Breach Zone is the third and final novel in Myke Cole's unique Shadow Ops series that manages to successfully blend a contemporary setting and fantasy elements with a strong military edge.
Cole seems to improve with each book and Breach Zone is undoutably his best yet with a powerful backstory, almost none-stop action and a big cast of characters.
As with the previous two novels we get a chance to learn more about different characters than before. While Bookbinder and to a lesser extent Britton do make appearances it's Harlequin and Scylla who take centre stage. The lack of one central protagonist is a very clever move by the author and works well in allowing the reader to see the bigger picture.
The chapters are interspaced with flashbacks that provide the rich and compelling backstory and each of the main characters get plenty of space. I love the way that there isn't really any sense of good or evil here. Although the "goblins" and other invading forces are a natural choice for the bad guys you can also understand that it was humans who invaded their realm first and really they are just protecting themselves. This grey area extends to the leader of the opposing force Scylla, who is very much a product of environment and incident.
The idea of cause and effect or more accurately that of responsibility is a theme that lies at the center of this series; Humanities enemies are born from the results of their own heavy handed, overly agressive actions both with the otherworldy creatures and those strictly controlled or subdued people who manifest a magical ability.
The thing that really sets this series apart though is the way the author manages to blend the ordinary contemporary with that of the fantastic, from strange water-born leviathans to grinning goblins and giant spiders (amongst other assorted monsters) it's all very imaginative and yet fits well into the space the author creates.
There is a great deal of action - the majority of the book is one big battle - and yet none of it feels repetitive, derivitive or unimaginative. The fighting is desperate, intense, dramatic and breathless. Thanks to the authors descriptive and intelligent writing combined with his real-world military experience it also feels much more realistic than it should given that one side are a bunch of fantasy creatures and both sides use magical powers. The way that people react to danger and drama is just incredibly well executed and believable.
The story manages to weave together the events of the first two books while also moving the plot to a very rewarding and climactic conclusion to the series. Everything seems to fit into place very well and I couldn't have imagined a more appropriate outcome.
Breach Zone is an irresistably immersive, inteligent novel that manages that rare feat - being the perfect conclusion to the trilogy and lifting the whole series to become one of the best reads of the year. Well played Mr Cole, well played.
Written on Monday 17th March 2014 by Antony.
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