Jan 312013
 

Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops 2) ***Please note there may be some very minor spoilers for Control Point in this review***

Fortress Frontier has an interesting and surprising start, not at all what I expected.  Not only are we seeing it from the perspective of someone different to Control Point, but the events overlap slightly, revealing new details about the previous story.  Colonel Alan Bookbinder (US Military) isn’t a front line soldier but the man behind the scenes.  All the things that need to be kept track of, for resupply, for scheduling, he is responsible for and he likes it that way, feels comfortable with it, even if he feels it is all he is.  After a weird dream and a day feeling like he is drowning, he realises something has fundamentally changed.  He’s a latent, and like a good soldier, he follows orders and turns himself in… and that’s when his life really goes to hell.

If I’d known about the change of character before I started reading, I might have been worried but actually I thought it worked really well, even if it was unexpected.  Alan is an interesting if unassuming character, worried about his family, and the impact his change has on his life is monumental.  The differences between Alan and Oscar are huge but they are both good people and their individual characteristics have you rooting for them very quickly.

That’s not to say Oscar doesn’t feature, he does and I really liked the way Myke Cole wove the story, moving to integrate the two characters in small steps.  I loved the way Alan slowly comes out of his shell, as events in the world progress around him. He grows in confidence and attitude until he becomes the man and leader I think he was meant to be.  I can only say again how fascinating and beautiful I find the source world, Cole’s creation of this rich magical but deadly world is amazing and I’m glad we get to see more of it in this book.  The intricacies in the way he describes the magical talents, their creative uses and peeks at how they might be used if the military wasn’t keeping them locked up tight for their own uses.  It’s just wonderful and superbly done.

We also get to see more of the impact of magic on the ‘home’ world, the government’s rigidly tight grip on it and the resistance that wants to bring it all toppling down and I can’t honestly blame them.

The story is a little more straightforward in Fortress Frontier but it doesn’t lose any impact despite that. It was still gripping and there were a couple of twists that had me exclaiming aloud!  The action is just as intense and emotional as the first book and Myke Cole’s writing style is so easy to read, I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished.  The supporting cast again were brilliant and we get to see some familiar faces and several new ones. When the end came, I was almost beside myself and chattered at my husband about it for quite a while; he’s used to that when I’ve been really caught up in a book.

If I thought the first book was great (which I did!), then this second novel is just superb.  The third book can’t come along soon enough, I need to know about the things that happened but can’t mention because of big spoilers!!

Highly, highly recommended to anyone who likes urban military fantasy, but do start with the first book in the series, Control Point!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Myke Cole
  • Series: Shadow Ops (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jan 302013
 

Control Point (Shadow Ops 1) In the great Reawakening, magic has flowed into the world and those who manifest latent talents must hand themselves in immediately and become part of the Supernatural Operations Corps. In the name of public safety new laws and restrictions have risen to control and govern magic.  The only other option is to run and be branded a ‘selfer’, one who is selfish and doesn’t care about anyone but themselves.  They are to be hunted down and forced to join the SOC, killed if they resist.  And that’s only if you manifest in an approved ‘school’.  If your talent is in a prohibited (probe) school, there is no chance, it is illegal and you must be destroyed.

Oscar Britton is a Lieutenant in the US Army, and has always believed in what they do, even when working alongside the Supernatural Operations Corps.  However, his faith is shattered while hunting down a selfer and a probe and he learns the hard way that being a probe is an automatic death sentence.  When his own latent ability manifests in a prohibited school, he realises the choice isn’t a choice at all and runs.  Now he is the one being hunted.

I started writing this review several times only to stop, delete and start again.  My instinct is to cry ‘OMG this book is amazing!’, but I think it needs a little more consideration than that.

Oscar is a first class character, admirable, likeable and troubled.  I found it very easy to empathise with him and what he believes to be right and wrong.  He is humane and hates seeing cruelty done to people, even those whose actions perhaps deserve it.  On the other hand he is very much an army man, it’s his family and his purpose in life and when he is cast adrift from it, I could feel his pain and loneliness.  I thought they way he just wanted a home again, to feel like he belonged to something greater than himself was very cleverly written. This then allows Myke to remind us that being forced to do something and choosing to do something are two very different things.  He is thrust into an alien world where the rules of conduct he has been taught all of his army life just don’t apply anymore.  He is now a weapon and owned by the US government, being trained how to point so they can shoot.

The world that Myke Cole created was fascinating and he populated it with wonderfully detailed creatures that capture the imagination.  Some of them are terrifying but beautiful.  I loved the friendly ‘goblins’, the indigenous sentient population although I’m not too sure about how they honour their dead!  I did growl several times at the way they were treated, as little more than slaves rather than allies.

There are several supporting characters who are well fleshed out.  I either loved or hated them, but all of them moved me on an emotional level whether bad or good.

The first thing I did when I finished Control Point was to spend several hours thinking about Control Point; I went to bed thinking about it and I woke up with it still on my mind. There is no black and white, only some nasty shades of grey relieved by a few rays of light.  Oscar in desperation makes some seemingly extreme decisions and the ramifications are going to be huge.  There was a twist at the end which I honestly didn’t see coming and it made me want to howl.  The ending seemed fitting and right, almost calm, but I can only imagine the storm which is coming.

I had a little trouble with Oscar’s wavering commitment and decision making, but ultimately I understood it.  He chose to join the army and believed in it.  He is being forced to serve now, controlled by people who see him as nothing more than a weapon and as he manifested in an illegal school, he has absolutely no choice.

I loved the magic system, it was extremely well created and the uses for each of the schools were fascinating and imaginative.  Even the prohibited schools had their place, even though ‘illegal’.  I liked the call signs a lot and it appealed to my inner superhero fangirl.

