SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT by Myke Cole

If you can ignore the main character, SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT might be a great book. As it is, it’s a fascinating world with non-stop action that fights to overcome the indecisiveness of its primary protagonist.

Oscar Britton has just completed a mission to eliminate a teenage girl who lost control of her magical powers when he develops magical powers of his own. Rather than turn himself in, he briefly goes on the run before joining a secret military operation in which he uses his newfound abilities to help the government establish a base of operations in a magical world referred to as the “Source.”

Cole does a great job of developing this world and understanding what the sudden development of magical powers might mean to the military-industrial complex, and the characters around Britton are dynamic and engaging, with their own motivations and depths. Unfortunately, the story is built around Britton, and he proves problematic, spending the entire book questioning whether he wants to fight on the side of the government or go on the run and almost certainly be killed.

When he’s first brought to the military base, he hates everything about it. Then he changes his mind. Then his commanding officer is mean to him and he hates the government again. Then he goes on a mission and loves it. Then he changes his mind again. Then he hates it again. It’s every bit as annoying as it sounds, and as I read I found myself wondering how Britton theoretically thrived in the military before he developed magical powers. He doesn’t like taking orders, he wants to be able to choose his own missions, he grows petulant when things at the base don’t run the way he believes they should — these don’t seem like attributes that would work in any form of military life.

While Britton’s defense of the goblin contractors working on the military site works in terms of putting the reader on his side, most of Britton’s complaining comes across simply as that — whining.

Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating world. I had trouble with some of the military terminology in the book’s opening pages — we open in the midst of a military op, and it feels like we’re thrown in the deep end early. Fortunately, it felt as though this got easier to understand as the book progressed. It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I realized there’s a glossary of military terms at the back — this would have been more helpful at the front of the book, but I certainly understand that’s not Cole’s fault.

In all, I enjoyed the book. Cole has demonstrated the ability to write engaging characters, he just didn’t succeed with Britton. I’m looking forward to the second book in hopes that Cole fixes his “Britton problem” because the rest of the book is really quite good.

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