Comic Review: Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder

Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder

First, I should say that, aside from Batman Vol. 1, this review also takes in account Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes. I read it because I find with DC comics, when I’m interested in a crossover storyline, the supplemental comics feel necessary more than complementary to me in order to get the full scope of what’s happening, which is a conundrum I don’t have with other comic companies.
I recently read Batgirl: Knightfall Descends, and I thought the mini-story “In the Line of Fire” was amazing, but it ended on such a frustrating, high-tension cliffhanger. I neededto know what happened, and that “Read Batman” note at the end made me cringe a little. That meant I was going to have to call out my hired guns on the DC comics front for a comprehensive reading guide to the story. They’re quick on the draw, and they’ve never failed me before. This time was no exception.
One of the things that stood out to me when reading “In the Line of Fire” was how much it felt like Batman R.I.P. with the Black Glove reimagined as The Court of Owls, and it was probably these familiar elements that really piqued my interest. I apologize in advance for any more comparisons between the two stories that might pop up. I know Batman R.I.P. is one of those divisive stories that people either love or hate, and while I had issues with some of the elements used in that story, I’m firmly in that camp that enjoyed it.
Normally, I don’t care for the “same story, different day” rehashing, but I wanted to give this a chance and not just write it off as a reboot of Batman R.I.P. Maybe this story would get things right where I thought Batman R.I.P had gotten it wrong. Maybe it would turn out way differently than I was expecting. Besides, I knew it couldn’t be exactly like that story. Reading “In the Line of Fire” already hinted at some possible exciting new angles for the story. Did this deliver? Well, I can’t give a complete answer yet since I still have more books to read, but I can say that I mostly enjoyed this and Nightwing’s Traps and Trapezes.
Batman finds himself facing off with a deadly group known as the Court of Owls, purported to be only monsters in a children’s nursery rhyme, as they systematically begin to take over Gotham City. This move seems to be partly fueled by Batman’s actions as Bruce Wayne. Bruce is intent on making Gotham City a beautiful place by gentrifying it. He seems to focus less on the people he supposedly protects and more on his own interests for the city. Both Bruce and the Owls claim the city belongs to them, and both sides are willing to take drastic measures to seize control of Gotham.
Before the DCnU, I’d already started having some mixed feelings about Batman as I read more about him and the bat family. I think this tradition will continue in DCnU. Bruce has annoyed me with his “GOTHAM! MINE!” attitude in just about everything I’ve read him. In this story, it’s admirable that he wants to clean up Gotham for good, but it only appears to be for selfish reasons without much thought about the disparate social hierarchy at play that firmly puts people like Bruce Wayne at the top of the food chain and acts as fuel fodder for some of the crime there. He wants to clean it up because it’s “his city” and not “the people’s (including him) city.”
However, I do like that this isn’t something that’s overlooked in the comics.  I really appreciate that comics like Batgirl and Nightwing sort of deal with that unequal treatment. Barbara wonders if what they’re doing only continues to feed a vicious cycle (the rich versus the poor) and if they really are heroes in that case. And Dick firmly believes that you need to live where you fight so you get a sense of the people and the outlook there. He’s given up a luxury apartment in favor of living among the Gothamites, which Bruce doesn’t agree with, naturally.
Bruce’s arrogance about how well he knows Gotham really shines through here. Even after being attacked by one of the Owl’s assassins, he continues to insist that he knows Gotham’s every secret. He claims there are no Owls because he doesn’t know about any Owls, and he knows everything about Gotham. He has eyes and ears everywhere, even going as far as installing a photogrammetric camera in the morgue, but for all his gadgets and knowledge, he is blindsided by the Owls who have their claws deeper in Gotham than he could ever imagine.

He can no longer profess to know the city more intimately than anyone else after the Owls are revealed to him. The Owls push him to the brink of his mental and physical capabilities, believing him to be broken once he escapes. Batman may have won a small battle against them, but there’s still the war to consider. Per usual, Batman loses himself in this one-man stand against injustice that he doesn’t seem to realize or care how his actions are affecting those around him. The way he treated Dick near the end of the story just broke my heart a little, especially since there’s almost nothing Dick wouldn’t do for him. However, I know that will pan out to be part of some great Batman scheme no one knew about in the end.