The military side of the story was extremely crisp and well envisioned, clearly something Myke Cole has personal experience of.  While Jargon is used, it doesn’t overwhelm and he includes a handy glossary of terms at the back of the book.

The action is just full on, exciting and the battle scenes are depicted in realistic terms, often poignant and shocking.  The inclusion of magic in these fights doesn’t seem out of place at all and make for extremely gripping reading.

This is an amazingly well written debut novel, descriptive, imaginative and easy to read. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Fortress Frontier and see what the outfall has been of Oscar’s actions.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves urban fantasy, futuristic military novels or superheroes.  Control Point is a fantastic blend of all three!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Myke Cole
  • Series: Shadow Ops (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jul 272010
 

New Chicago is in chaos after Iridium’s actions led to the Corps brainwashing signal being turned off.  Every Extrahuman linked to the corps by the seemingly innocuous earpiece was affected.  Some felt free, some went mad and others used the opportunity for their own agendas.  With former Superheroes battling humans and Extrahumans alike, it’s up to the few heroes who kept their sanity to try and save the city.  With Jet leading the new group, it’s so few against so many, yet even without Corps influence, they are Heroes and still believe in their duty to protect humanity,  to bring their former colleagues either to justice or back to the fledgling group forming outside of the Corps influence.  Help comes from an unlikely source with Iridium but just as things seem to be getting back in control, one of the worst Supervillains in history somehow escapes from his cell in Blackbird Prison.  Doctor Hypnotic, a mental power, turns everyone in his path to unmoving zombielike statues and he is only just getting started.  Bitterness and rage at his core, it will test the powers and strengths of every remaining Superhero to bring him down.  Will there be a new dawn for New Chicago or will it remain forever in the shadow of night.

Shades of Night is a worthy successor to Black and White.  It was good to be back with my favourite characters Jet and Iridium again and see how they cope in such a desperate situation.  They don’t disappoint and given how different their personalities are, their interactions understandably start off frosty.  However, there is a lovely moment at the end where you learn how Iridium really feels which really touched me.  The writing was really succinct and emotional and I really felt their bone weariness at what they were having to do, yet still having the courage and determination to see it through.  They are after all, Superheroes.

As in Black and White, the book switches perspective at certain points and also with ‘Then’ and ‘Now’.  It’s well done and never gets confusing as to where you are and who you are reading about.  You learn a huge amount of history about the Corps and the Icarus Project and really, those sections are what provide the twists for the story.

Jet and Iridium’s backgrounds are fully explored and I really felt for the two main characters as children who really, had no chance of normal lives thanks to the machinations of the Corps and even their parents.  I love that they turned out to be the Superheroes they are in spite of it all.  After learning her past, it’s no surprise Iridium became as conflicted as she is but she doesn’t hesitate to do what she feels is right.  Jet is the one who suffers most I think being less flexible and believing in the Squadron, the Corps and procedure.  Admirably, she still managed to pick up the pieces and help save her city.

Just to touch on the Latent Network, I felt this was a great addition and explained much about the way powers work.  Not everyone is powerful enough to be in the squadron but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their talents and I enjoyed seeing them get to work and what they were able to achieve.

All in all, a good, fast paced and exciting read about true Superheroes, Supervillains and those caught in between.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jackie Kessler, Caitlin Kittredge
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Feb 262010
 

With thanks to Piatkus, I have seven copies of Black and White by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge to give away!

You can read my review of this great Superhero book here.

All you have to do to be in with a chance to recieve a copy is post a comment telling me what you would want your superhero power to be!

Winners will be put into a hat and drawn randomly and closing date for this give-away will be 31st March.

I’m afraid due to posting costs, I have to restrict this to UK residents only.

Good luck and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Jan 262010
 

Callie Bradford and Joannie Greene live in a world where Extrahumans not only exist but are sponsored, marketed Superheroes dedicated to saving the world from Supervillains.  Trained from a young age by the Extrahuman Corps they are taught to believe in justice, peace and naturally the Corps way of life.  ‘Iridium’ (aka Callie) and ‘Jet’ (aka Joannie) forge a friendship early on in their training despite having opposite powers of light and shadow.  When Iridium goes rogue and Jet vows to do her duty and bring her in, Jet’s illusions of the Corps are shattered and the truth starts to come out.  Jet and Iridium must decide if friendship will ultimately save or destroy them, and along with them, the rest of the world.

I’ve never really read comics, either as a kid or adult, certainly not the myriad superhero ones out there.  I was aware of Superman, Batman etc but that was mainly through films and media.  Black and White was a truly unique experience for me, a superhero urban fantasy novel that could easily have been a comic book.  The sad thing is, if it had been in comic form,  I would probably never have picked it up and I would have missed out on a great story.  For me in a book, a lot more can be said and allows me to create my own vision of the characters without having the artwork force me down a particular visual path.

I was a little frustrated in the beginning that the perspective changed between characters a lot, and also jumped between time periods.  As a result, I found it jerked me out of the story and hence didn’t engage me at first.  As the book progressed, I realised it was actually very cleverly done, making you re-evaluate the characters constantly as each little piece of their past and present was revealed.

The superheroes and their powers were nicely written; some of the names must have been tongue in cheek, they certainly made me chuckle.  The two main characters of Iridium and Jet were really well done with such different personalities yet also complementing each other.

As a collaboration, I felt it worked well. I couldn’t detect two different styles in the writing and at no point felt that there wasn’t just one voice.

All in all it was an entertaining and enjoyable story about superheroes, their world and two special people within it who are as different as night and day.

This is the first book in the Icarus Project series and it’s certainly left me looking forward to the next one.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jackie Kessler, Caitlin Kittredge
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)