Warning: this may be the most scattered review I’ve posted yet, and that’s saying something. Some real life stuff has been exciting and scary, and distracting as all hell. More on that at some later date.
This is the second book I’ve read by Adam Christopher, and I enjoyed it much more than the first. Again, I picked this ARC up from Angry Robot, and the blurb was the main reason. It hooked me straight in; see for yourself:
Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl.
When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be…
See, how awesome does this already sound?
Alright, ok, maybe it was just the words ‘superhero’ and ‘supervillain’ that hooked me, but they imply a certain level of action and adventure and Christopher delivers. I think though, what impressed me with this novel was how unlikable most of the characters were. It sounds weird, but I liked the fact that pretty much every single one of the mains had both redeeming, and truly shit qualities.
The first entrance of one of the main characters, a cop, has her putting civilian lives in danger, and standing back to watch someone get killed in a hostage situation in order to follow a vendetta against The Cowl. The leader of the Seven Wonders is somehow portrayed as smug, though there’s not much concrete evidence from what I can remember; his wife memory-wipes the police. I could go on. Their flaws add a sense of humanity to the cast of superheros, already far removed from the citizens they protect.
The novel was just fun, and some of the plot points Christopher introduced had me grinning, such as the revelation of where exactly Tony’s powers had come from, and what that meant. The scenes between Tony and his girlfriend were also among some of my favourites, injecting some levity into the action of the first half of the novel. Then of course, being a superhero story, things go to hell in sudden and unexpected ways. The reader also realises quite quickly that the superpowers have done more to Tony than give him flight – he’s inherited something a lot darker. To be honest, I felt this corruption plot-line was a bit too rushed, especially when considering the relatively slow pace to get there. When it was first introduced I was looking forward to a slow psychological reveal, but instead it was like a punch in the stomach, fast, but with lingering effects. I did find really interesting; however, how quickly the same effect makes itself known on another character in a similar, spoiler-ridden event.
The novel then quickly escalates the second main plot – the one with imminent peril to Earth, and blockbuster action sequences. Christopher blends the two plot-lines to some degree, but truthfully I felt a bit like I was reading two stories which had been smooshed together (though all the world building was done in the first half, so maybe that’s not entirely an apt description). The second half of the book is full of those big battles which I love, with strategic fighting formations and power combinations. Of course, as with all battle-plans, it goes awry the moment the enemy arrives, and chaos ensues. It was innocuous parts of this second plotline which tickled my fancy: the scene in the conference room where the superheros are all meeting and discussing strategy for the first time, for example was really pretty fun.
The ending of the book felt like a natural culmination of what had come before, and left just a few questions unanswered to encourage reader imagination. I finished feeling that I had really enjoyed the book, but couldn’t put my finger on any one reason why, which is why all I could seem to do when sitting down to write this review was to niggle at the points which bothered me. I had discussed this book with a friend who has also read it, and being a lot more knowledgeable about comics than I am he suggested that some of the things which bothered me (pacing, for one example) were very true-to-form for the genre and were a nod to the comic world.
My friend also pointed out that there were a lot of in-jokes and homages, none of which I picked up on. So there you go, an enjoyable novel for someone with little-to-no comic knowledge, but potentially phenomenal for those who will read more into it.