Samantha Bevins quickly discovers that the people for whom she's worked for years cannot be trusted. Things inside the agency are turned topsy-turvy with Nixon, a man she once believed was her husband but no longer trusts, now in charge. But even he can't keep the powers-that-be and their mysterious, nefarious plans at bay. She is taken captive by her employers and everything is even more confusing than ever before. When she awakens in a cold, dark cell, she vows that if she gets out of her predicament alive, she'll kill them all and enjoy their deaths the way Malcolm taught her to.
But more than anything, she wants to be with Austin, the love of her life, again. Knowing that they've been connected since childhood only strengthens her bond with him. Although he, too, is now addicted to death emotions just like Samantha, he manages to fight them long enough to save her. Knowing it's the only way for them to have anything resembling a normal life, the two of them set out to take down everyone who knows anything about the government program that made them into the powerful psychics they now are. But there are forces at work they thought had been neutralized, which pose a dangerous threat to Sam and Austin's future together. And even if they are able to overcome the obstacles in their path and succeed at their plan, how can two people who need to feel the deaths of others in order to appease their own cravings avoid becoming the cold-blooded serial killers so many of their kind have in the past?
Wow! Becoming Death was an awesome wrap-up to my author friend, D. T. Dyllin's Death Trilogy. In my review of the second book, Embracing Death, I'd expressed concern over whether the story could ever have a happy ending, but I shouldn't have worried. That's not to say that this conclusion isn't still dark, because it is. The author takes the reader on a twisting, turning, action-packed, emotional roller-coaster ride that left me wondering more than once how on earth this was all going to end well. But that ended up being part of the beauty of the story. It kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, always guessing and never really knowing what might happen next. The story was certainly anything but predictable, and that, in my estimation, is a very good thing.
This volume opens with our heroine, Samantha, being taken captive by the powers-that-be who she used to work for, or at least, that's who she thinks is holding her. Throughout her imprisonment, things happen, but she's never quite sure if they're real or if someone is messing with her mind again, implanting memories of things she didn't actually experience. Then when Austin, the love of her life, finally comes for her, they go on the run. But eventually, they realize that the only way they're ever going to have any chance at something resembling a normal life is to go after the people they used to work for and take them down - as in kill them all - so there's no one left who knows anything about the government program that made them into what they are today. However, they quickly discover that someone is one step ahead of them, which might make it impossible to reach their goal. Not to mention, Sam is having strange dreams about people dying and just before they do, they always say, "Fifteen." It's all a huge mystery that I really enjoyed unraveling, along with the nail-biting suspense that accompanies it.
Killing everyone associated with the project that completely altered their minds and memories isn't much of a hardship for Austin and Sam. Their story is so dark and they're so dark as characters as to pretty much be anti-heroes. Throughout the previous book, Sam was addicted to the high brought on by experiencing death emotions using her empath skills, and she unintentionally dragged Austin into her addiction as well. In some ways, he's even further gone than Sam is by the time this book opens, and many other empaths who were part of the same program ended up turning into serial killers. As a warning here to sensitive readers, Austin and Sam left a number of bodies in their wake, some of whom arguably deserved it, but a few others who were basically innocent of any wrongdoing. If this would be bothersome, I'd say this book my not be for you. But the saving grace of these characters all throughout is that they can't really help who they've become, and they became who they are as a result of extreme mind control that was inflicted from a very young age on them and others like them who also possessed psychic powers. In addition, even though their kills sometimes seem cold-blooded and they bask in the afterglow of the death emotions they experience by having wild sex, the author still manages to keep their humanity intact. At the core of everything they do and of their very souls is their unshakable love for each other that transcends everything. That's what made me able to read this dark story, containing elements which in the hands of a less-talented writer would have been a total turn-off, and still feel empathy for the characters and want to root for them despite them sometimes doing bad things.
Throughout this book, Nixon is still there as a strong supporting character and the third point in this ongoing love triangle. It's been obvious since the end of the first book that Austin and Sam are unbreakable soul mates, and Nixon is the only one who thinks he still has a chance with Sam. I've had a roller-coaster relationship with Nixon throughout the series. In book one, I mostly liked him. Even though he stole part of Sam's life by taking her memories of Austin and making her think she was married to him, it seemed that he did it for a good reason, and I could tell that he genuinely cared about her. Then in book two, it appeared that Nixon had a much stronger connection to the powers-that-be than we first knew about, but at the same time, he was hiding some of his own psychic abilities, while in reality being much more powerful than anyone realized. By the end of that book, it appeared he had devious plans of his own to get Sam away from Austin and take her for himself. To some extent, those plans continue in this book and he does play the antagonist for part of the story. But what made me come back around to liking him again is that we learn the full impact of what was done to him as a child as well and exactly why he's so obsessed with Sam, something he can't really control any more than Austin and Sam can control their obsession with death. I couldn't help feeling sympathetic toward him and his actions in the end were very heroic, so he was also a great character for me.
Overall, Becoming Death and the entire Death Trilogy in general was a phenomenal read. I'd highly recommend it for fans of more plot-driven, action-oriented stories, but at the same time, the author doesn't skimp on the romance and emotional connection, especially in the first book. It's absolutely clear that Austin and Sam are made for each other and there is no one else on the planet for either of them, even though many people and forces beyond their control have tried over and over to keep them apart. What was done to them was appalling and the people who took them and other children like them from their families at such a young age were reprehensible. I was very happy with the conclusion and how the author wrapped everything up and resolved their death addiction. I may have gone into the story doubtful of a happy ending, but I definitely got what I was hoping for. It was just a really dark and dangerous road to getting there.
Note: The love scenes are what I would deem steamy (typically a four on my sensuality scale), but most of them occur as a result of the characters experiencing the euphoria associated with them still being alive after someone else dies. Also, one scene contains asphyxiation, giving it a more erotic feel.
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