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"'Do you have any questions?' the Seeker asked. 'About the routine of the dungeon? The times you will be fed? The questions you will be asked? The instruments of torture I use?'"

The prisoner knew that the Eternal Dungeon was a place where suspected criminals were broken by torture, and he was prepared to hold out against any methods used against him – except the method he could not anticipate.

Arrested on the charge of committing a particularly horrendous murder, Elsdon Taylor arrives at the Eternal Dungeon in fear of the harsh methods used by the torturers, called Seekers, to draw confessions from their prisoners.

But the dungeon's methods are for more devious than Elsdon had expected. Elsdon finds himself in a bewildering prison where his guard seems reluctant to punish him, the healer appears to have a vendetta against his employers, and Elsdon's Seeker is a mystery whom no one can penetrate.

Now Elsdon is faced with a choice that will shape his future . . . as well as the future of his Seeker.

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the introductory story for The Eternal Dungeon, an alternate history series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is the first part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as in a future that never existed, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times.

Now the Midcoast nations of this world have reached a turning point: the old order is about to be overthrown. Brought together in friendship and romance by the danger of rising events, the people of the Midcoast nations must learn to adjust to a new world.

Honored six times in the Rainbow Awards for LGBTA literature, Turn-of-the-Century Toughs presents an epic tale of adventure, friendship, romance, and class struggles.


First published April 14, 2010

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About the author

Dusk Peterson

100 books64 followers
Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative fiction: historical fantasy, alternate history, and retrofuture science fiction. Amidst dangerous events, love often occurs in the stories: family affection, friendship, platonic life-companionships, and romance. Visit duskpeterson.com for web serials, series resources, exclusive e-book previews, and notices of new releases.

Dusk Peterson's book reviews are posted at their blog: http://duskpeterson.dreamwidth.org

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5 stars
36 (30%)
4 stars
37 (30%)
3 stars
31 (25%)
2 stars
10 (8%)
1 star
6 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Danny Tyran.
Author 21 books184 followers
February 27, 2016

Some found this novel cold. I don't know how theirs minds work, but this story is as hot as the fire burning behind the transparent wall of the cells of the eternal dungeon.

This is the description of the slow and gentle penetration of one mind into another. And it's infinitely more seductive and captivating than the description of the penetration of ones hole by someone's genital.

The author has managed to preserve a certain dose of mystery, so you can never be totally sure of the guilt of Elsdon, the prisoner accused of killing his sister. Elsdon seems so vulnerable and Mr. Taylor, his father, is so contemptible that you come to think that maybe Mr. Taylor took advantage of his son's trauma caused by the discovery of his sister's bloodied body to brainwash him into thinking that he (Elsdon) was the murderer. I wanted to believe in Elsdon's innocence and in his father's guilt. And in a way, the father is more guilty than his son.

It's true that most often Layle, the High Seeker, seems remote, but it's his seeker's job that requires that he remains in control of himself and the situation. He seems at every moment attentive, responsive, even "connected" to the torments and sorrows of Elsdon's gentle and generous soul.

This story is hot as the glowing blade of a knife entering the wound to disinfect and cauterize it.

And frankly, I prefer that there was no sex scenes in a jail context, as this would have been too risky for them to take the colors of abuse and rape; which would have made me feel bad and hate this beautiful story.

The wording lends an ancient and ceremonial tone to the story, which is well suited to this book. And I found only one typographic mistake.

I will certainly read the next books of this series. So I give it 5 stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dreamer.
1,787 reviews128 followers
November 12, 2014
Free on Smashwords as of 23 March 2013

Intriguing first instalment of 'The Eternal Dungeon'. Well-written short story describing suspected murderer Elsdon Taylor's 'searching' in the Eternal Dungeon by the perceptive High Seeker Layle Smith.
'"That's why this is called the Eternal Dungeon? Because you help prisoners to continue in eternal rebirth?"
The guard nodded without speaking.
Elsdon said, "I thought - I'd thought it was named that because no one who is imprisoned here ever leaves here."'
Profile Image for Ayanna.
1,632 reviews62 followers
October 10, 2014
What a strangely singular piece. I loved the textbook excerpts the author created. Actually, I just love it when authors do that, create texts within their universe and show it to us. It gives more background on the universe, how the changes that make the AU affect that universe versus our own, and give great little oblique meta-analyses.

