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Earthside #2

Survival Rout

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The evening wasn't supposed to end in kidnapping, yet despite best laid plans three college students find themselves hauled out of the local bar and into another world. Imprisoned in a nightmarish fairyland where boys are forced to fight horrific monsters for the entertainment of their captors and girls are served up as prizes to the victors, a small group of human captives must learn how to work together in order to survive. Yet trust is difficult in a place where every memory has been ripped away, leaving the young adults unable to remember the first thing about themselves or their pasts. Can they overcome their fears and mistrust of each other and use their newly awakened powers to escape?

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published December 11, 2016

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Ana Mardoll

7 books387 followers

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
4 reviews3 followers
February 7, 2020
Second book in the trilogy managed to come at the story universe from a completely different angle, tie it back into the major plot threads from the first book, and leave me pounding on the table for the third one.
Part of what makes Ana's work so much fun to read is, the characters are intensely likable, and they are all complex people. Individuals you really want to dislike, who rub you the wrong way, turn out to have entirely reasonable explanations for their behavior – and ones you don't think twice about can come suddenly into sharp focus with a single act of cruelty.
The Arena of the hideous Master of Masques, its staged battles and forced sensuality, could not be more different than the May Queen, the evil fairy who captured the protagonists of the first book. Yet the sense of captivity and creeping danger is every bit as acute. And the sweet urgency of the voluntary, real relationships that blossom in that harsh environment stand in deliberately sharp contrast to the arranged sexual encounters the characters' captor uses to "motivate" his fighters.
More than most books I've read that have some plot elements you'll find here, Survival Rout shows how the captives actually feel about their situation. The lengths to which they go to retain a sense of themselves, and to understand one another, help them band together and do their utmost to make it out alive.
Author 7 books1 follower
February 7, 2017
A sterling, fiercely moral fantasy-romance-dystopian-adventure (not in the sense of some dodgy Indian Jones/ Conan/ Boy's Own adventure, but in the sense that the plot is often mission based like an RPG) story reminiscent of 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and Suzanne Collins' 'Hunger Games' trilogy. The two narrating protagonists, Aniyah and Keoki, are both deeply likeable and different enough in character that their voices never sound inter-changeable, despite the standardisation of the writing style (i.e. this isn't trying to be Faulkner!) The experience of the book is like hanging out were a group of (mostly) very endearing (mostly) very queer friends while they navigate a terrifyingly dangerous labyrinth. As soon as you start to relax, another terrible obstacle comes their way, spewed forth from the monstrous patriarchal society in which they have been imprisoned. You never doubt that most of them will escape, but you also know the journey is going to be brutal and that periods of levity will be short-lived.

'Survival Rout' is an #ownvoices text and features a wealth of queer and non-binary characters. Perhaps the thing I appreciated most about SR as an #ownvoices text was how Aniyah's experience as a chronic pain sufferer was worked into the story but never fetishised or overtly dramatised. Rather, her experiences are realistically and compassionately portrayed. In fact, the writing's clear-eyed realism really stood out to me, perhaps because I do not personally tend to read plot-driven books. Sometimes the lack of lavish descriptions of environments or poetic language in favour of a focus upon character and dialogue made me feel as though I was reading a (higher-tier) visual novel like 'Zero Escape' or 'Danganronpa'. That isn't to say that the similies and such used aren't good (they are) but that the writing seeks to communicate plot and character rather than be experimental... it's not like, say, with Virginia Woolf when I underline lots of sentences due to the sensory impression they make upon me, but can never remember the story.

