In Victorian London, an experiment in controlling electromagnetic power goes horribly wrong, resulting in the Great Storm. This unnatural meteorological occurrence affects some of the population’s electromagnetic field, giving strange new abilities, which of course leads to the rest of the population turning against them in fear, and having the “Espers” live as outcasts.
But not all of them. The man responsible for the failed experiment, the Professor, starts up an Institute to train Espers to handle their abilities, and use them for good. Two of his top agents are James, who possesses the ability to teleport, and Nathan, who can mirror anyone’s ability through feeling their emotion. Together, they rescue Espers and fight against the Baron, a corrupt man and former partner of the Professor who controls an army of corrupt Espers, and wants to control the world. But the Baron has a controller as well…
And you know what would have taken me less time to type? Hey – do you like the X-Men? Then read this series. For the Professor, insert Xavier, for Espers Mutants, for Baron Magneto, for the Institute the School for Gifted Youngsters.
What we have here is a steampunk reimagining of the X-Men universe. But I’m not sure if you can call it a reimagining. It is the X-Men. Eccentric professor saving youngsters with powers that the population fears and a powerful man with a link to the professor who has gone rogue and is bent on controlling the world. Put it all in Victorian London, add the Parliament and an airship, and bingo.
What was good? Author Egan Brass writes fabulous action sequences and scenes. The story is well-paced and flows smoothly from one scene to the next. He doesn’t get caught up in over describing the scenes but gives enough detail to really draw the reader into the action. Reading it, I knew where every character was, their actions, and could picture each sequence.
The characters are a bit predictable but change and develop through the novel. The Professor is horrified by the use of Esper powers for evil and fights for the good of all. *cough* Professor X *cough*. Nathan is a poor outcast with extraordinary powers who is a trouble maker and self-destructive but really has a heart of gold as he discovers how to control his impulses. *cough* Logan *cough* James is the sidekick, shunned from society as an Esper and a person of colour . *cough* Storm *cough* You can start to see a pattern… Freya is an orphan whose powers come out under duress as her adoptive parents are murdered and brother is abducted, and she must learn to control her power in order to rescue him.
But. There are problems with the book, besides the obvious inspiration behind it. As a fantasy, a certain amount of disbelief must be suspended anyway. But there is no explanation, scientific or otherwise, of why/how people got abilities through the Great Storm. Nor does it actually ever explain how the Great Storm came about. The failed experiment wasn’t the only factor.
Also, I was distracted throughout by typos and incorrect sentence structure (pot, meet kettle). It is difficult to be in the middle of an action-packed battle scene or tense situation and grind to a halt because of poor word choice or lack of proof-reading. The author has a good story-telling talent, but he needs an editor. (I just researched the publisher and discovered it is a self-publishing site.) His sentences follow a certain pattern (it is always “he said” or “she ordered” or “the Baron yelled” or “Shadow snarled.” Mix it up, please).
Show, don’t tell, please. Show me how Nathan learns his self-worth, instead of having me follow his every thought about his life and realizing he is a good person in the end. Show me how Freya comes to trust everyone instead of having read her thoughts as she looks upon her teammates and sees they are good people. And so on. And so on.
The last few chapters were obvious attempts to tie up loose ends and build suspense for the next book in the series, but suddenly certain characters were acting out of character, and I wish the book had ended three chapters earlier than it did.
After all that, you probably think I hated it. I didn’t. Criticisms aside, this is a fun, fast-paced story. I read it in one sitting, and while it has some violent, fairly gruesome scenes (if excessive blood loss turns you off, or you don’t like the idea of snacking on someone’s brains, this book is not for you), it is a good story for a lazy afternoon. It is the first in a series, so I am hoping the next book irons out some of the problems.
By the way. I popped over to Goodreads after I wrote this and read the reviews of the book there. I’m a DEFINITE minority in my criticisms, so take this review for what it’s worth.
Esper Files was published October 26th, 2016 by Inkitt.