By: McKinley Aspen
Publisher: Muse Literary
Publication Date: July 5, 2022
Reviewed by: Carolyn Haley
Review Date: September 5, 2022
Praesidium launches a new adventure series about a team of twenty-somethings with supernatural powers who fight evil on an alternative modern Earth.
The story centers around Kathryn Bek—“Kate” to certain friends, and “Cinnamon” to her boyfriend—who is recruited by the mysterious Raphael to join his secret agency, Hope & Global Support. HGS is operated by “people who blend into everyday life, invisible but always at the ready. We are bringers of hope and keepers of peace.” They also operate in the shadows outside the law, chasing criminals with supernatural powers who aim to take over the world.
Although the sketchily described job has nothing to do with Kate’s college degree in business administration and marketing, she follows her intuition and joins HGS—as Raphael knew she would. He has hand-picked his four-person cadre for their latent powers. Kate has none to start, which frustrates her, since fellow team member Michael has already shown an ability to open portals between dimensions, and Ashley is an extreme empath—clairsentient—not to mention an accomplished chase driver; and Greg shares Ashley’s ability to instantly learn and fluently speak any language, on top of his impressive book knowledge.
All of them train in physical and martial skills and team-building before being sent out into the field. Early missions range from rescuing children kidnapped for human trafficking to busting up drug rings and reforming suicidal addicts, all having something to do with the Paolucci crime family. In each case, the team makes “seemingly small changes that have far-reaching, long-term impacts on people’s lives.”
Raphael gives them almost no information prior to each mission, as their purpose is not only to help people but also develop their own talents naturally. During one of the livelier escapades, Kate’s superpower as a healer emerges by surprise when one of the team gets injured. The missions steadily escalate, until it’s clear the team is battling non-humans bent on harming and controlling humanity. By story end it’s evident that the next generation of missions will ratchet up the stakes another level—to be continued in later volumes.
The narrative in this one gallops along like a graphic novel without pictures. Readers seeking a light, fast story with imaginative scenarios will gallop right along with it, especially if they have an “it is what it is” attitude. Readers who need to be convinced to suspend their disbelief through detailed world-building and logistical plausibility will have a harder time.
This reader kept stumbling, mainly because of the story’s time setting: 1991. I am old enough to have been established in the workforce by then, and thus aware that many of the technologies used by the characters in Praesidium — laptops, smartphones, GPS tracking, texting, email—did not exist in ’91, or were in early development but not common or in civilian use. I also know that several popular books and shows mentioned in the story hadn’t been created yet; ditto some consumer products named in the text. There are enough such references that I got distracted in almost every chapter. Without that date hitch, the story would consistently present contemporary Earth, where only one anomaly matters: the existence of supernatural powers and beings. These we get in abundance as the story progresses, to the point of shape-shifting antagonists and angelic helpers and vortices into other realms. Meanwhile, knives and guns and fisticuffs remain involved. Woven through is a little romance, a lot of secrets, and tangled relationships.
Quill says: Praesidium offers a smorgasbord of genre tropes mixed into a supernatural adventure well suited to young adult and adult readers who enjoy escapist fiction.
For more information on Praesidium (Shadows in the Wind, Book 1), please visit the author's website at: www.mckinleyaspen.com