This...is not a romance at all. There's absolutely no romantic interactions between the main characters at all. In fact, I think there being romance in the next one might turn out a bit weird and kitschy. Hopefully it transitions okay.

It's also not BDSM. It's, well, torture. Of the psychological sort, mostly, to be sure, but BDSM? Oh, hell no.

The content itself is fascinating. It definitely skirts the edge between psychoanalysis and questioning/torture really well. The whole concept of the "Eternal Dungeon" is fascinating, definitely very well-constructed.
Profile Image for Steelwhisper.
Author 5 books395 followers
March 24, 2015
Rating is somewhere between "better than okay" and "I like it", or 2.5* and 3*, if you will.

This is a very dry, asexual and extremely thought-out and intricate AU of a past world in which torturing and truth-"seeking" has been elevated to a religion, or rather to achieve the end goal of the belief system of these people.

Unlike several other reviewers I was quite able to see the torture in this, though of course it is not sexual. Also unlike many, who apparently didn't even notice it was there, I was deeply repulsed by the religious aspects of this world. At the same time I can say I was fascinated with how much ease the author achieved both. Unfortunately the consequence for me is that I will abstain from reading other works in the same AU.

Still, there can be no doubt that this is well-written and closely observed, with characters well-drawn and fully realised. Which is the main reason for rating this higher than the 2* which are my emotional take of this story.

As far as the BDSM goes, there is none. This is a world of sadomasochism and barysadism. The High Seeker and his acolyte are sadists barely capable of holding themselves to within stage III while questioning prisoners, some of whom are undoubtedly stage IV. Their "need" or sadism is a form of mental illness just barely held in check by their own fear of overstepping their bounds. Or in other words: this deals with the other end of the axis on which BDSM resides as well.

So, yes this is well-written and I quite liked it as an intellectual exercise. Unfortunately I can't say I enjoyed it much and the religious aspects make it rather impossible to continue.

Profile Image for Dee Wy.
1,456 reviews
August 24, 2012
Not quite what I was expecting, though the setting is as dark and mysterious as I'd hoped. But no torture or romance is this 90-page, stand-alone story. It was interesting though, and this set up has me thinking I want to read more. This one is free on Amazon.
Profile Image for Teresa.
3,275 reviews35 followers
September 25, 2015
So this wasn't what I was expecting. Not as dark, violence wise, but definitely a mind bender. There is no romance in this volume, nor real M/M indication even. Just a jailer and a prisoner, and yet more than that. I am definitely intrigued and plan on reading the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Nicole.
800 reviews
December 9, 2018
I was bored one night and just randomly sorted my Nook books by date and choose the oldest one I had not read which was the novella The Breaking.

Upon seeing the cover and the description I was hesitant to try The Breaking but I was pleasantry surprised. It is really hard to put into words anything about The Breaking, as I was reading all I was able to do was compare it to the writing I read in philosophy. Even several days later after reading it I still keep finding different parts of the story to compare things to in real life.
Profile Image for Yingtai.
73 reviews14 followers
April 26, 2014
This is a really powerful short story. I know it sounds like a BDSM fantasy cliché - terrified prisoner interrogated by grim torturer. But the prisoner is surprised, the torturer is surprised, and you will be too by the wheels within wheels within the characters, setting and plot. It was just a really satisfying read at all levels, although you will have to wait till later parts of this series for the hot sex. Yes, this story is pre-slash. The relationship continues in the next part, Love and Betrayal, but if you liked this part then it will work out cheaper to get the whole of Volume 1: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).

One of the Amazon reviews seems to have misunderstood the author's ethical stance. Nowhere does the author imply that today's prisons ought to model themselves on the Eternal Dungeon. It's a fantasy - medieval architecture, Victorian formality, enough ethical restraint for us kinky folks to enjoy a dungeon setting without guilt. If you read the rest of the series, you will see the characters further exploring the ethical problems of forcing confessions.

