This post includes reviews of the available books in the Metahuman Files series:
- In the Wreckage (#1)
- In the Ruins (#2)
- In the Shadows (#3)
- In the Blood (#4)
- Out of the Ashes (#4.5)
- In the Requiem (#5)
- New Horizons (#5.5)
- Fire in the Heart (#5.6)
- In the Solace (#6)
In the Wreckage (Metahuman Files #1)
This novel is a military science-fiction story that happens to include a romance arc; however, the romance cannot be discounted because it is integral to the development of the two main characters and would be a weaker book without that connection. Otherwise, this book, at its core, is a military action-adventure novel. The time might be a few hundred years in the future, but the science-fiction elements are entirely accessible to readers with little experience in that genre. The science-fiction aspect primarily revolves around the presence of “metahumans,” who employ a standard array of comic book-style superpowers. These people did not come into existence because of any sort of apocalypse, however. The world is still recognizable to current territories and politics, featuring details of a continuing environmental decline. The most terrifying aspect is how these metahumans are created, and it’s no surprise that the book’s overarching plot relates to this.
On the military front, this book is a great example of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” A significant change I did appreciate was the relative gender parity of Alpha Team, which can be a result of overall military evolution or specific to the Metahuman Defense Force, since the source of metahuman genetic development does not differentiate by biological sex. Each of the combat/action sequences in this story was engrossing and dynamic, featuring a range of settings and circumstances that highlight how the team uses their powers to excellent effect in a variety of situations. Turner shows a lot of world-building through the progress of these scenes without ever defaulting to the dreaded info dump.
The (incredibly sexy) meet-cute between Jamie and Kyle is also pretty standard for military romances: We hooked up and, oops, now we’re on the same team. The requisite drama of their differing ranks doesn’t last long, thankfully. Rather, Jamie and Kyle develop a low-key power exchange relationship that is completely based on their needs and personalities but also incorporates awareness and humor about their ranks instead of pretending that the inherent inequality doesn’t exist.
Overall, this book has definitely hooked me on this world and all the characters. The two heroes are solid anchors for the full team, which includes lots of excellent found-family vibes. The reveal of a secret metahuman was delightful, and how the disparate subplots converged into the main conflict was well-crafted. I look forward to seeing how all the notes I’ve mentioned in this review develop throughout the full series.
In the Ruins (Metahuman Files #2)
I adored the first book in this SF/military/superhero/romance mashup, but that didn’t mean the second would continue that trend. It didn’t. I loved book 2 even more. Enough lingering plot threads are left unresolved from book 1 that we are immediately dragged back into the action. The first chapters jump-start elements of both external plot threads: the mystery of the world’s criminal enterprises’ involvement with genetic research into a chemical weapon known as Splice, along with the continued drama of Jamie’s tense relationship with his family’s political ambitions. The plot of this book blends these as Jamie’s public identity is used to further infiltrate and investigate the bad guys. Everything is less overt military action and more spy-like undercover operation, but Turner leans into the various characters’ already established strengths to employ excellent internal logic to justify the shift.
Meanwhile, the secret relationship between Jamie and one of his team members continues. I remain fully invested in the connection between him and Kyle, even if the slow burn element that continues here inches the men toward “idiots in love” territory. The low-key power exchange aspect of their physical connection continues here in a better-defined manner that only heightens the steam. In fact, I can’t remember the last novel I read in which the combat action scenes are equally as well-written as the private, intimate moments. However, the parts Jamie and Kyle must play during this covert operation strain the relationship that has nothing to do with their solid physical connection. Even worse, some secrets can’t remain hidden forever.
I’m pretty sure this series is finished, and I have a terrible habit of reading the blurbs of all available books before deciding to invest in a new saga. This means two things right now: I know that the finale of this book won’t answer all the questions, and I already know why we’re treated to a few scenes from points of view other than Kyle and Jamie. Learning more about Kyle’s adoptive brother Alexei was nice on its own, but knowing that Turner is sowing the seeds for a relationship between Alexei and Sean made their interactions even more fun. In addition, while the climax of this story packs an action-filled punch, I fully understand that the full plot arc of this series is far from over. Though we meet the Big Bad here (I think), we still might not know everything about his goals, leaving plenty of possibility for the rest of the series.
At the end of the story, this book does not “reset” the characters to the status quo. It does not end on a cliffhanger for either the main action or Jamie and Kyle’s romance. More obstacles lay in their path that will be a struggle for both. However, Turner has developed solid characters, and I believe they will get through anything the future throws at them.
