Kaden Pace is a career solider and has seen the worst his country’s never ending war has to offer. He lost his legs when a building collapsed on him, but now hides his injury by relying on his armor to compensate for his missing limbs. If the extent of his injuries are discovered, Kaden will lose his armor and without it, Kaden sees no point in living. He is given the seemingly simple assignment of escorting two cadets to retrieve the armor of a fallen warrior, but almost from the beginning their task is fraught with danger.
Shun carries the enemy’s blood in his veins and worse yet, he’s a pacifist in a time of war. He never knew his father. The man raped his mother and left her to raise the resulting child alone. Now Shun has discovered his father has died and he will never be able to confront the man and his cruelty. But he can steal the man’s legendary armor and destroy it before it can be used to cause more devastation. He doesn’t expect to run into Kaden and his cadets, or to become embroiled in a fight for his life as the group struggles to complete their mission in hostile territory. Bound together by circumstance, Kaden and Shun must confront their demons and work together if they want to survive a horrific act of betrayal.
Finding His Feet has an excellent premise and intriguing, yet perplexing, characters but ultimately it slumps under the weight of its own complexity. The book is long, which I love and it gives the author all the room needed to develop a strong sense of world building. Though we aren’t given a complete picture of this world at war, we are given more than enough to understand it’s time and place. Finding His Feet centers around the military’s epic armored warriors. The armor is the product of a genius, now dead, who wanted to create a weapon that could end the more than century’s long war. The armor bonds with its wearer and the original suits can only be worn by a certain few. In essence the suit chooses it’s wearer and, while they are not quite sentient, there is some measure of organic resonance between the armor and the solider it protects. Alas this is where complexity starts to hamper the book as there are so many different types of armor, both first generation and new, that the author bogs us down in too many details explaining how the armor works, the mechanics of different suits, and so on. While this was a great plot premise, the info dumping often disrupted the pacing, to jarring effect. Additionally there were other aspects of the war, including its history and mechanics, that felt unnecessarily complex, often to the point of frustration.
Kaden and Shun are both interesting characters, as are the cadets Bradley and Wayland. Kaden is clearly a man looking to die. He knows it’s a just a matter of time before his secret is discovered and at least if he dies in his armor, he dies a warrior. He doesn’t even believe in the war, but he’s been raised from childhood to be a solider and as the book progresses we see him start to believe in the possibility of another way of life. Shun is more frustrating. He claims to be a pacifist, but switches his mind so often it was nearly impossible to figure out exactly what he believed in. As a result his character wasn’t as believable as Kaden and failed to make the same kind of impact. The romance between Kaden and Shun fell flat in a big way. I never felt any real spark between them and most of their interactions read as stiff and formalized. I was never quite sure why they were attracted to one another and I’m not sure if this was because of Shun’s lack of consistency as a character or just the wooden nature of their relationship, but regardless it just didn’t work. Bradley and Wayland are slight caricatures, but have enough originality to make them interesting and they worked as both siblings and cadets. Their desperation to prove themselves, their experiences of the realities of war and their ultimate personal growth, was truly compelling.
Finding His Feet definitely had its strong points, not the least of which are solid characters and extensive world building. But it suffers from an overly complex premise that tends to clutter up an otherwise interesting plot. There are several side plots that never get fully developed and seem to get lost among extraneous details and excessive explanations. If you can overlook its issues and happen to be a fan of military and sci-fic fiction, you might find Finding His Feet worth reading.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.