CAIN (def.): A stone giant on the brink of exploding.
MADAM KARINA (def.): A woman who demands obedience.
WILSON (def.): The one who will destroy them all.
When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.
Victoria Scott’s VIOLET GRENADE is weird and exciting in the best way. The premise of Madam Karina’s house hooked me from the beginning. Every girl in the house has an artistic or otherwise entertaining talent, and I love the descriptions of the singing and Domino’s graffiti art. Domino is a complex character who simply wants a home…even if it means breaking some rules to get one. She can be mean and even ruthless, but she’s also entirely sympathetic and has a surprising charisma.
The tension moves the story along beautifully, even in areas where the action is on the lower side. Much like an oncoming storm, you can tell there’s a darkness in the air. Madam Karina makes a compelling antagonist with clear, believable motivations and a temper that doesn’t hold back.
While I enjoyed this story, I do want to give a disclaimer that I have no experience with schizophrenia, a key part of Domino’s character. I cannot say if the representation is accurate, as I do not have the credentials to give a critique to this.
With high tension and magnificently energetic scenes, VIOLET GRENADE is a unique story that keeps the pages flying.
She quickly learns that it is not enough. Soon, she receives an offer from an enchanting woman, Madam Karina, to work at her home for artistic types and make money. Not seeing another option, Domino takes the job to make money to pay for Dizzy’s bail and get him out of jail. The job takes her to West Texas, where Madam Karina rules not only the house but also the small town surrounding. Madam Karina runs her house with levels, starting at carnations and rising to violets, the highest level below the “Top Girl.” At each level, you get to keep more of your profits. At each level, the interaction with customers changes. Domino soon has a new goal- to reach the top and be able to afford a home for herself- and the people for whom she is beginning to care.
The description of the home and the girls was really fascinating. Karina was also an interesting character, as she is desperate, manipulative, and commanding- she runs the house with some sense of love but mostly of possession of the girls but also demands their “love” (mainly loyalty/admiration) in return. She is also running a business and making profits off both clients and the girls. During this time, Domino is forced to confront her past, as the situations she is put in resemble some of her buried past and call for Wilson’s aid. She is threatened not only by Karina, but also the other girls and sometimes clients. She finds allies in Poppet, another carnation who is possibly one of the sweetest girls ever, and in Cain, the brooding young man with a secret past who works at the house.
This book is intense and never lets you breathe- I found myself unable to stop and am still thinking about it. The main characters are extremely well developed and complex- and the last 20% of the book was an incredible finale that would not let you go! It is, at the same time, somewhat surreal (the whole house situation in particular) and very real (particularly some of the characters). As a heads up, there are situations of sexual violence in the book- as well as physical violence and torture. This is not a light read, by any means; it’s emotional and incredibly intense.
Overall, I think it’s extremely well written and will be enjoyed by fans of Scott’s Fire and Flood series- it has a similar thriller feel though this one is more of a (really intense) psychological thriller. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.