FORTRESS FRONTIER By Myke Cole – Reviewed

A bit of context for those who haven’t read the first book yet: this is like the X-Men, but with magic instead of mutations. When people develop magical abilities, or come up “latent”, things develop swiftly, and they have to report to the Police, otherwise they will be arrested as “Selfers”. There are some prohibited types of magic too dangerous to be allowed in society, the government use these “probes” as part of a secret service in an alternative dimension called the Source, to fight the indigenous population of goblin-like creatures. This is where Oscar Britton is sent, for training and indoctrination, when he develops “probe” magic and accidentally kills his father. But things don’t work out quite as planned for Britton and the Shadow Coven…

The first book in the Shadow Ops series left the remaining renegade sorcerers of Shadow Coven surrounded by goblins after FOB (Forward Operating Base) Frontier was partially destroyed, the witch Scylla was freed, and a massive battle had taken place. If you’re expecting this book to pick up straight after that then you’ll be disappointed. For the most part this is the story of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, Pentagon administrator, who turns up latent, but his magical abilities fail to fully develop. Despite this, he is sent to Frontier, where he becomes the second in command. The timelines of this and the first book overlap, as Bookbinder arrives before Britton and the rest of Shadow Coven go rogue. But when that does happen we see the other side of the action, as the base is left devastated and with no contact or supplies from the home plane (Earth). With rapidly depleted stocks of ammo and food the base becomes desperate and the goblin attacks increase daily. Bookbinder and a small team head out into the wilderness to try to find an Indian base hundreds of kilometres away, their lives on the line, and they are the only hope of survival for those left in the partially destroyed base.

Britton and Shadow Coven do play a part in the story, we get an update about half-way through and then Britton and his team are involved towards the end of the book, tying everything nicely together and preparing the reader for the third book in the series.

This is an SF military action thriller with magic thrown in for good measure. Although it doesn’t have the new and shiny feel of the first book, and the lack of my favourite character Marty (A Dobby-like good goblin), mean this feels a little like the second book in the series (the necessary part between the beginning and the climax [is this a trilogy?], continuing the story and an integral part, but not really adding a great deal.

Those who enjoyed the first book, and that should be plenty, because it’s pretty bloody good, should come to this with an open-mind and they’ll enjoy this slightly different but linked second part. Those expecting the continued story of Britton and Shadow Coven may be a little disappointed by the new direction.

Good fun, but not as good as the first book. I still want to know what happens next, and expect at some point a full-scale war between the sorcerers and the military, and possibly civil war!

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