Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is Myke Cole’s second novel, the sequel to Control Point which introduced readers to Shadow Coven and his ambiguous hero, Oscar Britton.  It’s the near future, magic has re-emerged in the world, and the US military has turned it to their own purposes.  If you manifest with a magical talent, you have three choices; prison, the military, or life on the run.
The idea makes perfect sense. Of course the governments of the world would try and turn magic to their own tactical advantage, if they could. Especially in an alternate dimension peopled by magical races – goblins, trolls, demons, where the US army is trying to maintain a foothold.  Thrust into this base is Colonel Alan Bookbinder, a Pentagon pen-pusher with an unusual and recently-manifested magical talent, who wants nothing more than to get back to his wife and family.
The novel is split, for the most part, between Bookbinder, finding his feet in a new world, and Oscar Britton, on the run and trying to atone for mistakes of the past.  There are threads of story picked up from Control Point, and certainly when the action switches to Britton for the first time it’s not clear who is who or what’s going on, but it’s easy enough to pick up if you haven’t read the first book.  Perhaps it’s for this reason that the sections from the point of view of new character Bookbinder seem to work slightly better; he doesn’t come loaded with the baggage of history from the previous book.  He’s a more immediately sympathetic character than the occasionally arrogant Britton.
Bookbinder is forced into an uneasy alliance with Britton in a bid to save Frontier from being overrun by hostile magical forces, and watching the nervous desk-jockey come into his own, both magically and mentally, is the highlight of the book, especially taking place as it does against a background of magical slicing-and-dicing, freezings, explosions and dismemberment.  It’s a real action movie of a book, rarely pausing to take a breath before the next bombardment begins.
Several threads are left hanging, perhaps most significantly one with a rogue witch with the power to make organic matter rot instantly, a character that Cole could have made more of.  Readers will have to hope she makes a return in the next book of the series, which is sure to be another thrill-ride.
About the reviewer: Jo, the cake-obsessed chair of Bristolcon, is a reviewer, blogger and fantasy author whose fourth novel, "The Art Of Forgetting" is due out this summer from Kristell Ink. Her blog-ramblings can be found at www.hierath.co.uk, and you can track her down on Twitter too (@hierath77). She often frequents pubs and coffee shops, and she is very amenable to bribery.

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