The underlying premise of this urban fantasy series is that there are apocalyptic things afoot which angels alone can’t stand against. So they turn to humans – well, mostly humans – for help. Which is where Sam comes in. In common with other protagonists who star in spookynatural series, Sam’s a gifted misfit who’s been unable to control or understand his special talent and who scratches a living at the edge of society. Then he’s hired by an angel to investigate a biker gang, and everything starts to unravel.
Inevitably, where there are angels there are also the other guys from down below. In Conquest, author CJ Somersby veers clear of the hackneyed good / bad us / them scenario. There are multiple teams here, and having wings or horns doesn’t necessarily tie a player to one side. Nor is it obvious whether the deity is in control or even aware of what’s going on – the forces of heaven and hell seem to be acting fairly independently to unleash the fabled riders of the apocalypse.
As usual, I’m always somewhat sceptical about what the poor dumb schmuck can really bring to the party, given that he’s the least powerful puppy in the room. Sam can’t hardly use his gift to start with, and spends most of this novel being pushed around like the pawn he is, while the various teams get their players in place and try to scoop up the super-powerful doomsday weapon. If you’ve read much urban fantasy, then this is going to feel fairly familiar.
But there’s some innovative twists and intriguing characters which I really enjoyed. Tying the story arc to the Nephilim was neat. Norman, one of the original Fallen, is a captivating character – and Sam’s glimpse into Eden was superbly rendered, bringing with it a genuine sense of serenity amid the mayhem. Similarly, Sam’s low-key yet extremely chilling encounter with Beelzebub promises much for future books in the series. He’s definitely a demon you’d want to spend more time with; just the right side of terrifying, but plenty beguiling…
Conquest was an easy afternoon’s entertainment. The writing flows smoothly, as does the action. It’s not quite as non-stop frenetic free-for-all as some Harry Dresden episodes – and is the better for it, I think. The magical moments for me came in the quiet conversations of dread tension with supernatural beasts and beings, although there’s plenty of flash-n-bang action set pieces if angelfire and gun battles are your thing.
Sam at the end of this book seems to be a very different character from the two-time loser we meet at the start. Not merely more powerful, but more purposeful. It’ll be intriguing to see how he fares in the next episode, presumably against the next horseman out of heaven’s stable…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Conquest: The Angels Of Chicago Book 1 by CJ Somersby is available as an ebook or paperback