“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.
Well, actually, first things first: some trigger warnings. Like I mentioned, the main character is dealing with some serious issues that are both combat related, and probably the result of family trauma, but that’s not discussed much in this book. As such, he’s got some serious, SERIOUS suicidal impulses. Despite multiple people telling the main character to get professional help, he doesn’t and continues to keep a loaded pistol by his bed and spends most his nights writing about his desire to kill himself, wondering if today is going to be the day. So if that’s something that’s going to bother you, you may want to skip this book as those impulses are persistent throughout the entire story and become a vital piece of who David is (I have mixed feelings about that). Also, this book does not shy away from graphic violence, torture, and strong language. I mean it’s a book with a soldier main character who spends over half the book in a tight nit group of, essentially, mercenaries, so of course there is strong language because that makes sense for the characters and of course there is graphic violence. There is only one scene of torture, but it’s also fairly graphic. Again, if that’s not your cup of tea, you may not want to read this before bed, just saying. Still, a lot of that goes without saying, but given some of the reviews I’ve seen of the work, I feel I need to state those elements early so people don’t pick up this book thinking it’s going to be like the Jason Bourne movies where you see the bright explosions, but not the blood.
Now, while suicide may be a sticky subject for a lot of people, I thought it was interesting, to a point. Part of me was hoping that hints of discussing these impulses as part of a soldiers PTSD where he’d ultimately try to “get better” for lack of a better word, would materialize. It doesn’t, at least, not in this book. Instead, David turns into a really sad character (like, actually depressed) with probably the worst luck imaginable. No larger discussion is ever brought up and instead this “flaw” if you will, is used as a way for the reader to feel sympathetic towards David, and I would have, if there had been a bit more substance to both David, and the crew he works with. Still, I enjoyed that the main character wasn’t an almost super human spy of sorts. He’s flawed, he messes up, he wants to do right by the people he cares about, those are qualities I can get behind, but I wanted to see more of David beyond his destructive tendencies so I could like him more, and genuinely empathize with him along the way.
Additionally, the first book feels a bit bare bones. The first 20% or so of the story is focused mainly on David’s destructive behavior and—again—his terrible luck. Then the next 25% is spent on David’s initiation into his new team. At about the 45-50% mark in the book, we are finally introduced to the main villains. Up to that point, David’s been doing smaller jobs without much idea as to why they are tasked with eliminating certain people and 0 clue as to the end game, though his teammates are nowhere near as clueless as he is. To be introduced to the mysterious organizations (yes, I guess there is more than one?) that late in the book… needless to say, it got confusing because there wasn’t much in the way of development. I assume these organizations are awful because they are probably smuggling drugs and weapon trafficking because, well, aren't they always? But Kasper doesn’t spend much time on them, or their shadowy overlord, which makes them feel overly generic and not all that intimidating to be honest. I still can’t really tell you why these organizations were targeted by the main character’s group, or even what these organizations were doing, or why they were nervous about some other mysterious entity. Again, as this is the first book in the series, I’m sure all of this gets addressed in subsequent books, but I would have liked the main antagonists to have more substance to them this time around as well.
Normally, when a book is missing the elements that give weight to the story, it’s a troublesome read for me. It’s hard to get through and ultimately leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case for “Greatest Enemy / Jais”. Kasper is great at writing action sequences and he has a natural talent for placing them in the book at steady intervals to keep the pacing up and the book flowing. This was a great action-packed ride in that regard, and I did enjoy reading it (I mean, clearly, I finished it in a few days once I actually dove into it). Our leading man has the potential to develop into a great, endearing character, I just wish he had started that transition a bit more in this first book.
All in all, I liked the book. This is a great first book by a—then—new author in a brand new series that definitely has the legs to go far. I will say reading the book made me concerned for the author at times, but even that’s a testament to the believability the author has when writing about David’ struggles and the combat he engages in. The plot was a bit lacking, and character development was on the small side, but the action kept me engaged and the violence and language didn’t bother me, but then again, I have a pretty high tolerance for those things. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under 18 because of the mature content present throughout the entirety of the novel. Color me intrigued for the next book! But this one I’m giving 3.5 stars just because I wanted more from the main character and more substance when it came to the plot and antagonists, but overall, a good first book in an action-thriller series. Thank you to the author for providing me a copy for review!
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