Last year we reviewed Control Point, a contemporary fantasy that managed to blend a strong military style with that of fantastic magical powers. The author managed to create a successful combination with tons of action and tense drama; narrated in a powerful, unique voice. Fortress Frontier is the next novel in that series.
Rather than start where the previous book ended, Frontier Fortress begins from the perspective of another protagonist - Colonel Alan Bookbinder as he too begins to realise he may have latent powers. A desk-jockey clerk with a silver eagle on his jacket he is ill prepared to enter the dangerous world of the Supernatural Operations Corps and as soon as he is forced to the camp on the "source" world he realises he is way out of his depth. His only hope to reunite with his family will be to find public enemy number one: Oscar Britton, problem is Britton hasn't been seen in a good long while - to make matters worse there is no Portamancer to bring anyone back from the source.
I was quite surprised to find a new protagonist in the driving seat for this sequel, but it works very well indeed. Not only does this approach help to further grasp the reality of magic and military that Cole once again weaves but it also highlights how differently people would adjust to finding out they are "latent". It also helps to make it clear to the reader that story of "Shadow Ops" is much bigger than the life of one protagonist and the word building, the bigger story is just as important.
Bookbinder makes an interesting counter-point to that of Britton, a middle-aged pen pusher who has managed to carve out a career in the military without seeing any real action. He is however still a colonel and has a strong leadership ability, even if he isn't used to using it. It's this skill that helps him adjust when things go south very fast and his decisions match his character perfectly. As a result the story is driven largely by the actions of Bookbinder, as opposed to Britton reacting to situations he landed in. This also includes some great insights into the leadership and command structure within this fictional military unit - which like most of Shadow Ops feels incredibly realistic and highly plausible.
The action is again pretty much none-stop, the narrative is tense, energetic and above all convincing; the authors knowledge and experience of military really does add an extra dimension. I loved the more detailed look at the strange alternative world that is "the source" along with some of it's strange inhabitants. Ultimately though it's the characters that often make or break a story and this is true of Fortress Frontier, happily said characters are well drawn, easy to follow and highly plausible.
Fortress Frontier does exactly what a good sequel should, improving on the story while continuing to drive it forward, like it's predecessor it's a highly entertaining journey and different enough to stand out from the crowd. I can't wait to see where the author takes us next.
Written on Monday 11th March 2013 by Antony Jones.
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