-Watcher and Firebird-
written by Orren Merton
published by Darkling Books, 2016
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About the book – from Goodreads:
Firebird Alex didn’t know much about the Nephilim until they assassinated her friend in the United States government, kidnapped the man she considers her uncle, and tried to murder her—twice. Now she’s learned that they, and their leader “the Watcher,” will stop at nothing to kill her, everyone she loves, and every Seduman on Earth.
Alex must stop their murderous plans even if it means compromising the heroine she’s become.
This book opens with Alex and Rachel trying to demonstrate they are no threat to humankind, and can in fact, be of help. To their distress, the press don’t always paint them in as positive a light as they deserve, but they are handling it.
Unfortunately, things go rapidly downhill for Alex when she is invited to lunch with her contact in Homeland Security, and both of them are targeted by a sniper. Alex is grievously wounded, but after medical intervention and a trip back home to her spiritual house, she recovers, only to find she is summoned to the inquiry into her friend’s death, and somehow she’s being set up to take the blame.
Things spiral downward from thereon, in a novel full of terrible happenings, trauma and loss, at the hands of a shadowy villain with agents everywhere. Alongside human disciples, the creepy nephilim are excellent shreddies – lots of them, fanatical, and very disposable – a force to be reckoned with, and they wreak unmentionable havoc and pain for our heroes.
This is a swift action book, with lots of death, injuries and gory details, battle scenes and torture – not for the faint hearted. The story rolls along at a brisk speed, with only a few minor hiccups. I have only read one other in this series, but I picked up enough background of Merton’s intricate and extensive world building to find that the back story in this volume, especially at the start, was more detailed than I needed, and could easily be pared down to a leaner size without confusing the reader. I also found myself skipping some of the battle scenes as they were on a grand scale I found tough to visualise, but that’s probably me, not the writing.
I had a few minor ‘huh?’ moments, like not knowing how Gryx found Alex in a moving car (he appeared out of nowhere with no explanation I could find), or the way, in the final battle, the villain, H’ythiis seems to be one moment not present, then is the focus of the climactic fight, and once she’s subdued, gets ignored. There were also a few small editing misses (mostly extra or missing words), though not enough to be annoying.
Those issues aside, it was a strong story with high stakes, and a moral dilemma for Alex that is helping her move her culture forward, so a rewarding outcome. If you are a fan of darker fantasy and big action scenes mixed with good character development and intricate, vividly imaginative world building, then this could well be for you.
About the author:
Orren Merton started writing fantasy and science fiction at an embarrassingly young age. In high school, he picked up guitar and start playing up and down California in a few bands, culminating in his industrial rock band Ember After. During that time, magazines, developers, and corporations began to pay him to write and edit music software related articles, manuals, and books. Since then he has written the urban fantasy novel The Deviant and the science fiction novel Skye Entity before working on The Sedumen Chronicles, his current series of urban fantasy YA novels. He lives in Southern California with his family, pets, collection of sci-fi/fantasy memorabilia, and curiously large stuffed animal collection.