Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier

Myke Cole's Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is the sequel to what was the speculative fiction debut of 2012, Shadow Ops: Control Point (Canada, USA, Europe). I felt that the book was a fun, intelligent, action-packed, entertaining read with a generous dose of ass-kicking! It was fresh and unlike anything else I had ever read. But as fun to read as his debut turned out to be, the question remained: Could Cole possibly do it again?

The answer is a resounding yes! The author was smart enough to realize that there was no way he could use the same recipe and do it again. What made Shadow Ops: Control Point such an interesting read was the fact that it was more or less unique in the genre. And yet, in order to satisfy and keep readers for the rest of the series, Myke Cole would have to find a way to elevate his game and continue to surprise us and keep us on our toes. Which is exactly what he does throughout Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier.

By building upon existing storylines from his debut and by adding layers to what is turning out to be a more complex tale than we were originally led to believe, the author came up with a terrific sequel that proves that Myke Cole is for real!

Here's the blurb:

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.

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...

My main problem with Shadow Ops: Control Point was that I felt that Cole kept his cards too close to his chest. Indeed, he introduced cool concepts and fascinating ideas, but failed to elaborate on most of them. I wanted to discover a lot more about the Supernatural Operations Corps, the Source, the Goblins and other creatures, the act of Manifesting, as well as many other aspects of the worldbuilding. Well, I'm glad to report that the author opens up a bit more in this sequel, which adds more depth to the various story arcs.

Having served in the military allows Cole to imbue this series with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. It gives this series its unique "flavor" and remains what sets it apart from everything else on the market.

Although he did grow on me in Cole's debut, I had doubts that do-gooder Oscar Britton could carry this series on his shoulders. Too empathic and introspective, Britton's emo side often clashed with his kick-ass personality. He means well, always, but the poor guy remains a bit clueless more often than not. Enter Colonel Alan Bookbinder, the main protagonist through whose eyes the bulk of the tale that is Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier would unfold. A bureaucrat, a pencil-pusher who has never seen any action. A character readers are not supposed to root for. And yet, from the start, you can't help but love the guy. Thrust into an impossible situation without any combat experience, Bookbinder finds himself in command of hundreds of men and women cut off from the home plane. And somehow, he must find a way to save as many of them as humanly possible. An unlikely hero, Bookbinder will earn the loyalty of his troops and that of the reader. As a matter of course, familiar faces from the first volume return in this sequel, especially in the plotlines which revolve around Britton. As expected, both groups of characters join forces at some point. But there are quite a few surprises before that is allowed to happen.

What many considered Bookbinder's suicide mission allows Myke Cole to unveil more of the Source than we had seen thus far. So finally, we learn more about the landscape beyond FOB Frontier and the panoply of denizens found throughout the Source. In both Britton and Bookbinder's story arcs, we learn a lot more about magic. I also liked how the author brought politics into the fray, which will undoubtedly have repercussions in the final volume.

The pace is crisp throughout. As was the case with its predecessor, there is not a dull moment to be found within the pages of Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier. Action-packed, smart, and entertaining, this second installment was a decidedly fun read! I'm definitely looking forward to the conclusion of the Shadow Ops series next year!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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