Book Review: Den of Vipers by K.A. Knight

In this book review of Den of Vipers, let’s talk about an indie erotica book I actually gave four stars to! Den of Vipers by K.A. Knight is another book that was entirely a “BookTok made me do it,” but it had a pretty average/poor reputation. This is a dark romance mafia novel full of sex scenes. It also deals with a good amount of crime, violence, childhood trauma and abuse, and it’s reverse harem.

(Review contains spoilers.)

Book Review of Den of Vipers by K.A. Knight

Den of Vipers official cover art
Den of Vipers official cover art

My rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

Summary: When Roxy’s father becomes too indebted to repay the leading mafia group of the city, his creditors target his daughter. Roxy becomes a captive of the Vipers, but her rebellious and independent nature doesn’t allow things to go smoothly. She soon gets to know each Viper better, and enters a world of crime, money, and disturbing fantasies.

Genre: Dark romance

Audience: Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: captivity, abuse, explicit violence (torture) and sex

An Astounding Beginning

This book was one hell of a ride. That I really enjoyed it; I like when an author commits to their style and the tone of the story. I felt on a high most of the time and it was never boring, despite the book being so long for a romance novel.

The beginning of Den of Vipers is really gripping and as weird as it may sound, I sure identified a lot with the first character the author introduced, Diesel. The writing is sharp, violent, and full of personality, which really fits the whole mob story theme. Early on, the author well developed the 5 characters. They all have their own mannerisms and vocabulary. The female protagonist, Roxy, also amazed me in the beginning. She’s incredibly strong, but it’s not overdone and fits her background story.

I thought this was going to be just a “smutty” story, with no actual plot, but it wasn’t at all. The smut doesn’t start until Chapter 20 or something, and there is actually a menace to fight against, which made this book even more enjoyable. I would say 2/3 of the story are exhilarating and worth your reading time. I like descriptive authors that censor nothing, so this was definitely my jam.

A Sloppy Ending

By the time I reached the last third of this book, I felt slightly disappointed, and that’s why I’m not giving it 5 stars. It looked like the editing, the plot and the characterization flew out of the window. I’m not sure why.

There were sentences I didn’t understand because of the wording, but the worst part for me was that the logic wasn’t there anymore. Characters went through stabbing and heavy torture and still got up and fought with no big consequence, even post-adrenaline rush. I am thinking of the scene where Roxy is literally missing toenails, and she fights in high heels, for example, or when she spent God knows how many hours with her body upside down and she didn’t have any heart complication… but this other guy nearly dies from a blade in his stomach.

Nearing the end, the characters are very positive about their lives as well, and open to talk about anything and the whole dark setting evaporates in favor of the happy reverse harem thing. It was very out of tune with the rest of the book.

One last thing that irked me was Roxy’s evolution. There was too much emphasis on how badass she was without reason. She becomes a businesswoman overnight, and Ryder brings her to meetings only so she can talk crap in front of rich people, which the author described as “hot” and “a true Viper.” Maybe she’s a true Viper, but I cannot see how that is hot.

Regardless, I recommend this book to anyone who is into dark romance. Knight’s style fits the genre admirably and her humor is fantastic. Loved the movie references and the character dynamics.

5 Main Characters in a Standalone

Knight’s writing is very raw and I think it works pretty well for this story because she tells it in first person using the present tense, so it really gives you this feeling that you’re in the character’s head. However, I think 5 characters and 5 POVs were a bit too much as I didn’t think Kenzo and Garrett turned out as developed as Ryder, Roxy or Diesel. Plus, with the book being fairly long for a romance story, it felt like some personalities were too similar (Ryder and Roxy near the end, Garrett and Kenzo too, once Garrett dealt with his inner demons).

Again, I enjoyed the humor and the mafia background, but this book needed another round of edits.

How do dark romances always have HEAs?

I still think this book was fun to read. It made me laugh non-stop, and I don’t think this is a novel meant to be taken seriously. Some readers feel upset at the way the author dealt with the consent aspect, and others claim there is no plot, but I disagree.

I never thought Roxy didn’t consent to some “events” as she often was the one to take the initiative. What I still dislike are the plot armor and Mary-Sue developments. I didn’t expect this book to end up going in that direction, not to mention the happy-ever-after ending. That’s the last thing I expected from a dark romance book involving a reverse harem. I think human psychology is more complicated than that, especially when you have 5 people who have been so damaged in the past. Therefore, I don’t think the author meant this book to be taken seriously.

For the fun escape, it’s a book I’d recommend. But it’s not for the faint of heart.