As seen on Stumptown Books
This book is considered "military fantasy." Who knew that was a thing? I certainly didn't. That might be because I don't consider Malazan or Song of Ice and Fire military fantasy, I consider those high fantasy. When I think "military," I think guns and push ups and Ride of the Valkyries
If you also think of those things, this is the book for you. "Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men" is what the blurb from Peter V. Brett says on the cover, and that is a perfect description.
We hit the ground running as we drop in on Britton. He's in the middle of a mission that he is rather upset about. Immediately he questions his superior's orders, and I think all readers would cheer at his reasoning. He has a set of morals and doesn't want to compromise them. We quickly discover his kick-ass magic power early on (as in page 25; this isn't a spoiler), and the opening action sequence with Britton was set at a breakneck pace. We were hardly able to get settled before something else would go wrong, and I really started to feel bad for the guy. He was presenting us with all the problems of the system the U.S. government had put in place to deal with magic users, and I was like Yeah man! Show those guys where the power is! You can take 'em!
Very quickly, however, the action grinds to a dead halt.
We are then subjected to Britton continuing to question his superior's orders so the plot could advance. The amount of sympathy I felt for him dwindled to a pin prick. He was just so stupid
. He became a whiny asshole, and that is not fun to read about. Basically, no matter what he was doing, he didn't want to be doing it. That means I don't want to be reading about it. I've read this opinion from a number of people, but for the most part they got over it and were able to enjoy Britton's point of view after a while. I'm putting this here because although I never liked him, you might!
That's Britton. All the supporting characters, on the other hand, I really liked, especially Fitzy. He was the quintessential military hardass with a seldom glimpsed heart of gold. I thought he had some real potential, if Britton would stop getting in the way. The "team" that is created is full of interesting characters, too. They were all unique and powerful in their own way.
This is just a personal preference of mine and no reflection on this book - if you can use magic, you are GOD LIKE. It takes no toll on you. You could cast magic all day long if you wanted to, just like X-Men can. I generally prefer there being something
that stops you. A major calorie burn, physical exhaustion, your life force, other people's life force, whatever! If you can cast with impunity, it takes the fun out of it. There has to be a downside to being a wizard, right? In this case, the only downside is that your ass is owned by the government.
Well okay, that's a pretty big downside. If you manifest - meaning you randomly acquire the ability to cast magic - you no longer have choices. You have a rank. But Britton was already
in the army when we plopped down in this whole story, so he should know
how the military works. Instead, he makes more drama than any of the other characters combined.
Sorry, I keep going back to Britton. I can't help it. He bugged me.
Let's see...one of my complaints while reading it was the use of TLAs - Three Letter Acronyms. (GET IT?!) It's very military of course, but I quickly forgot what all the letters meant and was soon floundering as characters mentioned them. It wasn't until THE LAST CHAPTER that I realized there was a glossary at the back. Double damnit! Don't be like me. Use that glossary!
The setting and monsters were interesting. We didn't get to see much more than tantalizing glimpses, but I want to see more of the world Cole made for us. There were several twists throughout the story that I completely did not see coming, so bravo on that. I had no idea how the story was going to end until it did.
I also want magic users to live happily ever after. I wonder what he has in mind for the future?The Bottom Line:
I did give it 3 stars, after all. I just wanted to like it more than I did, as the main character annoyed me too much. The best parts of the book were the opening and closing 60 pages, but the intervening 250 pages left me wanting more. There are some interesting ideas presented here, but after the initial action sequence, it was like reading about Wolverine joining the marines. It was written well enough that I am curious as to where it goes, but I won't be jumping into the sequel immediately.