RAZE WARFARE - brutal, sweet, bloody and heartfelt. An LGBTQ+ romance series that packs a punch.
Updated: Feb 5
Everything you should know about the action-romance series, Raze Warfare. By Shelley Cass.
I'm in love with my own novels. And for once, I'm trying not to be too bashful about owning that.
It's not even a humble brag. It's an outright, honest admission that I wrote 'Raze Warfare' as if I was the addicted reader.
I couldn't stop. I couldn't tear myself away from these characters, their interactions and their battles. It was exhilerating and all consuming.
'Raze Warfare' can be likened to one of my angsty teenage self's favourites: SE Hinton's ‘The Outsiders.’
It centres around class divisions and a modern gang that has become like a family of very different young adults who need each other.
But this time, girls are kick-ass members of the gang. Sexualities are open. There are diverse racial backgrounds. There’s some gender bending. The enemy is more covert, but widespread – a corrupt underground system. And the gang members enforce vigilante justice, while battling their own demons – ranging from trauma to learning difficulties.
Kiddo may be the key to taking down the underworld snatchers. Raze may be the key to keeping Kid alive.
The thing I love most about 'Raze Warfare,' is the fact that all of the intensity and darkness that the series revolves around, is balanced out with the uplifting sweetness of the relationships between the characters. There are platonic relationships, there's bickering, there's normalcy, there are people coping with their experiences in their own ways, and people can just count on each other for the sake of friendship, with all differences aside. (Even if Flip swigs straight from the milk bottle, Pash keeps using Velvet's makeup, and Seethe is a viper when there's nothing strong enough to drink).
And I especially loved writing about the spark between Kiddo and Raze.
This may be a punchy, raw action series, but their developing romance stole the show. They bring the bubblegum deliciousness of first attractions, the pursuit, experimentation and then deepening, stable commitment.
I just adored how easy, fun, real and full of chemistry Kiddo and Raze's romance is. One is so scattered, but so steadfast and reserved, while the other is an extravert with more self-assurance than self-preservation. Opposites attract.
They are the most conventional-feeling unconventional team, and it just feels so right that their connection outshines the horrors.
Razes, Razes, everywhere ... Snatchers, snatchers all beware ...
This is a New Adult action series. It's just a bit too brutal and disturbing for mid-teens and under.
There is physical and emotional abuse.
There is systematic crime, with the underground power system corrupting and crippling the system above. Preying on society's most unprotected people, and capitalising on them in a slave trade. The human body can be put to use in so many ways.
There is vigilante crime. My characters might be the (flawed) heroes of the story, and while I understand their violence (they have experienced the snatchers first-hand. They also have little choice - it's generally an 'us or them' scenario), that doesn't mean I would feel comfortable with the way they take the law into their own hands in the real world.
In fact, while most of them are so lovable and normal in other regards, and would be some of my favourite people to hang out with ... when they're working, the gang are avenging angels, and they do not care about any amount of blood on their hands as they take on the snatchers. They feel vindicated, and often embrace their roles as punishers. They would scare the life out of me.
There are characters overcoming backgrounds of homelessness, loss, displacement, addiction and mental health issues. They're dealing with what it means to fit into the 'vulnerable' and 'disenfanchised' sections of the social hierarchy. They're living on the fringes - and showcase the suffering, the rage, the despair, or the strength, connection and nobility that comes out of this struggle.
The series is also all coming from the perspective of a character who is coming of age in the middle of this brutality. Kiddo grew up too fast as a child services runaway. An epileptic, hyperactive wild-child on the streets; Kiddo did whatever he could to keep from being vulnerable. He’d done it all, and was only getting wilder, before Hato and the gang took him in and saved him from himself. But now he's a work in progress, trying to balance a life of urban warfare ... with more usual challenges of experimenting with his sexuality, finishing high school, starting a career, managing his ADHD, and working out where he fits into his tough-as-nails-family.
