Mind Fuck wasn’t a 5 star read for me, personally. I loved the world building. Who can resist a good dystopia? Not me. This particular dystopia, with its totalitarian regime (The Administration) and its corporate counterpart of the Confederation of European Corporations, is absolutely chilling in all its futuristic cold-war-style bureaucracy.
Toreth had his days filled with Chevril’s offloaded prisoners, explaining to Justice representatives why it was possible to seriously interrogate prisoners or it was possible to guarantee they wouldn’t die, but it wasn’t possible to do both. Or rather that the guarantee wouldn’t make them any less dead if things went wrong, which was why he sure as hell wasn’t putting his name on it. The representatives listened and nodded, and went back to their superiors and returned the next day with a carefully reworded demand for exactly the same impossibilities.
I loved the characters. Toreth -is he or is he not a sociopath?- with his distinct lack of empathy for anyone but his admin assistant Sara. And Warrick in all his icy superiority, except in bed. But I didn’t feel the connection between the men in Mind Fuck. That may have something to do with my lack of enthusiasm for anything BDSM related, but I think it is more because there is no emotional connection between the men at that time. And yet, at the end this series ended up on, or near, the top of my all time favorite m/m reads. Despite the BDSM, yes.
But all that fangirling about ‘best series evah!’ starts with the story Pancakes. Whenever anybody starts this series and is making ‘I don’t get it, what’s the big deal, I’m not really liking this’ noises, we, the veterans, impart the following bit of sage advice: Keep reading until Pancakes. If Pancakes doesn’t change your mind, you can quit. Pancakes is halfway into this book 2, so yes, you’ll need to read a book and half before you get to this pivotal story, but chances are good you’ll thank us later. Because everything changes in Pancakes. It’s the story where ‘just fucking’ turns into something… into something Toreth can not allow himself to put into words. Something that slithers away whenever his mind threatens to think about it, because if he would acknowledge it he would have to run from Warrick and all that he stands for and that would be… inconvenient.
While the writing overall is superb, this is where it truly shines. This is where Manna shows exactly what is going on, without ever explaining it to you, while Toreth stays purposely oblivious. With innocent little sentences like ‘More water and something to eat didn’t chase the queasy feeling away.’ for instance she shows a) how Toreth is so upset by what happened that he is having a thoroughly visceral -and physical- reaction and b) that he is doing his damnedest to not have a clue. This is where she hooks the readers and makes them wonder if Toreth is ever going to catch on. Warrick, of course, has his own special brand of willful obliviousness going on at the same time.
Quid Pro Quo starts out with the novella of the same name that is mostly focused on one of Toreth’s cases. It’s a solid story and gives you an even better idea of Toreth’s work on one hand and his intelligence and his skill in playing people and playing the system on the other, but if you are in a rush to get to Pancakes you can skip it and get back to it later when you’ve acquired the burning need to read everything Administration related right now. (Make sure you don’t skip Mind Fuck though, that one is essential to understand this world.)
Friday is a short scene where Warrick tries to explain Toreth to one of his oldest friends:
“Well… tall. Short blond hair. Blue eyes. Attractive.” Feeling the description was rather too physical, he added, “Intelligent.” Personality disordered.
Then follows Pancakes….
Surprises recounts several scenes in which the subtle notion that things are indeed changing between Warrick and Toreth gets reaffirmed. Toreth meeting new people is always entertaining, and so are Warrick’s reactions. In particular when Toreth meets Warrick’s ex-wife. Burn….
And then Family firmly puts the readers back in their place. Just in case we though we were heading for unicorns and rainbows, we get to cringe and squirm as Toreth goes home with Warrick for the holidays. And on top of that, things aren’t quite as they seem.
Mirror, Mirror ends the book with kinky sex. Like dessert.