In Goggins’ (Hainhault Security Service Series, 2008) fantasy novel, magic-users fight against the government for their rights and their lives.
Bryce Ceribri is an 18-year-old mixed martial artist on his way home to his parents in Omaha, Nebraska. He lives in a world where people with magical powers started appearing 80 years ago. He’s imbued with “Devil’s Anger,” the strongest magic known; when he uses his power, he’s “covered in impenetrable scales” and “radiate[s] heat like none other.” When he gets off his flight, Bryce realizes that the military are hunting him. He kills two soldiers in self-defense and runs to his parent’s home, only to find it overrun by more soldiers; he’s captured after he unintentionally lays waste to the city. When he awakens, he finds himself in a military prison, where he’s tortured for months. Eventually, he and other magic-users break out and head to the mountains. They begin training and building defenses, and occasionally fight in skirmishes with the military. As relationships form in the little group, Bryce can’t sleep, due to powerful nightmares featuring demons and his own victims. Later, a few other magic-users join their ranks; Bryce finds solace with a newcomer named Scarlet. Later, he learns things that something otherworldly may be going on behind the scenes of the conflict. Throughout the narrative, the first-person points of view shift from Bryce to his friends and their foes, and readers may find this to be confusing at times. The work is action-packed throughout, and along the way, it shows how Bryce learns to become an effective leader, helping his friends develop their strengths and work as a team. However, the worldbuilding is relatively minimal and characterization is often lacking—especially for women, whose portrayals seem dismissive and often focus on physical attributes. Also, the descriptions of violence go into gruesome detail at times (“He spun the spine and head once before shattering the skull over his knee”), and the accounts of prison torture, in particular, are extremely specific and vicious.
A brutal but underdeveloped fantasy tale.