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In Liam's Wake: The Makeshift Soldier (Toys and Soldiers) (Volume 1) - Ashlyn Forge
Review written for Hearts On Fire Reviews.

Book one of new author, Ashlyn Forge’s, new series, Toys and Soldiers, is about Liam and Riley who are taken from New York to the Colony, an underground world with many laws and where nobody is actually free. When we meet Liam, he is on a mission to get he and Riley out of the Colony and back to New York. Unfortunately, Riley is in a coma, and he is the one who knows the way out.

It took me a little while to get the idea of what was going on here, but once I did, I was pretty interested. My biggest issue here was the frequent flashbacks showing little by little how Riley ended up where he is. I understood the idea behind the switching back and forth, but I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks on a good day. Here, they left me confused, even though each one gives more and more information and pieces of the puzzle. I was already borderline confused and then had to figure out the timeline and match the characters up with what I knew to what I was actually seeing, though I did enjoy gathering the puzzle pieces. However, as much as I disliked the flashbacks, I’m honestly not sure if this would have worked as well without them, as each one reveals more of the mystery.

Liam has problems in that even though he is pretty good hearted, he constantly seems to be making the wrong decisions. He screws up over and over, finally putting his only friends or allies in danger as well. Unfortunately for him, he has other factors working against him in the form of implanted receptors that are like a ticking time bomb. Nothing is easy for him, and he tries so hard to keep his original word of returning home.

One thing I was unsure of through most of the story was that both guys seemed a bit homophobic. They were pulled into the situation where they only had each other to rely on, and while we learn about things that happen to change this circumstance, they remain somewhat stand-offish. The reasons for the reluctance become clear, but the intimacy level remains low even though they appear to want it. In the end, I had the impression they were in more of an emotional relationship than a sexual one.

Even though things seem pretty basic here, there is a lot going on. There are a lot of details that set up this world and paint a very unique picture, not only with the environment, but with the characters and creatures as well. This ended up being a pretty intricate story. There are twists and turns throughout as the pieces are put together, and it continues right up to the end. I was quite impressed with this as a first story, and despite my issues with it, I’m looking forward to the next installment now that the groundwork has been laid out.