Review: Stung by K.A. Merikan

October 1907, Honeyhill Twenty years into the zombie Plague Victor is a man of delicate sensibilities, not fit to do backbreaking labour on a farm ran by the mob. Upon arrival in Honeyhill, he decides he needs an anchor, an alliance with one of the guards, if he wants to survive. That anchor comes in the form of Crunch, a hunky ex-sailor with a pair of tight leather trousers and a ruggedly handsome face. But from day one, Victor knows he won’t last long with the hard physical work assigned to him and the torment he suffers at the hands of a sadistic guard. He needs to run, and his new alliance might prove to be a burden instead of solace. If Crunch wants Honeyhill liberated, he needs to focus on his job, not on protecting Victor, one of many new arrivals on the farm. Distraction is the last thing he needs after months of undercover work. But it’s hard not to get seduced by Victor's big brown eyes and fingertips that don’t know work. Hundreds of people depend on Crunch keeping his identity a secret, revealing it could be fatal for both him and Victor, and a failure of his mission. Thankfully, Victor would never be dumb enough to try and escape through a forest that's swarming with zombies. Would he?

This review has previously been posted on GoodReads.
To spice it up and give you beautiful readers a closer look into the minds that created this awesome book, I asked K.A. Merikan to write a blurb about writing the book. Here it is.

Kat: As K.A. Merikan, we write our stories in complete symbiosis, but we do split the characters between us, for better flow, surprising each other, and just for the fun of it. We share a sense of humour, so roleplaying the characters and dialogue, keeps it sparkly fresh and realistic. And then we share the side characters depending on whose MC they interact with more in a particular moment. On top of that, we both add descriptions and edit each other as we go so the style is smooth. In the second round of edits, if someone has extra ideas for other characters, better dialogue choices or anything to be honest, we both have input, but always negotiate about things we don't agree on. Sometimes, you just can't think of a descriptive metaphor or something, and it's nice to have your co-writer spark your imagination. I love it when Agnes comes up with something completely new or funny, it feeds my energy for writing. We work with an outline to write faster and 'with a purpose', but we don't mind if characters take us off track. We just change the outline as we go, though having one when you start gives the story a strong spine. We try to at least know where it's going at a particular moment, and what the ending is supposed to be.

In “Stung”,I wrote Crunch and most of Sharpe, while Agnes wrote Victor. Their language is very different so it’s a lot easier when you only have to focus on one character’s mindset when writing dialogue. You don’t have to jump back and forth between points of view in your head. I think Agnes secretly (or not-so-secretly!) enjoyed the trauma Sharpe inflicted on Victor ha ha!

Agnes: I did! I love it when my characters find themselves in a situation without a way out. Which is one of the reasons I loved the punishment scene so much. Kat knows I’m a sucker for a hearty slice of angst, so she keeps teasing me with scenes we haven’t written yet. But what I like about Victor is that he doesn’t give up. He’s not victimizing himself. Instead, he makes use of the assets he has and does all he can to make the best of the situation. I never understood the appeal of a ‘damsel’ in distress, a passive character whose only role is to angst and cry waiting for a savior.

Kat: What we also wanted to do in “Stung” was create a hot, tension filled story with a prison setup, but without BDSM/rape/kink. So “Stung” is more of a story where characters explore and struggle with the power imbalance instead of being turned on by it. It’s about non-BDSM power play, showing that you don’t need to be the one holding the machete to have power over someone else.

Agnes: That is what the expression ‘power play’ really means to me. None of the sides holds all the assets. What makes Crunch so interesting in this whole setting is that he’s a decent human being. Having all this power, the strength, being tempted, he doesn’t cross the lines of what he thinks is right. Yet his behavior still remains questionable, since he technically holds the power of a guard. I enjoy writing about people, who are morally grey and don’t always make the most logical, or right decisions. This way, the reader can never be certain what to expect.

