Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book Review: The Sentinels: When Strikes The Warlord (2006)

I met Van Allen Plexico a few years ago at DragonCon through my friend James R. Tuck. I've since kept up with him through Facebook. I've tried my hand at superhero (or more specifically supervillain) fiction with "Ubermensch" and "Needs Must," but Plexico has written a series of superhero novels, the Sentinels series. What follows is part of a deal for his help promoting the audio version of "I am the Wendigo," let the record state, but it's an honest one.

So here's my review of the first one, When Strikes The Warlord...

The Plot

Earth is under threat from the villainous Warlord, a world-conquering supervillain. Standing in his way are a combination of superheroes, some seasoned veterans and others newbies still exploring their powers. But the Warlord has allies and minions of his own.

Who will triumph? Well, you'll have to read the book. :)

The Good

*Although the book does not seem to be primarily a comedic work, there are some lines and situations that are straight-up hilarious. The appearance of minor super-villain known as "The Wombat" made me laugh out loud, something that rarely happens in a book. There's other humor as well that's more subtle, including a villain(ess) who lampshades the trope about improbably skimpy female comic-character costumes.

*The character Francisco, though initially a sycophantic Igor figure for the villainous Warlord, has a lot more initiative and is in control of a lot more than he initially seems. Giving a villain a servile minion is kind of a cliche, but Plexico elaborates on his character quite a bit. That's one of the more creative elements in the book and I approve.

*The story flows well and has some good description.

The Bad

*There are some aspects of the story that could have been developed better if they'd been introduced earlier. For example, the villainous Warlord has got several lesser superhumans--most of them villains, but at least one a hero he's misled--working for him, but they aren't really developed as characters. The most interesting one--the misled hero, as opposed to the goons--is only in one scene. He seems like he could have an interesting back-story, but we don't see a whole lot. Perhaps he can get his own Sentinels story? Mr. Plexico himself said the story gets more complex as the series goes along, so this might be a positive, not a negative, for some readers.

*The humor doesn't really kick in until the later part of the story. And the humor, when it comes, is really funny--see my above comment about the Wombat. If the humor had started from the get-go, it would have been a much stronger book.

*One character is amnesiac and remembers little about his pre-superhero past--think Wolverine from X-Men. However, that's not introduced until well into the book. I think it might be the first scene from the character's point of view, in which case the later introduction makes sense, but it might then have been better to have his POV earlier or have it referenced in another character's POV so it's not so jarring.

The Verdict

A good, quick read for when one is exercising with one's Kindle, but could be better developed. Check it out on Kindle Unlimited if you're not up for buying it. Definitely going to read the second book. 7.5 out of 10.

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