Javelin Rain by Myke Cole is the second book of his second, prequel trilogy. If you haven’t read Myke’s four other books, I’m going to at least assume you’ve read the first book in this trilogy, Gemini Cell. This review will contain spoilers for that book. So fair warning.
In the first trilogy, magic had fully re-entered the world. People are aware of it in the sense that they are aware of icebergs. Most of it is hidden away behind military contracts and classification. But in this trilogy, humans are only getting their first taste of magic. Only a few people know about it, and all they really know is how little they do know because of experiments. Experiments like Jim Schweitzer–a former Navy SEAL whose reanimated corpse was endowed with super powers thanks to a malevolent djinn that shared Schweitzer’s body. When we last left Jim, he had cast out the djinn, taken sole custody of his body, and reunited with his wife and young son. Javelin Rain picks up right where the last book leaves off with Jim’s family on the run, and it doesn’t slow down.
The introductory materials to the book state:
Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.
Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost…
Think loose nuke. Only this time, Jim is the nuke. And he’s on the loose. And the people that made him will go through anyone and anything to get him back, with the blessing of the U.S. government. Jim may be a one of a kind monster, but he’s not the only monster. And on top of the monsters, there are also operators like Jim used to be joining in on the hunt.
And while Jim, a reanimated corpse, can go without food and rest, his wife and son cannot. And it’s that division between human and monster that drives a large portion of Javelin Rain. Although Jim wants nothing more than to be a happy family again, it’s just not going to happen. He can’t be a husband or a father when he is essentially a modern Frankenstein’s monster. He’s cut off from his wife, and his death and reappearance are clearly scarring his son’s young mind. It’s a painful realization. And combined with the dangers Jim and his family face in this book, it makes for a relentless, dark read.
This is a bit of a change from Cole’s earlier books. While there are still plenty of action sequences that mix magic and the military, this is a chase novel with a tight focus on the negative consequences of exposure to magic. Previous protagonists worked to forge a new life or a new world view. That process was difficult and not without costs. But the protagonists survived. Jim, on the other hand, is utterly wrecked, physically and emotionally, over the course of this novel.
And he’s not the only one. Back at the center that created Jim, they went from triumph (the creation of Jim) to utter defeat (Jim’s escape). And management’s decisions regarding the hunt for Jim are making employees question their priorities. Only, there is no walking away from this program. They are trapped and growing desperate. The center threatens to either implode or explode. Can it remain secret? Can it continue to experiment with magic? What happens when they bring in a new sorcerer, a ruthless who isn’t too concerned about collateral damage? (By the way, she is an incredible character–broken, cold, and utterly compelling. She steals the scene, every time she’s “on stage”)
Look, this is Myke Cole’s fifth book. Ever since Control Point, I’ve been on board, snapping up his books as quickly as I can. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a fan. Cole has always had great world building, and his characters have continued to improve with each book. This is no exception–it’s his best yet. His pacing has also sped up, making this book incredibly hard to put down. I just wonder how he will go from Javelin Rain to Siege Line, the final book in the prequel trilogy. There are a lot of questions left to answer. And I can’t wait to see what Myke Cole has in store for readers.