to have to endure being strangled three times in order to achieve what I wanted.
Particularly since I couldn't hope that the stranglings would be successful.
Though I had no desire to become chummy with the bog-scum who inhabited this place, my own unspoken contribution to the debate was that boredom was the greatest pain. Boredom didn't come often – most days after work I was barely awake enough to do whatever my present guard required of me – but when it occurred, it was excruciating, like being flayed slowly by a dagger. I often thought that, if I were ever broken into madness, it would be through such a spell of boredom.
I say all this to explain why, when I heard the cell door being opened at lamp-lighting time, my first thought was not (as one might expect), "Oh, no, not again," but rather, "Thank the gods, something new." I rolled over onto my stomach and raised my head to look.
He was a slightly built man; I could see that at once from the outline of his shape against the fire in the pit. With my eyes still dazzled by the newly lit lamps, I couldn't immediately make out the man's face, but I could see one of his hands, gripping hard the hilt of his dagger. That grip stopped my heart for a moment, but even my wildest imagination couldn't hope that the new guard would start our acquaintance by stabbing me, so I raised my eyes to his face.
And my heart stopped once more. I jerked upright in bed, twinging an old hip wound as I did so. I had been rather foolish during my first year, testing the guards in various ways. I winced.
The guard said softly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"Not at all," I said through gritted teeth as I rubbed my hip. "I'll return the favor when I can."
It took no artifice on my part to sound annoyed, though the annoyance was aimed solely at myself. This was not the guard I had been preparing myself for. I had expected a rod-mutilating monster, and what I found myself faced with was a young man.
His face came full into the light as he stepped forward. Wearing the uniform of a Compassion guard, he looked even more like his father: he had the same thin lips and the same straight eyebrows. But the eyes were empty of all coldness – indeed, of all expression of any sort – and there was no smile on his lips, cruel or otherwise.
"My name is Thomas," he said. "I'm your new guard."
I noted the use of his given name rather than his paternal name, and with the instinct of a veteran fighter I dropped and made my attack accordingly. "Ah, yes," I said. "The son of Compassion's Keeper. I can expect great deeds from you, I'm sure."
His lips grew even thinner, but that was all; it seemed that he was well used to this mode of attack. He said, as though I had not spoken, "My job is to provide service to you during your stay at this prison, and to make your stay as comfortable as is possible under your circumstances. If you have any needs, I hope you will let me know of them."
I stared at him open-mouthed for a moment, and then I gave a hoot of laughter that resounded through the entire level. The early-morning conversations across the fire-pit paused briefly, and Sedgewick, who was passing my cell, glanced in with narrowed eyes before continuing on.
"Let me – let me understand you correctly," I said, struggling to gain control of myself. "You'll give me any service I want?"
"Any service that is in accordance with the rules of your stay."
"But the only rule is that I should not be permitted escape, either through death or any other means. So you'll give me anything else?"
"If it's within reason, yes."
"Anything at all?"
"Tell me what you want, and I'll be able to give you a firm answer." His patience, I saw with delight, was wearing down.
"Fine," I said, leaning back and pulling off the blanket to reveal my body underneath. I had given up wearing clothes at bedtime several guards before. "I want you to come over here and service me on your knees."
I'm on a huge reading slump, can't carry around the paperbacks i'm "currently reading" so i went to my kindle library and searched for stuff i've bought years ago and never picked up.
Mercy's Prisoner is not an usual pick of mine and was what i needed at the time to be interested at all in reading the book. I already read the first short story years ago and was left wanting to read more, this volume has stories from other characters that get to interact with Merrick, the main character of the first story. I can't say much about what's the book about, it all revolves around a secret campain created by the prisoners to stop the abuses of the guards to make the prison life more bearable. It's not romance though one o two stories have romantic elements but aside that it's more intrigue than anything else. There's also no closure and i'm not sure if there's a second volume. I liked how the characters fall into the grey areas thus aren't people you might like, they're just there telling their story and it's ok.
 Finished reading the Historical Note. Really interesting and it shows the author did an thorough research on the subject, i think i forgot to mention that though everything happens in a prison you get to know bits of the worldbuilding through the background of the criminals and guards making it an intriguing element to the story that also affects the prisoners.
