Although his popularity seems to increase with each new published novel, it often feels as though Myke Cole remains the genre's best-kept secret. I'm well aware that military fantasy is not everyone's cup of tea, but Cole's two series are as accessible as they are compelling. The Shadow Ops trilogy was fresh and unlike anything else I have ever read. All three volumes were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads, each packing a good dose of ass-kicking! Breach Zone closed the show with style and aplomb and it was evident that Cole was now one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices.
But this new series would focus on the early days of the Great Awakening, when magic first returned to the world and changed everything. Featuring new characters and new storylines, I was wondering if the author could do it again. The Shadow Ops trilogy generated some lofty expectations for whatever came next, and with Gemini Cell Myke Cole proved that his first trilogy was no fluke. With four quality yarns under his belt, there was no reason to doubt that Javelin Rain would be another gripping read. And once again, Cole delivers on basically all fronts!
Here's the blurb:
Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact. Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions. Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost… Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded “Javelin Rain.” Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not. Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. Only what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation…
Myke Cole continues to grow as a writer, getting more mature and in better control of his craft with each new book that see the light. As was the case with his previous works, the fact that he served for years in the military and seen active duty allows him to imbue his books with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic in military operations and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. Ultimately, this is what gives Cole's books their unique flavor and what differentiates him from his peers. The early days of what will come to be known as the Great Awakening form the backdrop of this new trilogy. Magic has returned to our world and the US military is trying to harness these new powers for their own gain. I was particularly looking forward to finding out how the top secret unit known as the Gemini Cell would grow to become the SOC. Alas, it appears that this second series takes place too early during the Great Awakening, so it won't fill in the blanks created by the questions raised in the Shadow Ops trilogy.
Speaking of which, that first series was a more far-reaching work of fiction, with more protagonists and more multilayered storylines. Though it is no less ambitious, the focus is much tighter in this second trilogy, what with it occurring within a more limited time frame and following the events taking place through the eyes of a smaller cast of characters. Originally, I expected these new books to be as sprawling as the Shadow Ops installments. Yet it appears that Jim Schweitzer's tale, though it will likely kickstart the Great Awakening and everything it will engender, won't be as vast in scope.
As was the case with its predecessors, Javelin Rain is another character-driven affair. Myke Cole always had a knack for creating genuine three-dimensional protagonists with interesting back stories. The smaller cast featuring basically the same POVs as the ones in Gemini Cell allows readers to connect with the characters at a deeper level. Once more, I felt that there was a good balance between Jim Schweitzer's point of view and that of his wife Sarah, at least early on. The undead Navy SEAL's escape and its aftermath will have a profound impact on Doctor Eldredge, who will grow a conscience and realize that the Gemini Cell project goes beyond anything he has ever envisioned. Dadou Alva, another magic-wielder from Port-au-Prince working for another top secret cell, is an interesting addition. Her POV, along with Jawid's, allows readers to discover to what lengths the Director is willing to go to in order to revive the Virgo Cell project. As I mentioned in my review of Gemini Cell, I feel that Cole never did receive the credit he deserves for having a deft human touch which allows him to come up with unexpected emotional scenes packing a powerful punch. This is certainly the case once again in Javelin Rain.
As far as the rhythm is concerned, this book is paced perfectly. Javelin Rain is another smart and action-driven military fantasy offering. You may recall that I felt that both Breach Zone and Gemini Cell suffered from rushed endings. Indeed, I thought that a 300-page set-up and only 30-something pages to close the show felt a bit incongruous. I opined that Cole probably needed more pages to do justice to the story he was telling. Be that as it may, likely because the plot was better balanced this time around, even though Javelin Rain doesn't feature a bigger word count than its predecessors the ending doesn't feel rushed at all. Which is a good thing. But it is another cliffhanger, which is not as good. Still, Javelin Rain is another novel that grabs you and won't let go, so you can be sure that I'll be lining up to read the conclusion!
Myke Cole is definitely for real! If you have yet to give him a shot, please do so ASAP! Decades separate the two series, so you can start with either without missing a beat. Whatever you do, whether you go for the Shadow Ops books or the second series, you can't go wrong!
Myke Cole is not only one of the best military fantasy novelists around. He's fast becoming one of the best fantasy authors out there, period!