I primarily know Ana Mardoll's writing from her remarkable Narnia deconstructions and so comparisons with C.S. Lewis' series inevitably came to my mind while reading, despite the fact that they really aren't very similar! Mardoll is clearly superior to Lewis in terms of characterisation and character motivation, pacing, dynamism, and not having loads of terrible ideas and messages in her writing, but one thing that Lewis had a knack for, which I felt 'Survival Rout' lacked, was an ability to evoke places that seemed imbued with a deep, thrumming magic. The things that still stay with me from Narnia aren't characters or even events, but the Wood Between the World; the lamp-post forged from that iron bar; the golden "statue" at the bottom of the lake. 'Survival Rout' has some memorable imagery and the writing is never less than engaging, but (with the exception of the curiously marked doors, which open via corresponding patterns in the flesh) doesn't quite have the charmed metaphysical "otherness" behind things that Narnia sometimes achieved; metaphysics which I think were probably linked at some level to the more mystical/abstract side of Lewis' Christianity. Mardoll avoids the toxic ideas and sad misogyny sometimes entangled with Lewis' religiosity (in complex ways - Christianity *per se* didn't make Lewis have issues with women, but sometimes gave expression to his sexism), but there were times when I almost wanted the book to be less grounded; less clear! As said, 'Survival Rout' is realistic fantasy. There is causation and logic. Things don't just "happen". This means you take the experiences of the characters seriously and when the stakes are high they never feel like they have been artificially manipulated. But I would love to see Mardoll work her paganism into a following Earthside book as I believe she is a writer who could accomplish this without it seeming didactic, imbuing the clear-sighted realism of her writing with a heightened metaphysical charge.

Thematically, 'Survival Rout' concerns the monstrous effects of patriarchy, the realisation of one's inner self, and magic. It also portrays ideas around redemption and forgiveness with great complexity and I think it would be a mistake to align all of the characters' view-points with the author's own.

***Spoilers and Content Warning for discussion of sexual violence***

Mid-way through reading SR I was concerned that only Lucas' more overt violence would be acknowledged and condemned.

I liked the emphasis upon the idea that other characters (Keoki) couldn't forgive this abuser character on behalf of his victim/s (Sappho). It felt like Lucas cut himself off from "atonement" (i.e. an earned life-long process of accountability in which the perp retains a basic right to life through the recognition of his/her essential humanity; rather than a final, solid, end-state of "redemption") due to his stubbornness in the face of accountability. This was fair. Mardoll balanced Keoki's belief that Lucas did not deserve death against Sappho's refusal to forgive her abuser. Personally I think she accomplished the difficult feat of respecting both.

However I was concerned that the death of an unapologetic abuser let several of the other cis, male characters off the hook... after all, many of the men knew that the girls were acquiescing to sex under threat of death and not freely consenting... and though one could argue that this is not the same as a men who, say, pays for "sex" with a victim of trafficking since both the men and women here are slaves... some of them, like Matías, have more power over the situation than others. Characters like Keoki and Tony demonstrate that the "fighters" are able to not have sex with the "prizes" without endangering their lives, so those fighters who do have sex with a reluctant girl who is simply "tolerating it" (as Lucas puts it, projecting his moral failings onto the other fighters while not being entirely off-the-mark) are not blameless.

In my own life I've often seen men not recognise themselves as abusers, avoiding turning the critical gaze inwards through the fierce outward criticism of more obvious abusers. Woke guys who grabbed a friend's chest as a "joke" as a teenager; young men of 18-19 dating children of 15-16, refusing to recognise the power imbalance; girlfriends pressured at parties into making out with each other by their boyfriends etc. etc. From Brad Perry's self-aware confession of his act of sexual assault as a teenager in 'Yes Means Yes' (Friedman and Valenti) to the un-self-aware confessions of white, male autobio comics authors like David Heatley and Chester Brown. Things I recognise in friends and things I recognise in my younger self.

I should not have doubted the author.

Because in Chapter 31 this is addressed directly by Chloe. She says:

"We still didn't have the choices you had [...] No, not even when you guys asked. You don't know what it's like, sleeping with someone who can have you killed with a word. You **can't** know what kind of pressure that puts on you."

Another character, Handler, has been complicit in the death and torture of many characters. Again, he wasn't a free agent, but he has effectively been a perpetrator of abuse.

