There’s promise and some elements I enjoyed about William Dickstein’s sci-fi world of government-regulated superheroes and androids. However, I have a number of issues with it as well, owed for the most part to overwriting and the occasional bout of stilted dialogue.
What is strangest about this novel is that I felt it was a prequel to the novel I came to expect based on the blurb. Here is a portion of the blurb:
Ivy and Lochlan's worlds collide in the small town of Choudrant, Louisiana—where the residents have more secrets than shopping malls. The lead Cape in Choudrant has defected, and an android might be the only one who can find out why. If he’s going to succeed, Lochlan will have to look for help in unlikely places and unlikely genes.
This collision between Ivy and Lochlan takes place only in the last chapter of the novel. A lot of what happens before feels like inflated filler. This holds particularly true about Lochlan’s (he’s an android agent of the World Government) sections, which go into minute detail about anything and everything to do with android functionality, agent politicking and more. Well thought out, and I admire the effort…but it’s true what they say about magicians – if they show you everything about how their trick works, it’s no longer magical. Too many of the descriptions, in particular those that involved the android agent Lochlan, suffered from that; they made me conscious of someone doing the writing. Often, descriptions didn’t flow, leaving me aware of the words on the screen instead of allowing me to immerse myself fully into the world. Some of the dialogue between agents Lochlan and Khard (who seemed about as important to the overall Lochlan arc but slightly more likeable) came across as stilted, as well.
The storyline these two agents are part of, starts off a bit underwhelming and I never fully engaged with it. There’s some mystery there but considering the opening, I made an educated guess that turned out to be correct by novel’s end. The setting, a small Louisiana town, deserves a mention; it’s eerie and somehow off in a good way.
Dickstein nails Ivy’s voice in the chapters from her perspective. She’s interesting, she’s likable and it wasn’t hard at all to be invested in her story and the mystery that surrounded her power. It’s a pity she spends most of the book in a training facility. Granted, several of the supporting characters in this Cape recruitment academy are interesting and add to the story, like Ivy’s estranged childhood friend Hilly who is also a fellow trainee, or Tristan, a Tinker who has an adorably awkward crush on Ivy. The instructors at the facility piqued my interest as well, in particular, Hunter. Hunter is a veteran Cape, retired from those pesky superheroics but more than ready to mold the next generation of Capes. He had several memorable quirks, like the fact that the AC in his quarters is always blasting a cold gust at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ivy doesn’t know what her power is, other than hearing voices that occasionally offer help. That those voices are cryptic enough to never be helpful except when her life is in danger is just an added annoyance. The mystery around them lingers on well past the closing chapter of the book and is in fact the kind of hook I would read a sequel for.
I recommend this read to anyone who’s looking for a coming-of-age superhero story, surrounded by a mystery or two. Liking androids is a big plus! I’m curious to see how Ivy’s story develops from this point onwards and I wish author William Dickstein luck in his ambitious endeavour.