Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Ace Books
Book Review by Joshua Palmatier
Have you read this book?
Shadow Ops: Control Point is the first novel in a new series by new author Myke Cole. I can honestly say that I look forward to seeing where this series–and Myke Cole’s career–goes after this. I’ll certainly be buying the next book.
The main premise is that humans have manifested Latent magical talents. Some of these talents are considered acceptable by the government (hydromancy, terramancy, aeromancy, etc) and some are considered too dangerous. Those who manifest these latter talents and do not immediately report them to the authorities are considered hostile and are taken out. The main character, Britton, is on one of the human teams who targets and captures these rogue mages . . . or kills them–with the help of the SOC: Supernatural Operations Corps, which consists of mages with acceptable talents.
Britton is having second thoughts about the acceptability of killing these “probes” (short for someone who manifests in one of the prohibited schools of magic) as the book opens, which is conflict enough. But then he manifests one of the prohibited magics himself: he’s a portamancer, someone who can create portals to anywhere he’s been, or anywhere he can fix solidly enough in his mind using pictures, scents, etc.
That’s how the book kicks off, and as many reviewers before me have said, it pretty much rockets along from there. Britton is racing to save his own life as he’s hunted down by the SOC. Along the way, he’s wrestling with what he’s been taught about magic and its dangers, and what he’s experiencing and witnessing himself. He seesaws back and forth as to whether the SOC is right and these probes need to be dealt with harshly, or whether the probes have rights of their own and the SOC is trampling on those.
That’s the main conflict of the book, and we never really get a solid answer as to who is right, because Britton gets caught up in circumstances where it’s obvious that how the SOC is handling the situation is appropriate, followed by another where it’s obvious that they’re not taking everything into consideration. Britton also learns the hard way that the SOC is right in one respect: his powers ARE dangerous and can be used effectively for good, or to commit great evil.
I think Peter V. Brett sums up the entire book in the best way: ” Black Hawn Down meets The X-Men.” I can’t honestly think of a better summary than that (and I’ve tried). Myke Cole has experience in the military (to say it mildly), so you know most of the military aspects of the book are authentic.
And some of the issues Myke addresses in the book should remind you of some of the same issues brought up in The X-Men. This is not X-Men, though. Myke has created his own world with its own problems and this first book is just a taste of what is to come from him.
The book isn’t perfect–I thought the first part of the book was perhaps too fast-paced and a good section in the middle was perhaps too slow-paced–but this criticism is far outweighed by the fact that this book is different. I have not read anything like it in the past. It isn’t really urban fantasy, although its setting is contemporary. It’s not military SF, although there’s a strong military aspect to it. And it’s not fantasy, although there’s a secondary world that provides the Source behind the magic being manifested in our world that has a fantasy flare to it.
Shadow Ops: Control Point is all of these in one.
So, a unique book that I highly recommend everyone try.
Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate