Edit: I stand corrected - Control Point is published by Ace Roc (Penguin) books and NOT Night Shade. Thanks, Myke for putting me back on track :)
Another excellent debut by Ace Roc that has been garnering praise for all the right reasons and getting nominated for the biggies for the past one year now. This comes on the heels of two super awesome debuts I have read (technically should have been in 2012 though!!). There was Kameron Hurley who ran away with all the praise and the awards the year her debut, Book One of Bel Dame Apocrypha hit the stands. Then I chanced upon the excellent russo-setting epic fantasy by Bradley Beaulieu, Winds of Kalakhovo. Now this. Shadow Point by Myke Cole.
Excellent stuff really – doesn’t read like a debut. Polished prose, jet-setting pacing, fantastic premise that doesn’t disappoint when executed novel-length, authentic and accurately detailed world-building. Check against all of this, this book pretty much scored on all fronts for me.
People all around the world are going “Latent” – manifesting magical powers – maybe you got reminded of X-men – but where Myke’s Latents or super-heroes differ from x-men is a delightfully detailed magic system that Myke has crafted and laid out in the book. But make no mistake, the whole book is as fun as reading an x-men comic. With the Latents coming out in the open, the world is indeed a different place. US Army constitutes a Supernatural Operations Cops (SOC) unit to round up the people who manifest these abilities. Commonly accepted forms of these magic include Aeromancy – ability to manipulate the skies, Hydromancy for water and Pyromancy – fire. In addition to these, there are the prohibited schools of magic. Manifestations of such mean immediate death at the government hands. Lieutenant Oscar Britton is attached to the SOC and has seen the worst of such outbreaks. Things go completely awry when one day he manifests and to top it off, he manifests one of the prohibited schools of magic. After this, the plot is packed up with jet fuel and slung off into the inter-galactic highway – screaming and kicking all the way till a mind-numbing action-filled explosive climax.
Oscar Britton is not an easy character. Forced to run from the system he was hired to protect (Ha. Here you might think, what is new?) Oscar has mental tsunamis tossing up in his mind over the question of his loyalty towards the system. In fact he swings so wildly both ways it is sometimes enough to drive you up the wall screaming, pick a f*%k’g side,will you now. But the annoying feelings aside, the personal conflicts are beautifully etched out scoring big on certain moral questions that very few military books try and answer, as to whether the soldier is actually doing good by shooting down a fellow human being in the name of his country? But don’t get me wrong – these are all done in a subtle and smooth manner and nothing takes away the fun element that never lets up through the book. Guns, grenades, explosions, some amazing gritty hand-to-hand combat scenes. Go gorge on all of this and more. Comic book fans should definitely not miss this one.
Shadow Point is an easy read and definitely doesn’t read like a debut. Peter V Bret roundly summarizes this entire book as X-men meets Black Hawk Down – that is pretty damn the best ever one-line summary of any book that I’ve heard which is closest to the actual truth. Having served enough time on the Armed Forces, Myke’s earnestness and authoritative take on US Army settings shines through in his writing and is indeed one of the reasons why the book was so much more enjoyable .He takes care to detail out the army life and applies his fertile imagination to paint an utterly believable premise. Even though Shadow Ops is peppered with imaginary and actual army jargons and acronyms, that never interferes with enjoying the book, the plot never lets you off the hook, where pacing in concerned. Trust me, you wouldn’t finish once you get past the initial jerky hiccups.
I didn’t know where the book fitted in. Myke is doing wonders when it comes to re-imagining the boundaries of urban fantasy, yes true but combine that with some serious chops in writing a military novel ? Some people have called it Military Urban Fantasy. Whatever it is, it’s fresh, it’s fantastic and it’s a fillip to good reading. With a satisfactory ending to the conflicts presented in book one while leaving the arena wide open with enough substance and foreshadowed questions, am sure this series is going to continue to kick ass.
Three and a half stars.