Series: Shadow Ops #3
Format: ebook (ARC)
Publisher: Ace (US)/Headline (UK)
Published: January 28th 2014
Where I got it: NetGalley
My rating: 5/5
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…
In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.
In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.
When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil…
There are often a litany of problems inherent in trilogies (book or movie), even when they follow the ‘rules’ concerning Bigger And Better Each Time. The plot gives way to spectacle. Characterisation goes out the window for the sake of getting more of that spectacle in, because hey, isn’t that what people want? A lot of the time, in my view, less can be more. And by ‘less’ I mean ‘keep the characters interesting even while you’re blowing crap up, and don’t look at me like that, it can happen!’.
Myke Cole is an author who clearly understands this, because oh. My. Freaking. God. This book.
Let me tell you, the action movie playing in my head the whole time I read this made me want to weep for the lack of it in real life. If someone capable was to take what’s on these pages and put it on screen, it could spank most of the action movies I’ve watched recently until they run home crying to their mothers. Not only because the spectacle is astounding – but because the characters are worth reading about.
This is a thinking person’s military fantasy series, and I could not love it more if I tried.
In the previous two books, Control Point and Fortress Frontier, we meet a group of characters who all have important parts to play. Oscar Britton, Alan Bookbinder, Jan Thorssen (better known as “Harlequin”), Sarah Downer, Swift – and Scylla. [Insert thunder-and-doomy-lightning crash here.] And with Breach Zone, they’re all back for a truly heavyweight finale – but, in keeping with the narrative switches we saw previously, this story, in itself, belongs to Harlequin. Until now, we only got to see one side of him, from the perspective of others. Here, he takes centre stage.
And there is so much more to him than the unbending soldier we met before. So very much more. Let’s face it, this story would kind of suck if there was less. By this point, despite his actions to free Oscar Britton earning him some admiration from non-military circles, Harlequin is determined to stick to his own philosophical guns – to stay in the military, and on the side of order, while everyone else on that stage is embroiled in chaos, or uncertain of themselves.
That said, the journey he takes is still a damned hard one. For one thing, there’s so much more to his history with Scylla than we knew before – and all I’ll say about THAT is that you’ll have to read it if you want to know. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Worth it, because it paints a man who had previously appeared more or less in black and white with some pretty damned thought-provoking shades of grey. And that’s the thing about these books, the true reason I’ve fallen in love with them so hard – Cole shows us a world where absolutely nothing is as simple as we might think. There’s ‘us and them’, but… there is no ‘us and them’. There’s people, and there’s a metric ton of Complicated to go with them. Call Harlequin what you like, but he’s a person with a story to tell that’s just as important as anyone else’s, and Cole gives us no choice but to listen, and to take it all on board. That’s the real skill he uses here – strip away all the spectacle and this is all about people, and the choices we make. It’s about the reasons we should care about them, too, because I don’t think I’ve read a more perfectly timed morality tale than this one, right now.
Now. That spectacle. As though being mercilessly punched in the feels wasn’t enough, I was flipped between thoughtful, sympathetic and ‘OMFG’ so freaking expertly, from start to blistering-hot finish. As I said before, this is nothing short of a master-class in How It’s Done. From the moment Scylla comes storming onto the scene to Harlequin’s final confrontation with her, the action simply does not let up. The battlefield gets bloodier, the people on the ground get no mercy, and to put it simply, it all cuts right to the bone.
I let my tea go cold while reading this one*. No lie.
What really makes it all spark, though, is that while the fantasy aspects of the world Cole creates are awesomely spectacular and detailed enough to tell us all kinds of stories, he’s also clearly writing what he knows, here. There are scenes, in particular with Bookbinder before he makes it to the Breach to assist Harlequin, that are obviously written by someone who knows what he’s talking about, and this makes for some of the most gripping action in the book. It didn’t hurt (or, perhaps, even help) that being in deep water is one of my most creep-inducing phobias…
…But, dudes. Water goblins. A BIG FREAKING SEA MONSTER. It doesn’t get much more bloody epic than that.
So, yes. Epic conclusion, blistering action, wonderful characters, a hands-down stunner of a trilogy. This one follows all the rules, while still setting fire to the rule book. And that, my friends, may just be the greatest trick of all. Pure magic.
* Yes, I drank it anyway. It’s TEA.