by Jayme Beddingfield
Series: The Ruby Dawson Saga, Volume 1ePub, 157 pg.
Booktrope Editions, 2015
Read: February 9, 2016
If Jamie Schultz’s Arcane Underworld were an HBO show, this would be the TNT or USA Network equivalent (this is a description, not a criticism) — it’s not quite a gritty, or dark — but it deals with the same kind of characters, in similar pressures. A small group of criminals, augmented with magic/powers, who suddenly find themselves in waters far deeper than they were prepared for — and the fallout from that.
Ruby Dawson is telekenetic, her drug-addled boyfriend can turn invisible, her best friend, Brody can walk through walls, one other member of the team has super-strength and another can climb walls like a certain Web-Slinger. Their boss, Madison, is pyrokenetic (and a secretive control-freak, but that’s beside the point). Ruby used to be a pick-pocket, but the team specializes in residential B & A. They’re pretty successful at it, but Madison wants more — and Ruby’s thinking it’s time to leave. Obviously, there’s a little trouble brewing there
In addition to the professional conflict (if you can call it a profession), there’s a love triangle, a couple of addicts racing toward rock-bottom, and an almost complete lack of trust amongst the team. I could tell right away that this pegs a little higher on the lovey-dovey/romantic intrigue meter than I prefer (I write that fully aware of the hypocrisy involved, as I’m currently waiting for my wife to finish a Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate book so I can read it), but I got sucked in anyway.
The combination of problems, the mixture of the personal, professional and both make the plot steam ahead with such drive you just hang on for dear life. Ruby’s situation reminded me of Patricia Briggs’ Anna Cornick or Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville when we meet them for the first time — the way she addresses her situation is all her, though. It wasn’t just the plot that engaged me, it was the way that Ruby worked through it emotionally, the choices she made; I wanted to know what happened to Brody and her non-criminal friends, too, but on a lesser extent — and yeah, I really wanted to see Madison get her comeuppance.
All the powers here a pretty generic if you’ve read 1 X-Men issue (or virtually any other super-powered title/watched Alphas/etc.), and Beddingfield utilized them like a seasoned pro. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen her take on telekenesis before, though — the way she described it was gripping. And when Ruby’s powers start to develop in new ways, Beddingfield describes that perfectly, too — ditto for Ruby’s reactions to the changes.
On the one hand, I’d have like a little more background with the crew — to see them (in flashback) get to the point they are at the beginning of the book, to see the little cracks that got Ruby and Brody to begin to question Madison — and the choices that kept the others from joining in. At the same time, I kind of liked just being thrown in at the point we are — where everything’s just starting to unravel, the foundation cracking — having to assume that Ruby has good reason for what she’s doing. Not that it takes long for us to get plenty of evidence to justify her actions.
This is a quick read with a plot that keeps driving forward and an engaging protagonist that makes you want to keep moving. I don’t mean this the way it probably sounds, but I can’t account for how much I found myself liking this. Beddingfield wrote a good novel, don’t get me wrong, but when I stopped to think about it, my appreciation for it was greater than the sum of its parts — there’s something ineffable about this that drew me in. I was so hooked that when I was about 2/3 through, I started looking around on Beddingfield’s website for any clues as to the release of Volume 2, I’m already ready for it.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this by the author in exchange for an honest review — and I’m really glad she did that.