Hammer of Angels by G. T. Almasi (Book Review)
G.T. Almasi’s debut to his smash-read Blades of Winter arrived in February 2014, but thanks to reviewer privileges I got to read the novel much earlier, in December 2012 itself. I didn’t like the sequel as much as I’d liked the debut, but it proved to be a good enough read in the end and I loved getting back with the protagonist Alix Nico on her globe-trotting adventures.
In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so enjoy away!
The original review can be found here.
“Not exactly as good as his debut, Almasi still tells a masterful story about identity, revenge and family against the backdrop of a Cold War-era styled world.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
The spy thriller Blades of Winter was my first such novel in ages, and it was a novel that I hold to be among my favourite reads of 2012, as well as a great debut novel that exceeded expectations. Consequently, I wanted a lot more out of the sequel, The Hammer of Angels, since Almasi had built up my expectations to that point. While I’m not sure if the sequel is better, it certainly is quite a decent read all told.
To begin with, it has been a few weeks since we last met Alix Nico and her friends and family. In all this time, she has been seriously over-working herself to bring the people who’ve wronged her family to justice, but the rewards have been next to non-existent since her enemies have a lot of leverage as it turns out. Additionally, her escapades in Europe and the Middle East from her last mission have caught up with her and she has to, in essence, go back and fix things. All well and good so far, until it turns out that what the agency really wants to do is to destabilise the political situation in Greater Germany so that the Germans are forced to continue their “peaceful” alliance with good old U S of A. This is when I started to feel that the narrative was losing its focus and when Alix Nico became nigh-on invincible. Even James Bond or Ethan Hunt or Nick Fury aren’t this good!
Once aspect in which The Hammer of Angels absolutely trumps is the enormous amount of insight we get into ExOps and its inner workings, particularly, all the different types of Levels and how they all work together. We also get to meet another female Level who happens to be somewhat of a contemporary to Alix within ExOps and their professional relationship was equal parts awesome and amusing. There’s something to be said for two biologically/bionically enhanced women laying waste to mob after mob of bad guys with their souped up guns and raw aggression. I feel no shame in admitting that things like these are a guilty pleasure of sorts for me. Everybody loves girls with guns, more when they are written well, and both Alix and her friend have that going for them. There was nothing cliche about them, exactly in keeping with Blades of Winter.
Another is the breakneck speed of the plot. Alix and her friends are told that they have to forment a near civil war in Greater Germany and this is exactly what happens. The whole chaos of the extended mission and the various scrapes that the characters end up in make for really action-heavy reading that often left me breathless. The teams move from place to place constantly and sometimes it gets a bit disconcerting, but never to the point where I felt put off with it.
Almasi continues to develop his setting as well, and we get to see a lot more of Europe this time around. The focus this time is very much on the civilian side of things, as we run into the rebels quite a bit, and meet their local supporters as well. The special notes at the end of each chapter, detailing various aspects of the setting in its totality, added to my sense of immersion throughout, just as they did in Blades of Winter. They add a certain depth and nuance to the narrative and the setting that would be quite obviously missing otherwise, and they help me understand all the things that are happening much better. The letters of Cyrus, Alix’s section head, are particularly noteworthy in this regard since they serve to flesh out his (minor) character quite a bit.
If I had any criticisms of the novel they would be that Alix is way too invincible while going up against the bad guys, and that at times it feels like Almasi is trying to do a lot, more than is feasible for a book of this length. There are just too many concepts and events floating around that have a significant effect on the narrative, so things sometimes get jumbled up, which is never a good thing. Complexity and brevity go hand in hand. I would have also preferred if we had gotten to spend more time in each of the locations that Alix and her team end up in. The added focus would have helped tremendously I feel, since the overall thrust of what Almasi is trying to do here would have been much clearer, and we would have been able to get a much more in depth look at how the actions of all the ExOps on mission in Greater Germany are changing things within the borders of the premier European superpower.
I expected much more from the novel, but at the same time this was a great read, so I’m not all that fussed about it. I had fun reading the novel, and I would recommend it whole-heartedly.
More Shadowstorm: Blades of Winter.
Posted on September 11, 2014, in 2012 Reading Challenge, Book Reviews, Challenges, Review Central and tagged 2012 Reading Challenge, Action-Adventure, Alix Nico, Alternate Reality, Blades of Winter, Book Review, Cold War, Del Rey Books, Female Protagonists, G. T. Almasi, Hammer of Angels, Novel Review, Review, Review Central, Shadowhawk, Shadowstorm, Spy Thriller, The Founding Fields, Women in SFF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.