Title: Return (Davlova #2)
Author: A.M. Sexton
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Genre(s): Dystopian Fiction
Page Count: 324
Reviewed by: Jewel
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The exciting conclusion to Release
Fire rages through Davlova in the wake of a bloody revolution. The tyrannical upper class has been overthrown. In the midst of the chaos, Misha and Ayo escape on Miguel Donato’s boat and flee across the sea to the distant city of Deliphine.
All his life, Misha has dreamed of leaving Davlova behind, but now the only thing he wants to do is go home. He has no idea if the city still stands or how many of his friends have survived. But before he can return to Davlova and find his place in the wrecked landscape of the trenches, he’ll have to face a new threat in Deliphine – the Dollhouse.
Even in Deliphine, most people think the Dollhouse is a myth, but Misha knows the truth. The Dollhouse is real. It’s ruthless. It has an agenda.
And now, it wants Ayo back.
Return is the eagerly anticipated conclusion to last year’s Release and am very happy to have gotten my grabby hands on an advanced copy! Return picks up right where Release left off with Misha, Ayo and Jenko on Donato’s boat after fleeing Davlova, while it burned.
Misha starts out so conflicted. He killed his lover, whom at least a part of him loved, in spite of Donato’s very dark temper, in order to keep Ayo safe. But what happens now? Davlova is the only place Misha has ever known. Misha is a bit lost at first. So much changed, so quickly, he needs a little bit of time to process. On Donato’s boat are a good many ghosts of the best night Misha has ever experienced. It takes Misha time, but he does come to terms with the events he helped precipitate and his focus is only on Ayo and keeping him safe.
Ayo is glad that the man that abused him so mercilessly is dead. He is horrified, though, to see Misha grieve the death of a monster. He is also confused about where he fits in, now. Ayo idolizes Misha. He loves Misha, too, in a way. Ayo is not emotionally mature, though. Not by a long shot. He has seen so little kindness in his existance as a sex slave, he latches onto any he finds. Is that love? Well, it’s probably the closest he can get for a while. There are questions in Return as to if he even qualifies as human at all, given the amount of genetic manipulation and conditioning he has gone though. But Misha is fiercely protective of Ayo and insists that he be treated with respect and given choices. But now that his master is dead, Ayo is compelled to return to his makers. And that compulsion is not something Ayo can fight or control. He would, undoubtedly, try to swim to Deliphine if Misha refused to go there.
So they go to Deliphine. Misha also hopes that there is a way they can deactivate Ayo’s implant, so that Ayo is no longer a part of the Dollhouse. Ayo wants that, too, because he fears that Misha won’t want him at all if the implan is still there.
Deliphine is a very large city, and like Davlova, there is a large disparity between the rich and the poor. Misha experiences a small amount of culture shock when he hears so many languages and sees just how big Deliphine is. But he is also a very capable young man and growing up on the streets taught him how to survive.
But the pull of the Dollhouse on Ayo is getting stronger by the hour and he can’t fight it for much longer, so they seek help from a sympathetic Guild surgeon. The trouble is, no one will touch the programming of a Dollhouse slave. It’s very complex and the Dollhouse holds too much power. Only the Dollhouse can help Ayo now. Misha knows the Dollhouse cannot be trusted, at all, but what choice is there?
The very concept of the Dollhouse is abhorrent. No one knows how they get their slaves – if they kidnap them, or grow them. Probably the former. They do large amounts of genetic manipulation and response conditioning to achieve the desired results of the buyer. It makes me ill, what greed and corruption do to people.
The Dollhouse definitely cannot be trusted. After drugging and interrogating Misha, then releasing him, they keep Ayo for another week. Then they bring Misha back in to offer to give Ayo to him. They’ve already learned all they can from him, they say, and can’t really make more money off second hand goods. So they offer to remove at least some of Ayo’s programming, as well as the neural block that was keeping Ayo’s body from aging normally and offer to arrange transportation back to Davlova.
Thank FSM, Misha does not trust them. He knows that all that was way too easy, and they undoubtedly have an agenda, or someone affiliated with the Dollhouse does, which means that Misha has no idea who to watch out for.
Politics are a nasty business.
Once back in Davlova, Misha starts to feel like the revolution was all for nothing. Things aren’t changing, it just seems like different thugs are in charge. In lower Davlova, people are starving and looting and it’s huge mess. Ayo is still terrified that the Dollhouse isn’t done with him, and as much as Misha tries to reassure him, Misha suspects the same. But they both work to find their place in what Davlova has become. And this is where we see just how good of a guy Misha really is. He helps people and helps protect those that can’t protect himself. Even as he flounders, trying to figure out what to do now. He does not wish to work for his old clan, anymore. But what?
And in Davlova, Ayo starts to thrive, too, and become more than he was. I loved his sheer enthusiasm everytime he learned something new. He just came alive.
I really enjoyed reading Return and I think if you liked Release, you will like this one, too. I enjoyed book 1 better, because the story seemed more complex, to me, without getting so complex I couldn’t follow. Return had fewer things going on and ultimately wrapped up a bit too neatly, in my opinion. But, that said, where Misha and Ayo are concerned, I got what I was after, and I really liked their ending. Return ends with a message of hope and that one person really can make a difference. It’s a good message.