BOOK REVIEW ~ RAZE BY TILLIE COLE

To take back life, one must first face death…
One man stripped of his freedom, his morals…his life.
Conditioned in captivity to maim, to kill and to slaughter, prisoner 818 becomes an unremorseful, unrivaled and unstoppable fighter in the ring. Violence is all he knows. Death and brutality are the masters of his fate.
After years of incarceration in an underground hell, only one thought occupies his mind: revenge…bloody, slow and violent revenge.
Revenge on the man who lied.
Revenge on the man who wronged him.
Revenge on the man who condemned him and turned him into this: a rage-fueled killing machine. A monster void of humanity; a monster filled with hate.
And no one will stand in the way of getting what he wants.
One woman stripped of her freedom, her morals…her life.
Kisa Volkova is the only daughter of Kirill ‘The Silencer’ Volkov, head of the infamous ‘Triad’ bosses of New York’s Russian Bratva. Her life is protected. In reality, it’s a virtual prison. Her father’s savage treatment of his rivals and his lucrative and coveted underground gambling ring—The Dungeon—ensures too many enemies lurk at their door.
She dreams to be set free.
Kisa has known only cruelty and loss in her short life. As manager of her father’s death match enterprise, only grief and pain fill her days. Her mafia boss father, in her world, rules absolute. And her fiancé, Alik Durov, is no better; the Dungeon’s five-time champion, a stone-cold killer, the treasured son of her father’s best friend, and her very own—and much resented—personal guard. Unrivaled in both strength and social standing, Alik controls every facet of Kisa’s life, dominates her every move; keeps her subdued and dead inside…then one night changes everything.
While working for her church—the only reprieve in her constant surveillance—Kisa stumbles across a tattooed, scarred, but stunningly beautiful homeless man on the streets. Something about him stirs feelings deep within her; familiar yet impossibly forbidden desires. He doesn’t talk. Doesn’t communicate with anyone. He’s a man beyond saving, and a man she must quickly forget…for both their sakes.
But when weeks later, out of the blue and to her complete surprise, he’s announced as the replacement fighter in The Dungeon, Kisa knows she’s in a whole lot of trouble. He’s built, ripped and lethally unforgiving to his opponents, leaving fear in his wake and the look of death in his eyes.
Kisa becomes obsessed with him. Yearns for him. Craves his touch. Needs to possess this mysterious man…this man they call Raze.

Even though this is only the second book I’ve read from Tillie Cole, I can already see what a versatile writer she is. I mean this in a good way but never in a million years did I expect the author of Sweet Fall – a highly emotional and poignant NA romance – to come up with a gritty and twisted mafia romance like this one. Though there were a few hiccups along the way, this book was INTENSE from start to finish. There is something special about this author’s writing that is just gripping and makes the book unputdownable. On top of that, there’s this hidden element to the romance that’ll be revealed early on in the story that just made my heart RACE. I was rooting for these characters hard!
Number 818 or ‘Raze’ is taken from his home when he was a young boy and then raised and brainwashed into a cold-blooded killing machine in the fighting rings, where one fights to kill. He doesn’t remember much about his past because of the drugs fed to him, only that he has one purpose: to get revenge on the man who wrongly accused him of a crime he didn’t commit. His search leads him to the heart of a ruthless death match enterprise and straight into the path of a blue-eyed girl whose face is eerily similar to the girl in his fuzzy memories.
Kisa Volkova is the daughter of the man who runs a savage underground fighting ring and betrothed to the long-time champion, a demented and truly twisted man who’s obsessed with possessing her. She’s well aware that in this mafia life, she has little say in what she wants and is physically and emotionally battered by her fiancé’s demands and the invisible iron cage her family has her own. Fully knowing that her heart belongs to another – a man she has never seen again since her childhood – Kisa has resolved herself to become the dutiful wife everyone in the mafia expects her to be.
On one fateful night, Kisa is saved from an unknown assailant by Raze, who’s come to the city to get his revenge against Alik Durov, who’s also Kisa’s fiancé. Without spoiling anything, Kisa and Raze have this insanely intense connection and can’t help but be drawn towards each other, even though their attraction is the last thing they need with Kisa already engaged to another and Raze only interested in his revenge plan.
The first half of this book left me breathless. My heart was pounding from the fight scenes, the sizzling chemistry between Kisa and Raze, and the hidden element to their romance that gave my heart a squeeze. I just wanted them to be together without any obstacles in their way, you know? But their road was not an easy one, and I’m glad the author made it bumpy or else it really would’ve cheapened their romance. I think my main concern with this book was the big discrepancy between the first and second halves of the story. It seemed too convenient that everyproblem Raze had (from his memory loss to revenge plan etc…) was wrapped up and concluded so nicely. The first half of the book really set a gritty and challenging pace for these characters and though I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention, I felt like the second half of the book got a little too cheesy and predictable. Nevertheless, my overall enjoyment of this story was high, and I could overlook these things because I was invested in the romance and genuinely cared about the characters’ welfare.
By the time I got to the end of the book, I was sad the story was ending and wished there was more. I love the mafia world the author set up and strangely enough, there were two side characters I loved just as much (maybe even a little more) than Kisa and Raze and whether or not it’ll happen, I wish the author could do books for them too: Rodion (Kisa’s brother) and fighter number 362 (Raze’s rival and friend). All in all, this story had my attention from beginning to end, got me invested in these characters, and had me wishing there was more to the story after it ended…which I think are all essential aspects that comprise a good book. I couldn’t be happier to end my 2014 reading year on a high note!
Raze is a dark contemporary romance set in the mafia world. It’s a true standalone and unrelated to the author’s other books.