Author Cate Morgan contacted me to review this novella in advance of its official release, November 1. Since I’m a sucker for a good fantasy–and for supporting a new author’s release promotion efforts, I dove in to the ARC she forwarded me this evening. And was rewarded with a tightly woven, almost lyrical bit of prose set in the not-so-distant future, when governments have collapsed and been replaced by mega-corporations that may or may not have the dwindling population’s best interests at heart.
This is a fascinating meditation on what humans could evolve into given the right set of circumstances. From the blurb:
Aika Lareto is a descendent of St. Brighid in her incarnation of all things fire and warfare in a time when heroes were revered as gods. What this means for Aika in 2025 is she is hunted by all things demon and government. All she wants is to get on with her work as guardian of the dregs scraping out a fringe existence in London’s blitzed Underground—the lost, forgotten, and just plain ignored.
Declan Pryce is the hacker who finds her first. Quite a feat, considering current ruling government conglomerate Dreamtech has issued a bounty on Aika’s head for her ability to bypass their security systems. When his search leads their head of security and his demon agents to her door, it’s a matter of life or death for the dregs, fight or flight for Aika.
For some reason, though, that preview of what I was about to read didn’t really prepare me for the spiritual depths the author was preparing to plumb, in this meditation on what it means to have free will, make a choice, and move forward into the consequences. It’s almost enough to make me tag the content with “metaphysical” as in the following excerpt:
“See what I mean? Angels don’t have wings. Nor do demons. They come from right here on Earth, evolved from humanity.”
Declan had forgotten to eat altogether, buttered potato dripping from his fork. As she watched, a single pea rolled off the melting mound onto the floor in a last deperate bid for freedom. “Now you’re having a go.”
She speared another chop. It was amazing what good food could accomplish. “Human beings have the gift of free will for a reason. Anyone is capable of great good or great evil. Most remain more or less balanced, some running hotter or colder as actions beget consequences. But there are those whose thermostats run to one extreme or the other.” …
“Angels and demons–all unknowing.”
Since this is a novella, it was done all too quickly, though I can see where it would be a great introduction to a series on what happens when the four horsemen of the apocalypse actually do ride–as Declan’s character is happy to point out could be any day now. In fact, publisher Samhain Press has bundled this book with two others by different authors to produce an End of Days series I may now be curious enough to read as well…
This is a quick read, well worth the effort–especially if my one quibble is that the cover artist chose to arm our heroine with a gun instead of the sword she wields to such great effect in the story… I can recommend it to anyone who likes an ambitious, self-actualized heroine who is just crazy enough to take on the powers that be with just barely a whisper’s chance at success because of her partnership with a hunk at the opposite end of the tech spectrum. I really wasn’t expecting a love story at the end of the world, and it’s not treacly either (though maybe a tad thin on the development–generally a hazard with short-form writing). I’ll certainly be watching Cate Morgan for any future releases she cares to grace us with.