Review - Return by Marie Sexton

book cover


by Marie Sexton

My rating:

Volume 2 of Davlova

Tags: Science Fiction Dystopian

Posted in Book Reviews on August 30, 2023

With the help of Donato's butler Jenko, Misha and Ayo have escaped the mayhem engulfing Davlova on Donato's boat. The question is, where to go? Jenko has family in Deliphine, so with no better idea, the trio head across the sea to the big city on the coast of the mainland. Before they even dock, Ayo begins acting strangely. He seems drawn to a specific spot in the city, and the more Misha tries to delay him, the stronger the urge gets. It's clear some part of Ayo's “programming” by the Dollhouse is compelling him to return, but Misha won't give the badly treated young man up without a fight.

This second half of the Davlova series is quite a roller-coaster ride as our two heroes fight against powerful forces trying to keep them apart. Along the way, there are some interesting observations about the ethics of using technology for thought control or behavior modification. We also get a front-row seat looking at the challenges faced by people coming to power through violent revolution.

Sub-plots aside, this is fundamentally a romance between Misha and Ayo, the genetically manipulated, cruelly trained, and mind-controlling chipped sex slave created by the Dollhouse. The two have to fight to stay together, and there are times it's not at all clear whether they will ever get the happily-ever-after they want so badly.

Misha remains at the center of the story, and the narration is entirely from his point of view. There's a lot for the young man to sort through on top of the struggle to keep Ayo safe. He feels guilty over the death of Donato, who he loved despite the cruelty the man inflicted on him and Ayo. There's even more guilt once Misha returns to Davlova and sees the destruction the city has suffered at the hands of the fires that raged through it during the revolt. It all makes him give serious thought to who he is. Misha may have picked pockets with his clan to stay alive in the trenches, but he's not a thief. He may have pretended to be a prostitute to get into Donato's bed, but he's not a whore.

There's Ayo to consider too. Misha wants the young man to see that he's more than the animated sex toy that the Dollhouse made him into. Ayo remains a bit of a mystery throughout the book. He has no memory of his life before he was gifted to Donato about four years before Misha met him. Despite his troubles, Ayo comes across as a genuinely good person that you want to see freed from his demons.

“Return” is available from Smashwords and Amazon.