Remember my review of Maelstrom 1-4? Well, I’m back in honor of Anime Expo this weekend (!) with the rest of the story from Yaoi Prose. As with the first four chapters, Maelstrom is by Yamila Abraham with illustrations by Himitsu Studio.
Please note: this story is explicit yaoi. If you don’t know what that means, find out before you continue. (After all, you might like it!) Generally speaking, yaoi is not-safe-for-work adult material, though that’s not always the case. Maelstrom, however, is most definitely NSFW. But… it’s not like there are many pictures that make the hot sexy times blatantly obvious, so maybe you could get away with it? Depends on your workplace, I guess. You be the judge.
Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of the last four chapters: Malstrum and Demetri manage to escape from Flurry (the primary antagonist in the first four chapters), but the world is at stake because its leaders are cracking down on the working conditions and worker assemblies, and Malstrum is the only person who can rally the workers and lead a revolution! Things just went from local to global in an instant, and Demetri begins to realize that he’s going to have to support Malstrum more and more behind the scenes, especially now that he wears Malstrum’s brand! Unfortunately, Li Gang—the acting ruler of the world and the second half’s primary antagonist—has other plans for Demetri, and suddenly Demetri finds himself kidnapped and tortured at the worst of times. Even though Malstrum manages to rescue him (eventually, and not without hardship), the finale —a clash between the leaders and workers of the world with Malstrum and Demetri smack in the center of it—promises to blow everyone out of the (metaphorical) water.
So, did I like it? Well… yes, but… It’s always like that, isn’t it? “Yes, but…”? I had high hopes for the second half of Maelstrom, but I think it only partially delivered. It’s not like I found a giant flaw with the narrative, story, or depictions of sex, but it was a bunch of little things that—when they combine—prove to be the story’s downfall. A thousand tiny paper cuts, if you will.
I think (and I’ve thought with many Yaoi Press stories) that Maelstrom could do with a good editing. Spelling errors and misusing words (the repetitive misuse of the word “construe” when I think the author meant “contort”, for example) really drew me out of the story; that’s unfortunate because it’s something that so easy to fix, relatively speaking.
That being said, I think that it was really brave of Abraham to take on such potentially divisive material (corporations versus unions, a government versus its people) in something that’s basically intended (I think) to be fluff. I want the story and intermingled plot lines—muddying the water is absolutely fine by me, as long as the author knows where to take the readers at the end. That doesn’t mean tying up loose ends, either, necessarily; it just means I want substance with my sex. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of sex (ooooh la la!) and Abraham does a great job putting us, the readers, in the heads of the characters and making it sexy at the same time.
But—and here’s where I find the other paper cuts—I noticed two things that bothered me. First, almost all the characters from the first four chapters—excepting the main characters and possibly one minor character introduced near the end of the first half—are no where to be found in the second half of the story. There’s a brand new set of characters that go with a brand new set of circumstances. No longer are Malstrum and Demetri just trying to run a single mine and fend for themselves; now they’re trying to organize an entire world of workers to fight for workers’ rights. It’s almost like they’ve leveled up and they’re fighting the boss battle now, and if I look at it that way, it kind of makes sense, but I was expecting more of a continuity of characters from the first half of the novella to the second.
I tend to believe that when a story is weak, an author will either add a character and/or move the characters to a different location so that the plot can move forward (even though it doesn’t actually develop that way). I’ve done that kind of thing in my own writing, and it’s not good writing. And, regrettably, Abraham adds characters and changes locations multiple times in Maelstrom.
Second, the end is a classic deus ex machina, and I’ll be honest here—it was kind of a let-down. After all the work, after all that struggle, all Malstrum has to do is bow before the high queen (Li Gang’s mother, no less) and present his case politely and… wa la? Everything’s fine now? The queen admonishes her son and immediately puts new rules into place to help protect the world’s workers and… that’s it? I’m not saying the story shouldn’t end there, but why did it have to end with a deus ex machina? I mean, really.
Overall, I liked the second half of Maelstrom, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first half. I really connected with the first four chapters, but the last four didn’t hold up to the hype in my own mind. But I will say this: if you’re just in it for the sex, this story’s the genuine article all the way through. To each his (or her) own.
Maelstrom is available on Amazon Kindle; you can get a Kindle application/program free for your computer even if you don’t own any e-reader or iPad-type device. And! You can read free previews of chapters 5 and 7 before you buy. The last four chapters (5-8) are just $2.99 each. Chapter 5 is roughly 21 pages; chapter 6 is almost 20; chapter 7 is 22 pages long; and the final chapter is a double-header (no pun intended haha), clocking in at 39 pages! Note: I don’t own a Kindle, so I read Maelstrom on my computer; if you read it on your own e-reader, it may be formatted differently and actually end up being even more pages.