Everything about this made me draw parallels against Batman R.I.P., even down to the feelings it brought out for me, but I did enjoy this story. I never get tired of stories that push Batman to his limits and try to deal with the fine line of madness that he often seems to tread.

Final Verdict: 
3.5 of 5 stars

Book Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

Under the Empyrean Sky byChuck Wendig

Expected Date of Publication: July 30, 2013.

This was an e-ARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I thought it was really fantastic, but honestly, I’m also a little lost as to how to talk about it. To understand, I guess you have to be at least a little familiar with Chuck Wendig and his writing. If you’re not, then you’re in for a treat…or a shock. Or both.

I only just became a fan of the author myself, having recently read The Blue Blazes (my review here) and Blackbirds (my review here). I liked them a lot, and especially adored the latter. But already, I knew enough to be skeptical when I saw that this was a Young Adult novel. Based on the books I’ve read by him, let’s just say YA is pretty much the last thing to come to mind when I think about Chuck Wendig. Instead, I think “dark, twisted and gritty”, “intensely violent”, and “slick snappy one-liners often delivered in a terrible ear-shrivelingly foul manner”.

I had to wonder, Is he going to be dialing it back for this? My guess was that he would have to, for a YA novel. And if that’s the case, how much? Is this still going to read like a book by the Chuck Wendig I know and love? The answer, thankfully, was yes. The story here is definitely all Wendig, but just imagine it tweaked a bit around the edges to make it more appealing to the YA reading audience.

The book begins by introducing us to 17-year-old Cael McAvoy and his life in the Heartland. The Heartland is interesting — imagine a dystopian Midwest-type setting where a particularly aggressive species of corn has taken over, creating an ocean of corn as far as the eye can see. As the leader of his scavenging team, Cael captains a small airboat over the cornfields day after day, scrounging for valuables and useful materials to sell.

But it’s never enough. The Empyrean government oversees life in the Heartland, literally looking down on all of them from above in their luxurious sky flotillas, while people like Cael and his friends and family are struggling to survive. Heartlanders have to deal with poor working conditions, disease, a corrupt mayor and the oppressive government, but Cael has pretty much accepted this as the way things are…until Obligation Day comes and Cael stands to lose the love of his life.

As you can see, this book has all the trappings of a YA novel, with its dystopian world and teen protagonists. It also involves an authoritarian ceremony where the Empyreans pick the Heartlanders mates for them, resulting in uncertainty for the young lovers Cael and his girlfriend Gwennie. The book even hints at a blossoming love triangle.

But while it certainly has the feel of a YA novel, to me it also doesn’t. And here’s where I struggle to find the words to explain why I feel this way, because on some level I think someone not already familiar with Chuck Wendig or his books will be completely blindsided by this book — which could be good. To his fans and readers open to different takes on YA fiction, this will definitely be a refreshing change. I’ve always felt that Chuck Wendig’s books have a “presence” about them, and it exists here as well. It’s reflected in the dialogue, the characters, and the plot, which retains some of its grittiness and what makes Wendig’s books so great. Under the Empyrean Sky might be YA, but I’d still say it’s geared more towards “older YA”. Speaking of which, Wendig does have a hilarious way with words that makes swearing almost seem like a separate art form — so while foul language generally doesn’t bother me one bit, do beware if it does bother you, especially since some of it is on the vulgar side.

The thing I loved best, though, is the world building. The story in this book takes its time and in my opinion doesn’t really start picking up speed until the halfway point, but that’s because so much of the first half is dedicated to bringing the Heartland to life and describing the hardships of its people. I love books like this and The Blue Blazes where Chuck Wendig really gets to show off his talent for creating unique and highly detailed settings, because he’s so obviously good at coming up with all these awesome ideas. Two words: piss-blizzards — or the stifling yellow corn pollen wind storms that plague the Heartland, I love it.

Really, my only criticism is that I wish Cael was a little more likeable. It helps, especially in a YA novel. But honestly, I really struggled to be sympathetic to Cael’s character, at least in the beginning, since he often came off as immature, bossy and a bit of a jerk even to his friends. He also tended to be driven by his angry impulses and hormones, but then again, as they say, “Boys will be boys”. Thankfully, I did start liking Cael (or at the very least, got more used to him) enough that I was staunchly rooting for him and his team by the end of the book. And that’s the important thing.