I may have gotten a little over-excited reading this book. Jus' sayin'.
I was SO unsure of it originally... hoping beyond hope that it would blow my socks off, or at least not be a complete flop. I even had hopes of another Under Grand Hotel situation going on--which it wasn't, by the way, but still. No UGH, but I might have just gotten something even better. (Or at least on par.)
This historical speculative fiction novel easily captures the minds of any reader, even those who might not think this to be "their thing," with its dark setting and even darker themes. But there is a point to all this seemingly unnecessary suffering and pain.
There's a lot of philosophy and activism going on in here, a lot of moral discussion that doesn't really have easy answers. I can't say I believe prisoners -especially those that have done truly horrible things for selfish or unthinkable reasons- should be allowed to go free or be treated kindly, but I do believe they have the right to be treated with some decency and the basic human rights that no one should be denied.
This book makes you think about the hard questions no one wants to ask or bring to light in discussion, and I AB-SO-LUTELY LOVE IT.
I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!
Would you recommend this book? Hell YEAH! Though, of course, I would warn first about how dark and violent this book can be at times. It's not alarmingly graphic, detailing every vicious act, but it IS still disarming and poignant in a way that might leave the reader who is more inclined to the visually graphic quite disturbed, so it might be best to read it, knowing full well how disturbing some imaginary within can be.
Hmm. Different than my usual read, but before I get into that – I want to make one thing clear, Dusk Peterson is a helluva great writer. Now onto what I thought of this bundle of shorts that are all connected by the setting of Mercy’s prison. The events takeplace at the end of the 19th century. First off, while I’m all about historicals – especially M/M historicals because the tension and drama is always right there within a historical setting –this is an alternative history. One of the main differences for me in reading this book is that it is not romance. I do read gay fiction, but I tend toward romance because I usually get a HFN at the very least. Nope. Doesn’t happen, so you can forget all about that right now. But again, because I love historical M/M and do occasionally read gay fiction – I thought I’d give this a try. I’m very glad I did.
Okay, yeah, no happy endings for me – or the characters. This all falls under more of a soul searching umbrella. Each story tells the tale of a prisoner who is condemned to live his days out at Mercy prison. The prisoners aren’t allowed to die (which means the inmates or guards can’t kill them) because that would be like skipping out on their punishment. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be raped and beaten. Or that they’re having a good time or that they aren’t subjected to mind-numbing boredom or worked half to death (Remember – only half, not whole).
There are attempts at romance, attempts to reconcile with fate, attempts to forge a life within a living death. Because this volume of stories is the first of more to come, there are plot lines that are introduced that don’t get resolved. Overall, you’re looking at a very dark, gritty, depressing tale – with a few touches of black humor – and things aren’t neatly wrapped up at the end. You might think that I’m trashing this collection - but I’m not. I merely want readers who don’t care for that type of book or have triggers that this may not be the read for them.
What’s my opinion about these stories? They made me think. They really made me feel, and it wasn’t always a comfortable feel. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. It’s very important that tales like these be told so that we remain aware of the different shades of humanity and that there are those who suffer unjustly. I’m not sure if the word ‘love’ is the proper label for me to attach to my feelings regarding Mercy’s Prisoner, but I was wholeheartedly invested and lost in the horror of the world Dusk Peterson created. When writing successfully does that to me, then I have no choice but to give it 5 Stars.
Reviewed by Michele for Crystal’s Many Reviewers *Copy Provided for Review*
I’m not sure what to say about this book. I really didn’t like it much. It took me days to finish, and I’m usually a book or more a day guy. The book is actually, I think, supposed to be five intermixed stories, but nothing ever reaches a closure, none of them have an ending, and characters don’t necessarily flow to the next story.
I think the writing is above average, sentence structure, etc., is spot on, and the author seems very astute at understanding the minds of both criminals and brutal guards. That said, there were almost constant references to guards raping the prisoners and leaving them bloody and sobbing, and this being an expected way of controlling the prisoners. There were details of how Merrick, the main character, plotted and murdered his young female relative with knife. There were multiple details of whippings and beatings perpetrated on the prisoners. It was almost horrifying to read. More horrifying was that I stopped paying attention to the rapes because there were so many references.
