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Torchwood: Border Princes (Torchwood Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
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"Killman Creek" by Rachel Caine
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Border Princes is a Torchwood novel, and Torchwood, of course, is the BBC series featuring Captain Jack Harkness. Harkness appeared originally in several Doctor Who episodes and who, through the actions of Rose Tyler, is now immortal and heading up the Torchwood team guarding Cardiff against the denizens and riff-raff that enter our world through the Rift. The Rift in the Doctor Who universe is located at Cardiff Bay, Wales and acts as a generator of stories. It has been defined as a wormhole but it acts as portal contacting various universes. The Rift appeared initially in the Doctor Who episode, entitled "The Unquiet Dead," starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. In that brilliant episode, featuring Simon Callow as Dickens, a rift opens in Victorian Cardiff and allows the Gelth, gaseous humanoid organisms to pass into a funeral parlor, where they inhabit corpses. Additionally, the Rift releases radiation, which grants people psychic powers, including Gwyneth, a servant in the parlor. Gwyneth in the episode is played by Eve Myles, who later plays the current day policewoman Gwen in Torchwood and perhaps is a descendant of the first Gwyneth. In the Doctor Who episode Gwyneth saves humanity by the forfeiture of her life. In Abnett's Border Princes, the modern Gwen is also at the center of the action. This time her forfeiture involves the loss of a lover.
Abnett's novel contains the usual suspects but at the same time it shares and demonstrates all the Abnett tropes and devices. First, Abnett uses multiple points of view. That works well with this novel because it is really about the team. Second, Abnett is the master of delay and suspense. He carries us along to the end by slowly dribbling out the clues. Intertwined with the mystery of the sixth member of the Torchwood team, James, is numerous other stories of Rift mishaps and mayhem. Third, no one writes combat better than Abnett and there is plenty here. His alien creatures sizzle with hardware and battle expertise, causing us to want to know more about them. Fourth, surprisingly, Abnett writes domestic scenes well. My fantasy was that his well-crafted scenes between James and Gwen were echoes from his own relationships.
Needless to say, the novel is well-written, exciting and true to the Torchwood IP. However, it is almost impossible to discuss the plot without giving something away. So I won't. Instead, I will just say that if you like Torchwood, you will like this novel. If you like Abnett, you will be pleased because you get the usual Abnett--plus. The plus is the way in which he describes domestic scenes and relationships. In the Border Princes, Gwen is having trouble with Rhys, her boyfriend. The number of incursions through the Rift has increased her workload and is interfering with her personal life.
Finally, if you haven't read Abnett, I recommend the following novels: the omnibus volume from Black Library, entitled The Saint; the Warhammer novel Riders of the Dead, a personal favorite, and Triumff from Angry Robot.
If this is your first or second Torchwood novel, and you have not watched the TV series, you might not notice what's wrong, or why the Torchwood team rubs you the wrong way. If you have viewed the second season episode, "Adam" then you will immediately start thinking along those plot lines, and then wonder why a book with so many similarities to an episode was given the nod.
I'm sorry to say that it is this reason that is likely driving the low reviews (mine as well) of Border Princes. The concept of *who* the border princes are is excellent, a group of people on the far side of the Rift who serve much the same purpose as Torchwood does on this side. Now something has gone horribly wrong, and they have arrived on our side of the Rift to do their job. And once things got rocking along towards the big reveal, I enjoyed it. But I spent the first part of the book going, "Who the **** IS this guy, why hasn't Jack noticed, and how the **** did that happen?"
It does share minor similarities to the Torchwood audio-adventure "Everybody Says Hello", but nothing as jarring as the major element which is parallel to the one in "Adam". For this reason, if you have read other Torchwood novels and seen the show, this book might grind a bit.