Imagine everyone woke up one day to discover that magic was very much real again. As with so much in our modern life, the first reaction of the government would be to regulate it, to determine what the best uses of that magic was for the welfare of the nation – and what magics would be considered safe, and what magics would be prohibited.
Welcome to the world of Shadow Ops: Control Point. Oscar Britton is your average enlisted grunt, bagging and tagging people that have manifested prohibited, or “Probe” talents, keeping America safe from one latent to probe at a time. What happens when this good guy suddenly finds himself marked a probe as his latent magic power manifests itself unexpectedly in a discipline that is forbidden (though outside his control)?
As a concept, I think Cole has a good formula here. Magic meets military fantasy in a contemporary landscape? What’s not to love in this comic book like milieu that is so reminiscent of Marvel and DC copyrights?
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and its in the execution that we find the lumps. The world building is as solid as needed – why magic suddenly exists is as much of a mystery to the characters as to us, and that’s fine. The fact that Cole chose to set this in our modern world relieves the burden of painting an extremely rich picture to convince us with. We already know the setting, which leaves us with only the unknowns to deal with – the characters and the magic. With the world so easily established, its really in the strength of the characters and the magic they wield that we rely on to entertain us.
For the magic, its rather simple and easy to grasp. You either come up with magic at some point in your life, or you don’t. If you do, its in one of a few defined talents, most of which seem to be centered around control of the Greek elementals – water, fire, air, earth, and spirit (life, death, etc.). The prohibited magics are a little less well defined, but at least we don’t have mixed talents (that we know of?). There doesn’t seem to be any penalty to using the magic (weakness, inflammation, etc.), but it also isn’t easily or quickly mastered. Simple and sweet and easy to follow once you understand the terminology that Cole bandies around.
But the characters, like with any summer eye candy, is where I got hung up with in this novel. Even in the context of the story, Oscar’s waffling at whether he’s a team player or being beaten down was annoyingly inconsistent. Either track would have been fine, but I needed something to rally behind, and I didn’t get that from Oscar. I found many of the other characters in the book equally baffling, leaving me wanting. This is probably just hindsight, but it seemed that there were chapters during the span of which Oscar would change his mind on whether he was committed to the cause, to and fro, multiple times.
So, great concept, and perfect if you have an afternoon or two to kill and want a little magic versus assault chopper action. Myke’s a really nice guy, so I have high hopes that the sequel will cast off the training wheels that were so evident in this first novel.