In this sci-fi debut, a young man in a world ruled by corporations escapes the slums by rigorously training to fight for a mercenary group.
Janus lives with his adoptive mother, Clara, in the slums, the lowest level of the corporate city of Cerberus Corporation. Clara found Janus as an infant, abandoned among piles of garbage. She’s raised him as her own, and the two regularly scour the trash for treasures while evading despicable scavengers known as Rats and Cerberus’ Security Troopers. Both mother and son are surprised when there’s a request for Janus from Level H, the highest level, where the ruling Executors reside, and the only part of the city that sees sunlight. Apparently, reports of Janus’ proficiency in eluding security forces makes him prime trooper material, but Cerberus actually profits by selling him to mercenaries instead. Separated from Clara, Janus winds up with ODIN’s Mercenary Legion in the floating city/fortress of Valhalla. He and other cadets train extensively in combat and weapons to become ODIN mercenaries, or Adepts. Their final test is surviving their first mission, which comes much sooner than anticipated and leads to a secret lying within the rubble of Phoenix, once the world’s most powerful corporation. Sourbeer’s series opener slyly introduces elements that later installments can pick up. The protagonist, for example, is of murky origin while the reason Phoenix attacked an Adept Legion (precipitating the corporation’s downfall) is likewise unknown. The bulk of the novel consists of the cadets’ training, providing opportunities to establish rounded characters. And even if Janus initially ogles fellow cadet Celestia, she and other female warriors, including trainer Sgt. Wouris, are just as capable as the males. The author sets a steady momentum early on that only accelerates, resulting in an action-packed latter half bursting with graphic details: the “whistle” of enemy fire “as it peppered the air around” the Adepts.
An energetic dystopian saga that should surely spawn return readers.