If Taken starred Michelle Yeoh and was set on a Jurassic Park – inspired Cradle.
Monster hunter Akina Azure inherited the most powerful weapon in the martial world before retiring to a peaceful life raising her twin girls.
The Reaver has them kidnapped, thinking Akina will trade that weapon for their safe return.
Will she? Or will she use it to wreak a terrible retribution on the men who took her girls?
You get one guess.
“Your strategy, when confronted by an angry woman, is to tell her to calm down?“
This is probably the most fun book I’ve read all year. And along with the Green Bone saga, this is the book I most want to see a visual adaptation of: movie, TV, graphic novel, manga, any of it or all of it. The way the visuals and the combat has been written is chef’s kiss (especially the epoch bell scene.)
The author has mentioned that he wrote the first chapter specifically to give the reader a taste of how the whole book will be. I am confident that it won’t even take the whole of the first chapter for Akina to become an absolute fan favorite. Plus if you’re like me and have been wanting to read older protagonists, this is perfect for that; Akina is 40 plus. Or if you’re in the market for a fantasy with an animal companion or just want to see someone Kamehameha a bunch of dinosaurs…
One reason why I think the movie Taken holds universal appeal is it is a revenge tale and we see the bad guys get what’s coming to them. The blurb for this one is if Taken stars Michelle Yeoh and is set in a Jurassic Park inspired Cradle. There is something special about former badasses coming out of requirement and leaving a trail of destruction to seek revenge. And this book is one of the best realizations/novelizations of ‘I love my kids and will do anything for them.’
Two outright highlights for me are the banter and Dog the dog. The interpersonal dynamic between Akina, Zhu, and Remy is just fantastic. It is a relatively short book by fantasy (esp. standalone fantasy) standards but I took way too long to just savor the bants.
“I’m a parent, yes, but I never said I was a good parent. I’m just trying to settle into a fun family dynamic. You know, she complains, I threaten to kill her, you step into the middle and calm things with a joke or a snack.”
Now, I’ve commended authors for writing uber realistic human characters before and Berne is guilty of that too (see Zhu) but he also utterly and unconditionally nails writing about Dog, the dog companion. I’ve not seen a more accurate representation of what an actual dog would do all the time, in each scene of a fantasy adventure.
I missed it but the writing in itself is a highlight too. It is very well written and gets better chapter by chapter. It is not fancy and complex prose but it is funny, easy to follow and compelling.
“Zhu sighed; a dramatic, explosive exhalation that conveyed her complete displeasure with the state of the world in the way that only a teenager can ever adequately express.”
The world also is certainly unique and holds a lot of fantasy elements + martials arts stuff + dinosaurs. Even though this is a standalone I hold out hope that the author writes a prequel or a sequel, I’m fine with an upcoming surge event or the former surge event. There are a lot of questions as one reads through and the author does a good job of answering them a few chapters later, one just has to carry on. I’m used to this style because of a similar story structure in the author’s Sci-Fi series (Wistful Ascending -The Hybrid Helix) but some readers might need a bit of an adjustment period.
My tiny nitpick is that the final conflict resolves too soon. It is still very good and is apt within the story, I just wanted more. Overall, it is a great fantasy-action flick that pits two former badasses and a 16 year old sassy teenager against a great world-upending evil. Does it work ? When the protagonist does deplorable things but you still cheer for them, you know it works. Read it for fun and read it for Dog.