Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Book Review: "Written in Fire" by Marcus Sakey

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for making it available.

Boy, do I hate it when a book series ends...

I devoured the first two books in Marcus Sakey's fantastic Brilliance trilogy, so I both eagerly anticipated and dreaded the arrival of the last book in the series, Written in Fire. I've finally caught my breath, as the action and the tension intensified as the book drew to a close!

One percent of the country's population is composed of brilliants, those with extraordinary physical, cognitive, emotional, and/or perceptive gifts. But despite these talents and abilities, these so-called "abnorms" have been feared, reviled, mistreated, and targeted for all kinds of abuse in the 30 years since their discovery became public knowledge. This mistreatment has brought the country to the brink of civil war, norm vs. abnorm, in a battle for the very heart and soul of society.

Written in Fire begins with the country reeling from a devastating attack by the abnorm community. This has led to laws which require that all abnorms be microchipped for easy tracking, but even worse, lynch mobs across the country are targeting and killing them simply for being different. But the country still wants more, still wants retribution. While secret plans are being hatched within the U.S. government, a citizen-led militia of thousands of people is planning to attack the settlement where many of the abnorms live. And in the settlement itself, the most notable abnorm—a brilliant terrorist unwilling to stop until the world realizes the absolute power of brilliants—plots ultimate chaos and destruction.

Nick Cooper, a former detective who used to hide his own abilities as a brilliant to help the government track others like him who wished to do evil, understands why his fellow brilliants are angry. But at the same time, he cannot allow the world he knows, the world in which his family lives, to be destroyed by civil war. He'll do everything he can to fight his old nemeses to bring an end to the forces which want to harm the country—no matter what the cost.

While this book is tremendously imaginative, much of its plot rings eerily familiar to current circumstances, with so many people fearful of all Muslims, demanding they be tracked, barred from entering the country, even killed. But this book explores both sides of the argument: Should years of mistreatment and abuse justify violence and destruction? Is it right to categorically fear what we don't know or understand? Is self-defense really a valid argument for attack?

What I've loved so much about these books is that Sakey balances thought-provoking plot, pulse-pounding action, and truly complex, memorable characters, even the villains. By the third book I found myself truly attached to these characters I feel I've gotten to "know." Much like some other series, this book is definitely a bit darker than its predecessors, but that didn't dull my enjoyment in any way. And while I often feel books in a series can be read out of sequence, I'd definitely recommend picking up Brilliance, the first book, first, and then reading them in order to feel the full power of Sakey's storytelling.

I won't soon forget this series, and I'll be interested to see what Sakey comes up with next. But in the meantime, I'll miss Nick, Natalie, Shannon, Bobby, Ethan, John Smith, the Epsteins, and so much more. Don't pass these books up.

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