(2010) Mike Wild, Abaddon, £7.99, pbk, 256pp, ISBN 978-1-906-73537-1
Escaping from a booby-trapped tomb, Kail Hopper, emerges to an earthquake devastating the town of Solnos. Blamed and tried for the crime, she is put under sentence of death by the religious organisation known as the Final Faith. She is offered a release by Freel, a member of the church’s covert operations squad. In return, she has to help rescue the leader of the church, Katherine Makennon. Behind this abduction is a sorcerer known as the Pale Lord, who is planning something with the souls he has stripped from people: the resurrection of his people, to enslave the humans.
In theory, Engines of the Apocalypse has the ingredients for a successful fantasy adventure. However, this is no guarantee that you will like the finished dish. Everybody is handsome, overweight or evil, with little sense of a middle ground. People make jokes in the middle of action scenes. The villain finds an excuse to get his captive into a slave girl outfit and helpfully gloats and explains the plot inside of just trying to kill the heroes straight away. When the people of the Pale Lord return, they are all going to be inherently evil and sadistic. The heroine owns an inn, is a expert on lost civilisations, a capable fighter, explores tombs for excitement and goes around in a bodysuit. All very exciting but at the cost of the loss of depth. There is no sense that people had lives or that the world existed before the story started.
People dying in the narrative, become little more then extras swallowed up by an effect. Horrible things happen, but the effect on those at ground zero is never explored. After the action leaves the town of Solnos, it is not mentioned again. Also the notion of the soul-stripped is not elaborated on. They just come across as fill-in zombies.
This novel is part of the series of Kail Hopper adventures. So, the heroine gets hints about her destiny for the future instalments at the cost of undercutting the tension about the Pale Lord succeeding in his plan. The narrative just feels as if it is marking time for the next instalment. Also, it does not have the time to add depth to the world. It becomes a backdrop for an adventure that could take place in any fictional universe.
In conclusion, the main difficulty that I had with this novel, was that it felt too conventional. The need to have a standard good-verses evil narrative causes it to lose the parts that could make it interesting. Admittedly, this is the opinion of somebody coming to a book in the middle of a series. However, it does not inspire to seek out the rest in the series.
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