Author: Tillie Cole
Series: Scarred Souls #4
Publication: March 7, 2017
(Sub)genres: Dark, Mafia
Buy: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Stolen by the Arziani Georgian crime mob as a child, 152 was raised and conditioned to be a Mona—the most subservient of the Arziani Blood Pit slaves.
Gorgeous and kind, she has been and under the imprisoning influence of the Type B drug and under the command of the Blood Pit Master’s sister, Mistress Arziani, for most of her life, until the Master calls her back home to Georgia.
He wants her under his total control, and Master always gets what he wants.
But when 152 is gifted to the Blood Pit’s fearsome champion death match fighter as a prize, 152 suddenly finds out that the men who appear most brutal, may just own the kindest hearts. And love may be found, even when living in hell.
Freedom, family, love, 152 will have to fight for what she wants and ultimately make an impossible choice.
Riot is the fourth and last book in ‘the Scarred Souls Series’ by Tillie Cole and takes the reader back to the horrible world of human slavery at its worst; underground fighting and sex slaves. Throughout the previous books we’ve learned about the cruel Master and his Blood Pit, Riot takes us there through the eyes of 152 (her brother’s story is told in Ravage) and 901, one of the fighters. While it’s a dark and gritty story, I love it.
“I would die here in this room. He would die in the final in the pit. But I smiled as another strip hit, because we would each pass knowing the other’s name. We would find each other again. In whatever life came next.”
A long time ago 152 had a name – Inessa – and her brother Valentin who was her world. But all is forgotten now. After the Jakhua Clan takes her and her brother, the siblings are separated and trained for different purposes in the Blood Pit. With a powerful experimental drug 152 has been made into the perfect submissive slave, a sex slave without a memory who physical needs to be taken by a man. For years 152 has been abused by men, but now the cruel Master of the Blood Pit wants her for himself, to become his High Mona. Master likes to play sick games with his fighters, and offering 152 to his most valued fighter is his latest game. All the world sees is a brutal beast, but 152 sees the kind man underneath the layers of tattoos and scars, a kindred spirit.
“Beautiful, he had said. Krasivaya. 901 thought me beautiful. And he had told me so in Russian. In the language of our hearts. The language of our home. I smiled as his chest brushed against my breasts. I smiled as I looped my arms around his strong neck. Because I also thought this deadly warrior was beautiful. He was simply… more.”
901 is a beast of a man with no recollection of being Ilya and his old life. Being trained since childhood he’s a deathly, undefeated fighter; his Master’s Pit Bull. Like all the other fighters he has been given an experimental drug to make him an obedient monster. But somehow, 901 still has a bit of free will. Yes, he fights and kills when he’s ordered, but he still can think for himself and make tiny decisions, like not to get attached to a female. 901’s disobedience doesn’t sit well with Master; he hates not having full control over his Pit Bull. When he sees 901 looking at his new High Mona, he realizes there might be something that can make the beast to obey.
“Being with her was like nothing I could have ever imagined, but her warm palm on my face was something else entirely. For the briefest of moments, it pumped life back into my dead heart. For a split second, it made me feel alive. And in that short second, I was reborn.”
Having no memory of her past and only been ‘awake’ for a few weeks, 152 doesn’t understand what to make of her world. Instinctively 152 knows Master is a very bad man, and knows her life is about to get horrible. Being given to 901 as a sick game horrifies her, and 901 is hostile. He has seen what getting attached to a female can do to a fighter; he doesn’t want to get weak, because being weak is what a man gets killed in the Pit. But slowly the two – being stripped of their humanity since childhood – find peace in each other’s arms. In a dark cell, deep beneath the ground they learn their names – Inessa and Ilya – and discover there is love and happiness, even if it’s for a few stolen moments.
My heart breaks for Inessa and Ilya. What they – and all the other people in the Pit – have been through is horrific. Inessa doesn’t have a full memory of what has happened to her (and I hope she never, ever will), but the small pieces in the previous books and Riot tell the story of brutal sexual abuse, for years. Ilya too has been abused for years; from a young age he has learned to fight and kill, to become a beast instead of a man. And despite what has been done to them, Inessa and Ilya know how to love and to trust other people, to have a bright future.
“You are in my heart. You are in my scarred soul. You are my male. My Ilya… I am not free if I don’t have you.”
As already said, Riot is the fourth and last book in ‘the Scarred Souls Series’. It’s not just about Ilya and Inessa, but also very much about overcoming horrific abuse. All characters from the series have been through their own hell, but they have risen above it. The men – with their women by their side – are now working side by side, the uncrowned kings of their world.
“We would maim. We would slaughter. We would kill. Together, we would fucking raze hell.”
