REVIEW: Banyak & Fecks – Jackson Marsh

Banyak & Fecks - Jackson Marsh - Clearwater

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Reviewer: Maryann

Get It On Amazon

About The Book

Banyak & Fecks is a prequel to The Clearwater Mystery series of romantic gay novels. 

However, it is not a mystery. It is a story of how a Ukrainian refugee and the son of an Irish immigrant come to meet in the East End of London in 1884. It is a story about friendship.

1881. Andrej’s family are dead or missing, and his village in Ukraine decimated. Aged thirteen, he walks west to find a boat to take him to London. Three years later, homeless, starving and having resorted to prostitution, he finds safe passage and arrives in London alone but determined.

1884. Silas’ mother has died, leaving him to fend for his twin sisters in the hellish world of the Westerpool slums. Silas only knows the work of a thief and trickster and at sixteen, heads to London to make his money. What he finds is poverty, starvation and the Greychurch workhouse. About to give up, he encounters a giant Ukrainian, proud, handsome, and renting his body in the alleys of the East End.

Silas (Banyak) and Andrej (Fecks) make an unlikely pair, but their friendship is all they need to survive life in London’s notorious East End. When disaster robs them of their home, they have no choice but to live rough and work the streets. Lodging houses, rope houses, arrest, violence and prostitution, they face it together.

But when the Ripper starts slaughtering Greychurch rent boys, Banyak and Fecks have only their friendship to ensure their survival.

The Review

“Banyak & Fecks” is the tale of Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko, aka Fecks, and Silas Hawkins, aka Banyak, before they meet in an alley of East End London. If the title alone is intriguing, come along and follow the journey of how they meet and acquire such interesting nicknames.

In the summer of 1881 in Serbka, Ukraine, Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko has returned one last time to his war-destroyed home, where generations of his ancestors have worked the land. His family now dead, and the only hope he has is reunite with his brother Danylo, who went to war.

With a black and white pebble from Danylo, his grandfather’s khanjali (knife), andthe wise words of his Babusya (grandmother), he heads west. The journey is difficult and Andrej has to be cautious of the Russians and villagers as he never knows where he will meet danger.

Along his arduous journey he meets Mirel Paulescu, a blind farmer, and his horse Banyak.  Mirel is a life saver for Andrej, giving him shelter and comfort. Andrej heads west in his journey to London, and comes across the Zoran Amazing Circus, where he is mesmerized by the horses and becomes a performer. After experiencing this abusive situation, Andrej runs in fear from the circus.

In 1883, his final destination still unknown, he finds himself aboard a ship heading for Genoa, Italy where he learns lessons of life and become friends with Anatoly Makarov.  They travel the sea for until 1884, when they arrive in Limedock, London. With the help of Makarov, Andrej has a place to stay with Matrona, Makarov’s grandmother.  Andrej works the docks but he eventually learns how to work the streets, and one evening a trick, a young man, saves his life.

In October of 1884, at the Center Wharf in Westerpool, Silas Hawkins is sixteen and ready to move on. He’s helped provide for his now deceased Mother and younger twin sisters, Iona and Karan, as best he can.  But he has a reputation for pickpocketing, stealing, and deception. 

He visits with Father Patrick to let him know he’s off to London, and promises to send money to support his sisters.

Silas is smart, creative and a master at imitation. He’s always thinking of the next step to earn money and not get sent to gaol. But something has always been always missing in Silas’ life – a true friendship. Once in London, he meets Micky-Nick. They become friends, and he shows Silas what takes place in Greychurch. But Micky-Nick is not always around, and Silas ventures on and makes a way for himself, though it’s not always easy. He also learns of the trade many young men perform to survive.  

The first time he lays eyes on the long, blond-haired giant, he’s shocked, but he saves the giant’s life and runs off. Eventually they meet up again, and this time Andrej saves Silas. A bond is formed between them, and they help each other while surviving the hard street life of the East End. Sometimes choices are made just to survive, and some choices will come back to haunt Silas later.

By 1888 the streets and the lives of the young boys become endangered as the East End Ripper comes to wreak terror. Regardless of what life deals these two different souls, Silas and Andrej’s love and friendship never falters.

Jackson Marsh has never failed in bringing 18th century, Victorian history into his incredible “Clearwater Mysteries” series. With this prequel, it’s very clear the amount of research he did to be able to bring to life the hardships, abuse, and danger that existed for many on the streets of East End London. Marsh also offers a magnificent newsletter and blog posts that provide an abundance of information on his characters, writing ideas, novels and research information.

Banyak & Fecks is a magnificent journey of two young men from two different walks of life and what they have to endure to stay alive. Besides Andrej and Silas there are so many colorful characters that they meet along the way, including Dr. Markland, Toviyah and Eddie Lovemoun, who will be in several of the “Clearwater Mysteries.”

Jackson Marsh, did this right – it leads right into the first novel “Deviant Desire” of the “Clearwater Mysteries”. If Banyak & Fecks had published as the very first novel in the “Clearwater Mysteries,” I would have been hooked immediately!  It’s a fantastic book, and a great temptation to make me want to read the first novel again, as I’m sure I will at some point!

The Reviewer

Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California.  Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018.  My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen.  New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012.  She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series.  Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book! 

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing.  I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews.  One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group.  Joining her site was such an eye opener.  I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams. 


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