Jen reviews Blacklight Born, the third book in The Combat Codes Saga, Alexander Darwin‘s Sci-Fi Fantasy series. You can read our collective SPFBO finalist review of The Combat Codes, and Jen’s review of the second book, Grievar’s Blood.
Huge thanks to Alexander Darwin for the e-copy in exchange for a review.
|Series: The Combat Codes Saga #3||Genre: sci-fi/fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: July 14, 2021||Trigger Warnings: mentions of torture -psychological/physical, fighting, death, war|
|Page count: 478||Publisher: self-published|
The Grievar War has engulfed the Empire of Kiroth. Silas the Slayer has given voice and violence to his warrior kin, providing them a reason to rise up after a thousand years of servitude.
Cego is released into a war-torn world where the lines between shadow and light are blurred. He must decide which side to fight for: with his brother’s righteous rebellion or beside the family he has finally found.
Murray Pearson leads a group of Lyceum students on an adventure across Kiroth to follow the path of combat mastery. But Murray seeks something more on this long road. Redemption.
Blacklight Born is the explosive conclusion to the Combat Codes Saga, a story where all must seek a final truth as they step back into the Circle. Why do we fight
A thunderous roar ripped across the sky. The Whelps craned their heads and saw six sleek black shapes puncture the clouds.
“Flyers,” Sol whispered. “An entire squadron.”
The Flyers sped over the sea and stopped midair above a rocky landmass jutting from the water. A blinking skeletal tower rose from a flat platform on the island, which the mechs descended to.
I was going to use this song last book but it felt more like a finale kind of song!
Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS
The Combat Codes Saga smudges the fantasy/sci-fi line with some really neat and creative in-world tech to support the MMA style justice system that the society uses to settle disputes with not only one another but other countries, making this one of the most unique and the most fun series I have read and finished in the last couple years. The fact that it’s from a new and upcoming author just makes it doubly impressive.
In this final book, Blacklight Born we return with Murray’s POV, which is told in a kind of flashback and present-time combo. During the flashback portions, Murray is searching for Sam, Cego’s younger brother. And in present time, Murray and the whelps (Cego’s friends and teammates) are preparing for a placement trial, with a side-quest mission of rescuing Cego. But this rescue is not from prison where we left him in the last book but from Silas (the Slayer), whom Cego has joined as the right-hand man of the leader of the resistance.
We also return to Cego’s POV, who was conspicuously absent from a large portion of the last book. This is a Cego who is quite a bit different from the strong and loyal fighter we grew to love. The combination of all he has learned and his experiences in prison, have him floundering, unsure of who he is or his place in the world.
Blacklight Born has some great ideas – we learn more about how the rings work and other tech, politics, and that not all the Daimyos are cut from the same cloth, even if they seem a little unemotional at first glance.
Some of the story is told in a jump-forward-fill-in-the-blanks, kind of style to make room for the plot to develop for the rest. This isn’t my favourite choice for moving a story along, especially with characters that are off-screen for large amounts of time, as I feel it strengthens that disconnect when we are needing to reconnect.
But I do appreciate that the author was not afraid to take some chances, as he did in his previous book. Now, seeing the story as a whole, I almost felt we needed one more book to tie everything together properly. Giving us time and space to have the opportunity to be a part of those moments that shaped these characters to whom they became in this final story.
Something that doesn’t change over the course of these books is its heart. The friendships, the sacrifice and perseverance, and especially learning to believe in and accept yourself – the good and the bad.
Or the fights. Just Wow.
That end fight and everything around the way it played out was freaking awesome! There is no denying that Alexander Darwin knows how to write a fight that has you perched on the edge of your seat.
I will be looking forward to seeing what Alexander Darwin brings us in future novels.
I like the direction Blacklight Born took with the brothers, and how their time growing up together came full-circle to become the resolution of their conflict.
Also Sam, I won’t go into details but that whole realization when Cego gets to see him again, as an adult.
I am rounding up my score for enjoyment (and for that nicely done moment to do with Sam).