Crooked Berliner (2018)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/19)
“The Lupanarium” is the first book in ‘The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak’ series by Adele Leigh.
In the time of Ancient Rome, Matt-Lin is a teenager who was kidnapped and recruited into sexual slavery as a child. She is famed for being the only child to survive the highest level of brutal and horrific training for prostitutes at the Lupanarium, a famous brothel. Matt-Lin has no memory of her past, but she carries an inner strength which her captors have been unable to touch. She lives a life of sexual servitude, from which others profit. She is not allowed to talk, eat nor sleep without rules being involved. She hides aspects of herself from others including her knowledge of other languages and her ability to read. When she is placed with another sex slave/gladiator named Jak, he tries to guide her so that she will survive, but it is hard for her to trust him because he has to rape her for the entertainment of others. Jak sees something in Matt-Lin that makes him uneasy. He suspects that she might be very dangerous. There is another person who also sees something in Matt-Lin, but what she sees makes her think that she knows who she really is. Meanwhile, Matt-Lin continues to follow her own agenda which ends up putting them all in danger.
The story, while it occurs during a different time period, reflects what is going on today with child sex trafficking. Children are treated brutally and if they manage to make it out alive, they have to live with the physical and emotional trauma that was done to them. In this story, both Matt-Lin and Jak are both damaged from having gone through similar abuses. Jak has more freedom than Matt-Lin, but they are both still enslaved and in servitude to others. Their freedom to be individuals has been taken from them. Even if they manage to escape or buy their way out, they will always be affected by the trauma done to them. I felt that this resonates with children who are being abused today.
This was a hard story to read because of the explicit nature. When I looked up information on the author, I could see that her motivation for writing this story was about how trauma affects victims. I would not recommend that a survivor read this novel unless they fully understand the scope of how graphic the sexual scenes are because this could be a trigger for them. It is extremely graphic and should only be read by mature adults.
I would like to read the future books in this series with the hope that at some point, Matt-Lin will be able to take full retribution out on the people that damaged her. “The Lupanarium” by Adele Leigh is a powerful read you won’t soon forget.