Review: Powerless (The Borders War #3) by S.A. McAuley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

He was built to be invincible.

Powerless coverMerq Grayson and Armise Darcan return to the States, their mission to assassinate the remaining Committee members unfinished.  Why?  The President of the Revolution is in need of their services to protect the Revolution’s most important proponent for freedom, the President himself.  But all is not stable within the Revolution’s leadership and factions within are looking to supplant the President with another.

When the unthinkable happens and headquarters is breached,  relationships, friendships even old rivals are torn asunder.  In the wake of the devastation, Merq faces the ultimate of challenges and decisions forced on him by the very people he trusted. Armise, Simion and Neveed. And each with a different and explosive impact on Merq and his future with the Revolution.

When everything and everyone around Merq is falling apart or disappearing, it is only one man, Armise Darcan, that he wants at his side.  But Fate or something worse has other plans in store for Merq and Armise. Events are coming that neither man may survive, with or without each other.  What happens when the invincible turn out to be anything but invincible?

 

Powerful, intense and emotionally scorching….these are the words I would use to describe Powerless, the third story in the Borders War series by S.A. McAuley.  The complexity of and relationship between these two genetically modified warriors is only exceeded by the intrigue and deceit that McAuley has built into her elaborately layered plot.  And it all happens on a world that has been defiled, corrupted by three hundred years of war that has turned its seas into acid and its air into toxic clouds.  The author’s powerful world building elements are delivered in slivers of descriptions throughout the stories, that compiled,  present a stunning atmosphere of bleakness and despair in which these men live and operate.

With each story, S.A. McAuley offers up more of Merq and Armise’s back history.  In Powerless. we enter the story in February, Year 2539 Singapore—The Outposts. Merq Grayson is 15 and in the middle of Lim2—Limitation Elimination training needed to become a Peacekeeper.  The trials aren’t just arduous, they are deadly and only the strongest will survive.  And although Merq is a teenager in years, he is far older mentally and emotionally.  Already he is being stripped of his feelings and his humanity and he is aware of it happening.  Powerful stuff indeed because as we watch Merq’s younger self push himself to his physical limits we also see him internalize and hide his conflicting emotions. And as we read we are already aware of what that boy ultimately becomes…an almost invincible dehumanized soldier for the Revolution.

All of McAuley characters are such densely layered constructs, believable and flawed, even with all their genmod strengths and abilities.  They don’t know what they are capable of and neither does the reader.  It’s a gripping process of continual shocks and revelation that flows through all the stories, especially  this one.  What new discoveries are uncovered concerning their genmods?  What new insights into their pasts will surface with each treacherous twist and turn of McAuley’s intricate plot?  Will they be able to keep enough humanity to save each other and the rest of the world? Stellar questions all even as McAuley miserly doles out clues to the answers.

Merq Grayson is such a compelling and contradictory personality.  Although he appears so tough, almost superhuman in the first two stories, Powerless, starts the process of breaking him down into a person who is questioning everything about his life and his role in the  Revolution.  It’s painful and realistic.  And the scenes of Merq shattering (emotionally as well as physically)  are so vivid that McAuley makes his pain and fall almost visceral in its impact.

Armise Darcan is Merq’s equal in every way and he has to be to hold his own as a character and believable partner to such a warrior as Merq.  Armise has had as interesting an upbringing as Merq, although in different ways.  Both are genetically modified and yet Armise has held on to more of his humanity and ability to love than Merq.  How and why that is possible is also slowly coming to the surface in these stories too.

There will be no excerpts here as even the smallest paragraph might point to spoilers.  McAuley’s narrative is as paired down as the men themselves.  At times as stark as the landscape, it is fast paced and explosive as the Borders War reignite with horrible implications for the people we have come to know and the world population that still exists.  Some aspects of this story are absolutely chilling and the dread they conjure up for Merq and Armise as well as the future for all nations will be hard to dispel.

Some readers will ask if this is a romance and I am not sure how to answer them.  The connection and feelings between Merq and Armise are almost cellular in their need for each other. Love, yes, but at a level and intensity that speaks of blood and loss not flowers and hearts.   Romance can’t exist in this world and it doesn’t.  But a hard fought for love?  Even if they can’t say the word or even know if they trust each other? That you will find here at the core of this story and within the men themselves.  The only thing powerless about this book is the title.

One Breath, One Bullet (Borders War #1) and Dominant Predator (Borders War #2) were on my Best of 2013 list.  Now I add Powerless to this year’s list too.  This is an amazing series.  And with each new story, S.A. McAuley’s plot and her plans for Merq and Armise intensify and become more convoluted.  McAuley plans five books for this series.  The fourth book,  Falling One by One (Borders War #4), will be out later this year.  I, for one, can’t wait to see how where this talented author will take this series and these incredible characters next.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  Strong cover, although I would wish for a little more of a science fiction feel to it.

