What a cool name for an assassin, don’t you think?
I think of an assassin and someone like Charles Bronson in the “The Mechanic” or Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country For Old Men” comes to mind. Not a slight 16-year-old girl wearing a torn and ragged dress, but — oh my — Shevata is a more powerful killing machine than either of those two or any other assassin you can think of.
Pardon my French, but Shevata’s just badass.
She’s been back and forth to Hell several times, slaying demons and rescuing trapped humans, and she’s got some wicked skillz as the gamer-types may say. In fact, that very attribute of Shevata — her enormous power — is one of the potential pitfalls of this book that Ms. Cole deals with very well.
Having all-powerful characters — did I mention Zermon, the arch-demon Lord of Hell is a central part of this story as well? No? Well, he is — can tend to overwhelm a plot in so many ways. How do you build tension or drama if the reader knows no matter what the all-powerful Hero/Heroine of Villain will simply wipe the floor with their rivals?
But for Shevata there is a tremendous price attached to all that power, and it’s a lesson she learns the hard way. In fact, the novella opens with an impetuous demonstration of Shevata’s power, and the subsequent results — which aren’t good for the human race — set the stage for the rest of the story.
As always, I won’t spoil any of the plot for future readers, but know this is essential a fantasy along the lines of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, with the beleaguered and valiant humans of the once-great city Gastar fighting evil in the form of demons from Hell. There is swordplay, magic, tragedy, triumph, battles large and small, and did I mention the dragons?
One word on plot: Ms. Cole tosses the reader into the story without much exposition or backstory, so be prepared to hit the ground running. You *will* get the backstory, but it comes out in small pieces that are woven into narrative in a very natural and organic way.
As a writer I seem to always be in a quandary about exposition: give too much away early-on and you spoil surprises later; at the same time not having enough means confusing readers, who may then give up. I tend to give away too much, I think, and bog down my plot, but with this story Ms. Cole has shown me it is very possible to simply say “get going” to readers and provide the backstory along the way.
I finished “Act of Redemption” in a couple days and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has epic scope in novella length, and if you’re looking for a fantasy story with a fun, fast-moving and thrilling plot, and great characters, including the aforementioned badass assassin, I highly recommend it. I’m adding the second book of the series to my To Read List post-haste.