Title : Evenfall
Series : In The Company of Shadows, Book #1
Author : Ais and Santino (Sonny) Hassell
Publisher : Slash Fiction – Free Download (HERE)
Genre : M/M, Dystopian
Length : 1427 pages / 498,200 words (ebook)
Published : 2007
Rating : ★★★★★
Years after the bombs of WWIII have changed the physical and political landscape, the Agency ruthlessly works behind the scenes to take down rebel groups that threaten the current government. Their goals justify all means. Hsin Liu Vega (Sin) is their most efficient and deadly assassin ever. However, he tends to go off on unauthorized killing sprees and somehow his assigned partners all end up dead under suspicious circumstances. That is why the Agency has had him locked up in a box on the fourth floor for years. But now they think it is time to put the psychopath back in the field. With a new partner.
Boyd’s mother, a high ranking Agency official, volunteers her teenage son for the position. Boyd is not afraid of death. In fact, his life has been such an endless cycle of apathy and despair for the last few years that he’d welcome it.
Can these two broken men form an efficient partnership? Can they learn to trust anyone, let alone each other? Sin doesn’t give a fuck about the Agency, or the androgynous boy who holds the remote to the shock collar that is supposed to control him.
On the other hand, Boyd is strangely unafraid of the man everyone calls ‘monster’ and Sin seems reluctant to let his keeper get himself killed on any missions. Yet.
I’ve had this freebie – available at Goodreads – on my Kindle for ages. Even for a devourer of books, the page count seemed a bit daunting. I kept putting it off, thinking of the time I’d have to invest and the backlog of other books I wanted to read. Yet, I was getting tired of the short stories and fluffy HEA’s I’ve been reading lately. I wanted something with guts and the blurb sure had me going. Then it hit me… Evenfall: In The Company of Shadows wasn’t any longer than reading three Black Dagger Brotherhood books back-to-back and I read the first ten BDB’s in a month. So I queued it up, started reading and for the next four days lost myself in the post WWIII dystopian world Ais and Santino (Sonny) Hassel have so brilliantly created.
Right from the beginning I was hooked: The Fourth Floor Detainment Centre would look innocuous enough to an outsider, were any ever allowed inside.
Johnson Pharmaceuticals, a sprawling complex of buildings, laboratories and high-rise residences is the cover for a shadowy organization known only as The Agency. The Agency is so covert not even the CIA knows of its existence. Hsin Liu Vega (Sin) is the Agency’s top operative, a psychopathic monster who years ago went on a murderous rampage, killing a host of civilians and cops for no apparent reason. Sin’s last four partners have died, mostly because he decided they were too stupid to live. All four were using him to advance their own careers, treating him as either their pet or as something sub-human and rather than help them when they got into trouble, he just let them die.
Hsin was trained to be nothing more than a killer. At eight, his father began teaching him. “I’m not supposed to make myself vulnerable to others—to care for others. Eventually my weakness will be used against me and I will regret ever trying to be like other people.”
The Agency knows that Sin has one exploitable weakness though; he’s severely claustrophobic. To keep him from killing indiscriminately again and to punish him, the head of the Agency Marshal Connor has Sin sedated and held in a 4×6 box in a secure cell under round-the-clock surveillance on the much feared ‘fourth’. Months pass. When his services are again needed, Sin is released from the box. But before he comes out of the drugs, General Carhart, the team leader orders a GPS shock collar, designed to render Sin unconscious should he try and attack allies and superiors as he’s done in the past, be surgically attached round his neck. The remote will be given to whoever is partnered with The Monster in order to control it. Him.
Holy geez, this was only the first half of the prologue. Already I was horrified, captivated and aching for Sin. Already I could see that Connor, Carhart, and the guards that abused and torment Sin when he was drugged were the real monsters.
Enter Boyd Beaulieu. Reclusive. Apathetic. Haunted by tragedy, Boyd has shut down from feeling anything…“After all, a life without living was simply a death without dying. What more was there to fear or hate but life, endless life, with no respite?” Just shy of his nineteenth birthday, the androgynous long haired blonde is summoned to a meeting with his mother. While outwardly devoid of emotion, Boyd’s desperate to please this remote unfeeling woman. Inside he’s sickened certain he’ll fail like he always does.
Vivienne Beaulieu is second in command at the Agency. Cold and calculating, she tells Boyd “… I am well aware that your life is meaningless,” at their first meeting in years.
She then informs him that he’s to be trained as an operative for the Agency and that if he fails or disappoints her in any way, she’s going to make him wish she only had his life terminated. This is no ideal threat and he knows it.
Eventually Boyd and Sin are teamed together and sent out on their first mission… And this is where their story really takes off. It’s an epic espionage thriller that is slow in building. Seemingly unconnected events occur, names are dropped that aren’t explained for chapters, there are no good guys and plenty of baddies, but believe me all the randomness falls into place by the end of the book. Well, almost….
For unpublished authors, I found Ais/ Sonny’s writing style compelling. The pacing, the exposition, the dialogue, even the editing is better than what I’ve seen in some published works. The narrative pulls the reader along. The description is detailed without being boring, creating a mind-picture of desolation, poverty, destroyed buildings and bombed-out cities under a constant cloud cover of dust. Even when not much is happening, it was difficult to set the book aside. Although I have to admit; at times, Boyd’s internalizing got a bit tedious. And there are a few glitches and plot holes that left me scratching my head, but that might just be me reading well past bedtime into the middle of the night.
It was fascinating watching these two characters develop and grow, circling around each other, slowly, painfully exposing their own and each other’s humanity, cautiously reaching out and needing each other. The sex, when they finally got together was hot, tender, violent, emotional without the graphic physical detail I’ve come to loathe. The humour was sparse, although Sin’s birthday present to Boyd was bittersweet funny in a twisted sort of way. The secondary characters are unique and individual, Ryan, Jeffrey and Owen especially are easily identified by their mannerisms and speech. Evenfall’s gritty and hard, often tender, sweet and oh yes, nightmare inducing and I can’t recommend this enough, especially for anyone looking for more than just fluff. It is only fair to mention that Evenfall ends with a HFN. There are three more books in the series and despite the backlog, I’ve already downloaded them and started in on the second one. True, it’s a long read, an estimated 5,000 pages but after the hell Boyd and Hsin have so far survived, I’m counting on them getting their HEA by the end of the series.