Afterimage by Santino Hassell, Ais

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Afterimage by Santino Hassell, AisAfterimage by Santino Hassell, Ais

Series: In the Company of Shadows #2

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Company of Shadows is a series about two people who are thrown together as partners in a secret agency; their mission is to disband rebels who have propagated in a post-war future, but they have to deal with everything that comes with an unlikely partnership as well.

Miscommunication, periods of distance, fleeting smiles and learning to trust someone when a person can’t even trust himself, these are what they struggle with while still trying to do their jobs. One is a psychopath, called a murderer and monster and generally deemed subhuman by nearly everyone who knows of him; the other is an introvert, cold and emotionless and so lost in thoughts that he would agree that he can be called a monster of inhumanity. But what makes a person human; is it humanity, compassion, or is it simply the ability to reason? Can a monster be human, and general humanity breed monsters?

While they learn about each other, they learn about themselves; where their loyalty and morality lies, and how learning to trust another person can be incredibly difficult, bittersweet, and rewarding all at the same time. Join Hsin Liu Vega (aka “Sin”) and Boyd Beaulieu as they struggle to find where they fit in a world slowly recovering from war.

I’m not entirely sure how Santino Hassell and Ais came up with this fucking gut- and heart-wrenching story, but I am so glad that they did. I don’t think they realized just how big of an idiot fan they turned me into with just a few choice characters. Because, in all honesty, that’s where I am with this series – I am past the point of hesitancy towards continuing it, and I am even past the point of disparaging any elements that would typically ruin or at least dampen my enjoyment of the story. Up and down, left and right, this series just got it like that. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I love this series. I loved Evenfall and I loved Afterimage.

Which really seems surprising to me because even though Evenfall was a 5-star read for me, somehow Afterimage topped it all while being a classic disaster. *pause in case anyone catches the Underøath reference* No, seriously, though – in this book, some serious shit happens. Even as I read along, I watched in quasi-horror and anticipation – I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the expression “It’s like watching a car crash or a trainwreck – you know it’s horrible, but you can’t look away”? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS BOOK. Shit quite literally hit the fan in several spectacular ways and the fallout was so painful, but for some reason I could not stop reading.

In my review of Evenfall, I mentioned that it kinda made a huge mess of my life until I put it down at the end. Well, the same. exact. thing. happened with Afterimage. It was so difficult to turn away from Sin’s worsening plight and Boyd’s ongoing struggles just to engage in normal human being activities without wanting to drown every second in reading more. At one point – towards the end I won’t even hint at because wow spoiler fuckin’ central, that – I no fuckin’ joke set the book in my lap and screaming through my house at my poor, poor unsuspecting husband, “WHAT’S GOING ON RIGHT NOW? I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING!” I think I actually frightened him away for a while. It was scary stuff.

I just don’t know how Santino Hassell and Ais do it, though. The world they’ve built is so raw and it aches and it’s dark and holy shit I’ve never seen anyone write violence so smoothly, so warm and close and real, while at the same time still fuckin’ gorgeous and…

He dreamed of the suction-cup sound of blood sliding along the floor and marionette lovers moving with jolting, empty-doll movements; eyes rolling over first before their heads followed, blanks mouths held in place with stitches and blood that painted their lips red. Brilliant arcs of gore and blood, splattering across the room, the floor, the buildings, the ground; paintbruses across the sky and the clouds were turning crimson, vermillion, ad it wasn’t the sunset that made it that way, it was the blood-red rain falling heavily and nauseatingly against his skin.

p. 587

Who the fuck? Like, really, who thinks that shit up? I mean, I do, but I thought I was the only one! I’m not alone! I don’t glorify violence, but when you’re writing about it, it’s not hard to find the soft spot of brilliance like that and watching unfold between my hands with someone else’s words… brings a feeling to me, as a writer who enjoys violence, that I find difficult to state plainly. It’s almost like a sense of… affinity or – of solidarity. Even if gore really ain’t your thing, how can you not look at that passage and be awed by it?

There isn’y a bunch of sugar-coating in this series – the edges are hard and dark and defeat and cold seep through the lines at times, but hold fuck ain’t it also a hell of a ride all the way through. There are moments of pain and of joy; confusion and startling clarity; and my God, the moral ambiguity – I don’t think any of these people know what decent ethics are! I don’t know why I love that, but I do!

And the drama. Good Lord, there couldn’t be any more without it spilling out onto my lap as I read. Yet another potential flaw that was done so well that I not only overlooked it but also found myself invested in it. Wow. Like literally everything that went wrong here did in a most ‘spolsive way, and somehow it was the only thing keeping me glued together the whole time I read.

I obviously feel a little too strongly about this novel, but I clearly don’t give a fuck. It’s a fuckin’ fantastic example of the writing I crave – the fearlessness I’ve been missing in any novels of merit lately. And it’s probably also spoiled my bookish appetite for a while, because even at the thought of reading anything else – especially if it’s void of violence and really hot sex – I lose any and all interest. I have a feeling I’ll be stuck with this “book hangover” for a while.

And you know what? I wanna read books 3 and 4 like right now, but I know I’ll end up losing sleep over those, too, just like with Evenfall and again with Afterimage – so I may have to back off for a while. For my own sake. (Seriously, I was damned near late for my first day back at work because I was reading this fucking book. I work for the U.S. Army. Do you know how strange it feels to tell a Soldier you were late because you were reading a really bad ass book? Lemme illuminate the feeling: It’s strange.) But yes. A thousand times yes. I needs moar stars.

After everything that had happened in the past two years, after everything had seemed so impossible… after all of the obstacles that had gotten in the way of the having a connection, a friendship, a closeness that Sin had never thought was possible for him to experience, it was his own darkness that would tear them apart.

p. 441


3 thoughts on “Afterimage by Santino Hassell, Ais

    […] Love Me for Me‘s defense, it was the first book I picked up after the wound that Afterimage left in my bookish heart, so it had a huge void to fill. Also to its detriment, though, it […]

    […] has been my readerly kryptonite ever since I finished Afterimage by Santino Hassell and Ais a month ago! Since I finished Afterimage, I’ve only reviewed twice – Cavalier Youth by You […]

    […] as though you are the only book to have lifted me out of that ugly, abysmal gap in my reads which Afterimage left in me. Congratulations to you, and congratulations to Anna […]

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