Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Answering Review Request: Sky Ghosts

Alexandra Engellmann asked me to read her novel "Sky Ghosts: All for One". It is an urban fantasy about the secret war of superpowered heroes and villians. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.

I am reviewing the third version, which as of this writing, is the most recent one.


Jane and Patricia (A.K.A. "Pain") are a pair of Sky Ghosts. This is an organization of humans with superhuman abilities that fight crime in New York city. Lately they've been fighting a war with a rival organization, the Sky Beasts, that's led by a rogue member. At the story's onset, Jane and Pain rescue a pair of civilians from a group of Beasts and take them into protective custody. This is because they overheard that the Big Bad is terrified of one of them for some reason and wants that guy dead. So the Sky Ghosts keep both safe while they try to figure out what's going on.

It's a good start; David encountering Pain while she is at work chopping heads off and is shrouded by darkness. It is a mysterious action-y scene. Thus it is a successful Audience Surrogate introduction. The exposition that follows is long but also interesting. However, that's where it ends.

The bulk of the plot is the four of them ( Jane, Pain, Chad and David) hanging out at safe houses waiting for something to happen. It's either an attack from the Big Bad or a development in the Big Good's investigation. This movement is sluggishly pushed along with a I Have Your Wife which leads inevitably to the You Said You'd Let Them Go/I Lied combo. While I say Tropes Are Not Bad, those are annoying and when they are a plot's backbone, it rankles.

Because there is so little fighting between the opening scene and the climax, the book can feel like a romance with an action veneer. In other words, an excuse plot to force two pairs of the opposite gender to stay hidden in a small place for days at a time. The romance is slow roasting and has its cute/sweet moments, but I don't know the cause of it other than this forced togetherness.  The extended epilogue supports this view as it is more concerned with Chad's relationships than the mission of the Sky Ghosts.

The final confrontation is resolved by a hunch. It sounds like a Deus Ex Machina. I understand the implications given earlier but a less charitable fan would call it an ass pull.

I read the amazon blurb while reading this and I feel a need to debunk a few things
1. "Fantasy novels not centered on romance". Romance is a significant part of this. Indeed it underpins the climax and the Belligerent Sexual Tension has more focus than the fighting
2. "Unique world-building and superpowers". The world building and superpowers are not the least bit unique. A secret organization of in-born super-powered people that can fly, self-heal and create supernatural barriers? Seen it several times. Nothing exactly like this but it is not unique. The fact that the author can name eleven different franchises that are similar to it is proof enough.
3. "Many-layered plot design with a lot to explore". There is indeed a lot to explore but it is not explored. On the contrary, I found it be wasted potential considering how much time is spent in sitting on their butts in safe houses bickering like school children.
It's a decent ending. Closing up and looking forwards.


Pains is the only fully developed ancharacter. She is the only one with dimensions. I count the following: bloodthirsty, introspective, Big Sister Instinct, One of the Boys, a foul mouthed Broken Bird leading to Defrosting Ice Queen.  She has inner vulnerability and fear.  Alexandra Engellmann did a good job with her, but the others are less so.  

 Jane is defined in contrast to Pain: less mean, more level headed, less bloodthirsty, younger etc.. 

 Marco is crude comic relief. 

Peter is Da Chief who feels the Chains of Command. There's little about him other than his position as the leader of Sky Ghosts.

 Eugene is just a faux evilly affable villain; a plot device to bring the two leads together. He has little screen time and is scarcely developed beyond the threat he posses. He's basically " the leader of the bad guys that we can't kill because he has an impregnable personal shield". 

 Chad and David are interchangeable for the first part of the story. The same two bewildered civilians. After a certain event they diverge, but like the sisters, the divergence is in how they contrast each other.  Chad becomes more temperamental and broody while David transitions to excited and Unfazed Everyman.


It looks good; no typos.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Sky Ghosts a C

Click here for the next review request: TitanBorn

Click here for the previous review request: The End

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