Novella Review: From the Ashes by Adrien-Luc Sanders

 

 

Title: From the Ashes

Author: Adrien-Luc Sanders

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sociopath. Killer. Deviant. Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called that and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire.

Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.

One kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. But when his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile deeper, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?


Review:

I love super-hero stories, so when I saw that Entangled Publishing was releasing some super-hero novellas, I was excited to check them out.  I loved the first one that I read, Playing with Fire by Tamara Morgan, so I dove into From the Ashes with a great deal of anticipation.  I was sucked into the story on the first page, thought there were a few pacing issues in the middle, and enjoyed the ending, so this is another successful read.

Tobias is an aberrant.  He can control electrical currents, and his father, a sociopath, has nurtured his talents and used him in a weapon in his war against humans.  Tobias, as his alter-ego Spark, has done some terrible things.  He has wiped out an entire city for his father’s ambitious dream of ruling the world, and now he longs for a quieter, less destructive life.  A student at UC Berkley, he is researching the DNA sequence that manifests in aberrants.  If the US government learns how to destroy the genome that makes super-humans like him, they will be able to control, and ultimately, wipe them out.  When he is ordered by his father to assassinate a Senator, Tobias has serious soul searching to do.  Does he have to be evil just because he is an aberrant?

I haven’t read a M/M romance in a while, so this was a nice switch up to my normal reading habits.  Tobias makes the mistake of getting to know Sean, one of his professors, a little better than is wise.  Struggling with his feelings of helpless against his father’s domineering control, Tobias is looking for a fling.  He’ll have some fun with Sean, and then put the night behind him.  Their relationship can’t go anywhere; Tobias is a monster, and Sean is a normal, quiet human.  Tobias doesn’t think he is capable of love, and he certainly doesn’t believe that he is deserving of it, so he has never made lasting, meaningful attachments.  His other relationships were at his whim, and he never felt emotionally invested in any of them.

I think I liked Tobias so much because he was so damaged.  He didn’t think he was capable of feelings, but he had a cat that he obviously doted on.  My belief is that if you can love an animal, there is no reason why you can’t take the plunge and love something as complicated as a human.  Tobias’ problem was that his exposure to love and tenderness ended abruptly when he was a child, after his mother was killed.  Suddenly under his father’s control, he was groomed to be his father’s right hand man in his desire to conquer and subdue the human race.  While Tobias was able to put on a good front, he wasn’t actually as committed to his father’s goals as he pretended.  He was more than content to be a graduate research student, but the threat of the aberrants becoming subjugated to normal humans propels him down a path he doesn’t want to take.  His confusing relationship with Sean only manages to complicate matters, because he is afraid his father will kill Sean if he doesn’t tow the line.

The pacing felt a little off in the middle of the book, but otherwise this is a satisfying read, with an action-packed ending that hints at more adventures.  I liked the characters, even Tobias, who considered himself irredeemable.   The world-building seemed a bit light, but I’m hoping for more in the next installment of The Fires of Redemption series.  If you enjoy super-heroes (or villains, as the case may be), and angst, this is a great, short read.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Jeramey Kraatz, Author of The Cloak Society

 

Jeramey Kraatz stopped by the Café to introduce himself and his new book, The Cloak Society.  I am excited about reading this book because I love super villains!  Especially super villains who are really good guys at heart.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jeramey Kraatz] Writer, Reader, and all-around nerd. Avocado and cat enthusiast (separately). Likes to pretend he’s in music videos when no one’s around.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Cloak Society?

[Jeramey Kraatz] Of course! The book follows Alex Knight, a 12-year-old boy with telekinetic powers born into The Cloak Society—a secret team of supervillains in Texas. Alex is fourth-generation Cloak, so he’s got a lot to live up to. Cloak was defeated ten years ago by the Rangers of Justice, a team of much-loved superheroes, and now the villains have been lying in wait, looking for the perfect moment to enact their revenge.

Alex is part of the Beta Team—the other Cloak Society members around his age—and the book starts off on their first mission, which should be a routine bank heist. But it goes terribly awry when the heroes show up and Alex saves the life of a Junior Ranger named Kirbie. From there, Alex’s world gets…complicated.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jeramey Kraatz] The initial concept came from me joking around with another writer about genre adaptations of Shakespearean works. I proposed a superhero Romeo and Juliet where instead of the Montagues and Capulets you had, say, the Masters of Evil and the Avengers. Weeks went by and I couldn’t get the premise out of my head. The problem was that to make the story compelling, I’d have to make the supervillain lead likeable in some way, which was the idea/challenge I really latched onto—I didn’t want to write a run-of-the-mill superhero origin story like I’d read in comics and seen in movies countless times. As the world and characters got fleshed out, the Shakespeare fell away, and Alex and the Cloak Society became the focus of the novel.

Character creation was so much fun for this book since most of the main cast has superpowers. They came about in two ways: Either I had a superpower I wanted to use in the mix and had to think “What would a person who could control temperatures act like,” or it was the opposite, and I had a character in mind and had to find a power that complemented their personality. I wanted to make sure that all of the powers in some way reflected who these characters are, to have shaped them in some way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Alex?

[Jeramey Kraatz] Full. Of. Potential. I think that’s probably cheating, but it couldn’t be more apt.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alex would never have in his pocket?

[Jeramey Kraatz] 1. Keys (Cloak’s security system is SO beyond simple locks)

2. A cell phone (too traceable)

3. A lockpick (he’s got telekinetic powers—he’s totally outgrown those)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Alex had a theme song, what would it be?

