In Vega’s (Majesty’s Offspring, 2011) action-packed fantasy, an American war veteran is recruited for an agency that tracks souls and battles for the fate of the universe.
In 1933, Willem Maddock is unemployed despite the flying expertise that he gained as a pilot during the Great War. Luckily, he meets Samantha Black, who offers him a job, albeit a peculiar one. Black is the director of the Census, a secret government agency that’s described as “something like an embassy between the living and dead.” Maddock initially teams up with Agent Wolfe to help Elder Quorum, the authority in the Spirit Realm, where most souls live. Maddock and Wolfe act as Census Enforcers, rounding up souls that escaped during an accident long ago. Their mission takes them to Germany in 1939 to battle Nazis as well as such supernatural creatures as red-eyed, taloned Rattlers, 9-foot-tall Furies, and souls that have turned into demons. They also aim to stop a sinister scheme to destroy the Sacred Tree, which will effectively end all reincarnation. That’s the first step in a process that will allow the “Oppressor,” aka Lucifer, to walk the Earth, and if the godlike Presence sees evil gaining the upper hand, it may “reset” the entire universe. Vega’s dense tale, the first in a planned series, ably fuses elements of religion with Norse and Greek mythologies. The hefty backstories involve one of Maddock’s past lives as well as what led to the aforementioned accident. The author keeps the narrative moving briskly toward an elaborate final act that’s rife with double-crossings and deception. The action scenes are entertaining and memorable: “Sizzling heads and limbs littered the ground. Some soldiers managed to get away, yelling and screaming, but the flames continued to eat them.” Maddock, however, isn’t the most likable protagonist, and although his 1930s-style vernacular is mostly fun, it also includes talking down to his formidable boss by calling her “doll.”
An intriguing series starter that’s packed with colorful characters and detail.