Title : Afterimage
Series : In The Company of Shadows, Book #2
Author : Ais and Santino (Sonny) Hassell
Publisher : Slash Fiction – Free Download (HERE)
Genre : M/M, Dystopian
Length : 1015 pages (ebook)
Published : 2009
Rating : ★★★★★
In the Company of Shadows is a series about two people who are thrown together as partners in a secret agency; their mission is to disband rebels who have propagated in a post-war future, but they have to deal with everything that comes with an unlikely partnership as well.
Miscommunication, periods of distance, fleeting smiles and learning to trust someone when a person can’t even trust himself, these are what they struggle with while still trying to do their jobs. One is a psychopath, called a murderer and monster and generally deemed subhuman by nearly everyone who knows of him; the other is an introvert, cold and emotionless and so lost in thoughts that he would agree that he can be called a monster of inhumanity. But what makes a person human; is it humanity, compassion, or is it simply the ability to reason? Can a monster be human, and general humanity breed monsters?
While they learn about each other, they learn about themselves; where their loyalty and morality lies, and how learning to trust another person can be incredibly difficult, bittersweet, and rewarding all at the same time. Join Hsin Liu Vega (aka “Sin”) and Boyd Beaulieu as they struggle to find where they fit in a world slowly recovering from war.
Holy mackerel! Wow!
I thought Evenfall was awesome, but Afterimage is even better. Compelling, disturbing, oft times frightening, it keeps yanking you forward, even when all you’d really like to do is pause to catch your breath. The storytelling is superb. Not a word is wasted and when RL got in the way it about killed me to leave Boyd and Sin and the others even for a few minutes.
I did wonder why there was nothing said in the blurb. Now I know. Here it’s tricky to say a whole lot without giving away any secrets. And I for one don’t want to let on that I know anything; I don’t want The Agency to get the idea I’m on to them. Keep under the radar, maintain a profile so low they don’t even know I exist. Because man, The Agency is one scary far-reaching organization where Geneva Convention rules don’t apply. Just a whiff you know they exist, One. Question. Too. Many, and you’re toast. 🙂
Afterimage opens with Annabelle (Anne) Connors visiting her sister Lydia in Willowbrook, a home for the mentally incompetent. Anne might pay the bill to keep Lydia there, but there’s no forgetting that Hsin Liu Vega is the reason Lydia needs round-the-clock care in the first place. As Anne enters the home, she bumps into a man on his way out. He’s wearing a dark hoodie pulled low over his face and Anne doesn’t give him more than a pausing thought. It’s not until she has a run in with the woman in charge that Anne learns the man was visiting Lydia and has been for months. It’s a real kick in the teeth when she learns that the man’s name is ‘Jason Alvarez’….
It’s been two months since the attack on the compound and The Agency is slowly rebuilding. Construction is underway, repairing the structures damaged in the bombings. The dead, allies and enemies alike have been incinerated. Everyone’s still on high alert, the prisoner Sin captured is in interrogation on the fourth but despite Shayne’s expert techniques, she’s still not talking about the comrades that left her behind. Connors is dead and Vivienne Beaulieu is now Acting Marshal, even more ruthless and cold than she was when she was second-in-command.
General Carhart has nominated Boyd for Level 10 training. Boyd can decline, Sin tells him to, but once again, like in France, Boyd ignores Sin’s advice. Not everyone survives training, plenty of trainees have been maimed or killed. But Boyd’s up for the challenge, desperate for autonomy from Sin and his mother. Throughout the three-month ordeal, Boyd makes mistakes, but he keeps pushing himself. Growing, maturing, testing what he can endure, facing his fears and for the first time in his life, he opens himself up to the people around him and makes friends, too. Being apart from Sin is difficult, but Boyd has come to understand his co-dependant relationship with Sin is unhealthy for both of them and in the midst of one of their many fights, Boyd breaks it off with Sin.
Ever since he came out of the coma, Sin’s been a mess, his walls have come down and he can’t guard himself from his feelings and emotions. Suffering from sleep deprivation and tormented by waking hallucinations, haunted by the people he’s killed, Sin seeks comfort in sex, the only way he knows how to silence the voices and images around him. He’s afraid to tell Boyd what’s happening to him, afraid he’ll see in Boyd’s eyes the fear and loathing he sees in everyone else’s eyes when they look at him. Afraid he’ll lose Boyd’s love and friendship if Boyd realizes Sin really is the psychopathic monster everyone tells him he is. Depressed, suicidal, he so close to the edge, the only thing keeping him going is Boyd. Yet Sin’s terrified he’s going to lose control and in a rage accidently kill Boyd, so while needing Boyd, he keeps pushing him away…
Needless to say, I don’t have a degree in psychiatry. There’s no way I’m going to attempt to analyze these two. But as in the first book, the authors explain it so well. For the reader, it’s fascinating watching these two deserving needy damaged men interact. Only this time around, instead of coming together, Sin and Boyd are so obsessive with their love that they very nearly destroy themselves and each other….
There is no HFN, or not much of one. Afterimage leaves you hanging wanting more. Twists and turns and surprises galore, so many switch backs it felt like driving a mountain road, I can’t wait to start on book 3, Interludes because if Boyd and Sin don’t get back together, I’m going to be really ticked!
Rated 5 stars by Syd