Tainted, by A.E. Rought [Broken #2]

Title: Tainted (Broken #2)
Author: A.E. Rought
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication date: 3rd October 2013 (UK)
Rating:   ★  ★ 

Tainted-144dpiTainted, the sequel to Broken, by A.E. Rought is an example of YA romance done well. But it’s more than that; it’s witty and real and holds a deep streak of Gothic-inspired literature at its heart. Instead of returning to Emma, in Tainted we get to meet Alex, inside and out, as the narrative switches over to him. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I adored Broken, despite initial hesitations regarding the very obviously romance-centric story. In the end, I found Emma enchanting. I expected Alex to keep and hold my attention just as much—and I wasn’t disappointed.

The first thing I’ll say is that Rought knows something that I’ve seen some writers forget when they tackle romance from a guy’s viewpoint: we are just the same. Alex can’t keep his eyes off Emma, can’t keep his thoughts off Emma. Emma is at the centre of his world and he’s besotted, totally enchanted by her. There’s no macho posturing, no thuggish possessiveness to hide the tidal wave of feelings attached to being downright crazy in love. Alex is smitten and he’ll make sure the world knows it. Nail, head. Bam.

Tainted is a very deep book, with surprises woven deeply into the overarching plot, as subtle as embroidery within a larger tapestry, yet striking nevertheless. This isn’t as romantic an instalment of Emma and Alex’s relationship as Broken was, with more prominent themes of horror and mystery taking the place of the initial strange and compelling courtship the pair underwent in the first book.

Something is happening at Ascension labs and it is Alex’s job to find out what—before any secrets are leaked that he’d rather keep close to his heart. Or Daniel’s heart. With his relationship with Emma new and young, yet with all of Daniel’s emotions surging beneath the surface of his skin, Alex is desperate for a small slice of normality after what his father did, and tried to do. With his father dead, Alex, living with his grandparents, has inserted himself into the mess of his father’s leftover work, desperate to solve the problems presented by the formula that keeps him alive.

Back from the dead, Alex just wants to get on with his life.

But that’s not going to happen. When a cruel plan is set into motion, a plan that changes absolutely everything, Alex will need to step up his game and stay one step ahead of all the crap suddenly piled upon him, lest he lose Emma and lose himself along the way.

Alex is certain someone is bent on sabotage, but the truth runs far deeper than that—deeper than he could ever grasp. Life, death and sanity are pulled into question as Alex’s life flips and keeps on flipping.

The pacing is deliberate and deft, leaving a breath after the action—but only for a moment. With something new happening—often something shocking and unreal—often enough to create a tension that never ebbs, the reader is pulled into the action and never allowed to leave.

Rought’s writing is nothing short of gorgeous. There’s something about how she writes that just weaves an enchanting web that just tangles you up in a deep and vibrant world that is dark and moody and so utterly compelling that the book is completely unputdownable.

As with Broken there is an undeniably Gothic tint to the writing and a deep streak of emotion that courses beneath the surface. It makes for a sumptuous book that is a sheer pleasure to read. The way Rought crafts this Gothic, horror-cum-love story is delicate and skilful and makes her shoot even higher on the list of writers I love.

The ending hits hard with one fist and offers you a hug with the other; it’s difficult and trying but completely perfect for the story. I hated and loved it all at the same time. Having been left completely open, with the fate of the antagonist half left unknown (the old “we couldn’t find a body” issue), there is the opportunity for another instalment, despite the resolution of Alex and Emma’s largest problem at hand.

I’d, naturally, love for there to be more books, but the story does have a nice, satisfying end that left me all goosebumpy, so maybe the story is over.

Regardless, Tainted surpassed even my highest expectations and presented an exciting and utterly thrilling horror-romance that easily earns itself the highest rating, with a pocketful of change.

Gorgeous, and damn it, but I love Ann Rought.

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