Angel and Kael have been together for two years and outwardly their relationship seems stronger than ever. Kael has allowed Angel his gap year and he starts training with MI6, just as he wants. Kael, on the other hand, seems to be spiraling out of control. Suspended from his job and forced to see a shrink, he finds himself desperately struggling to maintain his stable, well-ordered life and failing miserably.
During a moment of anger, Kael crosses a dangerous line with Angel and the comfortable bond they share begins to fracture. Already dealing with stress at home, Angel is sent on a mission that he is neither emotionally or professionally ready to handle. As a result, Angel begins to question his decision to join MI6 and even his partnership with Kael.
Reckoning is the fourth book in the Angel and the Assassin series and you really do need to read the first three novels in order to fully understand the established story arc. Reckoning is a direct sequel from Sins of the Father and picks up soon after that book ends. As with the rest of the series, Reckoning was fairly well written, moved at a strong pace, and never felt draggy or dull. The characters, good and bad, familiar and new, remain the strongest aspect of the series and this book is no different. But one of the main characters has become so difficult to like that he makes reading Reckoning, at times, an act of endurance rather than enjoyment.
Angel is charming and sweet and terribly naive and for the first time we see him understand and process the horror of Kael’s work, work that Angel believes he wants to do. As readers we’ve always known the moment of disillusionment was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. You hate to see Angel’s natural buoyancy crushed and worse still, in Reckoning, while life gives Angel a pretty brutal beating, for most of the novel Kael is either unwilling or unable to help him.
One of the real highlights of Reckoning is Kael’s therapist, Dr. Reynolds. She is utterly unimpressed by his lack of common courtesy, threatening manner, or his intrinsic callousness. She is one of the first in the series to truly stand up to the man and force him to acknowledge some of the darker aspects of his nature. She’s tough and competent and it’s hard not to like her right from the start. As a result, she really adds a layer to the book and elevates it a notch up from the some of the previous entries, at least in this area.
And all of this brings me to Kael, who becomes so utterly dislikable at one point that I nearly put the book down and wrote it off as a DNF. I described Kael in a previous review as a borderline sociopath and I think that term still applies. His conscience is minimal, his empathy for others is nil, and he is purposely cruel for no other reason than he can be. All of this makes him a very difficult character to even care about, much less like. Only his love for Angel saved him from being so despicable as to make Reckoning unreadable. And even his supposed devotion to Angel is sorely tested at one point. Normally I enjoy dark, edgy characters, but there are always limits and I’m very close to mine with Kael.
In addition to my issues with Kael, I felt Reckoning’s ending came too abruptly and without much of a true resolution. While Kael does achieve some personal growth here, his final act towards Angel feels too much like a Band-Aid slapped over a gaping wound. And while I suspect there will be another book in the series at some point, I would have preferred a more substantial exploration of the growing divide between Kael and Angel.
Reckoning is a solid entry into the series, but Kael’s personality has become corrosive to the overall story and it’s difficult to see why Angel stays with him. If the series moves forward, then Kael must discover some measure of humanity or his lack of humanity will end up overshadowing all the great characters that these novels have to offer.