Books in the Borders War series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men and the universe building:

One Breathe, One Bullet (Borders War #1)
Dominant Predator (The Borders War, #2)
Powerless (The Borders War #3)
Falling One by One (The Borders War #4) to be released later on this year
Fifth Book as yet unnamed.

 Book Details:

ebook, 185 pages
Published March 28th 2014 by Totally Bound
ISBN139780857156839
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Borders War #3

Buy Links:     Totally Bound Publications       Amazon        ARe

Author Spotlight: S.A. McAuley and her Men of War Guest Blog and Contest

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spotlight on books

Powerless cover

   

  ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords

   Welcomes 

    S.A. McAuley, and her latest

release, Powerless(Borders War 3)

Contest:  S.A. McAuley has brought with her today one copy each of the first two books in the Borders War series (One Breath, One Bullet and Dominant Predator) to give away to one lucky reader.  To enter to win, please leave a comment with your email address where you can be reached at the end of this post.  Contest ends 5/28.

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The Illicit Rendezvous: To Dine with Merq and Armise or Not?

by S.A. McAuley

You know that question if you could invite anyone—fictional or real—to dinner, who would you invite? Well, Merq and Armise wouldn’t be on my short list. Okay, let’s be really honest, they wouldn’t even be on my long list.

I absolutely adore them, but at the same time, Merq Grayson and Armise Darcan scare the bejesus out of me. Merq in particular has very little connection to his own humanity, let alone anyone else’s, therefore he rarely considers the value of one life. Armise is the perfect killer and the only person he appears to have any interest in protecting is Merq—but even that’s not for sure. Both of them are battle-hardened and have an unflappable confidence in their own lethality.

I wouldn’t consider either of them to be inherently evil, though.

The world they live in is vastly different than ours. The ethical measures of what makes a person evil in our time—murder, lying, violence—are concepts that are blurred, at best, since the citizens of the year 2558 have been literally fighting for survival for over 300 years.

Both Merq and Armise have not only been raised in this world of perpetual war and class inequity, they’ve been trained since they were children (yes, literally kids) to be soldiers for their respective countries. They’ve never known real peace or stability. The family and friends they do have are relationships built on secrets and hidden motivations.

But that violence doesn’t fully define them either. It’s their inexplicable connection they can’t find a way to sever that keeps me writing on days when they and their world become overwhelming. It’s the bond they forge between the two of them—either because of their shared darkness or despite it—that makes them most interesting.

Almost tempting me to give them a dinner-and-drinks invite…

Almost.

S.A. McAuley

Powerless coverAbout Powerless:

He was built to be invincible.

Merq and Armise return to the States after their mission to assassinate the remaining Committee members only to find the leadership of the Revolution isn’t as stable as they had thought.

Outside forces come crashing down on a Revolution stronghold, leaving two of their soldiers gravely wounded. Merq’s history with his brothers in arms Simion and Neveed forces him into making decisions that will impact his future with the Revolution.

Merq has always identified as a soldier first. Always known who deserved his loyalty and who didn’t. But with the uncertainty surrounding the leadership of the Revolution, the mysterious disappearance of the jacquerie and increased activity with the PsychHAgs, Merq knows there are few people he can trust.

The only man Merq wants or needs at his side is Armise Darcan. But his reliance on his former enemy may be a miscalculation that will threaten everything Merq stands for.

Book Details:

ebook, 185 pages
Published March 28th 2014 by Totally Bound
ISBN139780857156839
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Borders War #3

Buy Links    Totally Bound            Amazon               ARe

About The Borders War series:

The Borders War By S.A. McAuley

The world has only recently emerged from a three-hundred-year war which saw half of the world’s population wiped out and the rise of five superpowers. Despite the hundreds of millions who died, the Borders War was nearly bloodless because of the sonicrifle—weaponized sound waves, tuned to their highest frequency, and harnessed to kill.
Merq Grayson has known only war. He is an orphan, a skilled Peacemaker, soldier, and sniper. And it is his destiny to right the wrong created by his grandfather six generations removed—the man who invented the sonicbullet.
Armise Darcan is his enemy. A sniper and Dark Ops officer who fought for the People’s Republic of Singapore in the Borders War, Armise may be the only person on the planet strong enough to keep Merq from completing his mission.
Their loyalties are to conflicting countries and diverging agendas, and despite the very real threat to their lives if they’re discovered, Merq and Armise keep finding their way into each other’s beds. It is a drive which Merq is sure will kill him one day.
But how much time either of them has is questionable. As Opposition is pitted against Revolution, the Borders War reignites, and Merq and Armise have to decide where, and with whom, their real loyalties lie.

Books in the Borders War series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men and the universe building:

One Breathe, One Bullet (Borders War #1)
Dominant Predator (The Borders War, #2)
Powerless (The Borders War #3)

One Breathe One BulletDominant Predator cover