The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, by Adele Leigh, 2018

Title: The Lupanarium

Author: Adele Leigh

Publisher: Crooked Berliner

Genre: Dystopian, Adult Literature, Satire

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 127

Recommended for: Warning: Graphic content; not for the light-hearted

Synopsis:

In a reimagined Ancient Rome, during the last days of the republic, enslaved prostitutes are brainwashed to eat and sleep only after sex. 

Matt-Lin—a surly teenage girl—is trafficked to the world’s preeminent brothel, the Lupanarium. 

She is tasked to perform a dangerous live sex-act in the arena with Jak—the Lupanarium’s most popular male prostitute and gladiator. 

Jak attempts to mentor Matt-Lin, but she proves unwilling to please her clients, and she vigilantly seeks a way to escape, putting her life, and his, in danger. 

The Lupanarium is the first book in The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, a series about trauma survivors learning how to love. With the amount of sex in the series, it would be easy to categorize it “erotica” or “pornography.” However, this book’s primary function is not to titillate. Instead, it comments on, critiques, and satirizes these genres, which often serve to normalize rape culture.

This book comes with a graphic content warning for its depictions of sexual assault and child rape. Adult readers only, please.

My review:

The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Mnay Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, is not a light-hearted read at all. It has rape, child-rape, sex, and gore. What I would like to also add, is that despite the inclusion of all of these acts, it would not be right to simply categorize the book as erotica.

The author introduces us to an entirely different world. It a dystopian novel, with a world where rules are perversely made and followed. And at times, it was harrowing for me to read as well. The themes and plot, the events – the narrative in itself, is so raw and what scares one is that who knows if this might be true one day?

This is a world where rape is glorified. And people pay to watch these inhuman acts. The poet truly has written a satirical piece keeping in mind the degeneration spreading rife today. The corruption of power – we see officials use these ‘slaves’ rather, ‘sex slaves’ and in this world, it is ‘normal’, it is what is ‘expected’ of them. These slaves do not know the concept of love. They are made to think that they do not deserve love. Looking from a socialist viewpoint as well, we see the vast differences among the ‘elites’ and the ‘slaves’. Moreover, there are again so many layers to these social classes. 

I suppose I could go on and go about all of these issues which the author has successfully portrayed in mere 127 pages.

Matt-Lin is a what you would call a ‘prodigy’ in this world. Perversely, she is famous because she has survived the 9-layered heel to be known as the ‘niner girl’. As a survivor, we see her coping with the world doing what she is expected to do. However what the world does not know, is that, despite coming out alive of the tests, she still is left with her ‘fighting spirit’.  I am definitely looking forward to see her growth in the sequel. Jak is another character with depth. There is still the humanity left in him, which seems to have been lost and absent from the rest of the people in society. Joanna is another intriguing character whom I loved reading about and look forward to her appearance in the sequel.

Verdict:

This was a really through-provoking book and I look forward to the sequel. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

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