Final Verdict:
5 of 5 stars

Book Review: Ender’s World by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s World is a collection of essays on Orson Scott Card’s classic, Ender’s Game, which also features Q&As with fans, answered by Card himself. The introduction is written by Card and over those pages, he carefully analyzes and explains what the story of Ender’s Game and the character of Ender Wiggins mean and mean to him. He notes that none of this was in his head when he first wrote the short story decades ago. He just wrote what felt right, but as time passed and the book rose to its well-earned critical acclaim, his introduction shows just how much he cares for the character and the world he created. The collected works in this book identify people who have come to care for Ender and his Game as well, but for differing reasons. The variance in authors, from military strategist to TV show creator and more, indicates that Ender’s Game is a book that transcends the realm of science fiction and speaks to people of all walks of life.

My favourite essay was the first, “How It Should Have Ended,” where Eric James Stone laments that Ender’s story went on beyond his victory against the buggers to reveal a deeply depressed Ender who sought atonement in the sequels. In Stone’s first reading, he determined, like many, that the hero’s story should end with the victory parade. But when he read the book the second time and attempted to stop where he felt it should have ended, he realized he couldn’t. Because he realized that this story wasn’t just about a kid beating the odds stacked against him to create an elite team of soldiers, tricked into defeating a deadly enemy by willingly, but unwittingly sacrificing human lives – it’s a story about Ender Wiggins. A hero. A soldier. A child.

This is a theme that played strongly for me with Ender’s Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead because of my appreciation for Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. I’m the person who forces herself to sit through the “Return to the Shire” at the end of Return of the King and loves Peter Jackson for including it even though, yes, it was pretty boring. But I will argue tooth and nail that it was necessary to show the path of the hero. There is no true victory celebration for a hero because the battle for him or her is always a Pyrrhic one. They might save their home and the people they love, but they sacrifice their souls to do so, leaving them no home to return to.

This is even more tragic for Ender because he is a child. He not only loses his home, but his childhood.

“The greatest horror of war is the fateful
transformation of our children into heroes.”

Before I turn this into my own essay about what Ender’s Game means to me, let me simply recommend this book to any fan of the Ender saga. You may not enjoy or agree with all the points expressed, but hopefully you’ll appreciate just how deeply this story has reached for some and why.

With the movie coming out soon, it becomes that much more relevant and gives me high hopes for how true to the book the film will be. It is clear from his introduction that Ender is Card’s baby and he wouldn’t allow his beloved on to the big screen without his supervision and the utmost care and dedication from those to whom he hands Ender over to.

With thanks to NetGalley for providing the opportunity to read and review this book.

4 of 5 stars


Cover Lover: Children of Fire

Welcome to Cover Lover, a feature on this blog dedicated to book covers! For a long time, I’d wanted a place where I can share some of my favorite covers, or talk about any that might have caught my eye. So when I came across this idea on fellow gamer/book lover Angelya’s site The Oaken Bookcase, I jumped at the opportunity to adopt it as well. The “meme” was originally created by another friend of mine, Jaedia, on her book blog Once Upon A Time, so be sure to check out both their sites and take a look at some of the covers they have featured.

This afternoon, I came home to an email from fellow blog contributor Wendy, who linked me to British cover art of Drew Karpyshyn’s upcoming epic fantasy Children of Fire, as it appears Amazon UK had just put it up.

OH MY FREAKING GOD:

Yeah, so much cooler than the US cover:
Normally, I find UK covers are often more subdued, with less colors, are darker and less flashy, etc. In the case of Children of Fire, the UK version may feature the same color scheme, but totally blows the US version out of the water. As Wendy pointed out, the UK cover is majestic and really sets a tone. It makes you go, now that’s a book I want to read.

Book Review: Three by Jay Posey

Three by Jay Posey

Expected Date of Publication: July 30, 2013

Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing me with a pre-release copy of Three in exchange for an honest review. This futuristic, post-apocalyptic science fiction novel piqued my interest as soon as I saw it, and I knew even from reading its simple and brief description that I definitely had to check it out.

The story opens, introducing us to a world where society has crumbled and human activity only exists in pockets of safe zones across a devastated landscape. When the sun sets, creatures known as the Weir come forth and the night is filled with their glowing blue eyes and sounds of their electrifying howls. The setting is unmistakably post-apocalyptic and even has the slight feel of a western, but at the same time it appears a significant portion of technology has survived. Throughout this novel you will encounter characters utilizing high-tech weapons, implants, chems, mechanical limbs and the like.

