Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Paris Hansworth, star whore turned senator and the most powerful man in City M, has been hiding his terminal illness for years. Searching for a way to reverse the toxic environment that’s killing him, Paris stumbles upon a lost research facility, and a merman named Rain.
Years alone have made Rain long for companionship, and the beautiful man on the other side of the glass intrigues him. But Rain speaks the wrong language, and is decades out of touch. He isn’t quite sure what to think of the new environment he’s been thrust into.
As a virus spreads through the city targeting City M’s most private residents—A-Ms—Paris realizes he’s out of time. He’s willing to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to stop it. But Rain might just be the missing DNA link to explain the mutations created in the last plague, maybe even the cure.
Watching Paris race to save his friends, Rain knows he’s found someone special and will do anything to stay by his side. But the past Paris thought he’d escaped is seeking revenge, and he’s forced to adapt yet again, possibly even becoming a monster. He only hopes Rain will still want him.
Hidden Gems, the first novel in this series, was also my first introduction to this wonderful author. That story, a dystopian novel full of dark flights of fancy, fallen chemically engineered angels of your nightmares and so much more captured both my mind and my heart. Now Lissa Kasey has returned to that pain, disease wracked world with a new story Cardinal Sins and I am more than delighted with what she has delivered.
Hidden Gems is the name of a fancy whore house in City M, operated by Paris Hansworth. A former whore, turned powerful senator and businessman, Paris has found a long abandoned gambling casino called the Cardinal Sins (think along the lines of Las Vegas, maybe it is Las Vegas, we never know) on the outskirts of the city. Paris intends to bring the Cardinal Sins back to life, including the major feature of enormous fish tanks with tunnels that go from gambling hall to hall throughout the looming old construction. No matter there may be no more salt water fish to fill it after the disaster, still Paris has plans and only a short amount of time in which to complete them.
The power of Kasey’s stories lies not only in her plots but in her almost magnetic descriptions that, from scene to scene, make you lean closer and closer towards your tablet, pulling you towards the story…into the story itself. From the eerie feel of the gambling hall to the icy cavernous research lab where mysterious things flashed behind dirty glass walls, I felt I needed to be there. Don’t be surprised to find yourself nose to nose with your Kindle in no time! Her images filled my mind, dancing there, long after the story was finished.
Kasey picks up her story after the events of Hidden Gems, so it does help to have read that story. Why? Well, the first book is a wonder and should be read. But also because no matter how much background the author gives you here it can not give you all the intricacies of the politics, or the layers of the events that took place for you to get the full picture. You will enjoy it, don’t get me wrong. But you will love it more with more knowledge about the people, places, and their relationships. Plus that first book is so good you just need to read it.
In Cardinal Sins, Kasey expands on her initial (and beautifully done) world building to go beyond the chemically engineered A-M’s, people cruelly experimented on by the government for weapons warfare and extends her universe into something new. I won’t include any spoilers but it is a natural progression and one I thought was so smart to include here. I hope she goes further with this element in the next story or stories because its such a great one and has so much potential as far as characters and plot. We still have people that turn into wolves, big cats, winged taloned beings and now a whole buried research facility designated towards sea creatures. Its a great mixture of all the old and new elements here, blending into a great new dynamic. This is fluidity is wonderful in a story where the atmosphere and environment is toxic, the chemical nature of the population is unstable and nothing is certain, not even their form. Just wonderful.
Lissa Kasey’s characters are more than a match for her narrative. I love Paris, such a complicated man. Here he has never been so vulnerable then here at the end of his life as the virus is taking hold and killing him. Its heartbreaking to all around him. This includes Rain and Paris because of the new plans Paris formed, especially when he finds Rain under all that ice and Paris doesn’t think he will have time to complete his plans for him. That’s another astounding piece of this story I won’t spoil for you. How I loved that element of this story. Magic! Rain holds so many mysteries within his tank, including that of his origin. That is not completely solved during this story…a thread I hope to follow to another book. Other characters from the previous story return. Aki and his mate,a private investigator as well as Candy, a whore without boundaries finds that he may have a new role in life and someone to love after all. Kasey remembers all her characters and keeps them in play at all times. She also continues to add several more important ones, beings I can wait to see again in a new novel.
Romance and relationships. Its there and probably more subtle than you might expect when dealing with a book full of whores and whore houses. There is talk of whipping and knot work but that’s it, talk. There is romance and love but its on equal par with the action, and suspense and mystery. There are so many elements here. Assassination, plague, military experimentation on children…so yes, romance and love is so desperately needed when things get so dark and deadly. Love and hope. Lissa Kasey remembers to give us and her characters both. Eventually.
If you are looking for hot, hot sex, this is probably not the book for you. But if you are looking for mystery, outstanding world building, suspense, a little heartbreak, and yes, romance, wrapped up in a dystopian thriller, than I think you should look no further than Lissa Kasey’s Hidden Gems series. Start with Hidden Gems and run direct here and start reading Cardinal Sins. Rain and Paris will make their way into your heart! I can’t wait to see where this series is going next.
I highly recommend them both.
Cover artist Shobana Appavu delivers a gorgeous cover. interesting and in tune with the story.