The first of a trilogy—and (it’s hoped) the next Da Vinci Code.
The world we know is simply a safe simulacrum, designed to keep everyone ignorant of the true ambitions of a secret cabal that’s fought against by a small and dwindling alliance of mystics and warriors. At the opening, a girl of 12 is abandoned by her father in the path of a bunch of drunk and belligerent Arsenal fans—just after he’s tied a Chelsea scarf around her neck. Since the girl, Maya, has been trained in weaponry and combat techniques from an early age, she makes quick work of the hooligans but also retains a touch of resentment for old dad. Years later, we find that Maya and her father are what’s known as Harlequins, an ancient order sworn to protect the Travelers, mystics who can travel to other planes of existence and are inexplicably threatening to the Tabula, the evil ones who run the world governments and have cemented their hold on the human race. Like Jedi knights with a perennially bad attitude, Harlequins are deadly and ostensibly good, though hardly nice people to be around. The exception is Maya, of course, an engagingly spunky heroine who signs up to protect a couple of brother Travelers from being taken to a Tabula-run experimental laboratory. With the whole mythology he has created here (including an African-American sect who worship a long-dead Traveler and are obliged to assist Harlequins), the first-time author sets up a sharp premise that’s sure to get readers through his darkly thrilling first half. But, after the extent of the Tabula’s power becomes clear and Maya is sent running from one end of the country to the next, barely evading capture time after time like in any second-rate thriller, the freshness and originality here fairly disappear. And that’s even before it gets saddled with a half-baked antiestablishment mysticism that draws a layer of gauze across all the proceedings.
As if Carlos Castaneda and Robert Ludlum had collaborated for a surefire bestseller.