The book features our eponymous protagonist Three, a lone gunman who has turned to bounty hunting to make a living. One day, he emerges from the wasteland to collect on a successful job and encounters a distressed woman pleading for help with her young son in tow. Three has always worked alone and prefers it that way, so he is surprised to find himself accepting the mantel of protector to Cass and her boy Wren. To keep themselves alive, the trio must go on the run to escape the merciless adversaries who are after them.

I remember finishing the prologue and being a little unsure about what to make of it, which really isn’t all that unusual given how it typically takes me at least a few chapters to get a feel for a book. But then I read the first chapter which introduces Three, and I was hooked. There’s just something about him that makes the reader want to learn more, his character being a man of few words notwithstanding. While Three may play to the familiar dangerous-looking-but-honorable-tough-guy archetype with simple and straightforward motivations, the author definitely knows how to present his character as someone you want to root for right away.

I also liked the trust and respect that develops between Three and Cass over the course of their journey. To me it felt really natural and gradual, even with the many trying yet justifiable obstacles along the way. Cass loves her son Wren and guards him with the ferocity of a lioness protecting her cub, so it’s such an engrossing process to see her views evolve as she begins to accept Three and make room for him in their lives.

I very much enjoyed the setting as well, which I talked a bit about at the beginning of this review. There are elements of it that will be familiar to readers of post-apocalyptic science fiction, but it also feels unique. My one regret is that the book didn’t provide as much context as I’d have liked, such as how the world became this way, how some of this strange and awesome technology came about, what gave rise to the Weir and where they go during the daytime and how they turn others into one of them, etc. None of this information is necessary to understand and follow the story, of course, but my curiosity gets the better of me sometimes, and it sucks having these questions hang at the back of my mind as I’m reading, especially for such a fascinating world.

Needless to say, for a debut novel, I thought this was very impressive. Three may be a little light on plot, but I like that it makes up for this with its fast pacing and well-written action sequences, sometimes alternating between the viewpoints of the various characters like you see in movies, creating this atmosphere of danger and suspense.

If his goal was to leave me wanting to know more about these characters and this world, then Jay Posey definitely succeeded. I wasn’t sure before if this was going to be a series and if there were going to be any more books, since the story’s ending tied up rather nice and neatly (which was a nice plus). But then some digging around showed me that Legends of the Duskwalker is indeed going to be a series, so I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for more by this author in the future. There’s still so much I want to know about the history of some of these characters, how they got to where they were, and what else is in store for them.

Final verdict:
 4 of 5 stars

Audiobook Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

First of all, let me get this out of my system: dead people aren’t tossing anything. They are being tossed. In my head, this book is more accurately titled The Wave-Tossed Dead.

Secondly, this was an audiobook listen and while Tara Sands did a good job and her voice worked well for both the age of the characters and the target audience, I couldn’t help comparing at least some of the characters to My Little Pony…

With those diversions out of the way, I can move on to a proper review of the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The story takes place far into a dystopian future following “The Return,” an unexplained event that brought the dead back to life. Pockets of society remain, surrounding by the dead. Most are the typical slow moving zombies, but once in a while, without enough zombie presence, a “breaker” is created. I like that these zombies aren’t just about feeding. They are about infecting. A breaker’s birth and their speed and agility lends itself to this concept. Once a zombie here has infected someone with a bite, it eagerly and immediately seeks new prey, greatly increasing the threat if you can’t just kneecap a friend to buy yourself more time to escape.

The main protagonist is Gabry (Twilight Sparkle), daughter of Mary from the previous book. Gabry is Mary’s exact opposite. Mary was all about herself, oblivious of how her selfish actions basically ruined the lives of other. Gabry is hyper-aware of others and spends a lot of time going over her guilt and woulda coulda shoulda It can be annoying, but I weigh her against how infuriating a character her mother was and find that Gabry is at least tolerable. I had hoped this book would redeem Mary a bit with wisdom in her maturity, but nope. She’s still selfishly all about abandoning loved ones and responsibilities to fulfill her own needs.

Ryan presents both Mary and Gabry as fairly typical teens, and I think a teen would truly appreciate or at least understand their actions and even their selfishness. I have apparently reached the point in adulthood where I have forgotten that I may have been just like these girls and will instead just shake my fist and say “those damn kids!” with conviction.

