BY S.H. STEELE
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s difficult to put this book into words.
At times I was totally immersed – it was fast-paced and entertaining – then, a spelling error, or a grammar error would knock me out of the hypnosis. It was a shame, because otherwise the book flowed well. There wasn’t a sentence that felt out of place – save for the odd sleezy line from Clark (I’ll get to him later).
It’s a superhero whodunnit novella about three supernatural young adults who belong to a secret project called Project Chimera. The three return from a holiday to discover their boss and father-figure, Director Hunter, murdered and they’re the leading suspects. Together, the three young superspies must prove their innocence.
The protagonist, River Murphy, is a shapeshifter. I shamefully mistook him for a female for the first three quarters of the novella. Even when it was stated, quite boldly even, that he could only shapeshift into other men, my mind automatically dismissed the hint. It’s the way he describes himself… I can’t quite put my finger on why… but even now that I know he’s a he, I still picture a she. I’d be more convinced if he was a they.
I also found something else puzzling about River. He never mentioned his parents. All we know of his backstory is that he was recruited at 17. Were his parents okay with that? Do they even know where he is? Or was he simply born by stalk? I’m curious because whatever the answer is changes the way we, the reader, would view Director Hunter’s decision to recruit him and his friends.
River’s personality is a fascinating one. He’s a jokester – that is evident in his “literal” and funny impressions of his boss Director Hunter. He also likes to fool around with his friend, Clark. He has a quieter side too. He’s patient, observant and a strategist. It’s an interesting mix of traits that I haven’t seen very often in literature. In that sense, and it is the most important aspect of a character, he is well drawn.
I can’t say the same for the other two heroes.
Verity – shy but hides it well thanks to years of training – has the power of invisibility. Two things I learnt about her; she fancies River, and she cannot control her temper (No spoilers!). There’s a missed opportunity here. It would be great if the reader could gain insight into how she overcame her shyness. It’s a fantastic idea to have a character who conquers their social anxiety, and I wish we became acquainted with Verity through her self-discovery.
As for Clarke (the Truthsayer) … (oh boy). Disclaimer: Some of you are going to love him; some of you (me) are going to send his ass to a women’s group with a silver bullet in his butt (it prevents their magic from working). There he’ll be forced to earn a certificate in respecting women. For the duration of the book, he’s treating this perilous mission like a serial tinder date. I mean, I’m impressed by his ability to multitask (investigating a serious crime and dating), but come on, Clarke. You solve crimes with your head not with your… nevermind.
Onto the antagonist, I had him pinned three chapters in, so wasn’t surprised by the reveal. However, since finished the story, I realise it isn’t about who he is, but rather who he is working for. And with that, I applaud the author for hoodwinking me. It’s not a typical supernatural whodunnit… with the exception of maybe Supernatural!
I do have a problem with the book’s tone, nonetheless. It appears to dance between middle-grade and YA. One minute its style is closer to a Scooby-doo, then next minute it’s a more sophisticated X-men: First Class. I had to check Google to confirm it is indeed a YA. With that in mind, it should have been harder for the three superspies to defeat the villain and maybe a page or two about how River feels about the loss of his father-figure and the discovery of the big evil intelligence organisation that’s after him and other supernaturals.
Overall, this is a well-crafted tale. There wasn’t a moment I felt lost or my attention wandered. It’s succinct and entertaining and who knows? Clark might appeal to you.