Kat: When it comes to what was hard to write in “Stung”, I definitely have to say that it was the bees and the apiary. We usually write opposite each other with Agnes, in the same room, so we get to see each other’s facial expressions. I have to admit that as much as I cringed myself writing about the insects, seeing the terror on her face was worth every sentence.

Agnes: I’d say the world building is always the trickiest part. If the plot is set in a world that is not familiar to the reader, be it a fantasy, or historical setting, it’s vital that the descriptions are striking enough to give the reader a good picture of what the character sees. And the way we see it, it’s not that much about giving as many details as possible, but painting the picture with bold strokes. Same with character descriptions: one focused sentence often works better than a detailed record of how they look like.

Kat: Oh! And twists, we love twists, so be ready for a bumpy ride with “Stung”! :D

Thank you Kat and Agnes, for taking the time to answer some questions and give us readers a look at the backstory behind Stung!

Original Review:

THIS BOOK IS SWEET! No pun intended. Okay, some pun intended.


Generally spoiler free because you gotta read this.
This book was generously given to me as an ARc by Kat who comprises 50% of the tag team duo, K.A. Kerikan. I was really looking forward to this book because, well, I this kinda book is right up my alley. M/M, thriller/horror, and weird. All three elements that I love in books, but you don't see too often. If you like those kinds of books, pick this badboy up.
I really enjoyed the writing. I like the style of writing that treats me like I'm smart, because it's smart, without completely losing me. It was engaging and IMO very well done. It was on the edge of my seat quite frequently. Sweet.

The world? Man. So cool. So basically it's 20 years post plague. Zombay plague and set in 1907 outside of London. There's this kind of camp where people are pretty much enslaved for some pretty rude dudes, if I do say so myself. The place is called Honeyhill and it's pretty much a honey harvesting camp. But there's more going on. *makes spooky noises* Have you ever read a book about some man love in a zombie-infested world set in a honey farm? No. And that in itself is totally cool. There's some gross shit going on, FYI. Don't read this next sentence to avoid a mini-spoiler: The zombies. In the hive area. And the plants around the decaying bodies. EWWWWWWWW!
Man, Vic was such a little tart. Can I say that? Too bad, I did. What a little baby. I liked him, but god, sometimes I was like "You're such a little bratface!". He's like the annoying, cute little brother that gets everything he wants but he can't help that he's adorable Crunch was totally, by far, the coolest. I love books where the characters have memorable nicknames (it's a weird thing I like, whatever), and I'm also a sucker for characters that are portrayed as gentle giants, and god, he was the king of gentle giants. But secretly smart and also totally badass. Favorite scene: Where little brat Vic is running out da farm and Crunch comes after him and is yelling at him. I had a lot of terror that poor Vic would be eaten, but I love how Crunch wasn't just like "Awww, poor baby". It was scary AND funny. Crunch is so totally awesome.
Covered with mud, with muscles hurting from the long run, he couldn’t stop crying. “Will I die?” “Yes, ya fucker! I’m gonna fuckin’ skin ya when we get back!” Crunch spat on the ground and without a second warning, he dropped to one knee and knotted up Victor’s ankles.
“Don’t say a fuckin’ word, ya dumb fuck. Got it?”
The ending? UH. MORE. PLS? I didn't see it ending like that. I saw it ending in a way that lead to insta-rainbows and sunshine and boners. Alas, it didn't end the way I saw it going, and that's AWESOME because now I need more. Need. Still a HEA, but not the way I thought.

Final thoughts. This book wasn't nearly as weird as I thought it would be, or as gross, which will allow lots more of you friends of mine read this. Don't be scared. *pets* It was still totally awesome, a really fun, e xciting read that caused me a my fair share of anxiety.
Zombies, manlove, really hot sex, scary shit, gross things, and a completely unique world. Need I say more?


P.S. My bf made a PB and honey sandwich today and the thought of eating honey contorted my face in the least attractive way.

ARC provided by the publisher via author in exchange for an honest review.

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