Neither Handler nor Matías are ever magically "free" from their pasts. It is clear that neither man will ever be wholly "back in the fold", but both seem to be earning their place as a human amongst humans within society. One character (Aniyah) keeps contact and a kind of friendship with both, while other characters choose not to. The steely compassion Mardoll showed in the book's last chapter made me cry, which is something a book rarely achieves for me.

But the book isn't really about these flawed cis men, neither should it be. This is thankfully not a redemption narrative that privileges their stories. More vivid and engaging are Aniyah herself and her lover and friend, Miyuki, a genderqueer healer who has a very specific kind of self-possession that certain introverts have which I've never seen captured on paper before. Xie is probably the character that stood out to me the most. Sometimes, due to the sheer amount of characters (in a sense the book has 14 main characters) I had the impression that while Mardoll knew all these people down to a tee and if asked could name their preferences in fruit tea and their favourite childhood memories and how they relate to the world and other people, as a reader I didn't always have full access to these inner-lives, mostly due to sheer limitations of space! This is where I think the book might have benefited from being in the visual novel format. 'Umineko' has similar themes to 'Survival Rout' and a similarly large cast... but then again it's also longer than 'War and Peace' so you simply spend a massive amount of time getting to know its characters.

However, that always leaves room for lots of Earthside fanfiction to be written!

Finally, (and this is coming from a cis, bi/poly-sexual bloke, for what that's worth) I found the sex scenes in 'Survival Rout' surprisingly hot. Apparently I'm not the first person to mention this! So... erm... if that's something you also want in your fiction, 'Survival Rout' has that. Pretty queer young people enthusiastically having sex! Plus peril.

In all, 'Survival Rout' is an often riveting, always intriguing, generously written book with a serious warmth of spirit and great representation. I would definitely recommend it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nicole Field.
Author 18 books143 followers
February 6, 2017
This book left me with shivers, let me tell you. It's a book that's going to confront some people because of dubious consent with regards to sex acts, but also with regards to violence against women.

It begins in a bar, where Aniyah and Miyuki are chatting about Miyuki's gender pronouns and Aniyah is trying to come to terms with her own attraction to Miyuki, as well as the beginnings of her leanings towards polyamory.

Suddenly, however, these two and a third unknown character are being kidnapped. They end up in a faerie realm, where their memories are stripped away from them and they must live as entertainment to faeries, either as prizes, or fighters in the arena.

Which is where some of the things happen that I think some people will struggle with. However, this book does some amazingly good things with regards to both gender and chronic pain story lines. Aniyah has chronic pain due to a scar in her back. Unfortunately, after her memories are taken away, she can no longer remember how she used to relieve that pain, or if it is even normal. This is a story of a bunch of human people being thrown into another world, not all of them able bodied. Aniyah at times cannot even stand due to pain. Miyuki cannot see without her glasses.

On the other side of things, we have Keoki, who is the other character through which we see the story through. He is much more the chosen one style character that one would expect to see in a book like this, and it just further expresses how well the contrast between able bodied and not are made.

With regards to gender, Miyuki's pronouns are very early established as xie/xer, and this is consistent throughout the narrative. But Reece! Although it comes out in the story very late that Reece is, in fact, one of the girls, this revelation packed a punch with the heart wrenching yet beautiful way that it was uncovered. Perfection.

The main complaint I had with pacing in this novel is that I would have liked to see more than the beginning and an extended epilogue set in earthside, especially since I found that the lives everyone faced in the faerie realm were more than covered. I loved the relationships that were formed under duress there, but was left with the want to know more about how they continued after they came home. As it was, I felt we were only given tastes.

I quite liked seeing a bit of a tie in to the previous book at the end, though. There was a nice symmetry to that.
12 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2019
Survival Rout (and Poison Kiss, Earthside #1) are so important to me. Fantasy and sci-fi, specifically non-grimdark books/series with hopeful endings, are the genres I grew up loving and are what I still come back to when I want something that feels familiar and comfortable to read.

