The Marketplace is unflinching, brutal and has moments of droll humor. This is a book that grabs you from the get go. Laura’s storytelling and writing is engaging, and as you read, you lose yourself in the world and the characters. This is heavy, heavy BDSM where four people are being trained as slaves and will be sold at auction to masters who are allowed to do whatever they want to them. This isn’t some fantasy, sexual odyssey where pleasure and pain is combined for the ultimate climax. The slaves are put through rigorous tests and are humiliated to the point where it’s almost non-consensual and brutal. The Marketplace reminds me of reality show television where the audience, or in this case the reader, picks a favorite they want to succeed and move forward in the hopes they’ll be given to a master who will appreciate them and see how wonderful they are.
The slaves here are taught to bend to the will of others in power and not question why they are forced into doing things, no matter how humiliating. The slaves still have free will and can leave at any time, but they stick to it because they feel they have nothing else to turn to. The training center is run by two people, Alexandra and Grendel who have taken on the task of training four people who already have been involved in the BDSM scene as pseudo-slaves. These four all need major work and they're forced to go through a type of BDSM boot camp. We have Sharon, the spoiled and entitled thinking pleasure slave who thinks she’ll be some rich man’s slave and pampered and loved. There’s Robert, a bear of a man who has a gender identity crisis because of the mistress’s he served. Claudia is a true submissive and her mistress adores her but feels Claudia is dead inside and has no real skills and needs to be reprogrammed. Finally Brian embraces the scene but is cocky and doesn’t think he needs to be taught or trained. These four will sleep, bathe, eat and work alongside one another for weeks in order to become perfect slaves. Under their caregiver and teacher of sorts, Chris Parker, the majordomo, rules with an iron fist while only obeying Alexandra and Grendel. Chris has a few dark secrets, one of which Brian is very aware of, and because of that he may not succeed.
Over the course of the novel we see the four slaves in training learning basic decorum and life skills such as laundry, cleaning out the stables on the property and housework. If the slaves complain or disappoint Chris and the staff, they're punished with whippings and paddlings and forced to pleasure a number of the staff or any guests who visit and not receive pleasure in return. In most cases it appears they're abused horribly and are expected to ask for more and take whatever is dished out to them.
A book like this is not for the faint of heart. The first section is more of an introduction and one that carries you along. There are more than a few scenes of humor and witty dialogue as you get to know the four slaves and their personalities. But then in the second section, that is where things turn dark and there are more than enough scenes of brutal acts and humiliations such as Brian being punished and forced to be a dog, and Sharon who cannot be broken and refuses to obey is forced to pleasure anyone, male or female in any way they want. A slave has no options or real desires. Their desires are their masters or master and they must always think of the one who owns them and not about themselves.
The reason The Marketplace was so enjoyable for me it because of the writing. Laura’s writing and world building is very fascinating and enjoyable even though I flinched a few times because of what the slaves had to endure. There’s this one scene with Sharon and two men who degrade her horribly that I had to stop reading. But if you can get past some of the shocking acts, you’re in for a treat. Claudia and Robert will tug at your heartstrings and Brian will make you laugh with his statements and insults. Then there's Chris, a true enigma of a man who is still very much a mystery when you finish.
The Marketplace was addicting reading for me and I look forward in reading the next installments. These books are pricey at $10 a pop so most may take a step back from purchasing them. But if you are willing to sacrifice the $10, I would buy The Marketplace. Laura really opened my mind to a new world and way of life not many authors can pull off. I’m glad I took a chance and introduced myself to the world of The Marketplace and Laura Antoniou. (Circlet Press)
Final Grade: A-