By the end of her college years, Kathryn Bek had led a relatively normal and uneventful life. She had certainly never spent much time considering things like notorious crime families, supernatural abilities, or the existence of angel-like beings on Earth- at least not until her recruitment into the HGS. Presented as a global agency that exists essentially “for the greater good of humanity,” Kathryn decides to throw caution to the wind and join the team. In doing so, she learns that not only are there many things in this world she was ignorant of, but many of those things were much closer to her and her personal life than she could ever have imagined.
From the first, fast-paced opening lines of Praesidium by McKinley Aspen, it’s clear that this gripping book will take readers on an adventure. Hints of the supernatural are revealed early, then carefully fleshed out at a pace that keeps the reader hooked without showing all the cards too early. Kathryn’s character is written well, showing depth, and bolstered by a supporting group that perfectly balances her personality traits. The HGS- Hope and Global Support- shines as an enigma that almost functions as a character in itself, driving the plot with its mysteries. Aspen builds an exciting tale that checks every box when it comes to keeping things moving and fun. Tonally, the book’s first half differs drastically from the second, but the transition happens in an organic way that absolutely makes sense within the story’s context.
As Kathryn learns more about herself, her family ties, and the new abilities she needs to accept, the story escalates from stopping crime on a small scale, local level, to the reveal of a global threat that she and her teammates are tasked with derailing, despite only the vaguest of directions. Of course, no unique supernatural story exists without a compelling villain; again, this one delivers. Jacquelyn is rarely the main focus of a scene, but she steals it when she is. Kathryn’s background and her relationship with Jacquelyn could be their own book. I would have loved it if more attention had been given to Jacquelyn, either in her backstory or her time in the spotlight, because what was shown was interesting, and I wanted more.
Praesidium is an action-packed science fiction and fantasy novel that stirs readers’ imagination and paranoia. I had difficulty putting this captivating book down, especially once I reached the second half and the action showed no signs of slowing. However, I look forward to learning more about this story, as the ending certainly left things open in a way that a sequel seems expected.
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