Fortress Frontier

 ***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)

Control Point

 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)