Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kyle, Omega Rising (2016)

Anna Kyle, Omega Rising. World Weaver Press, 2016. Pp. 270. ISBN 978-0-69266-950-1. $13.95.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Paranormal Romance is a hybrid genre that has flirted with oversaturating the market in recent years, largely because of the Young Adult vampire romance craze that peaked with the Twilight franchise. It then edged into the adult market with the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series that was popularized through True Blood (though that particular series of books and shows bear less resemblance to one another than one might think), as well as with J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, which surprisingly have not been adapted to screen. While the popularity of vampires has waned in recent years, the genre still flourishes with a multitude of other supernatural creatures that vary from angels to werewolves. Werewolves make up several of the main characters in Omega Rising, Anna Kyle’s debut novel and the first of a series called Wolf King; though this book was released just this past June, the second volume, Skye Falling, is already slated for publication in August. That’s quick turnaround, and I imagine her growing fan-base will be pleased. Omega Rising didn’t feel like the first of a series to me, as Kyle’s worldbuilding is incredibly advanced and a lot was happening; the quick pace, especially in the second half of the volume, made it feel like it should be the third or fourth in a series, not the first. But let me back up, and tell you about the story itself.

Cass Nolan runs a ranch with an assortment of quirky characters, her own found family after a life on the run from an abusive aunt. She sometimes talks to the ghost of her twin sister, a twin she has convinced herself must surely be imaginary, and she suffers from burns when she is touched—at least until she meets the mysterious Nathan Rivers, who shows up at her ranch looking for work. Nathan is secretly a werewolf and an Enforcer for the shadowy Enforcement Agency fighting an Endless War against magic-users like the Omegas. The Omegas themselves are a hybrid race who combine the traits of shapeshifters, known as the Joined, with that of the mages, and are considered deadly threats to the natural (as well as the paranormal) order of things. Nathan is patrolling the area looking for the murderer of a shifter; he is also hunting for his brother’s murderer. His brother was also killed by magic, and so Nathan carries a personal vendetta against mages, as well as a professional one. His life is complicated both by his immediate attraction to Cass and the fact that pretty much every member of her ranch staff is, unbeknownst to her, a shifter as well.

If this seems like a lot to take in (and a lot of capitals, which is perhaps one of the hallmarks of the genre), this is actually only the first few chapters of the book; lots happens, and very quickly, too. Kyle also has a gift for creating snappy dialogue, and if one of the weaknesses of her text is some less-drawn characterizations for the minor characters, the blank spaces are filled in with wit and panache. In a way, Omega Rising reminded me a lot of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian; if that novel was like a very detailed screenplay, Kyle’s novel is a lot more like the prospectus for a television serial—and believe it or not, I do mean that in a positive way. There is a definite sense of seriality to it, though there is a thrilling conclusion and enough dangling plot threads that promise still more adventures, rather than the cliffhanger approach that has been favored by other writers of late. One of the things that also surprised me about the novel was that it bucked the trend in the genre with the sex scenes, which are few and brief (and belied by the near-obligatory naked male torso on the cover) rather than lengthy and explicit affairs (as it were). Kyle also did without the equally near-obligatory trope of the couple coming apart because of a misunderstanding or secrets and then getting back together: Nathan reveals his true nature to Cass, as do the other shifters, with surprisingly little drama, and she likewise accepts this aspect of her friends and would-be lover with aplomb, though with fewer pop culture references than I half-expected given some of the other dialogues.

Ultimately, this is a fun sort of beach or popcorn read, entertaining and light. I do think that because it is Paranormal Romance, this will make or break the deal for prospective readers: if you like the genre you will probably like it, if you don’t then you probably won’t. Kyle conforms to most aspects of the genre, and that has its pleasures too. And if you aren’t sure, then Omega Rising may well be worth checking out for all of the reasons mentioned above.

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