Unlike a lot of what's out there in those categories, Mardoll's books are ones I can actually see myself and my kindred spirits reflected in: there are queer and disabled characters! SO MANY OF THEM. This is especially important to me not just because it's similar to the actual makeup of my social circles but because when you have a bunch of queer people, none of them have to bear the full burden of subverting all the stereotypes and queerness doesn't have to be a monolith.

The stakes are high and the story gets pretty intense sometimes, so it's not necessarily "light and fluffy" reading—there is violence and harm with real consequences. But the tone and the focus of the series are more about chosen family & community and caring for one another when outside forces would rather keep you competing for artificially scarce resources, and that's the kind of story I think the world needs more of.
Profile Image for Kylie.
53 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2017
CW: sexual coercion, sexual violence, violence.

This one might be tough for survivors of sexual assault because it involves sex slavery, but with a big exception toward the middle (which happens off page), the sex that does happen is consensual, both in the sense that consent is asked for and sex only happens if the characters both agree. Several times one of the girls says no, and the no is respected (only the above mentioned off-page incident of violent sexual assault is the exception, read at your own discretion).

Warnings out of the way, I loved this book! Highly recommend, my favorite by the author so far. It took me a little while to get into it, but the story sucked me in once all the players were in place. I actually liked it better than Poison Kiss, the first volume in the series. There are different characters in this one, and you don’t lose much if you haven’t read the first book.

Aniyah, Miyuki and Keoki are kidnapped from a bar one evening and taken to a faery land, where their memories are taken from them and they are forced into roles for the amusement and profit of their faery masters. They are given supernatural powers in order to suit their roles in this new land. Boys are sent to fight other faeries’ human captives (turned into monstrous forms) in the Arena, and girls are given as sexual Prizes to boys who fight well and please the crowd. Each set is secluded from the other except when Prizes are awarded. Even so, the group forms a community, trying to keep each other alive. Small rebellions and secret relationships bloom in this desert quarry where the sun never sets, and the group will have to rely on each other if they want to survive and find a way to escape.

This book is a gold mine for representation of queer and polyamorous relationships: polyamory presented as normal and not stigmatized, trans representation (both non binary and trans woman), asexual representation, bisexual representation (bisexuals of multiple genders!)

Consent is also a prominent focus, the necessity and the murkiness in this situation of kidnapping and memory being stolen. There is a moderate example of sexual violence, but it doesn’t happen to a perspective character, so you don’t have the violent scene play out on the page, though the consequences are addressed for the victim and the bystanders.

There is also disability representation: Aniyah has scoliosis and the pain of being taken from her prescription medication is not ignored or glossed over.

So, to further address some issues:
Profile Image for Jade Newcastle.
Author 1 book2 followers
January 12, 2017
This was a really strong sequel to Poison Kiss. It surrounded new characters that were just as interesting as the protagonists of the first book. Survival Rout focused more on what living in the faery world is like, which I think helped to give good insight into what the others had escaped. I would say the stakes were raised for these protagonists, as well. Mardoll continued her trend of great, diverse characters. She placed disability and trans issues at the forefront of this book, to immense pay-off.

This is one of the best series I've read in a long time. Anyone who loves fantasy should give it a look. Survival Rout has a content warning at the back, which I recommend a read through before reading the book, if you have prominent triggers. But know that none of the content listed is used for shock value, but rather to explore the reality of it through a fantasy lens.
1 review1 follower
January 13, 2017
I was excited to return to the Earthside universe, and this book did not disappoint!

The first book, Poison Kiss, only dwelt briefly on the character's actual time in captivity; the bulk of the book was about adjusting to freedom, overcoming the trauma, finding a place for themselves in the world, and avoiding recapture. In Survival Rout we get a much clearer picture of the cruelties of Faerie, including how the fae lords kidnap and change people to begin with, and an intimate look at one tiny corner of this otherland.