Razes, Razes fight the dark … Razes, Razes, are the mark …
'Raze Warfare' became my comment on reality.
It's a comment on my own reality, as Kiddo's brain works an awful lot like mine. I got out my own scatterbrained and compulsive traits, and blessed him with them. The never ending lists, the forgetfulness, the disorganised over organisation, how exhausting it is to feel like you're motorised and always living for the next moment, and only half catching this one. As if you always need to be jumping from one thing to the next (either half completing each thing or becoming wayyyy too absorbed into each thing. It's how you churn out three novels, two audiobooks, re-do a children's series, make a website, start training courses, and work a full time job in a year).
It's also a realistic comment on contemporary western society. Hiding beneath the surface of the fast paced plot, almost unnoticeable, is my examination of the opulent side of existing in a capitalist system for those who are most fortunate. An examination of the comfortable, but also busy, over worked, tired blindness that existing in the middle class can can cause. As well as an examination of the challenge or even danger of serving or existing outside of this system.
The fictional villains of 'Raze Warfare' are born from the the worst kinds of greed and exploitation that can come out of a world divided by class, with some driven by a need to either survive ... or others driven by desire to accumulate more. More. MORE.
However, the greatest good in this series comes from the hope, the connections, the different forms of resilience, the unity and the bravery of individuals choosing to focus on their love for each other and their sense of justice over all else.
This series also recognises the grey areas we all exist in. That in the real world people can't so easily be classified as villains or heroes. There are often people with no terrible motives. Sometimes they may make poor or desperate choices, or be put on opposite sides due to different views. Sometimes they are acting on their own vision of the greater good. Or sometimes they just keep their heads down and muddle through life.
I chose to make the ordinary people, who get to go about life without coming too close to the hardships others face, into a blurry, content or stressed bunch. They are doing their jobs, or enjoying their lives, and the Raze gang see their bubble of normality as almost precious - protecting this lifestyle and their happy ignorance.
I also chose to make the most 'powerful' people into the least empowered bunch. Those who behave as if they are most entitled, who treasure superficial gains, who use their power, status and wealth to gain material comforts and luxuries ... simply don't stand out. They're an almost faceless crowd. Even the most despicable buyers and snatchers have been robbed of individuality or true depth, because they have become mindless followers of a system that only values surface things.
The people who get to stand out and to gain defining traits are those who forge their own path. They have a great awareness of themselves and others, they have a purpose of their own, and do what they can to live fully.
Dom is burning with passion because he has his quest as the original Raze, and he is alight with warmth because he has opened his life to others at last. Sparks stands out for her incredibly driven nature, her passion for learning and for how she grounds Kiddo and Dom. Jingle glitters with her eighties eye-shadows and scrunchies, as if her beloved digital life has given her a hug and covered her in lights and pixels. Pash is unapologetically, glamourously Pash, whether being himself or herself at any given time. Hato is unwaveringly strong, because he is the young, proud 'father' of a warehouse full of rag-tag snatcher survivors.
Even the Wolf gets to flare with life, because he is driven by his own desires - despite them being horrifying ones. His character gets to be fleshed out with polite straight-forwardness, a fascinated mind, clever games and a strategic, hungry nature.
Perhaps this series is a tiny effort on my behalf not to be too comfortably, over-tiredly blind to the reality of others. It's not a perfect representation of problems that exist, as these are things I'm generally lucky enough not to be part of. And hey - the series is meant to be about entertainment. But it is at least an acknowledgement of what I know lurks beyond my sheltered pigeon-hole.
I always tend to bury my own worries and delights in my novels, and this time I guess I needed to get some disappointment off my chest. Disappointment that we live in such an 'advanced' age, and still have such inequality and suffering. Such extremes in the differences between lifestyles, education and access to opportunity. I hate that there seems to often be an inability to make change for the greater good instead of the greater profit.
