A U.S. Army colonel in the near future heads a mission that may give her a chance to get justice for her murdered mother in Syrus’ debut sci-fi novel, the first in a planned series.
Sienna McKnight is already a colonel at 23, barely a year after graduating from West Point. Her special-ops unit, the Dogs, gets an assignment to nab a criminal known as “Sidewinder” from the Central Asian nation of Khorosan, governed by the humanitarian organization Worldwide Help International. Sienna’s birth mother, Hamida Qazi, was also from that country, but Sienna has never known her, as she died in a stabbing that nearly killed Sienna in the womb. Adopted by new moms Annalies and Theodora McKnight (the doctor that saved her as a baby), Sienna spent her childhood on a North Carolina military base. She’s waited years to seek vengeance, and she attributes the murder of her mother to her terrorist cousin, Asrah Qazi, aka “the Scythe of Heaven.” In her latest assignment, Sienna plans to extract Asrah’s location from Sidewinder; she’s armed with the RAPTEK, a shoulder-mounted railgun that’s powered by a mysterious artifact, the Ansible, which Sienna helped recover earlier in Antarctica. When her latest mission goes awry, a captive Sienna experiences an unexpected “reawakening mind,” introducing her to newfound abilities. Despite its retribution-driven narrative, there’s little action in Syrus’ series opener. Nevertheless, lengthy scenes, such as a psychological evaluation, meticulously develop Sienna’s back story and an intriguing world of futuristic technology, made more familiar by contemporary references (such as Sienna acknowledging a “Buy It Now price” on her head). Radiant descriptions also enhance the story: “Temporary scars in the sky, pale streaks bleeding into deeper shades of dusk.” Syrus merely touches upon numerous elements, such as the Ansible; Sienna’s new capabilities, revealed in the final act; and the spirit inside Sienna that’s relentlessly pushing her toward violent impulses. This leaves a rather sizable amount of unanswered questions for subsequent volumes, although the ending cliffhanger is memorable.
A series launch that primarily establishes its characters and environment but should spark readers’ curiosity for impending sequels.