Red and Black by Nancy O’Toole Meservier

Series: Red and Black #1 Rating: 4.5/5
Date of Publishing: August 13th 2018 Genre: Superhero/fantasy
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 363 Author’s website: https://nancyotoole.wordpress.com/

Quote of the Book

I took a swing. His hands blocked and deflected my blow away from his face. He delivered a cross with his right that slammed into my jaw and sent me spinning backwards. 

Ow, ow, ow, holy shit, ooooww! 

Before taking up the mask, I, like most good (okay, painfully boring) girls, got decent grades, didn’t skip class, and never did anything that would make my mother too ashamed. I had never been hit before costuming up. Now I couldn’t count how many blows I had taken. That’s the reality about throwing yourself into the fray. You’re gonna get hit every now and then. Fortunately, that’s where my resilience kicked it. I could take a punch. It hurt, but the pain faded pretty fast. 

I had never been hit this hard. This guy was big, it was true, but there was something more to him. Most people couldn’t turn a nice chair into kindling in a single blow. 

I was still reeling from it when I felt hands at my collarbone. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted off my feet, then pinned to the nearest wall. I felt the drywall crumble. 

Oh shit. Oh shit. 

I was not a high enough level for this boss fight. 

“Who are you?” the man said, his voice low and gravelly. 

I didn’t answer, which wasn’t a surprise given that I was probably frickin’ concussed at this point. He banged me against the wall again, sending a fresh wave of pain through every surface on the back of my body.

 “Who are you?” he demanded again.

 “God,” I half-gasped. “You’re not doing the Bale Batman voice, because no one really liked that, you know?”

 “What?” He cocked his head to the side. 

“It was the only bad call Bale made in portraying that character. He was such a great, ugh…Bruce Wayne, you know?”

Blurb

Dawn Takahashi knows a thing or two about superheroes, from the fictional ones that populate her favorite comic books, to the real-life vigilantes who keep people safe. When she's granted an impressive set of powers of her own, she dives right in, eager to prove herself as Bailey City's first legitimate superhero. Dressed in red and black, Dawn spends her nights jumping from rooftop to rooftop, apprehending criminals with a smile. But by day, she finds her interactions marred by crippling social awkwardness.

Alex Gage is used to life giving him the short end of the stick, from his working-class upbringing, to the recent death of his mother. He works hard to support his younger sisters, hiding his anger and frustration behind laid back charm. It's this charm that first draws Alex and Dawn together, but their secrets may tear them apart. Because while Dawn protects the city against threats, Alex unknowingly undermines her efforts by working as a henchman for Calypso, a mysterious woman who can make anyone loyal to her with a single touch of her hand.

It’s the classic story of boy meets girl. And hero versus villain. Where only one side can win.

 

Personal notes

Review Request. A huge thank you goes to Nancy O’Toole Meservier for supplying a copy for review.

 

Song of the Book

Superheroes by The Script

I know, I know, not very original but the it reminded me a lot of Alex trying to keep his remaining family together. Hall of Fame also by The Script, was my other choice for Dawn (I’ll save that choice for the next book. Ha!)

 

Review by Jen

There is a lot to like in this fun and creative superhero story, starting with the outstanding characters.

As a comic book nerd Dawn has always been enamoured with superheroes, so when she acquires her own superpowers, she’s right on top of things – right down to sticking to her own set of rules that she tries to adhere to with varying degrees of success.

Dawn’s alter ego Red and Black, is everything that Dawn has a hard time showing the world without the disguise- she’s a smart-ass outspoken, confident and strong-willed. When Dawn is costumed, she gets to be the person that she can’t be without a disguise. The unmasked Dawn is shy, awkward and has some major avoidance issues, she isn’t good at confrontation or people but she has a good heart and that shows, costumed or not.

I really adored Dawn. The scenes with her and her best friend Sunshine, were some of my favorites. I liked her geekiness, her inner voice, and her humor. I found her to be very relatable and her anxieties felt true.

Alex aka Faultline, is doing all the wrong things, for the right reasons. An absentee father and his mother’s death, have left him with two sisters to look out for and a whole lot of buried anger that scares the hell out of him.

I enjoyed Alex a lot too. He’s a great brother, and I loved the family dynamics that felt all too real to their situation (especially the angry teen sister who doesn’t appreciate the older brother’s parenting).  I couldn’t help but root for him and hope that he caught a break.

The characters do have a lot of introspection and awareness of their own faults with good reasons for their choices. At times I thought they were maybe a little too aware of their own shortcomings during these self-examinations but the characters really were wonderfully handled. Even Calypso and other support characters had motives beyond just being bad, for the sake of being villains.

The plot was multilayered – light enough that you can see how a few threads will undoubtedly play out into future books and can guess at what might be the answers to things that are hinted at and probably be right, but deep enough, to enjoy the little twists and turns along the way. I liked that there was a lot more to the plot and things weren’t so black and white.

The power-trading and hinted at organization and other little things like my assumption on how Dawn received her powers, give this lots of room to grow as a series with that ground work in place. I really liked a lot of those in-world ideas and I can see some cool future book possibilities. Also, that costume morphing, etc. which keeps the whole how did they not know each other Lois/Clark Kent type of relationship, making more sense. Really cool stuff.

 

Other notes

This walks the tightrope between superhero-action story and character story. There were a few scenes that a little less inner-awareness would have helped to speed up the action.

I did wish there’d been more closure between Alex and Dawn since their relationship was such a large part of the story.

The villain’s end arc felt oddly un-villainy but maybe that was the point because we got to see them as human with motivations that were as true to themselves, as the heroes’ were. Trying to word this where I don’t give away too big a spoiler, bzah!

There were a few places where the scene jumped and lost me. Maybe a formatting issue or some scene breaks got dropped, but whichever, it had me backtracking pages to find what I missed.

Pet-peeve alert – so take this next complaint with a grain of salt. A couple of issues of that overlapping repeated POV that I find so unnecessary, and the breath-holding that I wish people could find a better way of letting their anxiety show and quit using the supremely overused ‘letting out that breath they didn’t know they were holding’ line.

But really minor stuff to complain about when this was just excellent fun!

My best recommendation I can give, is when I can say that if book two had been out – I’d have been trying to figure out how to make it fit into my schedule immediately.

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