SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT (Shadow Ops #1)
by Myke Cole
PUBLISHER: Ace Books
RELEASE DATE: 31 January 2012
FORMAT: Advance Reader Copy, 435 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze. Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one. The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for. (Goodreads)
SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT creates a beautiful blend of fantasy, magic and military, mixing the pressures of war with the pressures of understanding a new manifestation of magic. The opening chapter didn’t draw me in magnificently, despite starting off with an action scene, but it really picked up after the first chapter, so I’d advise anyone to stick with it!
The plot may seem like a fairly common occurrence in fantasy fiction, with the main character developing magical powers, but the presence of the military influences really creates a unique plotline. Our main character, Oscar Britton, is a member of the SOC (Supernatural Operations Corps), a military group deployed to subdue ‘Selfers’ (those who manifest with magical powers but can’t control it, or those who manifest in a forbidden art). After the mission of the first chapter, to subdue a teenage girl, Britton himself then manifests with the forbidden magical power Portamancy, which allows him to open gates to The Source world, the supposed ‘source’ of all magical power. Knowing that the SOC will hunt him down and kill him, Britton goes on the run.
Of course, Britton is then captured and sent to a military base in The Source, with an added implant in his heart, a bomb that will be detonated if he steps out of line and tries to escape. Trapped in this world, Britton has to learn how to properly control his magic, but should he co-operate with the military or continue his futile attempts to escape?
Oscar is a highly likeable character, with the author giving us a brilliant sense of his emotions as he tries to cope with the manifestation of his magic, and also of his conscience. He is a character who knows how the military system works, and so understands their tricks to brainwash the others, demonstrating the right amount of paranoia for someone in his position. Cole has created a character with a good amount of conscience, with Britton always wanting to do the right thing and save everyone who deserves to be saved. He can’t abide by the military’s wrongful killing and capturing, longing to bring the organisation down from the inside and find a different way.
The Source world is unique in its mixture of fantasy and reality, with the humans at the military base accompanied by ‘goblins’. There are good goblins that live and work in the base, but the majority are bad goblins, launching attacks on the base every night to deter the military from taking over their world. Marty is a goblin who is considered a friend by Britton, providing help whenever he needs it, and demonstrating more compassionate human nature than anyone else at the base. Through this character, Cole can also that Oscar’s good nature is for everyone and not just humans.
Oscar Britton’s forbidden art of Portamancy is accompanied in his military ‘Shadow Coven’ by Simon Truelove’s magic of Necromancy (raising the dead) and Sarah Downer’s Elementalist art of controlling all four magical elements. These characters are agreeable, but I felt that there could have been a little more focus on each of them, as not much is revealed about their lives before they manifested. There is more focus on the nasty commanders of the base than on Oscar’s actual friends, which I suppose adds to the sense of entrapment felt by the protagonist.
Part of what spoiled the book for me was the author’s constant use of military abbreviations, some of which aren’t explained in the context of the book and force you to look in the handy glossary of terms included at the back of the novel. This glossary is useful for understanding the book better, but at the same time I found it dreadfully frustrating having to keep disrupting my reading to turn to the back. Another tiny criticism is that sometimes the action scenes were so action-packed that it got a little confusing trying to keep up with everything that was going on, and who was attacking who.
I won’t give too much away, but there are some brilliant plot twists towards the end, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you read what happens next, and forcing you to doubt everyone you meet. One important event is also wonderfully left open for the next book in the series, which I really look forward to reading as there is so much that can be done with this magical world and the military operatives within it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which surprised me, proving that this is a case where you really can’t judge a book by its cover. The book was fast-paced and exciting, and if you can get past the frustrating use of military abbreviations it is a great read and you won’t be able to put it down.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. Shadow Ops: Control Point
2. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier
BUY THE BOOK