Review: What Boys Are Made Of (Saint Flaherty #1) by S. Hunter Nisbet

With the swing of a baseball bat, a back alley prize fight ends in one teenager’s death. The other walks away with cash in his hand and a conscience screaming for mercy.

Just another day in Buchell.

A second civil war has torn America apart, leaving Appalachia an isolated minefield ruled by cartels. In the town of Buchell, Simon “Saint” Flaherty cage fights for money—until the day a fight gone wrong leaves him a murderer.

His coach uses the publicity to set Simon up in the fight of his life in scarcely a month's time, but physically ready doesn't mean mentally ready. Still reeling from what he's done, Simon will do anything not to kill again.

But Simon’s coach isn’t the only man in Buchell with an eye for talent. The cartels that keep a stranglehold over the mountains are scouting for new recruits, and the local kingpin has his eye on the teenager with the one-punch knockout.

With big money on the line and no way to escape, it's time for Simon to learn to live with blood on his hands--before he ends up dead too.

This story was hard and necessary for me. Not a romance, or erotica, this is a dark thriller, set in a dystopian world where cage fighting is the best way to make a living, through betting, and fighting. The town is under the control of a cartel, and there are plenty of twists and relationship reveals that kept my mind spinning.

There is also some pretty heavy topics of sexual and physical abuse. This is definitely not a book for people with triggers who are healing or sensitive to this sort of story. But for those who can work with emotional pain, and can read past the suggestion of abuse, there is something glinting underneath the dirt and grit. A tiny shard of hope for something more than the life these characters live.

I really felt a connection with almost all the characters in this story. There were a few favourites, but I valued them all. There was a good depth of character, great world building, and clear action plot with enough guessing at the outcome to make it a very interesting and engaging read.

Told from multiple points of first person, present tense views, the story is mainly about Simon, and those who call him family, and some who don't. Considered not that smart in the beginning, there is real development in him as the story progresses. Lots of twists and turns; action and angst. Sexuality is not the focus of this story but it is a vague underlying thread.

I gorged on this story, and then I gorged on the second in this series. I couldn’t put it down, and while this does have a cliffhanger ending, I felt it was worth it. Mostly cliffhangers piss me off, and I tend to stay away, but I did not feel cheated here. It was the natural progression in this story arc, and it helped that book two is already out. Now I'm jonesing for the third novel.

The writing style may be an issue for some, but I urge those who love dystopian action/mafioso style stories to give this book a try.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Find out more on Goodreads.

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