In the Shadows (Metahuman Files #3)
Now that Jamie and Kyle are fairly sorted on the relationship front, we turn to the pairing teased in the previous book. A few months have passed, and Turner lets us know that Alexei and Sean have developed a solid working relationship. However, each man has at least acknowledged his attraction to the other in the privacy of his mind. But we definitely know where we’re headed in this book from the beginning, even if we’re unsure how we’ll get there.
The main overarching plot of this series has turned into a waiting game, which is more Sean’s area of expertise than Alpha Team’s. And since the easiest way to indulge the covert elements of this plot is to switch to the spy as the hero, now is Sean’s time to shine. Worlds collide when members of Alpha Team must return to their fake personas from the previous book to get him out of a sticky situation at the beginning of the story. Then the acts must continue in order to save Sean’s mission, putting Sean and Alexei on an inevitable collision course.
Turner employs some of my favorite romance tropes in this novel, which is otherwise a solid military science-fiction adventure. The fake relationship and “only one bed!” conceits might verge on cliché, but when they work, they really work. The dynamic that evolves between these two men is different from that between Jamie and Kyle, but the push and pull between Sean and Alexei is equally compelling. Alpha Team will always have Sean’s back because they consider him theirs, even if he doesn’t understand what it means to be part of a true team until he grows closer to Alexei.
As established in previous books, the romance is only a throughline of a plot that deftly weaves spycraft and big action pieces. I was fascinated by how all the characters compensate when none of them can use their unique abilities to maintain their covers. This hindrance did nothing to diminish the tension of the scenes, along with portraying how these characters are competent despite their powers, not because of them. No such limitations exist for the book’s climax, a giant and action-filled combat scene any action movie would be proud to feature and highlights Sean’s abilities in a fascinating way.
While I knew that this novel would further the conflict established previously, I wasn’t always clear how events in this book would tie in. However, everything clicks into place in a big way, and the plot thickens when who the good guys are gets muddled. With this installment, I continue to be invested in this world and these characters and look forward to seeing what happens next.
In the Blood (Metahuman Files #4)
I started this book in the afternoon, knew it was long, and figured I’d read a bit in the evening and finish the next day. Instead, I finished it past midnight with a book hangover and zero regrets. One of my favorite things about series compared with stand-alone novels is how deeply an author can allow you to know their characters during intricate plots.
Character-wise, this book presents the points of view of all four major characters we’ve spent time with so far. The relationship between Jamie and Kyle is different from Sean and Alexei, but I enjoyed the portrayals of both. We’re not yet at the “happily ever after” for either, but development does occur for both pairs. In addition, we’ve spent enough time with Alpha Team to be comfortable with all its members, so Turner finally introduces us to members of other teams wielded by the Metahuman Defense Force. We don’t get much more than brief highlights regarding their personalities and abilities; however, their presence was required when the climax of this book is an “all hands on deck” situation. It was fun to see the support available to Alpha Team when necessary, and it truly highlighted the power the MDF wields.
On the plot front, threats draw closer on multiple fronts. Jamie and Kyle are playing acts for different audiences, and the truth of their relationship is constantly on the verge of exposure. This tension is only one of the cover elements of Alpha Team’s long-running mission that has become untenable. The pressure on them is exacerbated when the villains attempting to manipulate Jamie begin to ask too much (while holding the threat that they know his true identity over his head). When Jamie tries to stall for time, it becomes clear that the enemy does know Sean’s true identity. Events turn extremely dark for him and Alexei as Sean’s past in the CIA catches up to him, culminating in scenes that verged on too difficult to read. Jamie’s primary loyalties are stretched to the breaking point, and I was constantly frustrated right along with him by how disconnected Jamie’s family is from the reality of the problems surrounding them. Regardless, I admired Jamie’s efforts to balance his obligations on all sides.
At first, I thought that the climax of this book was peaking early. Instead, the extended final action sequences of this book blew all we’re seen previously out of the water. Alpha Team has made some enemies in the past 18 months, even before Jamie drew his line in the sand. I think a lot of what occurs would have happened regardless of his decisions, but that didn’t make it easier to read. The battle is brutal during the actual combat, but the aftermath is just as devastating when we finally see first-hand the horrors hinted at in previous books. I admired Alpha Team’s ability to focus their abilities where needed most effectively rather than letting personal conflicts of interest sway their roles in the fight. Well, Kyle loses it a little bit – even if I agree that his actions might be justified, I’m sure they will come back to haunt him and his team in some form.
