A bit later this month, I'll be participating in the TLC tour for Rod Rees's The Shadow Wars, the second installment in the Demi-Monde quadrilogy, which was the prefect opportunity for me to jump into the first book of the series -- one that's been languishing in my TBR for way too long!
The Demi-Monde was created as a hyper-real military training module. While many training ops are too controlled and unable to produce a real experience, the Demi-Monde is designed to be the exact opposite. After initial programming to include some of the world's most evil sociopaths, the Demi-Monde was designed to learn. Situations are unpredictable and "players" are unaware of any other reality. To die in the Demi-Monde is to die in real life. When the president's daughter enters the Demi-Monde and is taken captive, the military is forced to send in a civilian to rescue her. Ella Thomas desperately needs the money but nothing can truly prepare her for the reality of the Demi-Monde. But Ella is clever and she is armed with two huge advantages: first, she's been armed with the knowledge of the reality she's come from. Second, she's tapped into the Demi-Monde's programming. And Ella will need all the help she can get if she's to survive and complete her mission.
Rod Rees's debut is a kind of brilliantly conceived story. It's a combination of science fiction and alternate history set in a totally Matrix-like world. For me, it works as long as I don't think too hard about it. And that's what I think a lot of science fiction is -- diving in and taking the author's word for it. It wasn't all that difficult considering Rees does a great job of making his world believable. Even if you have difficulty wrapping your head around the idea of the Demi-Monde, the characters that populate this alternate world are fantastic in every regard, helping to make the world that much more realistic.
Ella and Vanka are, of course, the stars of the show. Ella is thrust into this world and immediately acclimates. Of course being armed with the knowledge of her own world and history is of great use, especially considering she's put into a world that flourishes through adopting every bad political, racist, sexist, and religious idea out there.
Vanka is a mystery even to Ella, which leads me to believe that there will be some possibly quite interesting revelations about him to come in further installments. He's a bit of a ladies man but the chemistry between him and Ella builds fabulously.
Aside from them, we also have Trixie Dashwood, a bit of a high society gal who's got some unpopular ideas that could mean trouble for her father; Aleister Crowley serves as just one of the big bads in the Demi-Monde; Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the ForthRight and a pretty heinous character; and a slew of others both fictional and based in history.
As I mentioned, this is just the first in a series of four and there is a pretty HUGE cliffhanger ending. I can't wait to get to Shadow World now. You can look for my post in the TLC book tour on March 18.