The Enigma Dragon: A CATS Tale, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is a fascinating tale of technological wonderment. The CATS (Cyber Assassin Technology Services) team has assembled from various global points with a singular goal and an overwhelming need to discover the source of North Korea’s missile supply. The team of equally capable and delightfully eclectic personalities masterfully manipulate a world of technological advancements as they handle their own personal crises–one after the other. The authors have created an amazing team of players ranging from married couple, Julie and Juan Rodriguez, to the villainous Marge. The globetrotting CATS team does not disappoint.
My favorite member of the CATS team is likely not the choice of most readers. I was completely enthralled with the story line involving Jamie. It is not often I reread chapters during the first read of a book, but I found myself lost in the tale of loss and despair described in Jamie’s chapter. His is a plot I would love to see further developed in subsequent Enigma books.
Julie and Juan Rodriguez are a couple like no other. The love they show for one another is enviable and not often found in books of this genre. The authors have given Juan some incredible monologues in which he, in no uncertain terms, declares his undying love for Julie. Julie, a dedicated CATS team member, is also a doting mother and exudes power in every way.
Marge, a vile and loathsome woman of pure evil, is the one character readers will revel in hating. The authors have expertly stretched out her character development to slowly reveal exactly how twisted and demented she really is. Without revealing too much about Marge’s wonderful plot twist, I will say I found shock, horror, and satisfaction tied up in one neat package before the end of the book.
Connie, like Jamie, holds a storyline in her hands like a beautiful package just awaiting the untying of its bow. Her dialect alone is a refreshing addition to the dialogue provided throughout the book. She is a loving, cunning, and especially memorable character addition who shows up late in the plot but deserves a regular place in the lives of the CATS team.
My only complaint regarding this book is the excessive use of acronyms. Many of them are humorous and all are quite effective in their descriptions and uses, but I found them to be a bit distracting as I read as many of them are in excess of five letters.
Breakfield and Burkey have created a book fraught with danger, tinged with grim backstories, and peppered with romance. They have indeed achieved a perfect mix of genres in the guise of a technological thrill ride.
I would recommend this book to any reader eager to break into the science fiction genre. The long list of highly relatable characters makes this particular piece the perfect choice for anyone who has been hesitant to step into science fiction with a techno taste.
Pages: 493 | ASIN: B0767QD12G
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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In the world created by Marko Pandza, Death is not one hulking figure haunting our last moments of life, but rather a whole society of different Reapers. One Reaper, Grim, though at the top of his game and the ranking of the Elites, despises his job and what it stands for. He longs for a time long gone, of his mortal life as John Grim and his wife, Dora. On a chance encounter with an Engraver, those beings tasked with creating and intertwining souls, he discovers his love is back in the living realm and is informed of a way to return to his beloved. He must fight Heaven, Hell, and everything in-between to be with his true destiny.
This book spares little in ways of imagery and wit, though both are steeped in valleys of dust, it is so dry. The intriguing and original concept of the book helps the reader get through the slow beginning. The author can conjure up a rich and enticing vision through his words. However, this works to both his advantage and disadvantage. It is easy to envision the characters and scenery he creates, but when the creations become grotesque, the reader can feel ripped from the moment, hindering the story.
The overall story and world was fully fleshed out. The setting of Limbo itself was a solid induction into the story, and the home of the Reapers had much to offer, along with the mortal realm, personal paradises, and even rooms from the Maker of Limbo Itself – the audience experienced plenty, and again, this is where the author showed his expressive talents. The reader could easily see the home that Grim shared with his wife, or the performance hall of the Reaper awards. The characters were never floating in a gray area without much detail.
The characters the reader is introduced to throughout the story each have a different motivation, and is it laid out for everyone to see. Grim is the main focus, but by no means the only view point explored. Friends, strangers, and even deities have their stories told. Because of the switching between voices, the reader can live through many stories. However, when the author chooses to pursue narrow avenues for these characters that leave a lot to be desired, it detracts from the quality of the story.
Limbo, much like death, is not a story that everyone is ready for, but it is not without value. This story is by no means badly written, nor does it fall into many typical tropes, but where the concept and the fluidity of descriptions are absolutely high points, the choices to include the depressing overtones and the highly unpleasant imagery of many deaths – they are Reapers, after all – cause the story to fall a couple of notches away from higher ratings. The morbidity and grim tone for the entire book causes the reader to walk away shaken and more than a bit prone to contemplation on their own existence. This may not deter every reader, however, and its commitment to tone and atmosphere is to be applauded. This book won’t appeal to the vast majority, but those who enjoy it will praise its value for a long time to come.
Pages: 278 | ISBN: 1367857368
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