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RUBICONS by Brett Riley


From the Freaks series, volume 3

by Brett Riley

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2023
ISBN: 9781945501944
Publisher: Imbrifex Books

Moody adolescent superheroes tackle a dragon.

It’s more about feels than choices in this third series entry, as any sense of teamwork that might have built up in previous fights with a vampiric monster and a shape-changing trickster god dissolves in an acid churn of angst, guilt, rage, romantic confusion, and conflicting agendas. Riley moves the turmoil to center stage by opting for a frustratingly slow buildup with only a few flame-broiled hunters in the Arkansas woods to divert interest from the increasing tensions within the central group. These are exacerbated both by the need to keep their powers secret from a growing cast of psychopathic federal secret agents hot on their trail and by personality changes, including once-steady team leader Jamie’s sudden attraction to violence and former bigoted bully Kenneth’s slow move toward maturity thanks to a levelheaded girlfriend. The author trucks in an appealing lilac dragon named Arsiss the Gentle who just wants to protect wildlife and be left alone. Her ability to change size, turn invisible, and shoot fire, ice, or blood at will proves enough of a match for the magical powers and high-tech weaponry of the wantonly aggressive humans to make the extended climactic battle as wild, savage, and deadly as it is ironically unnecessary. The conclusion leaves the Freaks and their associates facing both deep rifts and a new and genuinely sinister threat.

Even series fans may bog down in this turgid tangle of physical and emotional violence.

(Horror fantasy. 14-16)