I've tried to figure out why one of the Amazon reviews called this amateurish, but I really can't. (And I majored in English, so I guess I'll have to work harder on my literary snobbery?) As far as I can tell, this is just really good writing by any standard, a rich and tender fantasy rooted in solid historical research.
Profile Image for Devon.
107 reviews23 followers
May 4, 2014
The Breaking was far more intriguing to me as an introduction to the author's world than as a romance, which I think served the short story better in the long run. Though the characters were rather formulaic, the world-building—especially all the detail given about the Eternal Dungeon, and hints about the world abroad—are incredibly interesting. In fact, it's a very interesting take on "barbarous" system of interrogation, rooted in psychology, in a way that makes a sort of sense. I also appreciated that the narrative was framed by a "history" text, or a study of history, in the author's world.

The "romance" is really only hinted at towards the end, which seems to imply another installment might continue on the theme (or revisit the characters) and there isn't any torture or BDSM, which may disappoint some readers, given how the story presents itself at the first. For myself, it was just fine, as I think throwing in a romantic arc would have dampened what made the story so interesting in the first place.
Profile Image for Maria.
398 reviews8 followers
November 4, 2013
I’m not a fan of short stories as a general rule, but I loved this one. It’s so dark, so intriguing. Peterson is able to built a fascinating world in 84 pages. Don’t go looking for romance in this instalment of the series, but it is about the connection between two men and the world in which they live. It is a story that definitely will stay with you for a while.

Elsdon, and especially Layle, were intriguing characters. There is really not much more to say about them, seeing as this is mostly set up. But that’s part of what gave this story so much power. You don’t really know these characters yet, and still you’re sucked in by the world.
Profile Image for Diane.
631 reviews
November 23, 2013
This book turned out to not be about what I thought it would be about, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still really good. The author has created a really unusual world in which some people,who may or may not have committed murder, spend the rest of their life working in some capacity in the Eternal Dungeon. I liked the two main characters and really liked their interactions with each other. This was a free kindle book....I was surprised that it was so good. There are more books in this series and I was intrigued enough by this first one to want to read the rest.
Profile Image for Rosalind M.
605 reviews19 followers
May 4, 2011
A thought-provoking read, quiet but absorbing in spite of its dark tones. Definitely not what I expected from the title or description. This free read has encouraged me to seek out more stories set in the Eternal Dungeon.

Additional note, May 2011:
Okay, the other stories were a bit beyond my personal tastes, but my review of this one still stands.
Profile Image for Rachael.
309 reviews
March 8, 2014
I judged this book by it's cover and the reality was not what I expected at all. There was no romance (so no bdsm elements at all). There was bondage and whipping. This story is set in a prison where the jailers are psychologists who use any means necessary to get to the truth of the crime. Most times torture works. Sometimes friendship works.
This was a good story that intrigues me.
Profile Image for Roger.
15 reviews
November 22, 2014
Although I am loathe to share my recent kink for gay bdsm stories and such... I read Dusk Peterson free "prequel" story The Breaking for the title and the cover. Ooooh, I thought: a deviant story about deviants set in a prison called the eternal dungeon. It wasn't what I expected but I liked it.
Author 18 books69 followers
April 10, 2013
There is no sex (nor torture) in these pages, but the writing is smooth and easy to read, the characters are fairly well-drawn, and it sets up a nice story world for future installments.
625 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2014
The Breaking

The Breaking

The breaking is a ok read you have to stay on top of it but like other books you find love in strange places
Profile Image for Chanda.
62 reviews
June 8, 2015
Great Read !

This story was very different, unique. I love how the writing flowed and the story unfolded. It was a pleasure to engage in the psychology of Elsdon's imprisonment.
Profile Image for Theresa.
39 reviews
September 15, 2015
Not quite what i thought, but i enjoyed it. A nice short story, i really liked the phrasing
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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