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Meridian by Terra Whiteman

Corvis Correll is a lethal revenant, sworn to serve the Umbra Syndicate in destroying the Moratalis Church. After six long years in cold war, his death looks like a better possibility.

When a mission goes horribly wrong, Corvis finds himself stranded in the middle of the Outlands desert, thousands of miles from home and at the complete mercy of cannibalistic tribes. His only companion is a mysterious woman left for dead amid the wreckage. 

She might not remember who she is or how she got there, but one thing’s for certain: she remembers how to kill.

For the Moratalis Church, religious doctrine is everything. Their faith controls everything they do. They have no medicines, only relying on the power of prayer to heal wounds and diseases. To the members of the Church, technology is a total anathema. Meanwhile the people of the Umbra Syndicate have thrown off the constrictive yoke of the old religion. Fleeing the all-powerful Church the Syndicate have embraced technology and are using it to eke out an existence under their own terms. The growth of these two opposing ideologies has led to an inevitable war, both factions utterly convinced that they are in the right.

On either side there are ‘norms’ – normal human beings – but in addition there are others who have special skills. The Church has their priests while the Syndicate have the revenants. These individuals have enhanced abilities. Powers like massive strength and manipulation of the elements, and psychic abilities like telekinesis have created a stalemate. Neither side is able to push things to their advantage.

Corvis Correll is one such revenant, he has the power to manipulate fire and uses this in his role as assassin for Umbra. The thing I like most about Corvis is that he’s a bit of an anti-hero, he’s not what you would call immediately likable. As you discover elements of his backstory, it becomes evident that he has certain obsessions that are ingrained deeply into his character. He has a wild temper and he’s flawed because of it. These failings make for an intriguing protagonist. A flawed character always come across as much more interesting and human than an indomitable hero.

While on a routine job, Corvis meets a strange woman. Who or what is the creature known only as Mercy? Why does she feature so strongly in everyone’s plans? Why are the cannibalistic marauders of the wastelands compelled to locate her? What do all the inscriptions that cover her body mean, and more importantly, is Corvis going to live long enough to find out the answer to any of these burning questions? Mercy is just one big old enigma and Whiteman delights in offering us a few scant clues about this inexplicable being. There are going to be another three books in this series so I’m sure all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

There are a couple of different narrative strands following characters from both the Umbra Syndicate and the Moratalis Church. It’s a nice touch as it swiftly becomes evident that there are no out and out villains here. There is good and bad on both sides of this conflict with plenty of shades of grey to keep things interesting. I got to the end of the book and I’m still not a hundred percent sure which side I’d want to see win.

There is plenty of intrigue and espionage from the get go, but the action really picks up in the final couple of chapters. The cold war suddenly gets properly hot and we finally get to experience a full on battle. One side has decided to change the rules of the game and things get very bloody very quickly.

As an added bonus there is a sneak preview of book two in The Keys of Ascension series, Echelon, included for your reading pleasure. The only other thing I think might have been useful would have been some sort of map of the various locations and their relationships to one another. The action moves all over this world and occasionally additional reference would have been helpful.

Science, technology, politics and religion are all blended together with some memorable characters to create an enticing plot that is easy to get lost in. The good news is that if you enjoy this, I certainly did, there are another three books planned after this one.  I hope these will feature much more of the same – more battles, more betrayals and more of those psychotic cannibal marauders.

Meridian is published by 1889 Labs and is available now.

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