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"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." - Oscar Wilde

After Midnight by Santino Hassell

After Midnight - Santino Hassell

Holy Crap, this book. This BOOK! I thought I'd find it okay at best. I was so, so wrong! 



"Two decades after war ravaged the nation, one of the last remaining metropolises thrives on a currency of sex, drugs, and lies."



Alright, let's be clear about something. I'm not a big fan of dystopia. I usually have a hard time with post-apocalyptic stories, and I'm also not that big on drugs and assassins. But I loved the original cover of this book, I fell in love with Santino Hassell's writing in Soutphin Boulevard, and then this book was on sale. I had to grab it and try it out. But I was fully prepared to DNF it, or not exactly like, because stories like this one so rarely work for me. And since I never touched Santino Hassell's In the Company of Shadows series, I really read this book as the stand-alone it's intented to be. And holy moly, did I love it!


Gordon Frost is different. I'd go as far as calling him my anti-hero of the year. After he survived the war, orphanages, and life on the streets, he became what was necessary in order to survive. He's taking drugs, he's dealing with drugs and he walks on a very thin line, always hoping that one of the things controlling his life doesn't get him killed. One night, he's assaulted by an assassin who needs a hiding place after a job didn't go exactly as planned. Adam holds him captive in his own flat, on his own bed damnit!, for one night. Adam should kill him - nothing is as bad as keeping witnesses alive - but he doesn't and soon enough, things slowly start to spin out of control. And Gordon starts wondering if this gritty, dark and violent life really is the life he wants to have. Nothing seems to be good enough anymore. Add that to Gordon's smart mouth and his growing backbone, and Adam has his hands full with a witness he should have eliminated a long time ago. 



“Adam: "Perhaps you should get a real job and become a useful member of society."
Gordon: "Perhaps you should shove a pipe up your ass and die of lead poisoning." 



This book surprised the hell out of me. First of all, because I wouldn't say the characters in this book are likeable. Sure, Gordon has a big mouth, and a tendency to ignore every survival instinct once his temper kicks in. I snorted more than once into my coffee, because his snark is funny as hell. But it's not what I would call endearing. Adam was cold and distant, but you could feel the desperation and unhappineess with his life coming off of him in waves. So, I was reading this story about two men who were everything but likeable, approachable or even understandable most of the time. It isn't a classical romance, it's gritty and dark, with some pretty rouch scenes, a very elaborate crime-and-suspense plot with very unexpected twists and turns, and a lot of side-characters I absolutely detested. And I still loved this story to pieces! It drew me in, captured me, amused me, slayed me and put me back together in the end in a way I absolutely didn't see coming. 


I even loved Gordon after a while. Maybe because he is such a typical anti-hero, but with so many redeeming qualities and this vulnerable heart underneath it all. He isn't selfless, he isn't overly brave, he isn't loyal to a fault - at least not in the way that would guaranty his survival. He makes stupid and dangerous decisions, he lets himself be used as a plaything willingly, and all in all, he is one of the most insecure, irrational, bad-tempered and self-destructive MCs I've come across in a long time. And yet, I was shocked how much I cared about him after a little while. I already saw myself wrapping him up in a blanket and singing "Hush little baby, don't you cry" - nobody was more surprised than me about that, believe me.


I even liked Adam, although it took a little more time. He was so evasive and closed-off, but carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and still paying for the decisions he made in the past. It almost felt like he was constantly trying to balance out all the conflicting emotions within himself - with self-pity, guilt and regret being the biggest players. 


I never thought that two anti-heroes, two so difficult and deeplay flawed MCs could capture and intrigue me so much, but they absolutely did. This story surprised me, challenged me, tested my patience and tugged on my heart strings. I loved every second of it and then some. 


Highly recommended and one of my favorite reads this year so far.