“Unsanctioned Eyes” was like watching an action movie, but you know, reading. It’s got flavors that reminded me of “The Bourne Identity” but also solid military drama. Except from the “wrong” side of the aisle. Our main character, Quinn, does not work for the good guys. She is, in fact, a terrorist. She has reasons (which are kind of teased at towards the end of the novel) but the first book in the Dragonfly series is about Quinn’s character arc. The synopsis doesn’t really give a great idea of what you’re stepping into when you pick up Merritt’s book, so humor me as I try to elaborate, while staying far away from spoilers. You see “Unsanctioned Eyes” is the story of how Quinn, a top assassin working for a radical organization, finds herself in the precarious position of no longer being able to trust her handlers and the series of events that lead to that distrust. It’s how when one bad mission has her taking a hostage she wasn’t meant to keep has her questioning if the people she works for actually care about her life, and if she can continue on in the organization once she starts remembering the person she was before she became the Dragonfly.
What kind of secrets do families keep from one another? Are there truly some that should never be revealed? What is family actually worth? These are some of the very hard, and often times uncomfortable, questions that Goodson brings up in her debut novella. Nothing is as it seems when family members come together to make good on their grandfather/father’s last wish in order to get their inheritance: they all must work together to clean out the old family home. What transpired was such an emotional roller coaster I was completely unprepared for it, but I so loved the ride!
“Heir of Ashes” is one of the most fun non-stop action / paranormal thrillers I’ve read to date. We follow along as Roxanne flees from a science facility that kept her nearly half her life, performing barbarous experiments on her. She’s been on the run for a few years and the scientists are still eager to catch her, giving her no peace from the paranormal bounty hunters sent after her. Roxanne has no idea why this is; she knows she’s different but not the full extent of it, at least, not in a way that would account for the escalating pursuit. However, most other people know what she is, why she’s different, and want to use/cage/unleash that thing in her, but Roxanne doesn’t stop running long enough to truly get those answers. Ultimately, that was my only qualm with this book. For as much as I loved the thrilling, non-stop action and plot twists as Roxanne tries to get away from everyone after her, I needed the book to slow down for a hot minute so I didn’t feel as confused as Roxanne until about 67% into the story.
“Jais” or "Greatest Enemy" (I read the Jais titled one but the books are the same) is the story of a struggling soldier trying to escape his demons by becoming an adrenaline junkie, whose ultimate thrill comes in escaping death while simultaneously dancing with his suicidal impulses. David Rivers believes he has nothing left after the army, until his final bloody score turns into a new beginning. Que private military contractor’s being hired out to do less than legal things, shall we say? When David realizes that this may be the kind of fix he’s looking for, he jumps all over it. But things don’t go the way they were supposed to and, really, do they ever? Penned by a Special Forces Captain, this book really, really shines when the author is showcasing weaponry and combat as they are presented in both an accurate, and thrilling manner. As a first book in a series, and the first book by a (then) new author, the series shows promise, but I will say it feels a bit like a second draft. Allow me to explain.
“The Devil’s Backbone” is a crazy, delightful blend of science fiction, action adventure, psycho-thriller, and epic Western fantasy with some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a while from an indie author. Holy cow, did I enjoy myself on this wild ride! We follow Sadie Bishop, who is recovering from a massive trauma, as she embarks on a dangerous jaunt through the Badlands of a futuristic America. In this world, only Citizens (basically people who pay off all their debts and remain good little worker bees) can reap the benefits of society—good food, medicine, and the best technology the world can offer. Gaskill has crafted a world that felt so natural to where our current society might be headed, and I LOVED the social commentary that was tied to that. He does a great job of presenting it “as is” rather than beating the reader over the head with a message that is best left as a tumultuous undertone to this futuristic land. Anyhoo, Sadie is plagued by something deep in her urging her to forgo the comforts of Citizen life and head out into the treacherous no-man’s land, where those dangerous men and women who lost their Citizenship now scrape by in a new Wild, Wild, West. Why does Sadie feel such a compulsion to go out there? She doesn’t know, but she can’t ignore the call, either. While that point got a little murky as the story progressed, I really can’t say enough good things about Gaskill’s novel!
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