The author makes a valiant effort, but it falls flat in many, many ways for me.
Boo, alien cultural appropriation. Boo, Orientalism by proxy.
Also, what the hell is the premise of the undercover op? I thought they were trying to take down whoever runs the slave trade? As in, whoever is in charge of the auction - acquires the goods, markets then, etc. But then they're all "oh, yeah, need to get sold and then send a signal." But then, in that case, they'd only be taking down one brothel. Sure, a large one perhaps, but wasn't that what the initial explanation of the point was?
Also, we fucking get it. Illythe is involved in this shit, but he's Not Like the Others. He's reluctant, Once a Slave, blah blah blah.
And also, why a geisha in a brothel? Why not an oiran? Fits the theme better. Though I guess since presumably Illythe doesn't service anymore, a geisha could fit? And I'm not Japanese, but reading manga and looking for supplemental info online has taught me that really, it's the maiko who dress up the way non-Japanese and others stereotypically perceive geisha to look like.
I feel like I need to start making an EWW list yeesh.
...all right, Imma start. I'm at hmm about 30%?
1. Whores don't kiss cliche
2. MC wonders if Japanese-style clothing in a kitschy Japanese-style brothel has some deeper meaning, like to create the illusion of fragility (which, okay, I guess it could have that function, but come on, look around you. yeesh)
3. All those damn cat references in the span of a page. We get it. Sex kitten. Yeesh.
4. What the hell exactly is the point of the mission? To find the location? To find who the big boss is? Clearly, they're not actually trying to take down the slave trade network. They're only aiming for one brothel.
5. Jaded MC is jaded cliche
50/132 I'm done
First off, Orientalism turned me off the universe premise. Secondly, I just couldn't connect with the characters. They all seemed rather rote to me, and nothing really seemed to make them stand out in a good way. It's like the author kind of goes for the raw visceral passion, but then pulls back. There were parts I actually got drawn in, but then the author pulled back before the tension built up to a crest and dissipated it with more rote blah.
The premise of the investigation is still unclear to me, and I didn't feel like sitting and sifting through the text again to try to figure out what exactly the end goal was and why/how that would involve MC to be sold other than Filling the Prompt.
Big Bad was meh. Author hinted at badness, but didn't go fully into letting it play out, so the descriptions were kind of just meh descriptions of why he's evil and bad: because he's evil and fucks horrifically.
I dunno, man. The point is tentaclesex is titillating. Why else choose Japan, right? Should have explained why Scion tips over from titillating horror to outright horror instead of relying on the vanilla/socio-normal "omg tentacles and rape is happening; how horrific" explanation.
TBH I have a better time reading Oiran Girl and pretending the LI really is secretly servicing men and is gay for that one guy who comes to visit LI's oiran persona so much, and MC is just LI's former mistress (but not, like, in a BDSM way)(no like srsly he was a servant) and now best friend and fellow oiran.
But I suppose YMMV.