Those damn kids (i.e. Gabry’s friends with Gabry nervously tagging along thanks to peer pressure) quickly launch the story with their adventure outside of the protective walls of Vista, resulting in an attack that forces Gabry on a dangerous path to save everyone else.

This book also introduces a cult of worshippers of the undead. I’m always wary of cults, because religious zealotry can tediously swallow up a plot. That wasn’t the case here and moreover, the cultists were treated respectfully in their descriptions, even taking into consideration some of their rituals.

The romantic plotline was fairly typical, though not cloyingly so. YA isn’t my usual genre, but I do like the way Ryan doesn’t pull punches with the darkness of her books. Don’t expect happy endings. As frustrating as Mary and Gabry can be, I respect that they and the events they deal with are all realistically handled.

3 of 5 stars

Wendy: Most Overrated Book

This book spawned my first rule about “bestsellers” – Don’t believe the hype, even if it comes from Oprah.

I read this when it first came out. A bunch of old university friends and new acquaintances met up at a nightclub and, chilling over drinks and music, found our mutual love of books. A fledgling bookclub was born, with this selected as our first read. Unfortunately, gathering plans failed to pan out so I will never know what they thought of the book. But it was only because of the tentative meeting that I bothered to finish it.

Setting aside the controversy that came with, there were some interesting ideas presented, but the writing was horrendous. It reminded me of my Nancy Drew Case Files collecting days, with Nancy clinging to a rope by her fingernails in each cliffhanger chapter ending. When I finally made it to the conclusion, I headed straight to the library to drop the book in the donation bin.

Graphic Novel Review: Batman/Huntress: A Cry for Blood by Greg Rucka

Note: This is an older review. I reread this book recently, and this still pretty much stands event though I do know more about the character and have read some of No Man’s Land and the events before and after it.

Born into a mob family, Helena Bertinelli lost her family at a very young, becoming the sole survivor with the Bertinelli last name due to a systematic assassination on her entire family. Years later, after being trained by a family of assassins who took her in while she was hiding in Sicily, Helena is inspired by Batman to become the face of fear, cutting down mob members, people who she’d thought of as her “family.”


At the start of this arc, she’s already taken down the men who killed her family, including the man who ordered the hit. However, she still has more questions than answers, and her unmethodical, vigilante ways have steered her down a path of anger and brutal violence, acts that have put her at odds with the Bat family. Now, someone is framing her for the murders of mob members, putting her in a direct collision course with Batman.

This was another recommendation from a friend. Greg Rucka is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. This story was amazing and left me feeling much more satisfied with where it went and how it was resolved than The Hiketeia. Rucka has a way of getting to the heart of the character and making them seem so very real, so very human. He knows how to pace his action and character-building without sacrificing the of the enjoyment of the story by droning on and on.

You might as well call me a Huntress novice. Even though I knew of the character, I knew very little about her history—mainly because she seems to have many back stories. She was just never a DC character that I heard much about in my very little dealings with the DC universe. Rucka has taken this character, though, and given her a cohesive, complex story that really shapes her as a character. I came out of this arc with a new respect for Huntress and a newfound favorite DC heroine.

I hadn’t read any of No Man’s Land when I finished this and knew very little about the events that happened during that massive arc (just finished Batman: Cataclysm, as of this writing), but there was mention of how out of control she was during that, and it was shown in this story, too, but not nearly as brutal. She’s really at odds with herself here. She maintains her innocence, but doesn’t make it much of a secret that she’s glad these men are being killed. The mob has made her who she is, and she finds herself tasked with the duty of bringing down the “family” that destroyed her and took care of her while continuing to interact with them.

But this is a story about self-discovery and personal peace for Huntress as much as it is a story about her proving her innocence to Batman. I loved how her history, her background, was taken to make this such a complex history. She explains how things worked in her circle, how injustices are dealt with where she comes from. You see her hardness, her pain, juxtaposed against a woman who teaches high school in her day-life. So many layers were added to Huntress.

There was not one thing that was out of place in this story for me. There were no needless words or actions. Everything that was said and everything that was done helped the story progress and would’ve lacked if anything had changed in the story in the slightest. And just as with The Hiketeia and Wonder Woman, this provides a great basis for learning about Huntress and her struggle with everything that’s happened to her, and I came out of this story completely satisfied. It didn’t feel as if it could’ve gone in any other direction.

fbad2-4-5stars

Book Review: Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess’s father, Mr. Durbeyfield, is jokingly told by a minister that his family is the direct lineage of an old, noble family that was once thought to be completely gone. There’s nothing left of the family’s land and fortune, except the family name (d’Urberville).

