Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops series: Book 2)

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers - summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed… but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier - cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.
Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place - Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole is the highly anticipated follow up to one of our favourite novels from last year - Shadow Ops: Control Point. Fortress Frontier is a highly impressive sequel, one that addresses the issues readers had with the first book whilst improving on all the things readers loved about the first book. For fans of military fiction or high action fantasy, it is likely that this book will be one of the best you read all year.

Just a quick warning, this review might spoil a few of the events from Control Point, and it will also make use of the military acronyms and jargon that Cole employs throughout both books.

Fortress Frontier begins by introducing us to a new protagonist, Colonel Alan Bookbinder, administrator extraordinaire who has never been close to seeing action during his long career as a pen pusher. Bookbinder's story runs parallel with the events of Control Point for about the first quarter of Fortress Frontier, from Bookbinder coming up latent, through his transfer to the Source Forward Operating Base (FOB), and finally to the escape of Shadow Coven from the FOB. This first quarter is all about playing catch up, allowing readers to get to know this new guy Bookbinder, while also recapping the events from the previous book. But once the timeline catches up, everything explodes. The FOB is cut-off from the homeworld, they are running out of supplies, they are running out of ammo, people are dying, and our administrative extraordinaire is frozen with fear. The natives from the Source can sense weakness and continue to press harder and harder. The question is not about whether they can hold out, but can they hold out long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

Replacing Oscar Britton with Alan Bookbinder as the primary protagonist for this book was a bold move by Cole, but it as also a necessary one, and to Cole's credit it was executed almost to perfection. My biggest complaint with Control Point, as it was for most people who read Control Point, was Oscar Britton - I didn't really like him and I found it hard to connect with him or sympathise his plight. For those who do like Britton, don't worry, he still gets plenty of view points to continue on his story from Control Point, but he has been relegated from the lead role to supporting actor. I can't say whether or not Cole did this because of readers reaction to Britton, but Fortress Frontier is Bookbinder's story, and I like Bookbinder a lot more than I do Britton so it's a win for me.

The thing about Fortress Frontier that I mentioned before is that every facet of the previous book has been improved upon in this book. The obvious one is characterisation, but Fortress Frontier also builds on the established magic system through the introduction of a new school of magic, it introduces sorcerers from around the world and traps them in the Source too, it explores the world of the Source in much greater detail than before, and it explores the political ramifications of sorcery back on Earth. Most important though, Fortress Frontier ups the ante on action with more magic, massive armies, hulking monsters, and huge consequences. The action sequences are audacious set pieces with projectiles flying all over place, and written with such skill that you are completely sucked in to experience every blow of every battle. For all plotting and characterisation and world building and politics, to me this book is about "stand up and cheer" moments. This book is fun.

Okay, I'm almost done gushing. Fortress Frontier is an excellent book, one that hits all the right notes for me. There might be a few people this type of book doesn't work for, the military jargon might be a little off-putting to others, but for those who like action packed military fantasy, you are in for a treat.

10/10 Those who like action packed military fantasy, you are in for a treat.

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