I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press for giving me a copy of this e-book to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review. I personally give this book 3.5 stars, but as most rating systems require whole numbers only, I shall give it 3 stars on those sites.
<blockquote><strong>"All who threaten me die."</strong>
These words made Morgan Stormrider's reputation as one of the Phoenix Society's deadliest IRD officers. He served with distinction as the Society's avenger, and specialized in hunting down anybody who dared kill an Adversary in the line of duty. After a decade spent living by the sword, Morgan wants to bid a farewell to arms and make a new life with his friends and his music.
Despite his faltering faith, the Phoenix Society has a final mission for Morgan Stormrider. A dictator's public accusations made Morgan a liability to his organization. He must put everything aside, make his way to Boston, and put down Alexander Liebenthal's coup while taking him alive to prove he is not the Society's assassin.
Despite the gravity of his task, Morgan cannot put aside his ex-girlfriend's murder, or efforts to frame him and his closest friends for the crime. He cannot ignore a request from a trusted friend to investigate the theft of designs for a weapon before which even gods stand defenseless. He cannot disregard the corruption implied in the Phoenix Society's willingness to make him a scapegoat should he fail to resolve the crisis in Boston without bloodshed.
However, the words with which he forged his reputation haunt him still.</blockquote>
First and foremost, I must share just how much I love the book's Disclaimer. It is chock full of sarcasm, letting the reader know just what they are getting themselves into. In my opinion the odds of the book being well worth reading go up dramatically when the Disclaimer states, “If you find any allegory or applicability, please consult a qualified professional for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.”
As the first in a series, this book spent a fair bit of time setting up the story for the reader. Yet there was still a solid amount of action and emotion woven into the groundwork of the series. Though Morgan Stormrider is introduced as the central character, the main protagonist, yet the story certainly hasn't completely played out that way thus far. He is certainly central to the plot, it's simply that others are right there with him.
The character building is fairly tight, but given the number of characters I found it a bit challenging to keep track of them all. Unfortunately that problem remained all the way through to the end of the book for me, as I had to backtrack some pages to place a character referred to in the final pages. However if there aren't too many new characters introduced in the sequel I think it will be pretty easy to keep track of everyone and their relationships - as we understand them now. Of the current characters, for the most part they grow before our eyes, gaining depth and maturity as the story unfolds. There are some who remain cloaked in mystery, but the one who remains the most mysterious is the main antagonist. But even this character drops a bomb or two on the readers, one of which lands almost at the very end. The new information caused enough of a stir for me that I have begun to rethink their role as the antagonist.
Set in a world that seems similar to ours, but about 100 years into the future, it appears to have reverted to more closely resemble the old caste system. Everyone has some sort of niche, all of which answer to a higher authority, with the highest for the average citizen being the Phoenix Society. Those within the Phoenix Society answer to the Executive Council, an almost entirely anonymous group of people. A group of people with no contrasting power to keep them in check. We already know what happens in systems lacking true checks and balances, so it seems easy to see where this is heading. . .
Though it took me a little while to get into the story, once I reached that point I was there for good. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but once I got a feel for a few of the main characters and became invested in them I wasn't going anywhere. One thing I really liked, even though I'm still confused about the designation of some characters, was the use of Artificial Intelligence systems (AIs). It seemed all the characters had their own AIs to do all kinds of things for them; anything from ordering food or clothes, to running interference to allow the person they served some privacy. However there may have been some that did not use AIs, for reasons I'm hesitant to even guess at just now. I'll admit I found it interesting how Mr. Graybosch seems to have discovered a way around the ever present fear of AIs outgrowing humans and taking over the world.
The plot is solid, and the arc of the story was smooth and consistently engaging - once my attention had been caught that is. Aside from the sensation of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, I enjoyed this book. I'm curious as to where this story will go from here, especially after reading the author's Acknowledgements at the end of the book. He referenced certain things that have left me planning what else to pay attention to in the future books of the series.