I love Riot, despites all its horrors. I give the story of Inessa and Ilya 5 stars.
“The real world isn’t ready to handle our reality. How could they accept that the gulags, the drugs, and the Blood Pit are real? It is the stuff of nightmares. How could they believe that males are being raised as killers, for sport and greed?
“Worse, it would surely implicate the Bratva and my people in too many ways. We can fight the police and the system here in our city, but we can’t take on the whole world.” Zaal shrugged and tapped the map of the Blood Pit. “We need a way in. We need a solid plan, and we need it fast. I won’t have our freedom jeopardized. I won’t have what I’ve found with my Talia taken away from me, after being without her all of these years.” He raised his brow. “And we know you won’t give up Kisa. We need to act, Luka, and we need to do it soon.”
Lifting the glass of water sitting beside me, I brought it to my lips and drained it in one motion. Zaal stood up. As he passed by, he pressed his hand on my shoulder. I didn’t move until I heard him leaving my house with Talia, who had been sitting with Kisa.
Pushing back from the table, I got to my feet and walked down the hallway. In the living room, Kisa was waiting for me on the couch, hand lying on her swollen stomach.
She took one look at me, her face sympathetic. Silently, she held out her hand. I took it in an instant and dropped to the couch beside her. Kisa fell against my chest and her hand landed on my stomach.
She didn’t say anything. Once I’d fought through my pride, I admitted, “I can’t see a way to defeat Arziani.” The minute I had confessed what was torturing my mind, a heavy weight lifted from my chest.
Kisa froze, then tilted up her chin to meet my eyes. I stared down at my beautiful wife and sighed. “They run a damn fortress, solnyshko. Arziani seems insane from what Valentin has said. He’s deluded, thinks he’s some kind of king, some Roman Caesar. The king of his prisoners. Males, just like me, he drugs them and forces them to fight on until they die. Kids plucked from families and or- phanages, made into his monsters.”
I ran my hand over my tired eyes and asked, “How the hell do we stop him? How do we even breach his Blood Pit?”
Kisa sat up and brought her face to hover above mine. “You’ll find a way, baby. I trust you, we all do.”
I shook my head. “And that’s the problem,” I said harshly. “Everyone expects me to work this out. Everyone expects me to find a way in and execute a plan to bring Arziani down.” I pressed my hand to Kisa’s pregnant stomach, to our baby she was carrying. “But more than that, I need this Arziani to be fucking killed. I need to cut off the head of the snake. Everything, everything we have all been through starts with Arziani. The gulags, his contact with the Durovs. Levan Jakhua worked with Arziani, using Anri and Zaal as his prototypes. Then we found out how he keeps so hidden—by using drugged killers as assassins. They take out anyone who is a threat.”
Kisa blinked, then blinked again when what I was saying hit home. “You believe he’s coming for us. You believe that now we know about him, he’ll send another Valentin.” Her words were not a question. Because she knew what she said was exactly what I’d been thinking.
An ache caved in my chest, and I leaned in to run my lips over hers. “If he came for you. If someone took you away from me . . .” I couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Stop,” Kisa said, moving back to press her finger over my lips. I took her hand in mine. My mind took me back to the gulag.
I could still smell the dankness of the cells. I could still smell the richness of the blood spilled hourly in the ring. I could still feel the heavy veil of death that draped us all, waiting to strike, waiting to deliver another soul to hell.
“Luka, lyubov moya, come back to me.”
I gasped as I heard Kisa’s soft voice cut through the memory. I tightened my grip on her hand. Once again I looked down to her stomach. My teeth clenched together, then I said, “I have to find a way to take him down. I can’t, I won’t, have our baby brought into this world knowing that the male who condemned me, us all, to that life is still breathing, still stealing children from homes, forc- ing them to be killers.”
A tear escaped Kisa’s eye to fall to our clasped hands. “Luka,” she whispered, “this man scares me more than anything else in the world.”
Dropping my forehead to rest against hers, I replied, “That’s another reason why he needs to be put out of our misery. I want our version of a normal life. I want this Bratva life with you, with my new brothers and our families. But as long as that prick lives, it can never happen.” I paused. My hand, still on Kisa’s stomach, felt a tiny kick.
My eyes darted to my wife’s stomach. Kisa laughed a single watery laugh. She covered my hand with her own, just as our baby kicked again.
Leaning forward, Kisa pressed her lips to mine. When she pulled back and I saw the love she had for me written on her stun- ning face, I knew I had to remedy the Arziani problem quickly.
I had two months until our child came into this world. What that world would look like depended on me.
A world free from any threat to our lives. That meant Arziani dead.
His guards slaughtered.
And the Blood Pit burned to ash.