Rating: 2.75 stars
Agents Brandon Ellison and his partner Oliver Cardoso were on a mission for the MIA (Metaphysical Investigative Agency) when it went horribly wrong, injuring Brandon Ellison. That mission and its aftermath ended Brandon’s career as a field agent due to his disabilities and broke up the partnership, both romantically and as agents.
Now seven years later, Oliver and his new partner, Carmichael, are on a mission when almost the exact thing happens again. But this time, with more experience under his belt, Oliver and partner come through with minor injuries. When they go to complain to the head of MIA’s Research and Development Team, they find Brandon Ellison in charge and unable to explain what went wrong. But Oliver’s new partner doesn’t trust Brandon, and thinks Brandon is behind the malfunctioning sonic charge that almost got them killed. Brandon is equally distrustful of Carmichael as well as jealous of his closeness to his former lover.
When Brandon invites himself along on their next mission to investigate problems with the weaponry, fireworks fly once more between Brandon and Oliver as their rivalry and memories vie for dominance and old love starts to resurface. With hundreds of lives at stake, old and new grudges must be put aside if everyone is to survive this latest mission.
I picked up this book by K.C.Burn without reading any of the prior books in the series and that has left me as well as any other reader confused from the start. Burn supplies the reader with no back history to explain the alternative world I found myself reading about. Apparently a war is going on between the human world and Umbrae (?) with portals being opened by the enemy to let through all sorts of creatures, from werewolves, vampires,demons and more. Who the nefarious Umbrae are and why they are unhappy with the human race is never quite explained. Unlike other books where you can gather enough information from the various story threads to piece together a vision of the world, the author just assumes you have read the previous books and carries on.
So I will just concentrate on those portions of the book the reader can understand, the characters. I liked the character of Oliver Cardoso. A green agent when the first accident happens, now he is a seasoned field op of 43, older and greying. Oliver is certainly the most layered character you will find here. Burn does a nice job conveying his weariness over the job and the emotional isolation he has imposed on himself since the first mission. Brandon Ellison is a harder character to warm up to . For Brandon, everything has hinged around that first failed mission. His disability and his loss of Oliver has consumed his life. The fact that Brandon ended up at head of R&D seems like a fluke to both Brandon and the reader as well. Hard to root for a couple to get back together when half of said couple just doesn’t feel real. Harder to care about a alternative universe when the danger seems minimal, the action downplayed, and the calculated “aha” moments more on the level of a high school play.
The plot, how to explain a plot that doesn’t track? People are getting infected, the MIA must stop the portals from opening up, wherever they pop up, let’s set off some sonic explosions, the infection is spread by bites and being gay helps. There are quite a few flashbacks but the uneven timeline just works against the story instead of for it because of the jerky manner in which it is handled. The flashbacks here just serve to break up any momentum the story had built to date. The narrative structure consistently diffused any sense of danger or dread in the events happening around the main characters, and any sense of being connected to the characters and their situation just dwindled away. Between the style of writing and the lack of exposition this story just comes across as one sad mess.
Here is an example. Two characters are having a conversation about being gay:
“Brandon shrugged. “Whatever makes us gay makes us better agents.” Oliver had expected a lecture about genetics and heredity and antigens.
Not only would such an explanation be lost on Luis, but Brandon had been pretty pissed when he’d realized gay men were better agents because they were more likely to recover from Umbrae bites without going mad, while having a greater chance for death when the portal closed if the possession managed to complete the three-day physiological transformation.”
That just makes my head hurt, especially the last, long sentence and the entire book reads that way. I love alternative worlds and zombies, werewolves and vampires? Bring it on but make it believable or at least entertaining. Make me want to lose myself in the events happening on the pages instead wanting to put the book down unfinished. In the end the fleeting promise of one character did not hold my interest for long and although I did finish the book, I won’t be going forward to explore this universe further. I did it so you don’t have to, that’s my motto and I am sticking to it.
Books in the series include:
Wolfsbane (MIA Case Files #1)
Blood Relations (MIA Case Files #2)
Craving (MIA Case Files #3)