Yet I also use the best aspects of our world and life to help me to cope, and celebrate these in my writing. I focus on the relationships between people. How connections can save us. The different forms of family and love that can exist. The progress that parts of the world have made in terms of wider acceptance for all forms of self expression, and tolerance toward gender/sexual/racial/religious/disability/age based/neurological/pyschological diversities of all kinds.
Razes, Razes, the Wolf’s prey … Razes, Razes all betrayed …
One problem I turned over in my mind, was whether I was even the right author to be writing a novel about hardship, coming from diverse backgrounds, or experiencing a new side of sexuality for the first time.
I am privileged in so many ways, and have not experienced many of the tricky or confronting things my characters have.
But then I realised that I have taught my students about societies, cultures and crises that I have never personally experienced.
I've written entire fantasy worlds in other series, have written older characters, younger characters, magical and dastardly characters. Most of the time they are people that are in no way like myself, living in places that will never exist.
But the key word there is PEOPLE.
I write about people.
I represent different kinds of people as best I can, and to shy away from that would mean I don't see the real connection beneath the surface of diversity. And that is humanity.
I would fail to represent a realistic and rich world. I would fail to recognise that all good people are united by their humanity.
Yet, it is important to me too that, while the gang is so very diverse, with refugee backgrounds, different ways of expressing themselves, having grown up in poverty or with varying levels of education ... at the end of the day, the focus isn't on where they have come from. The spotlight is on what they are doing now, their choices, emotions, and the person that they are.
They can be as they are, with no explanations or stereotypes required - unless the character so desires. They are just peopling and humaning along as best they can.
One thing I love about 'Raze Warfare' is that the antagonists come from all walks of life. And they only become villains when they lose touch with their humanity. They are the ones who define others by using superficial criteria.
The heroes come from all walks of life, too. As is true in reality as well as 'Raze Warfare', the greatest heroes are those who speak up and take a stand - whether in glorious movements, or with small individual actions and awareness. Like Chef Narkon, they may be heroic for stepping out of their comfort zone to improve things for themselves or on behalf of others, or for simply looking up from their own problems and the stresses that can put blinkers on us all. They may have seemed to be the most powerless, or most held back by where they fit into society. And still, they make the choice to challenge the things that are wrong in their own way.
I've noticed that protest for change is often driven by youth, like the young adults of the Raze gang. They haven't yet become weighed down by the exhaustion that can accompany adulthood - or the lucky, numb obliviousness of being swept away in a regular daily hum-drum.
I have taught the Flower Power, Feminist and Civil Rights Movements to teens in school, and have watched my own students become champions for the environment, gender equality, and for equal marriage.
When Australia voted for equal marriage, that became one of the pinnacles of light in my life that I will always have to look back on when I start to feel disillusioned by the state of things in general.
I'm lucky enough that I can say these things, raise my voice, normalise, reflect, draw attention, celebrate and represent as best I can. Most of all, I'm fortunate enough to be able to express my imagination, rather than spending my time fending for survival.
Fiction that holds a mirror to society at its best and worst.
So I'm in love with my own novels. And I've decided not to be ashamed of that.
To me, true failure would be saying nothing at all. Never sharing any of this. Never letting my work be seen, giving into doubts, and not fighting to get this all out there.
While true success is to possibly find total strangers who can get meaning or enjoyment out of what I have created. To have readers resonate with and connect with characters otherwise just trapped in my brain and on my pages.
True success is also a comfy armchair, new writer table, the fan heater whirring, and learning how to reach those who could love 'Raze Warfare' as much as I do.
In 'Bits and Blogs', author Shelley Cass talks writing process, being the kid who couldn't read, writer life with a frazzled brain, and muses on her Muses.
Shelley Cass is an Australian author. She is the author of the LGBTQ+ romance action series, Raze Warfare. She is the mother of the epic fantasy trilogy, 'A Fairy's Tale', and has penned eroticas, dystopian futures ... and Sleep Sweet children's books. For information on her novels, visit BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!