However, Mr. Durbeyfield and his wife see this as a chance to move up on the social ladder. They devise a plan to send their daughter to become acquainted with a rich woman who’s last name is d’Urberville. From then on, Tess is left to try to maintain her dignity and honor and to pick up the pieces of her broken life that resulted from her parents’ need to be important.

Hardy’s prose is cynical, yet heartrending. I couldn’t help feeling bad for Tess through all her troubles. This is not a happy novel. For a moment, you think that things will get better for Tess, but the fates seem to be against her.The landscape of the novel changes with the mood of what’s happening. The land itself almost seems to be a living person that he described. He uses vivid, beautifully described imagery to describe people and places in his novels. There are themes of theology (Hardy had internal conflicts with believing in God), virtue, the boundaries of love. He employs everything from Greek mythology to modern (or what was modern in his day) poetry.

There are no illusions of a happily-ever-after in this story. This was simply a beautiful novel, a novel that told the story of a woman trying to survive ambition while trying to follow her own heart.

Final Verdict: 
5 of 5 stars

Book Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

First, I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Roen Tan is an out-of-shape IT tech just trying to make it through the daily grind when he becomes the host of an advanced alien named Tao. When he finally becomes aware of Tao, Roen thinks he’s about to live the glamorous life of a super spy as Tao gives him knowledge beyond his measure and starts whipping him into shape with diet and exercise. Roen quickly learns that James Bond’s glamorous life is a complete fraud and that spy work is tedious, time-consuming, and nothing like a superhero movie. However, Roen does find himself with Tao’s help and begins to push past his safe boundaries.

The first thing you should know about me is I always root for the underdogs. I am a huge fan of unconventional heroes doing unconventional things, especially unconventional things they seem ill suited for. Roen fits all of those qualifications. Reading this story was like watching an awkward friend grow into a graceful swan. It was funny, endearing, and just a tad bit cute—all things considered. At the beginning of this story, Roen isn’t living more than he’s just existing. He wants a better life, but he’s not motivated to take the steps needed to achieve that until he becomes Tao’s new host.

Tao’s people have lived on earth long before humans were even conceived, and they’ve been working just as long to find a way off this rock. This has been a very slow process for them since their survival on Earth means they have to rely on host bodies to protect them and carry out the tasks necessary to their goals. As with any group trying to achieve a common goal, though, there’s dissension about how that goal should be achieved. For this reason, after many years of working together, Tao’s people split into two factions—the peaceful Prophus and the warlike Genjix.

Second thing you should know about it is that I love history, so I appreciated how Chu incorporated that into his story by having the Prophus and Genjix part of every pivotal moment of history and explaining a little bit about how their involvement shaped those moments. Tao, who is part of Prophus, admits that both sides have done some terrible things throughout history, but sometimes, you have to choose the lesser of two evils for the greater good. This is one of the things that Roen begins to struggle with as he becomes a better Prophus agent.

Roen made me laugh out loud and roll my eyes often at the same time. The character felt like the type of friend I’d call up and say, “Calm down, man. Breathe. Now, you go and be awesome, Roen.” He reminded me so much of someone I know who I could picture in Roen’s place doing the exact same things. Over the course of the story, he didn’t become some supreme super spy, but he grew as a person and as an agent. He came to terms with his new mission in life. Yeah, he did some amazing things during this, but through it all, Roen managed to continue to feel like an everyday person.

I loved Tao’s seriousness tinged with just a hint of humor, and I thought the story of his race and their struggle was interesting. Their role in history and the vast knowledge they possessed was a nice touch. Even though they seem to have all the elements there to be a super race, they’re still hindered by their divisiveness, vulnerability and lack of resources on a planet that they’re basically manipulating down this technological evolutionary path to aid their agenda. I wish I could’ve learned a little more about Tao’s people, but that’s such a small complaint for an otherwise fun book.

This was a wonderfully engaging story. The tone used felt very familiar, giving the story a very easygoing feel that kept me reading. It doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, which was a welcomed break from all the grimdark I’d been reading lately.

Final Verdict: 
4 of 5 stars