As I mentioned above, the book has no closure and ends almost in mid thought. There isn’t enough money on the planet to make me pick up the next book and read it. I don’t recommend the book to any of our blog readers. I’m going to rate it 2.5, based on an average of the author’s writing, which I thought was above average or 3.5 and my personal view of the book itself which I will be honest and say I would give a 1.0, because I strongly disliked it. I would read other works by the author, because of their writing style, but I would not consider another from this series. If you are into historical fiction, set in an alternate land which the author says is loosely based on western Maryland in the late 1800’s, with a plethora of brutal rapes, and dropped story lines, then give it a try. But remember, it is against my advice.
A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. Please visit www.lovebytesreviews.com to see this and many more reviews, author interviews, guestposts and giveaways!
*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review*
Mercy’s Prisoner (Life Prison Volume 1) is set inside a 1800s prison called Mercy. It is a life prison and those who are sent there have committed the worst crimes imaginable. They will die in prison; escape is impossible and they will never be freed.
Mercy’s Prisoner is a dark read. The prisoners have committed horrific crimes (such as child murder) and due to this the guards feel it gives them the right to treat them appallingly (they beat and rape them on a regular basis). This raises some interesting questions in terms of morals; yes the prisoners have done truly terrible things, but does this give their guards the right to treat them terribly in turn?
It’s clear that the author has done their research and has cleverly woven this into an atmospheric and gritty read.
The novel consists of several interlinking stories. The first of which I really enjoyed, but after that I found myself getting lost. By the end I was struggling to understand how the stories all fitted together. However, this is Volume 1 so the ambiguous ending is most likely intentional and will be further explained in later novels.
Overall I did enjoy reading Mercy’s Prisoner. It’s a dark novel with plenty of atmosphere and I would very much like to read later volumes in the series.
ThreeStar Borrowing from the author's website, "Life Prison is a speculative fiction series about male desire and determination in nineteenth-century prisons." Each of these things is true.
The world-building is exquisite. Anchored in Maryland is the Republic of Mip and its life prisons, forgotten places where the worst criminals go and pray to die. Dying, though, is outlawed, because it is an escape from punishment.
This is an anthology of sorts. The first protagonist is Merrick, a child-murderer. That should set the tone. The murder is vivid and gruesome, as are the rapes and beatings Merrick endures in the life prison.
It's unrelenting. This is not a light book, and it's not a redemptive book. If rape, murder, and torture are not for you, then this book is not for you.
Dusk Peterson, despite this, has a huge following. The writing is fantastic. Each word shows talent and craft, research and imagination, passion and purpose. Mercy's Prisoner is a great read.
It gets three stars from me because of its ultimately frustrating lack of resolution. Mysteries are hinted at, plots thicken, but there's no payoff. Dusk relies on murky atmosphere rather than resolution, and leaves the reader with no catharsis.
If you step into Mercy Prison, there will be no escape.
I was given this in return for an honest review by Inked Rainbow Reads. C.E. Case
Alternative historical, alternate universe, fantasy? All things I love. Sounds like the making of a good story and for some readers it will be. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me. The story was confusing, just as I felt I was getting involved it moved on to something else and I was lost. I didn’t feel like I was reading a historical, alternative or not, if I hadn’t been told the year it takes place I would never have thought it was an historical and the alternative universe wasn’t alternative enough.
This story takes place in a prison, a life prison where the worst of the worst go and never come out. The guards should be inmates their treatment of the inmates is criminal. It’s a dark, it’s brutal and it may make you cringe. Sex goes on between the inmates and the guards every day sometimes more than once a day. Inmates are punished for the least little thing, their punishment....being whipped and those parts were difficult to read. The sex isn’t graphic nor was it always on page but you get the idea it’s also brutal even though a lot of it was consensual.
I’m a character driven person, if I can’t connect to the characters in a story it becomes almost impossible for me to get involved in the plot. I can see that this may be a story many readers would like, it’s definitely out there and unique.