Raze is a cross between a MMA fighter and mafia romance. Definitely on the darker side of the romance realm, this story is not for everyone, especially if domestic abuse is a trigger for you. If you enjoy dark, twisted romantic suspense titles, however, that are on the more erotic side of the passion scale, then this story may just be a good next pick. Further complementing this audiobook selection is the generally above-average narration by Guy Locke and Amelie Griffin which works well to bring this dramatic listen to life.
Raze is the first story in the Scarred Souls series which focuses on New York’s Russian Bratva. The heroine of this book, Kisa Volkova is the only daughter of the leader of one of the three families that lead the Bratva (and who have ties to the Russian and Georgian Mafiyas), and has grown up her whole life knowing that she would likely marry one of the group’s future bosses. Sadly for her, however, the one she had fallen in love with as a child/teenager (Luka) – who protected her – is no longer in her life. Instead, she is engaged to Alik Durov, a viciously violent and insecure man who constantly abuses her. The fact that he will one day take over for his father (one of the three Bratva leaders) means that no one is willing to question his treatment of Kisa.
While Kisa as one of the princesses of the Bratva otherwise generally leads a sheltered and protected life, she also lives the life of a prisoner who is constantly being watched and who must always have guards nearby. She, however, is not actually helpless and, in fact, generally has a realistic but equally strong personality. In that regard, while she has resigned herself to the inevitability of a future life with Alik, she is also a business savvy woman who helps her father run an extremely lucrative but horribly violent underground gambling ring, the Dungeon. At the Dungeon, matches to the death are frequently held, and Alik is frequently the prize fighter who fights the championship matches (not because he has to but because he desires and needs an outlet for his violent urges).
Prisoner 818, “Raze”, was brutally beaten into submission and deprived of anything but a savage lifestyle where he was injected with drugs to forget his past and to become a savage fighting machine. His only mission in life is maiming and killing those unfortunate opponents he is put in the ring with. Only one person ever showed him kindness in this hell, another prisoner who took it upon himself to show him how to fight, and who one day in a prison break gives Raze the freedom he so desperately seeks. Now armed with one mission alone, he embarks on a journey for revenge. In fact, he doesn’t remember anything except that he needs to seek his revenge on Alik Durov from New York.
It is on this journey to find Alik that he encounters Kisa. While volunteering for her church, the only time she is allowed to be without her personal security detail, Kisa is mugged. However, when a strangely familiar homeless man intercedes, Kisa’s interest in the mysterious man, who doesn’t seem to speak, is piqued. Then when he appears as a fighter at The Dungeon, Kisa becomes determined to find out more about this man whom she can’t help but feel a kinship with. But can there possibly ever be total freedom for this pair who are equally imprisoned by completely different and yet intertwined circumstances?
Guy Locke and Amelie Griffin narrate this story in the typical New Adult fashion with Mr. Locke narrating the chapters from Raze’s point of view and Ms. Griffin the ones from Kisa’s. This style works generally well providing each character with their own voice and allowing the listener to easily go back and forth between the two points of view.
Mr. Locke does a great job of not only bringing Raze to life, but also providing character appropriate intonations and accents for each one of the plentiful male cast. From Raze’s American accented English to the Georgian Mafiya accents, each character sounds genuine. Additionally, Mr. Locke’s rendition pays appropriate attention to the mood of the scene, and helps heighten the suspense at several crucial scenes.
Ms. Griffin also delivers a generally well skilled performance. Her characterizations of Kisa and her best friend bear a semblance to a Brooklyn, New York, sounding accent. Her male characterizations are easily distinguishable from the female ones, and she also pays good attention to the mood of the scene and varies her speed and tone accordingly. Perhaps my only observation with respect to Ms. Griffin, however, is that her voices for Kisa and her best friend are too similar to allow for differentiation without relying on dialogue tags. However, as the scenes with both characters present in the dialogue are limited, this is not a significant detractor to her performance.
All in all, I enjoyed the twists and turns in Raze, and especially loved how Ms. Cole was able to tie together all the various story lines in the end. However, this story was a bit darker – especially on the graphic nature of the domestic violence and erotic scenes, particularly in the earlier parts of the story – than I was expecting. So it definitely had a few scenes that made me uncomfortable. However, in the end, I’m glad I persevered with this story, as the intersection of all the pieces and the ultimate romance was definitely worth it!
Narration: Guy Locke B+/Amelie Griffin B
Book Content: B+
Steam Factor: For your burning ears only
Violence Rating: Escalated Fighting/Domestic Violence
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Raze was provided to AudioGals by Tantor Audio for a review.