Friday, 8 June 2018

Shatterproof by Xen - A Review

Dissonant #1
                                                        380 pages     
Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Available through KU


Back and better than ever, from bestselling queer romance author Cole McCade writing as Xen: the new 2018 edition of SHATTERPROOF, with 30% more content, new scenes, new fae mythos, vampires, and more. 

There are worse ways to die than by falling in love.

Grey Jean-Marcelin has given up on life. Not even his fame as renowned artist "The Grey" can ease the mental health issues destroying him from the inside out. Yet when a failed suicide attempt brings the man known only as Saint into his life, he'll enter into a Faustian bargain that will challenge not only his will to live...but his will to die.

Saint is a man like no other. A leanan sidhe, a cursed fae surviving by draining vitality from his chosen prey—and it's Grey's love that will feed his life. The temptation of Saint's lips, of his strange and alien beauty, is undeniable. The offer he makes is irresistible.

And if Grey has to bargain with a devil to die, at least it's one who ignites him with a heat, a hunger, a need he'd thought he'd forgotten how to feel.

Yet their contract never accounted for star-crossed fate—or for the impossible idea that Saint could love a mortal with a desperation bordering on pain. When one must die so the other may live, their dread pact may snuff the desire, the love, the blood-bonded heartache between them before it has a chance to grow.

Or together, they can make a choice...and discover no one's heart is shatterproof.


I’m having a really hard time putting my feelings about this book into words. I loved this book so very hard, but I’m not sure my vocabulary is big enough to explain why.

Basically this is the story about two men, both fighting demons. Grey can’t see a way forward anymore and desperately wants to die. Saint on the other hand, can’t imagine ever dying even if what he has to do to stay alive is starting to repel him.

Two men who, on the surface at least, can provide the perfect solution for the other’s dilemma. Except that life (or death) is never that simple, of course.

Both Saint and Grey are fascinating and rich characters, painted so vividly I could almost see them. Saint is a fallen sidhe, a creature of myth, cast from his mythical world over 2000 years ago, he lives forever, but his endless life demands sacrifices.

“Hiding among them in plain sight, and using love to kill.”

Grey has a spirituality all of his own based in his Haitian roots, but there too his death-wish, in the guise of Bawon Samedi, guides him.

“There are few things more intimate than sharing a death. [...] There’s no one who could ever be closer to me than you, Saint. No one at all.” - Grey

And together these two men are magnificent, even if it is temporary. Even if their coming together will inevitable end in Grey’s death. While Grey remains mostly dedicated to his death-wish, having harboured it for so long that it’s almost second nature to him, Saint is struggling. His old justifications for taking a human’s life in order that he may continue living, no longer convince him as he struggles with feelings and emotions he refuses to name or acknowledge fully.

“I’ve seen everything, but I’ve never seen myself. Not...not like the way he seems to see me. But I can’t...I can’t feel this. I can’t care. Loving a human ruined me once, and I can’t... [...] ...I can’t ever let myself do it again. – Saint

And yet, as dark as this story is—and there are without a doubt plenty of dark emotions, thoughts, and actions in this book—underneath all the grimness, I found glimmers of hope as two men (or rather one man and a being) discover that what they thought was true about them may not be as set in stone as they assumed. Is Grey’s death-wish really as deep-rooted as he thinks now that it is no longer a mere wish but a certainty? And is Saint’s desire to continue existing as strong as he’s always told himself? Faced with the growing bond between them, both Saint and Grey find themselves questioning what they always held to be true. But it’s subtle. There are no magical lightbulb moments where they (or either of them) suddenly does a complete turnaround. It’s tiny niggles that, over time, make both Grey and Saint realise that maybe what they held to be absolute truths might be more nuanced than they were able to see in the past—on their own.

And the same is true for how this story ends (no, I have no intention of giving you any details). I thought I saw the solution coming, and I was wrong. And more than that; what Xen did was so much better, so much more fitting to the story and the characters than my idea was.

This story held me in its grip from start to finish. But more than that; it made me think, forced me to ask questions I prefer to avoid, and touched me deeper than I would have thought possible. I have no doubt that Grey and Saint will be with me for a long time.

*sighs* So many words and still I haven’t told you why I loved this book so much. Suffice to say that I’m in awe of this author. For me this was the sort of read where the world on the page felt as real as the world around me. It was what I like to call a ‘total-emersion’ read, where I lost myself in the world, in the thoughts and actions of Grey and Saint, in the dark and in the glimmers of light—a stunning story. All I want to add is that I can’t wait to see where Xen will take us next on this journey.

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