BREAK

Great potential for a comic-book rendering but still commendable in its novel form and certain to appease superhero buffs.

A young man uses his newfound ability to readily access his adrenaline to stop injustice and protect the innocent in Jersey City, in this first of a proposed series.

Nick Spears saves his mother from a speeding car and injures himself in the process. But he shows no signs of damage and quickly realizes that he can boost his strength—he calls it going “diesel”—at will. He dubs himself Spear, wears a costume, crafts weapons and runs across rooftops searching for lawbreakers. But there are others with abilities; the government calls them Breakers. Most are either misguided or looking to end Spear’s crime-fighting ways. Debut novelist Grant churns out a rock-solid superhero story, and fans of the genre will get what they came for: baddies with stellar powers, a rich power-hungry main villain and an Achilles’ heel for the hero (Spear’s adrenaline rush lasts only 15 minutes, followed by a three-minute recharge). What sets the novel apart is the shrewd incorporation of the everyday into Nick’s superhero life: He doesn’t stop bank robbers since they rob during the day when he’s at work; he has to ride the bus since his car keeps breaking down; and he calls about Internet problems during his rounds as Spear, at one point having criminals wait while he talks to an operator. There are also humorous moments—Spear mocks a villain’s name so often he decides to change it. The author does seem unsure of the book’s structure; Chapter 1 is Nick’s first-person perspective, while the rest of the novel is third-person. The author also includes his own sketches of characters, fine illustrations that are nearly suitable for a comic-book series themselves.

Great potential for a comic-book rendering but still commendable in its novel form and certain to appease superhero buffs.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456855758

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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