Since purchasing my Kindle, I’ve been consuming a steady diet of books by indie authors (in between heaping helpings of Steven Erikson’s Malazan series). As with traditionally published books, results have been mixed – a couple of turkeys, some serviceable-yet-forgettable first efforts — and then there’s Nicholas Olivo’s Imperium, which made me an instant fan.
I’m not much of an urban fantasy buff by nature. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get into the Harry Dresden series, and have picked up (and put down) a few other titles. Imperium was the first urban fantasy title in a long while that hooked me right away and kept me hooked.
To summarize: the protagonist, Vincent Corinthos, is a secret agent assigned to investigate paranormal threats in Boston. But in the fey world of the Bright Side, Vincent is literally a god, with supernatural powers fueled by the faith of his worshippers. In that realm, he’s nearly omnipotent; in the everyday world, considerably less so.
When a fellow agent goes missing, Vincent teams up with his partner Megan, his (literally) statuesque girlfriend Petra, and Gearstripper, a gremlin obsessed with fast food and video games. As Vincent digs deeper into the mystery of the missing agent, he uncovers a sinister conspiracy, running afoul of undead, plant golems, crystal soldiers, and, of course, the all-time classic: Nazis. Oh, yeah, and he faces down two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Just another day at the office.
I think the best fantasy magic creates a set of rules and then abides by them, and Olivo handles this deftly. Vincent’s powers are dependent on the faith of his otherworldly supplicants, and that faith is a limited resource: when it’s gone, he becomes just another human who’s in way over his head. Even in the realm where he is a god, Vincent runs into problems he can’t just magic away. Imperium also plays on the responsibilities of a god to his worshippers and lays some heavy obligations on Vincent, something I wasn’t expecting, but enjoyed a great deal. I’m a sucker for stories that explore the limits of supernatural powers.
Imperium has a fun and diverse supporting cast. My favorite is the gremlin Gearstripper, who is by turns funny, sinister, and sad. (Olivo tied in the historical origins of the gremlins from World War II, which also scored big points with me.) The only mild disappointment was Vincent’s partner Megan, who, while charming, seemed to mostly get by on sex appeal and the occasional gadget. I’m hoping she gets a little more well-rounded in future volumes.
Imperium reads like a great movie or television show — fast-paced, snappy, and heavy on action. It’s not a terribly introspective book, but that works in its favor. I felt there were a few minor flaws — some of the action sequences came off as perfunctory, certain conflicts ended just a bit too easily, and the sense of place in a few scenes fell a little flat. Overall, though, these are quibbles in what is otherwise a wildly entertaining book.
I Liked the Book So Much, I’m Giving it Away
It’s fairly rare that I finish a book and instantly want more, and Imperium has me eagerly looking forward to the next volume. Imperium leaves a number of threads hanging, and it’s clear that old enemies will return and dark secrets will be revealed.
To spread the word about Imperium — because, if you couldn’t tell, I liked it and think people ought to read it — I’m giving away three Kindle copies! If you want one (and c’mon, free book y’all), here’s how to get it:
1) Leave me a blog comment with your email address (Kindle email if you want) or Twitter name.
2) On December 24th, I’ll randomly pick three names from the comments. I’ll post the winners here, as well as on Twitter (@surlymuse), and send out the books!
That’s it. No need to subscribe, or follow me, or anything like that (although you’re welcome to do so if you like). So drop me a comment and maybe get yourself a free Kindle book for Christmas!