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Villains Inc. (Wearing the Cape Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
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She's now completed her training and is a more effective superhero than ever, but after the events of the first novel, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. And since her relationship with the late Atlas has been revealed, her popularity has plummeted. The Sentinels have plenty of problems of their own, too — with several of their most prominent members dead, they have to bring in new members quickly. And there’s a prophecy that the team’s leader, the magic-wielding Blackstone, is going to be killed. And worst of all, Chicago is gripped by a metahuman crime wave as a group called Villains Inc. starts a war on organized crime, the Sentinels, the police, and anyone else who gets in their way.
There are also plenty of changes for two of Hope’s friends — Jacky “Artemis” Bouchard, reluctant vampire vigilante, back from New Orleans, learns what happens when a vampire gets hit by a powerful healing spell, and Shelly (Hope’s old friend from high school, who’d killed herself in an attempt to give herself superpowers and then been resurrected as an artificial intelligence) sees her role in the Sentinels organization develop in greater ways.
So will the Sentinels be able to track the spellcaster behind Villains Inc.? Will they be able to save Blackstone? Can they keep from getting wrecked by Villains Inc. and everyone else coming out of the woodwork to attack them? And how is Astra going to handle going toe-to-toe with a villain who’s even more powerful than she is?
I’ve read a lot of superhero novels, and I’ve liked an awful lot of them. And I really do think Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series is the gold standard that all other superhero novels should aspire to.
I love the characters — Hope, Jacky, Shelly, the Bees, Hope’s parents, Rush, Blackstone, Detective Fisher, Lei Zi, and all the rest. I love the action — bruising, brutal, terrible, thrilling. I love the drama and suspense and the vast amounts of humor.
And I love the attention to detail and realism — there are plenty of ideas here about how superheroes and supervillains would affect laws, culture, the media, and more. And even better, all that realism doesn’t make it a grim, unappealing story, like so many other “realistic” superhero stories. It’s still enormous fun to read, and to re-read.
Seriously, the story starts with Astra fighting Godzilla — or at least *a* godzilla. And it just gets better from there.
The second book, Villains Inc., continues to be an excellent example of continued world building while simultaneously stepping up its plot game by leaps and bounds. Where the first book was a collection of events in Astra's life all tied together by the driving force of the main, largely invisible conflict, Villains Inc. was led from the beginning by a strong goal and conflict. It's a mystery, with unknown actors working with unknown motivations, and intrigue abounds as revelations are made and battles are fought.
The first book was centered around legal aspects, public relations, and the surprising truth that Superheroes mostly spend their time as emergency relief workers instead of law-enforcing super-butt-kickers. The second book has a much bigger emphasis on action with many more fights than the first, and all of them of even higher quality. That's not to say the legal and public aspects aren't prominent; issues of jurisdiction and working with the police force are major themes and obstacles throughout the book, and the anti-super politician Mal Shankman is a great reoccurring minor antagonist.
Villains Inc. is a stunning, incredible continuation of a fantastic start to a wonderful series. If you haven't read the first one, definitely do so (and stick with it until at least after her first fight; the beginning slows down for a bit but really picks up shortly after). When you're done with that, come right back here and read this book too.
(Now, with the actual review done, I have a couple notes. First, this cover is beautiful. All the covers are great, but I think this one is the most stunning of the series so far. "So far" meaning book 5 is the latest at time of writing. I also had an interesting realization how different Mr. Harmon's writing style is to my own, even though he was my direct inspiration. While I tend to be very descriptive and lush with details, Mr. Harmon leaves most of that to the reader's imagination. Without heavy details however the action is clear, the choreography crisp and clean, but I found that I needed to slow down and force myself to actually picture what's happening. I did that with the moment Astra knocked a villain into the street hard enough to crater it, then followed in with another savage strike that sent a second shockwave running through the pavement, and oooooohhhhh MAN it was cool. That's all an observation, not a criticism; the writing is excellent, I just find it's interesting to study the different styles of different authors.)
I'm done fanboy-ing. Now go read!
Astra again rose to the challenge proved she was worthy of Atlas' legacy. If her place as a favorite heroine wasn't cemented after the first book, it is now.
At first, I was a bit dismayed at the lack of page time for Artemis until Things Changed(tm). Fans of Artemis have a great deal to look forward to in this book and the coming sequel (Yes!). I'll admit that a certain scene brought a tear to my eye. Considering the nature of the sequel, the symbolism in that scene is quite poignant.
Note to the author: This book finally coming out in its collected form was a significant factor in my decision to finally pick up a Kindle. If the sequel wasn't going to be released in print form then, well, I guess I was going to have to break down and get a Kindle.