We have two main characters in this one, Aniyah and Keoki (and a third, Miyuki, who isn't a viewpoint character but whose story we still follow pretty closely.) First of all, I was delighted at the craftsmanship of alternating between them; through subtle choices of language and diction and through what they notice and don't notice, these two very different personalities come to life. (I'll admit I'm biased; Keoki is my favorite. His relentless cheerful optimism could have been grating, but instead it came across as hopeful and comforting, adding an element of "find fun where you can" into an otherwise bleak situation.) All three are kidnapped in an incredibly creepy scene (more on this later) and taken to Faerie, where their memories are stripped...

...and here's where it gets interesting. In the beginning of Poison Kiss, Rose seemed to have given up hope. Even the idea of any level of camaraderie with her fellow captives was foreign to her, until Lavender spoke up. Here, though, the girls - and to a lesser extent the boys - actively help each other, finding ways to save any memories they can and working together to keep each other alive. It's a very different dynamic, and fun to read.

And it's necessary, because the situation really is bleak. In this corner of Faerie, boys are forced to fight for their lives against other captives, some of whom have some nasty abilities; girls are kept as "Prizes," sexual toys that are given as rewards to fighters who both survive and put on a good show. (Note: although this set-up is ripe for abuse and rape, it only happens once in the book, and the bulk of it is off-screen. I liked the fact that most of the boys weren't monsters; they wanted sex with a pretty girl, sure, but they didn't want to hurt anyone. When it's revealed that one of their number apparently does, the appalled reaction feels appropriate. I like that it's not normalized or explained away.) Both roles are horrific in their own way; the trapped helplessness comes across loud and clear without making the book depressing. Without giving away spoilers, the cooperation and trust within each group and, to a lesser extent, between the two groups eventually makes something possible that otherwise wouldn't have been.

A major theme of the book is power and how it's abused; many of the situations are disturbingly close to real-world scenarios, with an extra helping of fantasy horror on top. The creepy kidnapping scene, for example, looks like date rape at first - or something even darker. (Kidnapping girls as sex slaves, maybe?) The reveal that the kidnappers aren't human under their illusions just makes it more unsettling. In Faerie, the dehumanizing nightmare of being held captive, your name and memories taken, valued only for whatever entertainment you might provide, and forced into dangerous situations is an obvious example; less obvious is the more subtle horror of being assigned a role based solely on your (perceived) gender, whether you're suited for it or not. (One of the boys, for instance, is not actually good at fighting at all, whereas one of the girls is asexual but excellent at physical combat.) Add to that the fact that two characters are not actually the gender they're assumed to be, and... well. Again, it's a decent metaphor for certain real-world problems, taken to the next level by the supernatural elements. Differing power dynamics is also a good example. The Master has power over all his captives; they live or die at his whim. Within that system, though, the boys have power over the girls. Again, most of them choose not to abuse that power, but the fact remains that it's a choice. They could choose differently at any time. And when one does, it becomes apparent that not only will the master not punish him, but there's not a whole lot anyone else can do about it either. (What CAN you do, when someone you considered a friend does something awful? When words don't work? Beat him up, knowing that it'll only start a feud, that he'll come after you later - or worse, take it out on someone else? Commit cold-blooded murder?) It echoes scenarios ranging from abusive relationships to overlapping systems of oppression, without ever getting preachy about it.

Diversity-wise, the ensemble cast is amazing. Both main characters are POC - always nice to see in fantasy - as well as bisexual and polyamorous,and one is disabled, as is one of the minor characters. There's a wide range of races, sexualities, and gender identities on display. There's a fat girl (I LOVE HER) who is beautiful, sexy, and powerful. There are characters who fulfill one stereotype while defying many more, just like people in real life. They feel like groups I've actually been part of, and it's so refreshing to read.

