Review: Survival Route
Survival Rout is a story with a diverse cast of characters, who must find a way to work together to escape their faery captors. The point of view switches between Aniyah and Keoki. Aniyah is captured and placed with a group of other young people, mostly people their captors assume to be women. Keoki is placed with a group of young people their captors assume to be men. Aniyah and her new friends are "Prizes" for when Keoki and his new friends win in fights. The boys fight magical monsters, and their captor makes money off of betting on these matches. The girls are sent to the boys when they win, to do with as they please.
All of these captive humans have magical amnesia, and cannot remember anything about their life prior to the capture. The author uses this to explore sexual relationships outside of society. Some of the boys are incredibly kind and considerate, asking permission and getting consent, or what can count as near-consent, as the boys happiness the next morning determines if the girl lives or dies. At least one of the boys is not so nice. There was a lot here to unpack, and I feel that Mx Mardoll did a good job of keeping the story moving, and also taking the time to confront that the capacity for violence is not always societies doing.
Mx. Mardoll also does a stunning job in exploring being trans, and being queer. Many of the characters in this novel might have had their memory wiped, but they still carry with them the sense that they are trans or queer in some capacity, even without the words to describe these feelings they have about their own identity.
Another thing that I really appreciated was how the book dealt with disabilities. There are two characters with visible disabilities, both of them needing assistance with mobility at times. I don't want to spoil anything, but each character deals with their disability in different ways, while both being supportive of the others choice in how to deal with that. I appreciated that a lot.
Overall, this is a really fun novel, and I appreciated that it detoured from the fun magical kissing and romance to sometimes deal with the nuances and complications of human relationships, and that the times when a character clearly goes beyond a moral event horizon, the characters respond to this act in messy, human ways,while it still being clear to the reader that no matter how the characters respond, the BAD THING a character did was very not okay. You might have noticed that this is book two. You don't need to have read the previous book to enjoy Survival Rout, the events of this book happen after "Poison Kiss" but it stands on its own.