Myke Cole – Control Point

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. As a lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power and is transformed overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down—and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

When or where I first heard about Control Point I can’t remember, but what I do remember is thinking that this was a book I wanted to read and that this was a book that my husband would like a lot as well. This was fortunate, because that meant I could buy it for him for his birthday and then conveniently borrow it to read it myself! After reading reviews for it on Civilian Reader and Staffer’s Musings I was sold and I pre-ordered it for Wiebe’s birthday. But life happened, and while Wiebe read (and enjoyed it very much) right away, I only got to pick it up this week. That being said, it was definitely worth the anticipation. Myke Cole’s debut novel was fun, intriguing and chock-a-block full of great action. In addition, I really enjoyed the writing and the authentic feel of his setting, which given his background – Cole is a former private contractor and an officer in the US military – isn’t a surprise, but was pleasant nonetheless. Despite tearing through the book and loving the story, I did have one problem with it.

Let’s start off with that issue, so I can end the positives. After Oscar manifests, that is proves to have magic, and he needs to either flee or give himself up to SOC, basically the magic and magical forces of the US, he suffers a lot of internal conflict and angst. While understandable – he’s just found out he’s got a magic power that’s prohibited and means an automatic death sentence – his internal monologue does get repetitive in places and at some points I found myself wishing he’d just make up his mind and stick to his decision. This mostly bothered me because Britton is such a cool and steady character otherwise, even while going through some pretty hairy situations, that it seems out of character for him to remain so conflicted after making up his mind. Luckily for me, in the end, Oscar does choose his path and doesn’t deviate from it any more.

Aside from that one issue, it’s hard to find fault with Control Point. From the characters, the story premise and the world building to the completely believable military feel of the narrative, I got swept along by all of it. After manifesting his Portamancy, Oscar goes on the run. Wavering between staying on the run and giving himself up to the SOC, he’s finally caught by them and in a deal reminiscent of E.M. Nathanson’s The Dirty Dozen, his life is spared in exchange for him signing up as a private contractor with SOC. After this follows a portion of the book set in training camp, where Oscar learns control of his new magic skills. I really liked this section, as it not only developed his character, letting the reader get better acquainted with him, and introduces the other important characters in the novel, it also provides Cole with a lot of opportunities to give the reader more information on the background of his magic system and the strategic applications if such magic actually existed without having to resort to info dumps. From there we move on to the action-packed finale of the book and Cole manages to end this book in such a way that it is both a gratifying ending and one that leaves you wanting more, much more.

As for Cole’s characters, they really come to life. Oscar, despite his internal monologuing, is such a cool dude and I really bought his journey during this book. I love how at home he feels in the military and how saddened he is by not being part of that ‘family’ any more. It is this, more than anything I think that made me dislike his training Warrant Officer, Fitzy so much. He makes it crystal clear to Oscar that he is on the outside and that just broke my heart for him. Oscar is also a really good guy, with a high sense of honour and compassion, even if he is human enough to just forget it at times. This latter happens mostly in his interactions with Novice Downer, one of his Coven mates, a young teen girl, who takes to the SOC as a duck to water and as is observed at one point in the book, the converted preach loudest, to Oscar’s frustration. Her fervent proselytising for SOC wears on his nerves and he is torn between cutting her slack because of her age and what happened to her and wanting to lash out at her. Oscar is a real, rounded character and one it’s easy to care for. Another loveable character is Marty, an indigenous ‘Goblin’ who works at the Forward Operations Base Oscar finds himself stationed at in the Source, which is the plane which seems to be where the magic originates. He both personifies the prejudice people have towards these indigenous tribes and gives Oscar a reason to think differently about this conflict he is drawn into between the US and the Goblins. I really liked Marty and I can’t wait to find out what his position among his tribe really is.

Fast-paced, well-written and well-thought out, Control Point is a fantastic debut for Myke Cole. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to those who love urban fantasy, military fantasy or just ripping-good, action-filled fantasy. There are at least two more books in the Shadow Ops series, Fortress Frontier (2013) and Breach Zone (2014), but I’m seriously hoping there will be more stories than that because the setting for them is just that good!

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