(I got a copy courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
3.5 stars, veering towards a 4.
Very graphic in parts, and not shying away from dealing with the darkest recesses of the human soul. This might turn off some people, so if depictions of child pornography rings, sex slaves and peep-show practices are something a reader doesn't want to read about, then better not pick up this novel. Personally, I found it fascinating in a trainwreck way: you can't help but watch, even though it's disgusting, and it makes you think about all those people, about depravity, about how low a human being can fall.
Rachel struck me as a resourceful young woman with guts, and overall smart enough to discover a lot on her own quickly enough to avoid falling down as well—because things seemed to move fast, and I have no doubt that once caught in such a spiral, every day spent in it would've made it harder and harder for her to go back, as well as to keep the peep show sessions and private parties to a "manageable" level. She was determined to find her sister at all costs; also, she cared about Achara, which was very humane. The one qualm I have with her is that the mistake that made everything speed up was, frankly, a pretty basic one, and I'm still wondering if she shouldn't have been able to avoid it, considering how savvy she was overall. But I'm not sure either (even though, when the first tell-tale sign occurred, I immediately thought "something's wrong here"), and I wouldn't consider that as "too stupid to live" syndrome in any case.
The main female characters in general did what they could with what they had. It may not have been much, but when they had an opportunity to do something (try to escape, help each other, try to hurt the culprit...), they seized it. That it worked or not didn't matter: they still tried, even though their trials were a very dire ones and they could've given up a long time ago. Each of them turned out strong in her own way, fighting until the end.
The plot itself moved at a fast enough pace, with a lot of suspense. Some events that appeared as strange actually made a lot of sense a couple of chapters later, and I liked how the author managed to "trap" me here the same way he did the characters. It was an interesting process to go through.
On the downside, I found the narrative a bit disjointed at times, as if it was trying to get faster to the next part, with the seams somewhat forgotten along the way. The writing style felt the same in a few places. Nothing terribly annoying, but still enough that I noticed it. I also wished it dealt more with Olivia's actions: what exactly happened to make her go from volunteering to the underworld? (Obviously she was in for the money for a reason I won't spoil, obviously she didn't choose to be picked by the Webmaster, and was no doubt abducted, but while we're given clear reasons about Rachel's behaviour leading her exactly in the same situation—she was investigating and looking for her sister, after all—Olivia's were more muddled. As if there was another, hiden reason that was never revealed. It may be a false impression on my part, only considering all the trouble Rachel went through, I definitely would've wanted to learn more.)