The author advertised that this book could be read before or after Sledge and Claw (Hammer and Fist: Lextalion #1), but I read it second per the publishing dates. This order worked well for two reasons. First, characters from the other book provide delightful cameos in this novel (and yes, Lex and co. are as ridiculous from an external point of view as I could have expected). Second, that book also provides an extended prologue to this one at the end. Again, not necessary to read, but it definitely offers a greater reading experience.
Cody has created two vastly different books from the same basic building blocks. The two are set in the same world (and even in the same physical region), but Cody approaches her urban fantasy creation from a different direction here. I had fun with the inevitable comparisons I drew between Lex and Ranger/Hunter, who bring fascinating similarities and differences to the table as protagonists. Both heroes are an intriguing mix of supernatural races that make them extraordinarily powerful. However, while Lex was born and raised for his role, Ranger/Hunter has spent his life wondering why he is different. They perform much the same function, though Ranger/Hunter has dedicated himself to keeping his small corner of the world safe (and helping kids win science fairs).
Here’s where it gets a bit trickier: Ranger and Hunter are the same consciousness split between two separate bodies. Cody takes great care to maintain an internal logic of how the perspective is managed in this book so that it doesn’t read like a mess of point-of-view errors. Again, the multiple ways Ranger/Hunter is an incredibly powerful being are accompanied by significant drawbacks, from hiding his identity from those he cares about to making “the other half of him” a painful reality.
His secret starts to get out as Ranger/Hunter becomes embroiled in a small-town mystery that puts him on a collision course with the bureaucratic agency that oversees interdimensional issues. Along the way, he acquires great new friends, a steady paycheck for Hunter, and an adorable boyfriend. (Honestly, who wouldn’t want to snuggle Cedric?) This novel does not end on a cliffhanger like the other, but while the immediate external conflict is resolved, it is a symptom of a much larger issue with which Ranger/Hunter will have to contend.
Cody has said that these two series will be able to stand alone, but I’m now thoroughly invested in both. I look forward to spotting how they support and strengthen each other via characters, plot, or basic worldbuilding.
Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.