That’s a lot, right? Now you understand why today I’m running on about 5 hours of sleep, a lot of coffee, and a burning desire to immediately read the next book in this amazing world.
Out of the Ashes (Metahuman Files: Classified #4.5)
Sean and Alexei went through hell and back in the previous book. Their physical injuries had been healed by the last page, but I appreciate that Turner took the time to tell this story about the time necessary to even start to emotionally heal from what they experienced. A few months have passed, but the emotional wounds for both men are still fresh. In fact, I wonder if the accelerated healing available in this science-fiction future doesn’t cause an emotional and mental disconnect from the evidence of wounds and make healing that much harder.
Either way, Sean and Alexei remain committed to each other, but Sean’s particular trauma and innate guilt continue to cause problems and interfere with their previous closeness (both emotionally and physically). Cue all of the angst, which is appropriate to this story, but made my heart break for them all the same.
However, once they are cleared for on active duty, the mission waits for no one. The partners are sent into the field together, on a side mission tangentially related to the overarching plot of the main series. Perhaps it’s the heightened adrenaline of being back to work, but whatever it is, something jars Sean from his mental status quo. He is not magically “healed” by the end of this novella, but I believe more firmly that he will eventually get there.
In the Requiem (Metahuman Files #5)
This series never feels like a repetitive pattern of “fight > steamy bit > bigger fight > steamier bit” for the characters. Instead, the stakes rise with every installment, and the intimate moments that feature the two central relationships never feel shoehorned in for the sake of “romance.” For this book, the covert fight that brewed between our heroes and multiple flavors of enemy has turned into all-out war, while the cold war between the CIA and Metahuman Defense Force begins to crack under the growing heat (and not the sexy kind). The presidential campaign continues throughout, but the events in Boston have complicated the race for Jamie’s father. Richard’s continued pressure on Jamie and congressional focus on Alpha Team heaps the stress on Jamie. Then, in the stunning climax of this novel, Jamie’s sense of duty is tested to the brink.
Even before that, support from Jamie’s partner and team is what has kept him going this far. I think Jamie would be offended if readers considered him the “hero” above Kyle, Alexei, and Sean, but how he links so many plot points together is inescapable. That being said, Turner does an excellent job of giving her other narrative points of view total agency. Jamie more than deserves the dedication he receives from his team. External events influence, but do not detract, from his team living their full lives, and both central relationships to this series continue to grow and move to the next level in various ways. And it never reads as just so Turner has an excuse to include the steamy bits.
Turner does not stint on the epic major battle sequence of this book’s thrilling climax. The bonus of having more narrative voices than the main pairing is four perspectives on this fight rather than two. This gives us a greater appreciation for the scope of the battle, especially considering how each member of Alpha Team brings their various skills to the fight. The expected scope but surprising nature of this event makes this very different from what happened in Boston, upping both the firepower and occasional ridiculousness possible in urban warfare. (Sean always, always gets bonus points for most original kills. The former secret agent might not have a military background, but that does nothing to impede his potential for necessary viciousness.) Throughout this, however, they continue to run into the same problem as before: How do you fight an enemy with the ability to predict your every move?
In answer, Turner pulls a brilliant but brutal plot twist. Literally, my note for this review read, “Damn. Author went there.” As always, no spoilers, but the trauma for Jamie and Kyle almost makes what happened to Sean and Alexei in Boston look like just a bad day. This shouldn’t raise the stakes for the rest of the fight, but it does inspire certain characters to go to lengths they might have otherwise to win the day. By the time the smoke clears, the entire paradigm of how these characters operate in the world changes irrevocably.
In the end, we don’t just get a quick chapter of debriefing and fade to black. Too much has happened, and the aftermath of the battle is just as important to the full story as the exciting combat bits. Turner pulls an excellent bait and switch moment that left me in tears even as I knew what I was reading couldn’t possibly be true. She also emphasizes the importance of every member of Alpha Team to each other’s lives, and I consider these characters one of the best “found families” I’ve read in fiction. (Another of my notes was “Katie for president.” Honestly, they might as well cancel the election at this point.)
This isn’t quite the end of the full story, even though multiple loose ends have been tied and the main characters have achieved some pretty significant closure. A certain cold war must be ended, and the paradigm shift I mentioned previously will lead to changes that need to be addressed for multiple characters. I’m pleased that Turner does not end the series here because so much of this amazing story is left to be told.
