by Tillie Cole
The anticipation I have felt as we have slowly edged towards the release of this has been verging on emotionally crippling, this is a story that I have been itching to get my hands on for so long and I can hardly believe that Flame’s time has come.
But every emotion that I have felt until now, pales into insignificance when the most brutally damaged of the Hades Hangmen finally got his chance to speak.
I was glued, hostage to the words before me, unable and unwilling to cast my eyes from the screen for even one second, the enormity of what I was reading was apparent in every single word and reading it was a privilege.
The wait, the anticipation, everything is now forgotten because Flame’s story is not just everything I had imagined it would be but some of it defied not just my imagination but comprehension.
Tillie Cole left nothing in reserve with this book, nothing left in the tank and to be honest Flame deserved no less.
Each and every one of the Hangmen have a respect that runs deep for Flame and they all know that he is as far removed from the rest of them as any one person could possibly be but he is their brother. But for Flame, he has fought his demons alone without consideration or acknowledgement of those around him, manifestly unable to understand or acknowledge social etiquette and expectations, Flame is hostage to the evil that he believes runs within his veins.
A solitary life surrounded by others, my heart broke for the devastation he must have felt, something I could barely imagine.
Flame had Viking and AK and they were as close to him as anyone could possibly be, but how do you help a man that cannot stomach the slightest element of physical contact. I felt for both these guys because their limited understanding of the events of his past left them floundering at times as to how to deal with him and when they finally believed that he had reached the end of his capacity, the lengths they were prepared to go to save their brother was heart-breaking.
Those around him incur his wrath at their peril and you enrage him at the risk of taking your final breath because he shows no mercy, his rage knows absolutely no bounds, he has no containment, no ability to rationalise, no need to forgive, he has nothing to lose, he does not fear death, in fact I think death would be a blessing to him, and his actions were almost as if he was courting it, inviting it because not having to live each and every day as he does would finally free his soul.
But as much as his rage knows no limits, neither does the way he feels about Maddie, although it was so touching as he sensitively took the minutest of steps towards a woman that he has loved from the minute he laid eyes on her. From the instant she wrapped her arms around him and thanked him for killing her tormentor and from the minute he realised that this little woman, this beautifully broken girl calmed his rage and brought him peace.
In the previous books we have been aware of Flame’s obsession with Maddie but in this we get to see what lies behind that, what exactly she means to him and why the two of them are perfectly able to have something that to be honest would have beggared belief if it had not come from the mind of Tillie Cole.
Maddie has watched Flame from her window, watched and wondered as this beautifully dangerous man kept vigil over her each day. She has known that he was special to her, what he did for her left a tie between the two of them that she felt she would never be able to repay.
Flame’s mental health was questionable but his rage was without equal, undeniable and absolutely complete- he has suffered all his life. His internal struggle has been destroying him piece by piece, day by day but can he take anymore or is his battle about to come to an end?
When his soul finally breaks, it is Maddie, that steps up to help him heal, to help put him back together, to help give him a future that he never believed he could possibly have.
I read the chapters which dealt with her first one on one interactions with Flame through a mist of tears, it was so emotional that I had a hand on my heart as the words tumbled forth, those chapters alone were some of the most gut wrenching I have ever read.
Their story is harsh, totally absorbing and astonishingly brutal…but you will be captivated.
The depravity which has befallen them both defies contemplation but requires understanding. The events that the girls experienced during their time in The Order have been graphically laid before us in the past but dear lord, Maddie’s ordeal at the hands of religious zealots was nothing short of barbaric paedophilia.
My heart was shattered as she recalled the gory details of what she had been through but I admired her resolution because she shared her pain, not in an attempt to exorcise her demons but in an attempt to show Flame that what he held inside could also be survived, that it could be beaten and that she would share his pain with him when he was ready.
Maddie truly was the balm that soothed Flame’s soul, she kept his demons under control and inched her way into his heart where she belonged.
Two dangerously broken souls, piecing themselves together to form the most beautiful of relationships.
Their time already spent on this earth was for no other purpose than for the two of them to find their way to each other, no-one else would have ever been enough.
While Maddie’s past was well known, Flame had no past, well none that was worth recalling. The depravity that he was met with in his younger years was completely beyond comprehension and I have to give my respect to the author because the sensitivity with which she handled such an emotionally volatile subject was astounding, her words left me picking my jaw up from the floor and reaching for the tissues (yet again) and at this point there was no stemming the flow of tears.
His story left me feeling completely homicidal, so at that precise second Flame’s psychological state of mind made complete and utter sense to me, to be honest I admired him because I was in awe of the fact that he was still functioning at all.
This man had been completely broken as a child, hated and mistreated, he had evolved from the little boy that knew only pain and suffering into a man that deliberately sought out pain and suffering as a way to control the rage flowing through him, when he found neither his resolution was to inflicted his own pain, his own torture and his own cleansing upon himself and it was excruciating to read.
As I read his pain, the release gained as he watched his blood flow and the flames temporarily leave his body, I seriously doubted whether he would ever be able to find peace.
But I was a fool, because as many of the inevitable questions of his past would have gone unanswered, Flame had his answer, he had his solution because he had “my Maddie” and in return she had her place in the world, her reason to breathe “her Flame”.
The remaining Hangmen are as ever present as you would imagine but in this case I am ashamed to say that I struggled to allow them in to the story, because as the reader I didn’t want Flame and Maddie to have to share what they were going through, I want all my emotions and my concentration to be on them and I had nothing left to give to anyone other than them. I was empty and rightly so!
The events involving The Order and the underlying angst that they have provided throughout the series is still there and the religious undertones and actions provide a distraction from what is happening at the MC, and in some respects it was a necessary distraction from the intensity of Flame and Maddie’s story because when they are in full flow there was nothing else that mattered.
Their story as it is presented was brutal, depraved and disturbing and I know that may sound odd but it is the downside of a story that was honest, true and emotional.
Flame stole my breath and broke my heart and Maddie left me completely dumbstruck.
This is a book that will take a long time to recover from and that is because books of this magnitude are a very rare find.
To Tillie Cole, I have two words… Thank You