A final note: this novel is a sequel; it takes place chronologically after Poison Kiss and (spoiler!) we eventually see a couple familiar faces. However, it is a standalone story with mostly new characters. You do not need to have read the first book to enjoy this one (although we're starting to see hints of an overarching plot that may be developed further in future books!)
17 reviews
December 8, 2017
The stronger of this series, I'm in love with the diverse and wonderful cast. Beautifully written, with a knowing, tight humour and fascinating character dynamics. This series is incredibly original, and the characters feel like they're speaking out of the page. If I had one small criticism, it is only that there may be a couple characters too many to keep up with.
Profile Image for butwait.
2 reviews
January 24, 2017
** I was gifted a digital copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. **

Survival Rout is a great read that benefits from some inspired world-building and finely wrought characters; from the very beginning I cared about these people and was rooting for them. Which is a good thing, because they get thrown into a very scary situation where they can use all the support they can get! Things I particularly appreciated about this story were the ways in which Mardoll studiously avoided some all-too-common tropes in fantasy writing. I remember, for example, the surprise I felt when one of the serious bad guys of this story is described early on in a way that makes his whiteness seem downright creepy. It’s such a great departure from the lazy “the darker, the more dangerous” standby. I also appreciated the physicality of the book… one of the main characters is dealing w/ a chronic injury, and the world they get plunked down into is decidedly different from Earth… the physical realities of the world Mardoll has built stayed with me during the parts of my day in which I wasn’t reading the book; that kind of staying power is always a good sign.

Survival Rout is a thought-provoking book, but never in a ham-fisted, “Now you should think about this,” kind of way. It is a meditation on the power of naming, and the gift of memory. Most of the main characters are struggling with a kind of memory loss that is particular to the world of this series, and Mardoll does a wonderful job of giving her readers an intimate glimpse into the challenges these “memory-less” characters face. The characters are diverse in every dimension - culture, race, gender, sexual orientation - and their depiction is nuanced enough that the reader is invested in all of them. Although the backdrop of the story trends towards the grim, there are some laugh-out-loud funny moments between characters, and some seriously sexy scenes as well. Mardoll handles issues of both closeting and consent deftly. The fact that several characters are dealing with physical disabilities or challenges (one character is only intermittently permitted to wear her glasses) is just a part of the story’s overall landscape, and this is one of the many ways in which Mardoll’s story reflects our own world back to us in a more heterogenous and realistic way than many.

So Survival Rout is definitely worth your time, and although it has a bit of a cliffhanger tease of an ending and there is one earlier book in the series, it holds up quite nicely as a singleton story. Reading Ana Mardoll’s Survival Rout reminded me of the feeling you sometimes get with a trip to a really great museum exhibit… how the world you left behind as you entered the museum looks a little different once you emerge back into it. In 2014, at the National Book Awards, Ursula Le Guin said, “Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.” Stories like Survival Rout help make and hold room for wider possibilities.
Profile Image for Emma Lindhagen.
Author 8 books13 followers
February 21, 2017
I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I finished the first book in the series, Poison Kiss. That book was one of my favorite reads for last year, and quite possibly the most personally resonant romance novel I've ever read. I had high hopes for the sequel, which is always a bit scary since you never know if something will live up to your high hopes.

Now that I've finished it, I can easily say this book was everything I hoped and more. The worldbuilding is excellent, adding further frightening dimensions to what we knew from Poison Kiss. The prose is pretty without trying too hard. The story is riveting, horrible and wonderful in equal doses. Having a diverse cast of characters, many of which lean non-monogamously, and sex scenes where consent is explicitly discussed continued to be very refreshing. But beyond all that, there was just something about the characters and interpersonal dynamics in this one that appealed to me on a personal level to a greater extent than in Poison Kiss. When I finished Poison Kiss, other than being awed I was primarily left with a curiosity about the world and the overarching plot. With Survival Rout, that curiosity is still there but it's supplemented with a desire to revisit Aniyah and her friends personally, to know more about them and their futures. Poison Kiss got 5 stars, this one gets 5 very well-polished stars with kissy-marks on them.