[Jeramey Kraatz] Young Men Dead by The Black Angels. The guitar line is kind of creepy and foreboding, and the lyrics are really battle oriented. I listened to it a lot when working on the first draft. Bonus points for being a Texas band!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jeramey Kraatz] For this book, I’m definitely drawing on a lifetime of reading comics. It probably shows on every page, in every little nod or Easter egg dropped in that only comic book readers will pick up on. Joss Whedon’s work, for sure. Claremont’s “Dark Phoenix Saga” is probably the biggest influence in terms of specific stories. I interned at Marvel in the X-Men editorial department while I was in grad school, and seeing how big story arcs were scripted and planned was definitely invaluable when I was working on the original outline.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jeramey Kraatz] Caffeine, room to pace, and snack rewards. I’m very food motivated. Finish a chapter, and I get the piece of cake. I always feel really out of shape by the time I finish a big draft or edit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jeramey Kraatz] I finally got around to reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke after years of staring at it on my bookshelf and being scared by its size. It was such a complex, engrossing novel…probably the first time in a while that I’ve finished a book and immediately thought “I have to read that again.”

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jeramey Kraatz] I learned to read using The Foot Book and never stopped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jeramey Kraatz] Reading a ton, from comics to YA to scholarly nonfiction—I try to keep it varied. I’m a sucker for bad horror movies and Netflix TV marathons. I work in the anime industry, so as part of my job I sometimes get to watch cartoons all day. So really, I’m living the geek dream.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Jeramey Kraatz] I’m all over the place. You can contact me directly through jerameykraatz.com, or follow me on twitter @jerameykraatz. I love hearing from other readers and writers, so feel free to be get in touch with me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can preorder The Cloak Society from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in print and digital.

Cover Shot! The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Supervillains.  I love them.  Especially when they are, deep in their heart, good guys.  Look at this guy.  Does he look like a devious doer of evil?  Nope!  I can hardly wait to get my hands on The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz, to see just how bad Alex really is.  Or isn’t.  In stores October 2012

 

The Cloak Society: An elite organization of supervillains graced with extraordinary powers. Ten years ago they were defeated by the Rangers of Justice and vanished without a trace. But the villains of Cloak have been biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to resurface. And twelve-year-old Alex Knight wants to be one of them.

Alex is already a junior member, and his entire universe is Cloak’s underground headquarters, hidden beneath an abandoned drive-in theater in Sterling City, Texas. While other kids his age are studying math and history, Alex is mastering his telekinetic powers and learning how to break into bank vaults. His only dream is to follow in his parents’ footsteps as one of the most feared supervillains in the world. Cloak is everything he believes in.

But on the day of his debut mission, Alex does the unthinkable: he saves the life of a young Ranger named Kirbie. Even worse . . . she becomes his friend. And the more time he spends with her, the more Alex wonders about the world outside of Cloak—and what, exactly, he’s been fighting for.

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Guest Post: Amanda Bonilla – Why I Love Villains

Amanda Bonilla is celebrating the release of her new book, Blood Before Sunrise.  She dropped by the virtual offices to share why she loves villains. Since a good villain can make or break a story, check out what she has to say.

Why I Love Villains: They’ve Got Swagger by Amanda Bonilla

Thanks so much to Julie and Manga Maniac Café for having me back! Besides being an action movie junkie, I absolutely love anything to do with super heroes. Needless to say, when The Avengers released in May, I was salivating to see it. What a great movie! Joss Whedon is completely brilliant. Despite the fact that The Avengers had an ensemble cast, in my opinion, Tom Hiddleston was the star of that movie. He played the role of super villain so well! He took arrogance to a new level and he ROCKED the super villain swagger. That’s what I love about villains: They’ve got swagger.

It’s not that I don’t think heroes are arrogant to some degree as well. If you could fly, shoot laser beams from your eyes, had super speed…strength…healing… you’d be pretty damned confident too. But villains aren’t just confident. They’re fanatical. How does that translate to arrogance? It’s their faith that they’ll achieve their goals. They don’t just think they’ll be successful. They know it. Writers want their readers to relate to the hero of the story. And to make the hero relatable, we have to showcase their emotional sides and we have to give them some kind of weakness. Be it a love interest, their undying compassion for the human race, adoptive parents, whatever. Or maybe the writer will simply plant a seed of doubt in the hero’s mind.

Villains check their emotions at the door. The truly effective villain isn’t swayed by compassion or love. My favorite villains are the ones who’ve been hurt somehow. They’ve experienced the ultimate betrayal. Whereas most characters would deal with their hurt and learn to move past it, the villain refuses to heal. He doesn’t want to feel better. He wants revenge, plain and simple. You hurt me, well, I’m gonna hurt you right back, only a million times worse! He doesn’t care who he mows down in his quest, be it man, woman, child, or beloved pet. A great villain has been driven to this point by his fanaticism. Nothing and no one will stand in his way. Effective villains own their scenes. They draw your undivided attention. A true villain has disconnected himself completely. His tunnel vision allows him to see only his goal and the one thing that stands in his way. Namely, the hero. But does the villain worry about that teeny, tiny obstacle? No way. Because his faith—his fanaticism—drives him.

So, at this point, it seems like nothing will deter the villain. He has no emotions, no connections to anything but his end goal. He doesn’t care who he kills or what he destroys in order to get what he wants. The villain doesn’t harbor the warm, squishy sentimentalities that our hero does. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He’s got the villain swagger down. He’s unstoppable…or at least, he believes he’s unstoppable. Just as the hero has a weakness, so must the villain. And at its core, his weakness comes from that exact same place that makes me love him so much. He doesn’t plan for defeat because defeat isn’t an option. No way. No how. Not gonna happen. And at that moment, when his arrogance has peaked, is when the villain falls. Unfortunately, swagger can only get you so far. ;)

Who is your favorite villain? Why do you love him/her so much?


Thank you, Amanda!  I love a wicked villain, too!

You can order Blood Before Sunrise and Shaedes of Gray from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.