I enjoy books that deal with the fall of civilization as we know it. Be it nuclear war, zombies, aliens, an EMP or a virus, each story provokes the same questions for me: What would I do? Could I survive in this new world? Would my morals be tossed aside when my survival hangs by a thread? That is what makes the genre so interesting to me. Earth abides approaches the fall of civilization in a very different and laid back way. Mankind is practically wiped out overnight and the world becomes a lonely place for the few survivors. There is no gigantic battle or war as a back drop for this tale, nor is there any real lingering threat from the contagion that practically eliminates the human race. Rather it is a theoretical tale of what would happen to the earth if you took humans out of the mix. Is that a worthy premise?
The Rynax brothers, Asti and Verci, decided to go straight and are almost ready to open their gadget emporium when Holver Alley burns to the ground. None of the shopkeepers have enough ready cash to rebuild so its not surprising when someone offers them all quick money to sell out. The brothers find it suspicious that someone wants to buy every lot in a poor neighborhood so they start looking into the buyer. Finding that information proves remarkably difficult even for Asti, who was in Druth Intelligence. Since it's obvious someone burned them out on purpose, the brothers, along with some of the other shopkeepers and residents, go back to their roots and set up an elaborate scheme to steal the information they want and get some payback.
Something is not quite right in Wayward Pines, Idaho - that much is obvious from the start of this book. At first, things just seem a little off, but the story slowly reveals just how wrong things actually are. The little things start to add up to something that just doesn't make any sense. You experience the story from the perspective of Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke, and he is not the type to just let things go. His need to understand what is going on drives him to poke his nose where it isn't wanted, and the more he peels back the onion the more bizarre things get.
Whitney Firestone is the greatest thief in all of the Glass Kingdom, at least in his own mind, and he will never hesitate to brag about his accomplishments. Most people dismiss his tales out of hand, so in a moment of boasting to an unreceptive audience he vows to steal the glass crown off the king's head to prove his abilities. This sets up a series of events resulting in this mischievous thief going on a quest with Torsten, the Wearer of White. He is a holy knight who has dedicated his entire life to the Glass Kingdom and he has no tolerance for those who break the law. This trope pairing contributed to my inability to get into the first half of the book, but fortunately the excellent world building and overarching story eventually won me over.
Back in the 1850s when The Power arrived on Earth and started granting magical abilities to a handful of humans, it seemed like a potential boon for the human race. 80 years later tells us otherwise as the level of strife between those with abilities and those without has become a real issue, but it also pales in comparison to what lies ahead. It turns out that The Power has been fleeing from planet to planet for millennia in a vain attempt to escape a voracious predator, and Earth is just the latest stop. This predator has consumed countless worlds in pursuit of The Power and Earth is next up on the menu. Of course, Heavy Jake Sullivan is not going to go down without a fight, and while he is no match for this world eating entity, he is also not planning to fight alone...
Veranix is a not so humble student of magic at the University of Maradaine. But at night he takes to the rooftops as the vigilante known as the Thorn. Armed with his bow, a magic rope, and trained as an acrobat, he seeks revenge on the drug lord who killed his father. Like any good acrobat he walks a narrow line while he balances his studies with his secret work with the help of a pretty gardener and his brother who belongs to the same street gang their father once led. The Thorn is an action packed young adult batman-esque adventure.
The first book of the Grimnoir Chronicles focused a lot on Heavy Jake Sullivan, but it also offered up a number of teasers indicating that Faye Vierra was somehow different from other Actives. Well this book explores her differences in great detail while at the same time delving deep into the source of the magical abilities that give the Actives their power. Add in the new Office of the Coordinator of Information (OCI), a shady organization that is hell bent on rounding up Actives for the "safety of the people", and you have a story that is action packed from cover to cover.
The Constabulary is my personal favorite among Maresca's interconnected Maradaine series. There's law, disorder, magic, politics, spies, and a dash of sarcasm. Satrine Rainey is a former Druth Intelligence agent who needs a decent job to support her family after her husband, a detective inspector, is nearly killed and left comatose. She appealed to the chief of the Constabulary for help and he offered her the poorly paying position of clerk because they don't hire women as Inspectors. So she calls upon her former training and forges a new letter offering her the position she wants in her old neighborhood of Inemar. Minox Welling is a young inspector with a highly analytical mind whose dogged pursuit of the truth annoys his fellow Inspectors leaving him free to partner with Rainey. Welling is also an untrained mage because his gift developed too late to be accepted to either of the mage schools. Which proves to be a problem on their first case together, investigating what appears to be the ritual sacrifice of a mage.
Hard Magic kicks off the Grimnoir Chronicles which turns out to be a difficult series to categorize. It takes elements of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steampunk, and Alternate History and mashes them all into a noir style story worthy of a graphic novel. None of that really sounds like my kind of thing but I found this book compelling right from the start. Set in the 1930s, this alternate history has 1% of the population with some kind of magical ability, and the strongest of them are known as Actives. The World War is over, alcohol is still illegal in the US, and Jake Sullivan is down on his luck just trying to get out the hole he finds himself in. A former war hero and ex-con, Jake just has one more job to do for the government before his debt to society is paid and then he can go on with his life as a private investigator. Jake is also a Heavy, a powerful Active capable of manipulating gravity, so it is unlikely that the US government is just going to let him walk away when this job is over...
As this series approaches the finale some interesting bits of information are revealed that change the way you will view some of the main characters, none more so than Gavin Guile. No character arc has been more full of surprises than Gavin's and the revelations about his past in this book finally explain why he is known as the Black Prism. Gavin is in a bad spot for sure, but he may yet play a key role in shaping the future of this world, but not for the reasons you think. He also isn't the only main character shaping up to be a major player in the outcome of the war as Andross, Kip, and Karris all find themselves jockeying for position in order to influence things to their preference. One thing is for certain, this book sets things up for a conclusion to the series that will be hard to predict.