Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Breach Zone

by Myke Cole

The third novel in the Shadow Ops series rounds of the trilogy with as much high octane military action and as many tough moral dilemmas as it started with. Things have changed a great deal for the main characters in previous books. Oscar Britton is the outcast hero of the Selfers, illegal magic users who defy the government's ruling that they give themselves up and join the military.

Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, a.k.a. Harlequin, has fared better following the events of the last book. However, he is out of favour with those in power, if not with the general public who regard what he did as heroic. A similar fate has affected Alan Bookbinder, a former deskbound magic user who was elevated to General but feels he has been put out to pasture.

Then there's Scylla, and escaped user of forbidden magic. She has a bone to pick with the establishment, and she wants to have her revenge on those who imprisoned her. More than that, she has plans for a New World order and she's come to New York to carry them out. With the small army of magical beings backing her up, she has opened a gateway between the mundane world and the magical world known as the Source. Scylla has started a war, and she is asking other rogue magic users to join her and to overthrow the rule of ordinary humans and law-abiding magic users.

The scene is set for an epic battle between humans, magic users, and all manner of supernatural creatures. This novel certainly has no lack of action. If anything, it might have too much action, as the battles rack up a high headcount and the tension ramps up. With the introduction of different types of magic and new monsters, these battles are at least highly creative. But there is a point during a novel where danger is no longer enough to keep the story interesting.

Fortunately, there are several other threads running through the narrative that elevate it above the usual hack and slash military fantasy. One of these is the back story between Harlequin and Scylla. This is told using flashbacks, in a slowly unfolding mystery that takes place about six years before. It offers a change of pace as well as a sympathetic insight into the story of the main villain. In Breach Zone the bad guys aren't necessarily all bad, which gives the story interesting moral ambiguity, and also makes it much more difficult to predict what will happen.

more depth is added through themes such as who is human and who isn't, madness and extremism, and trust or lack of trust in politicians to keep their word. Indeed, there is a lot of politics in this story, and one of the aspects of that is characters who find themselves in entirely different positions than they started, with much more power and influence then they began with. This gives them a host of difficult decisions that they will have to take responsibility for whether these decisions turn out for the best or not.

My favourite aspect of this novel is the realism of not only the personal relationships and the banter between different characters, but also the realism of what it means to be in charge when your decision will affect many other people for better or worse. So this is more than a riot of fancy magic, explosions, monsters, goblins, conflicted characters, crisis situations, and badass saucy witches. It's a riot with a whole lot of depth.

19th February 2017

Book Details

Year: 2014

Categories: Books

  Not For The Squeamish  

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Review ©

Source: review copy

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