New Horizons (Metahuman Files: Classified #5.5)
Turner tries something new in this novella, in that we’re jumping to a brand new, yet familiar, point of view character. Trevor (Bones) served under Jamie as a Recon Marine, then transitioned to the Metahuman Defense Force when he developed the power of telekinesis. However, he continued his military path as a combat medic, and now that Alpha Team is on hiatus, he is pursuing his dream of medical school.
Washington DC is still recovering from the events of the last book, and not every loose end has been tied up (terrorist groups being like an anthill that way). When trouble comes to Trevor’s school, he’s not about to pretend to be a civilian, and this puts him firmly in the path of paramedic Brandon. At first, Trevor suppresses his immediate attraction to the other man because of conflict of duty issues. But that’s never stopped Alpha Team before, so even though Trevor has no reason to become Brandon’s private security when the conflict grows deeper, we’re going to roll with it for story purposes. Even if the relationship that develops between them starts as a trauma bond, the chemistry is completely believable.
Though Alpha Team has disbanded, this found family doesn’t exist in isolation. I thought we’d get some cameos, but this novella ends with the band getting back together. The mission is a walk in the park for them, but I suppose it’s always nice to keep the skills sharp. I’m certainly not complaining about a fun combat sequence that doesn’t have me on the edge of my seat, and I’m more than happy to see another member of this team find their happily ever after.
Fire in the Heart (Metahuman Files: Classified #5.6)
This novella opens with one of the two weddings we’ve been waiting for in this series (and I’m never mad about a wedding). Sean and Alexei deserve the lovely ceremony and party, and now that they are no longer active agents for the Metahuman Defense Force, they should be able to enjoy their happily ever after. Except this all happens at the beginning of the novella, so you know that shenanigans will ensue.
Things start to go wrong at the very start of the honeymoon (the location of which is another nice bit of futuristic worldbuilding from Turner). A British agent they’ve worked with before is not there on vacation, and he drops the news that a loose end of their previous conflict has been sighted on the island. It’s appropriate that this might happen during Sean’s story, given that the villain is almost directly responsible for the drastic changes in Sean’s life even before he left the CIA.
Except that this is a supplemental novella, not the final book in the series. Said loose end is not quite snipped, but the adventure he leads our heroes on is just as thrilling as I’ve come to expect from this series. Along the way, this story hands the baton from Alpha Team to their Royal Legion counterparts and plants the seeds of the final romance arc in this series.
Even without the closure of a neat resolution, I enjoyed this last adventure with Sean and Alexei, a couple just as engaging as Jamie and Kyle in the other books. Sean proves once again that he is always the most awesome, despite how unassuming his metahuman ability appears at first glance. This novella is not to be missed if you are enjoying the complete arc of this series.
In the Solace (Metahuman Files #6)
A good chunk of the beginning of the final book in this series is taken up by the wedding and honeymoon of the two characters we started this journey with. Jamie and Kyle deserve what has been a long time coming, but as much fun as I had reading it, a lot of it felt relatively self-indulgent of the author. All of this would have felt much more natural at the ending of a book instead of at the beginning of what ultimately becomes a completely different story.
On the other hand, the world continues even while some people get their happy endings. Jamie’s friend Liam, a royal who was recently outed as the lead metahuman in Britain’s equivalent to Alpha Team, returns home to the news that a lingering villain from this series arc has become a problem on his home soil. Government agencies don’t work well together here any better than they do in the United States, and Liam is forced to work with MI-6 agent Oliver Archer. The second-chance romance teased in the previous novella begins in full force here, but these two men have significant amounts of hurt and regret in their shared past.
Liam’s pursuit of shoving an apology at Oliver was simultaneously endearing and annoying. Oliver owes him nothing, but despite what he has experienced since the events that destroyed their friendship, he can’t help but be swayed by the tenacious prince. The slow burn of this romance is second to how the characters repair their friendship, which makes the turn to love almost inevitable.
Speaking of inevitable, the fate of one of these men was hinted about from the start. It is threatened repeatedly as our heroes encounter danger, but the final event is still painful to read. Turner gives us another bait and switch to heighten the tension of this climax, which felt a bit repetitive. What saves this twist is how much the author has made us care about these men. I’m pleased with how the final pieces of this overarching conflict have come together in resolution. There’s not much more to say about this saga, but Turner leaves plenty of room to return to this fantastic science-fiction military universe, and I know I wouldn’t be mad if some familiar faces appeared as cameos.