Premise: Oscar Britton is an Army Lieutenant who is good at his job and is deeply ingrained in the military mindset, even when it means working alongside the Supernatural Operations Corps, a unit created to use the newly-forming magic in individuals known as Latents. These much-feared people use their magical abilities under control of the governments of the world to hunt down others with similar or outlawed forms of magic. But when Britton manifests a rare magical ability of his own, he finds himself on the run and hunted by the SOC.
Prohibited magic users, also known as Probes, are thought to be exterminated because of their danger. After being captured, Britton wonders about the rumors of exceptions being made for Latents with rare magic to be sent to reeducation and training camps. Britton is going to learn all about his abilities and the shadow world surrounding them. He is well-equipped to handle tough situations with his military background, but his understanding of everything is about to change.
Themes: Politics play a huge part in Control Point, especially being in a military setting and with world governments interacting and locking down on magic control. We learn there are even more politics at play when it comes to the shadow world. Our governments attempt to make claims on the shadow world, but the natives there might have something to say about it. And even in the shadow world, tribes of the locals war with each other. Corruption of governments controlling magic by limiting the rights of its own citizens who become Latent makes for politics at their worst.
Faith becomes a theme as religious characters like Therese use their faith to ground them, but also as characters question their faith as they come to grips with these people with magic abilities. Oscar Britton’s faith is shaken as he is ordered to shoot on high school students and as he comes to grips with corruption wielding powerful weapons at the expense of civil liberties.
Pros: The magic system of Control Point is thought out well and it is packed full of action. The elemental combined with physical and going from our dimension to another dimension is done pretty seamlessly, especially as the conflicts of the two realms intersect and play off each other. The politics of both worlds smash into each other and throw the characters into conflict that makes the best of the magic, especially showing how both sides differ in their use of the magic. There are intense action scenes with creative uses of the different forms of magic, and above all the author makes the best of his military background by showcasing it in the setting.
Cons: This is tough because there were times I loved the protagonist and times I hated him. Oscar is good at his job as a military officer and once he has guidance he learns to control his powers quickly, though for someone in the military he seemed quick to disobey orders. I’m not in the military so I don’t know the rules on chain of command and obeying orders, but I know insubordination is a big no-no. Worse than that, I had a problem with Therese. She is portrayed as a religious healer, though she is as foul-mouthed as a sailor, as is most everyone else, and too easily goes from her healing role to performing the outlawed act of Rending, the opposite of healing. Basically, the world is cool, the execution is slick, but there are some character problems. Flawed characters does not mean characters who go against their own moral or belief structures.
Recommendations: Shadow Ops: Control Point is a wonderful debut from Myke Cole. Though it has some character problems that need some tweaking, the setting and plot are very solid. The author’s military background really shines as he constructs a world of armies using magic. I was reminded of the issues of X-Men where the governments lock down on the mutants, but in Control Point we get magic mixed with military from someone with some real-world experience on the subject. Myke Cole is a stand out new voice in the realm of military fantasy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the Shadow Ops series to see what Oscar Britton and the rest of the Latents do next.