Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She’s part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism—a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five–thirty in the morning with a zombie–infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she’s got the makings of the worst morning possible.
Her team is its own challenge. A battle–scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shapeshifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Getting them all to work together is never easy, with Anna often caught in the cross fire.
Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell’s most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay. Anna and her team are fighting against the wake of destruction, but Ethan is always one step ahead. With the number of bodies he leaves and reanimates growing exponentially, Anna’s wondering if they’ll stop him before he engulfs everyone in an undead horde.
If you are into dark magic, arcane weaponry, blood, gore and countless ways to pervert death, then this is the book for you.
Sadly, it wasn’t for me.
Opening with a hung over character and then piling on an endless array of arcane weaponry descriptions as she tools up to go fight the bad guys did not grab me, nor endow me with sympathy for Anna. The first big scene was undoubtedly fast and gory and really easy to visualise (this would translate well to TV or film), but I got no sense of any real humanity from Anna, which made it hard for me to connect with her character.
And then we meet the bad boy, Ethan. Now Ethan was a far more interesting character, and as I got further through the book, I came to look forward to the sections from his point of view. Although what he does is seriously unpleasant, we are given his history, motivation, and the sense of a real person which I found lacking in Anna until way too far through the book.
Don’t get me wrong, this story is brimming with superb ideas, a well thought out plot and intricate world building. But for me, Anna needed the depth that was given to Ethan at a much earlier stage to make it an enthralling read. I see from the end matter that this was a NaNoRiMo inspired novel, and it reads like that – all the author’s working out is there on the page instead of being pruned down to just what the reader needs to know
This came across in the many instances of exposition, and the ‘As you know, Bob,’ dialogue, when one character explains things the others would already know. I think if I’d read this at an earlier stage in my reading life I might not have noticed it so much, but these days it makes me sigh.
Oh, and satire or no satire – enough with the acronyms!
There were also many instances of incorrect words, missing words, extra words left in that should have been edited out, and clumsy sentence construction, particularly in the earlier chapters.
Having said all of this, the dialogue (content aside) is great throughout, and the last third of the book is a thrilling ride. With all the set up complete, the plot races forward at a pulse pounding speed and reaches a breathtaking climax, leaving obvious hooks in place for a sequel that I might be tempted to read if the blurb sounds interesting enough.
At least next time I can hope for a smoother ride from the beginning.
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Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind–numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the cliches and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5″ disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.
Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I’m releasing entirely through tumblr. I’m probably going about this all wrong, but I don’t know any other way.