Read this book. It's gorgeous.
2 reviews
December 22, 2021
I stumbled across this series by chance and am so glad I did - the world building is detailed and creative, the characters are beautifully complex and loveable, and the plot had me reading until 3 am to see what happened next. I'd recommend these books to anyone, especially this one, and (as the author wrote in xer blog, which I dug up to find out if there's another book coming - on hiatus for now it seems), I'm definitely banging on the table hoping for more in the future.
20 reviews
August 23, 2017
Love the next book in the Earthside series. It's a little darker than the first, and I appreciate that the author included trigger warnings in the back for those that need them. This book *will* bring the feels, ultimately in a cathartic way for me.

also really appreciated the portrayal of a character with chronic pain (scoliosis) in a romance novel with fantasy elements. I feel like this book saw me.

probably going to reread over time, after I process more.
Profile Image for MJ.
229 reviews14 followers
December 27, 2016
I read Book 1 awhile ago, and thought it was sexy and fun, so when I saw Book 2 was out I downloaded it right away. It didn't disappoint! It was interesting to read about how these characters navigated the nightmare world they were kidnapped into, and how they still maintained a sense of self despite their loss off memory.
Profile Image for Dax Murray.
Author 4 books37 followers
May 14, 2017
Survival Rout is a story with a diverse cast of characters, who must find a way to work together to escape their faery captors. The point of view switches between Aniyah and Keoki. Aniyah is captured and placed with a group of other young people, mostly people their captors assume to be women. Keoki is placed with a group of young people their captors assume to be men. Aniyah and her new friends are "Prizes" for when Keoki and his new friends win in fights. The boys fight magical monsters, and their captor makes money off of betting on these matches. The girls are sent to the boys when they win, to do with as they please.

All of these captive humans have magical amnesia, and cannot remember anything about their life prior to the capture. The author uses this to explore sexual relationships outside of society. Some of the boys are incredibly kind and considerate, asking permission and getting consent, or what can count as near-consent, as the boys happiness the next morning determines if the girl lives or dies. At least one of the boys is not so nice. There was a lot here to unpack, and I feel that Mx Mardoll did a good job of keeping the story moving, and also taking the time to confront that the capacity for violence is not always societies doing.

Mx. Mardoll also does a stunning job in exploring being trans, and being queer. Many of the characters in this novel might have had their memory wiped, but they still carry with them the sense that they are trans or queer in some capacity, even without the words to describe these feelings they have about their own identity.

Another thing that I really appreciated was how the book dealt with disabilities. There are two characters with visible disabilities, both of them needing assistance with mobility at times. I don't want to spoil anything, but each character deals with their disability in different ways, while both being supportive of the others choice in how to deal with that. I appreciated that a lot.

Overall, this is a really fun novel, and I appreciated that it detoured from the fun magical kissing and romance to sometimes deal with the nuances and complications of human relationships, and that the times when a character clearly goes beyond a moral event horizon, the characters respond to this act in messy, human ways,while it still being clear to the reader that no matter how the characters respond, the BAD THING a character did was very not okay. You might have noticed that this is book two. You don't need to have read the previous book to enjoy Survival Rout, the events of this book happen after "Poison Kiss" but it stands on its own.
53 reviews
April 25, 2017
The characters and primary setting are different, but if you enjoyed the first book you will almost certainly enjoy this one. There is warmth and love through adversity and trauma. There is magic, romance and a dollop of mystery. There is wonderful cuddling, and sex scenes that i actually enjoyed reading (as someone on the asexual spectrum, this means a lot to me). There's queer representation in the main cast, and outside it. The characters, in general, are wonderful to know. (Especially Miyuki, for me). Read it, and enjoy it.

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