One of the things that really gets me into a series is when an author creates a unique world or magic system and not only does a good job staying true to those ideas, but constantly and consistently using them throughout the story. Brandon Sanderson and Peter V. Brett are two authors that quickly come to mind where they have created such interesting and compelling worlds that I want to live and breath it no matter what happens, even when they're a doorstopper that doesn't further the plot all that much.
Myke Cole has created such a world with his Shadow Ops series even though it takes place in the present day. Magic is such an integral part of the world that it consumes the reader with its awesome implications. In addition, Cole has created a whole new world, the frontier, in a whole new dimension to be explored and similar to Matthew Woodring Stover's Heroes Die, takes technology to a world that has not advanced past the dark ages.
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier [US] [UK] actually begins just before the events of the last book, Control Point, and continues the story as well. Introducing a new lead character in Colonel Alan Bookbinder while continuing the story of Oscar Britton, who graces the top of the most wanted list of Selfers, or fugitive magic users who have not given themselves up to the military.
Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.
Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.
Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...
Something that comes off almost immediately is that Bookbinder is a much more sympathetic character than Oscar Britton. It's not the fact that he's one of the highest ranking officers in the Army, but only through pencil-pushing not through field work, but the fact that he is pushed into the world of magic out of nowhere, deprived of his family, and sent to a new world without any real assurances of seeing them again.
I know lots of people had problems with Britton in the first book, but I still liked him. I didn't always agree with the choices he made, one of which got a lot of people killed, but I thought he was compelling and interesting and like I said above, I almost immediately fell in love with the world Cole created.
Bookbinder, having such a high ranking in the military, experiences things a bit different than Britton when he comes into his magic, or rump latency since magic hasn't manifested. He's given a command position, but like most everyone who is magically inclined he is sent to the FOB or forward operating base. But that comes with its own problems as the present commander for the FOB, who is equal in rank with Bookbinder, doesn't take too kindly to his imposition.
That brings me to the point that there are lots of acronyms and many are actual ones used in the military as Cole himself is a military man. I've been extremely impressed at how seamlessly he has integrated the magical (and hence non-existent in the real world) acronyms, but I'm sure my lack of knowledge helps in that regard as well.
Fortress Frontier introduces us to the world of the Source, much more than did Control Point. Where CP focused on the actual base and Britton's training, FF takes us through the world, which shown to be much more dangerous (and even cooler) than we were first shown in CP.
Because of Britton's actions at the end of Control Point, the FOB is cut off from the normal plane of existence and the goblin hordes that have been fighting them to a standstill while the FOB was fully armed and stocked with food and ammo is getting even more brave. Thus, it's time for Bookbinder to show his mettle as a leader taking a small band of the best the FOB has, including a terromancer (uses earth magic) and a seven-headed snake creature who is a prince in his culture.
The interesting organization of this novel, what with starting just around the same time as the events of the first novel in the series and then continuing on both plots toward the end was a bold play that really worked with me. It's interesting to see another's take on the whole magic thing along with the instant reassignment in the military and Bookbinder is such a great character, I was happy to spend more time with his POV (not a military acronym, well, it probably is). Then, Bookbinder's POV is able to show us much more of the world of the Source, which turns out to be a vast and dangerous place, which is always good for more action in a fiction novel.
So what would happen if people suddenly started manifesting powerful magic? You'd get drafted. I don't think Myke Cole's that far off to be honest. I've expressed my opinions on urban fantasy before and while i don't hate it, I don't love it either. However, the Shadow Ops series is something I can get behind, this is my kind of urban fantasy. Highly entertaining, unending action, and great characters that make you think. What more can you ask for?
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)
Shadow Ops series [read in red]:
1) Control Point (review)
2) Fortress Frontier
3) Breach Zone (forthcoming)
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher