04 January 2014

Devas, asuras, their convoluted plans and their dread weapons

Books | Matthew Graybosch | Without Bloodshed

Okay, the cover of Without Bloodshed is actually quite different. But this is the picture which convinced me to read the book (helped along generously by teasers from Matthew Graybosch on Google+). Go on, I dare you to say that looking at this does not make you want to know more about (left to right) Imaginos, Naomi Bradleigh and Morgan Stormrider.

In this first book in the Starbreaker series, we get to know that nations have fallen worldwide. Communities now police their own. Governments and officials are held to account by the Phoenix Society, which enforces justice by its 'Adversaries'. These are trained people, and the only ones who can bring the corrupt to justice. Theirs is a tough job: they are either right or dead. Yup, they get executed if they prosecute the innocent. Morgan Stormrider is the Adversary of choice sent in to execute anyone who kills an Adversary.

We come into the story when someone with almost supernatural powers decides to frame Naomi Bradleigh for a murder she did not do, in order to enrage Morgan and test him to breaking point. In the meantime, in America, a gun-runner, Alexander Liebenthal and his bunch of bikers takes over Boston in a coup, and his bodyguard kills three combat-trained Adversaries. In Japan, Nakajima Chihiro, the owner of the company that makes the Adversaries' weapons, including katanas and guns, tries to reassure Morgan about the weapons he has, since it seems that the ex-Adversary Munakata Tetsuo has mysteriously survived a shot to the head. And Morgan's boss Karen del Rio is like every boss from Hell you've ever known. Liebenthal insists that the Phoenix Society is corrupt and uses the Adversaries to cut down dissenters. Morgan is tasked to take him down without killing him, to prove him wrong. Or is he, really?

More people with supernatural powers turn up. We find that several Adversaries and others are actually clones--Asura emulators created by one of the supernaturals. There are devas, too, including the daughter of Imaginos. Anyone who knows Persian or Indian myth will recognise these terms. I'm still not sure at the end of book one whether the devas or the asuras, or both, are the good guys. Matthew Graybosch will probably sell several books to me by the time my curiosity is quenched. :)

In the meantime, cryptic conversations and a slow leak of information build the suspense, leavened liberally with action sequences, betrayal, honour, technology indistinguishable from magic, and other page-turning stuff. Some of the stuff that will keep me up at night includes why Morgan and Naomi were running a band called Crowley's Thoth, what the ends of Imaginos are, why congenital pseudofeline morphological disorder appeared among humans, how many of the people around are humans at all, and why on earth Imaginos is so cavalier about his daughter's well-being himself while visiting death on those who harm a single hair on her head. Who is this Imaginos guy anyway, and who is this Sabaoth he strives against, and how come their enmity is older than the pyramids? And I already want Witness Protocol and Tesla points in real life, though suborbital flights I can probably do without.

Yeah, you get the bug too, don't you? Read and find out for yourself.