Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole

Shadow Ops: Control Point [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is a military fantasy from Myke Cole. Myke has experience both with fantasy (I first encountered him online when he was reading submissions for Weird Tales) and the military (three tours in Iraq – I recommend reading his thoughts on the end of the Iraq war). So it’s no surprise that his debut novel has a lot going for it.

The book is set in a world where magic has returned, leading to all kinds of messiness. Oscar Britton is a lieutenant attached to the Supernatural Operations Corps, a military unit which helps to neutralize rogue magic users. But then, after a particularly intense mission, Britton manifests magic of his own. He creates a magical gate to another dimension. Unfortunately, this particular school of magic is, how should I put this … it’s “prohibited with extreme prejudice.”

So Britton makes a run for it. According to U.S. law, he’s earned himself a death sentence. Instead, the military tracks him down and offers him another choice: join a unit that doesn’t officially exist, and join the real fight against magical threats.

This is not a warm and fuzzy book. It’s fast-paced, intense, and at times brutal. Britton is a flawed protagonist, and he makes his share of serious mistakes. While I occasionally wanted to yell, “Dude, WTF are you doing?” I could also understand why he made the choices he did. He’s a good, conflicted character.

Actually, “conflicted” is a good word for the book as a whole. Nothing is simple; there are no straightforward right or wrong answers. Cole does a good job of presenting the messiness of a world where a teenager could wake up one day with the power to massacre an police force, and the costs of trying to protect people in such a world.

This is an ambitious, thoughtful, and at times brutal book. It’s got a different feel than most of the fantasy I’ve read lately, and I’m glad my agent was able to hook me up with a review copy.

But the MOST IMPORTANT thing here is that the book has goblins, and they’re pretty damn awesome.

Shadow Ops: Control Point comes out on January 31.