Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Broken Angel (House Phoenix Series, #1) by S.W. Vaughn

Broken Angel (House Phoenix Series, #1)

Author: S.W. Vaughn

Purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Synopsis: One rule: don't lose. When Gabriel Morgan's sister disappears somewhere in New York's underground, he'll do anything to save her. But finding her is only the beginning, because Marcus Slade won't let her go for less than ten million dollars - earned through Gabriel's blood. Slade, one of five ruthless leaders of an organization identified only by a symbol, runs hookers and street fighters, and never gives up what's his. Including Gabriel's sister. To win her freedom, Gabriel is forced to undergo a brutal training program with Slade's top fighters in order to become one of them. He is branded, broken, given a new image, and a new name. In the ring, Gabriel is known as Angel...and he does not lose. Because the price for losing is his sister's life.

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

Warning: Book better suited for ages 18 and up. Contains graphic scenes of violence and torture. Implication of rape and prostitution.

Review: If you have ever seen the movie Fight Club with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton then you’d get a pretty good feel as to what you can expect to read in Broken Angel. Except where Fight Club had depth and dimension and a wicked ending that made you want to rewatch the movie right then and there, Broken Angel I couldn’t finish.

I read half of Broken Angel and that took me a bit of work. It wasn’t the violence, the prostitution, the greed, the cliché thugs and underground fight clubs; it was the lack of depth to the characters.  

The story follows Gabriel who is searching for his sister who suddenly disappeared. She’s the only family he has left and the only one he trusts. He finds his sister trapped in world of forced prostitution by a guy named Slade who runs one of the underground houses (I can’t remember which one). Slade won’t give up Lilith but he decides that he’ll let Gabriel fight for her freedom. If he wins Slade ten million dollars, he’ll set them both free. In order for Gabriel to become the fighter Slade needs, he must be trained. Gabriel also inherits a new name: Angel.

The world-building is the best part to the book. The training and fight scenes are well set up and well executed. You can picture every detail, feel every jab, wince at every hit. The story also has great fluidity and structure. Everything moves at a pretty steady pace (except it gets so boggled down with details that do not matter that it becomes boring).

But that was it. Those were the only elements that really managed to keep my interest.

Gabriel has been abused his entire life; first from his father and then by Slade and his goons in order to save his sister’s life. He’s the so-called hero of the story, but there isn’t anything really all that heroic about him. He trains and fights in order to stay alive and keep his sister alive but he can’t stop whinnying about it or feeling insecure. He pretends to be tough but he never really seems that way (this may have changed somewhere along the way with the second of the book I didn't read). Any human can adapt to survive. It’s a natural instinct. There was nothing that really separated Gabriel from just a guy who needed to survive because the only other choice was death.

I never bought Gabriel’s relationship with his sister Lilith. I never once believed they were close or really cared for each other. Their bond seemed to lack heart. She was just used as a plot tool. There was nothing noteworthy about her. There was no real reason to care about what happened to her.

There are a handful of evil henchmen, each with puffed out chests and a nasty mouth, determined to prove their manhood. None of them provided any real form of entertainment outside of watching them spit out threats and get their brains bashed in. Every one of them was one dimensional. Except for Jenner. He’s a sadistic freak show but he was the only character that stood out.

The plot was predictable (at least for the amount I read. I did skim through the rest of the book and the end but that seemed pretty predictable, too). There wasn’t any real spark to the plot as far as I could tell. There was a lot of fighting, cussing, torture (both mentally and physically), blood, threatening. There was also a rape scene which only served to show how utterly weak Gabriel is. He’s ordered to watch his sister being rapped and does NOTHING because Slade tells him if he does there will be worse consequences. I would have told him to ‘eff off and punched him as hard as I could in the face. Then tore down the door to the room which was RIGHT NEXT DOOR and beaten the living daylights out of the guy raping my sister. If there is any way to muster any level of respect for Gabriel’s character at any point in the story, you will quickly lose it once that scene comes into play.

It’s quite sad really. The story is written very well, the talent of the author is very present, but the book lacks heart and soul. I did like that Angel (Gabriel) rebels at the end and how he chooses to rebel, but that didn’t make me gain any respect for him.

I doubt I would continue reading anymore of Angel’s tale (although there is apart of me that’s curious to see if the author could make the sequel better and what will happen to Angel because of what he’s chosen to do) or check out anymore of S.W. Vaughn’s books. But that’s mainly because she’s an author who writes in erotic and m/m fiction. Genres I do not read. Broken Angel does not contain that (just implies it often enough you can't help but get the hint).

Would I recommend the book? *shrug* I'd say it's worth reading for the world building, the fight scenes, and Jenner. The structure of the book is really well done. But there isn't anything really new about the book. If you want something brutally entertaining without too much depth to the story then I'd say check out Broken Angel

For the rest of you, go watch Fight Club *wink*

About the Author:  S.W. Vaughn lives in central New York and writes thrillers. The House Phoenix series started with the last line in Broken Angel and grew from there.

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