Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Rogue Angel: Forbidden City" by Alex Archer

"Rogue Angel: Forbidden City" is a brisk, no-nonsense adventure and mystery double play. It's got everything you expect from the Rogue Angel franchise and whole lot more.

The action in the first sixty pages is some of the best in the Rogue Angel series. It starts with a bump in ancient China and sweeps on to forested goldfields of California. There is a host of bad guys, dazzling chase sequences, and the flashing sword of Saint Joan of Arc, and that is just for starters. The rest of the story is a compelling turn toward adventure and mystery. With a strange heirloom belt plaque as a guide, Annja unravels a mystery that leads her beyond the Silk Road in search of a lost treasure city that was built by assassins and thieves ages ago.

"Forbidden City" explores a theme of possibility and the likelihood of change. China, with its thousands of years of tradition and current headlong plunge into modernity, is the perfect canvas for the story. When the clues don't make sense, the pitch of battle sharpens to a razors edge, and events turn their darkest, Annja is forced to grow as a character. This isn't a teaser, this is meaty and substantial. Then Annja allies with Kelly Swan, a trained assassin on a mission to even the score with those who murdered her father. Kelly is so richly drawn that she's a perfect counterweight to Annja. Kelly is a character fully deserving of a spin-off novel of her own.

For the first time since the beginning of the Rogue Angel franchise, we really dig into the inner workings of Roux and Garin Braden. The theme rings true even in the smallest details when Garin partners with the villain. While bowing only once to its own mythology, this story very cleverly does more than has ever been done before to deepen and broaden its principal characters. Alex Archer's commitment to plain prose drives this point home and makes this story a fast, fun read.

The greatest strength of this story is in its telling. The pacing is spot on. The author's expert use of action and language makes this a fun read for all readers. Highly recommended!

I have only one tiny, tiny thing to say about the book that is not absolutely, positively 100% "thumbs up". Yes, it is very, very tiny, but it is one of those things I feel compelled to say. The only question I have is this -- what were the Chinese characters on the cover of this book intended to mean? It doesn't translate into much beyond gibberish; the words become "English Life" to the best that I can make out. I know this doesn't mean much in the greater scheme of things, but seriously folks, this is one of those things for me. Have you ever seen those baseball caps with Chinese characters printed on them? I saw a young person at the mall recently with one of those caps on his head. He was very proud of the cap, but apparently had no idea that the character translated to "foot". How hard can it be to find an appropriate word or words to say in Chinese? Really now, one third of the world we live on can speak that language fairly well!


Katie said...

I'm reading this one right now! It's great so far.

Ron Simpson said...

awesome post

Katie said...

you know... I have to admit that I never even thought about what the characters on the front of the book meant.

Anonymous said...

The bottom Character Means Destiny but the top is what intruges me