Top critical review
Interesting concepts but not sure I liked it
on 8 February 2014
There's always a risk that if you read the second book in a series without reading the first one you end up playing catch up the whole way through and this was partly the problem I had with this book.
The book is based in a version of our world with an interesting combination of magic and military tech. The author has real world military experience and that shows in the depiction of life in the military, but I found that this sometimes went too far and made things a bit inaccessible. It felt that too often, especially early on, the book relied on lots of shouting and swearing as a proxy for characterisation.
The story has a split narrative combining the story of Colonel Bookbinder, a desk-based soldier unexpectedly thrust into the frontline; and Oscar Britton, the lead character from the first book who is fighting against the system. The two narratives illuminate different aspects of the same story and give alternative perspectives on the US military's activities in the magical alternative world and back home. This helped provide a rounded a picture.
The magic system used was clever although I did struggle a bit with the reaction to those with magic and why certain magical attributes were outlawed, which probably would have made a lot more sense if I had read the first book first.
The shady goings on at the base, the exploitation of certain magic users and the complicity in that at the highest levels of Government was intriguing but a lot was left unresolved. I guess these will be picked up in subsequent novels.
Bookbinder is an interesting, if not entirely sympathetic character. For the first part of the book he is thoroughly out of his depth and a bit weak, he grows a lot from there but the transformation, while welcome, is not wholly convincing.
There are a number of other characters, some genuinely interesting and likable. It would have been good to have seen more of some of them.
Although the book is around 400 pages long, the pacing did seem a bit off at times with chunks of time in the story vanishing and other bits dragging on.
Overall it's a good concept but a bit patchy in terms of characters and pacing. I am not sure that I will read any other books in the series but if you like military fiction of sci-fi / fantasy it's worth a look.