When a U.S. Army paper-pusher manifests his considerable power as a sorcerer of the highest degree, he is drafted into a war he may not be fully prepared to fight.
Genre mashups are a tricky business. When they’re done well, they can be a welcome diversion and a breath of fresh air—see Charlie Huston’s vampire-noir novels or Laurell K. Hamilton’s sexy paranormal detectives for examples. But dancing between two worlds can be a messy business, and it’s not for readers who are purists or faint of heart. For the second book in a trilogy, Cole (Control Point, 2012, etc.) goes full gonzo on his carefully constructed world, where the military is augmented by myriad forms of magic. The universe he’s constructed continues to fascinate, but a sprawling narrative and thin characterizations hamper the experience. Cole frames the story through the eyes of Col. Alan Bookbinder, a novice to the operations of the Supernatural Operations Corps. Unfortunately for him, Bookbinder’s latent magical abilities have started to reveal themselves and are unlike any powers that have been seen before. After a harsh orientation, Bookbinder is sent to the Forward Operating Base Frontier, deep in the heart of “The Source,” an uncontrolled magical realm in the Northeastern United States. To make his way, Bookbinder must join forces with the disgraced officer from the first book, Oscar Britton, to battle the witch Scylla, leading to barky orders like this: “Remember, she’s just one Sorcerer and we’re four. We do this by the numbers. I’ll run Suppression. Truelove and Downer should swamp her with elementals and zombies, and Therese will run defense.”
A propulsive, acronym-riddled fantasy. A long ramble in a Lord of the Rings vein decelerates the middle third, but the rest is highly entertaining and reads like an intense game of Dungeons & Dragons.