Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 7 hours, 36 minutes
Finn Mayer has always wanted to join the FBI. It’s been a dream of his since he was fourteen. The only problem is… he’s not very good at any of the skills actually needed to be an agent. He’s never fired a gun, his grades — owing to dyslexia — have never been great, and he has no stellar references nor the work experience necessary to apply. Rather than surrender his dream, Finn decided to find another way in and tried to slip in a side door by taking a degree in accounting. After all, even the FBI needs an accountant.
Unfortunately, Finn’s application was denied, crushing his dreams and giving his brother yet one more reason to laugh at him and his mother one more reason to despise him. On the verge of giving up altogether, Finn is tapped for an experimental task force. He’s given four weeks to try working with an enhanced human to prove such a partnership is possible. If he fails, he’s out. Out of the FBI and out of the running to ever be an agent.
Several years ago some strange mutation caused young men — always and only young men, marked at puberty with a strange scar beneath their eye — to suddenly be gifted with special powers and become “enhanced.” These powers range from the small and harmless, such making people sleepy, to the sometimes large and dangerous. To protect humanity, these enhanced men are often kept separate from the rest of the population, taken away as soon as the mark appears and discriminated against for the rest of their lives.
For Talon Valdez, this new task force is a miraculous chance for he and his friends to have some semblance of a normal life. To be part of an elite unit tasked with saving lives and defending the helpless, to showing the world that the enhanced can be more than just thugs, criminals, and monsters. It’s everything he’s ever wanted and Talon won’t let anything get in his way. That includes the hapless, hopeless, and inexperienced young man he’s been forced to partner with. But when rival enhanced — who only want to see the world burn — start causing trouble, it may be Finn who helps Talon save them all.
I went in to this book expecting it to be a similar to the X-men, or at least to have some sort of pseudo-science fiction touch to it. Instead, it feels more like a paranormal world with neither explanation nor interest from anyone as to where the powers come from, or what causes them, or how they work. It feels more like hand waving or a dismissive magic than anything else. Add to that the idea that the country would, en masse, decide to simply segregate and hate these powerful men without trying to manipulate more of them into government or military purposes seems a bit simplistic to me, and the same can be said of the characters.
Finn is a poor little lamb lost in the big, bad world. His mother and brother hate him. He has dyslexia causing his poor grades. Finn has never fired a gun — ever — and yet wants to be in the FBI. Oh, but he knows all about guns because he studed them real hard. Everyone who meets Finn has an opinion on him. They either find him pitiable, find him cute, find him fuckable, or find him charming. No one has a neutral reaction to poor Finn.
Talon changes opinions based on what the story needs, and does it so quickly I got whiplash. He hates Finn at first, then feels for him, then is angry at him, then adores him, then is angry, then loving. He’s nothing but reactionary. When he’s angry, I don’t buy it, because it comes out of nowhere. When he’s adoring, I don’t buy it, because it makes no sense as to why he suddenly changed his mind. When he’s weeping and sobbing, I’m rolling my eyes, because it comes across as comedic, not tragic.
The characters are the weakest part of this story, for me, and made it very hard to keep going. The world building showed some promise, but it comes across as derivative and uninspired. The idea behind the enhanced is almost there, the idea of powers that defy explanation and have begun mutating into new forms. The struggle of these enhanced as they try to be their own family, after having been shunned by their birth families, has great appeal, but nothing is really done with it. It’s a confused book that needed a bit more attention paid to the small details and a better set of characters, rather than the damsel in distress and a generic weeping alpha.
The narrator, Nick J. Russo, added a little to the confusion I felt with this story. His reading was clinical, distant, and emotionless, save the sex scenes. For those there were breathy moans and gasps, which, after the dryness of the rest of the book, only made me snicker. He tried at the voices, but with so many character with their only personality trait being “I’m enhanced,” it was hard to distinguish who was whom in group scenes.
I can’t recommend this story, either as a book or in audio.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.