I (Barbara) purchased The Man With The Golden Torc by Simon R. Green on my Kindle after my hubby recommended it as a light, easy read to balance my research reading. I knew, going in, that this was going to be a book that not only defies easy categorization but also does not take itself too seriously. I settled in for a casual read and was surprised to find myself making excuses to “just read a few more pages” before very long. This is what The Atrocity Archives was trying too hard to be.
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Title: The Man with the Golden Toc
Author: Simon R. Green
Length: 393 pages
Genre-ish: Urban fantasy crosses blades with the spy/thriller and ends up having a good laugh over a drink.
Rating: ★★★★★- take it for what it is and enjoy the ride
Premise: In The Man with the Golden Torc, magic is real, and so is science. Monsters are real, aliens are real, the old gods are real, beings from other dimensions are real, and all of them seem to want to kick some human butt for one reason or another. But we never know it because a very old and very powerful family stands between humanity and all of the nasty things that bump in the dark: The Droods. Armed with golden torcs that turn into body-hugging, invulnerable armor, gear that would make James Bond weep with envy, and the best spy network in the world, the Drood family protects humanity from foreign governments (very foreign), conspiracies, and a host of monsters and unfriendly beings. They are based in a huge mansion (all of the very large family) and given pretty much free reign to take whatever measures they think necessary for the good of the world – in part because no government would hope to best them in a straight-out fight, and no attempt at covert operations would escape their intelligence network.
Into this family, one Eddie Drood (aka Shaman Bond) has been born. Eddie is a bit of a free spirit and works as a field agent. While devoted to the mission of his family, he finds their attempts to make him behave “properly” a bit too restrictive. Thankfully, they have worked out an arrangement that lets Eddie have his freedom while continuing to remain in the family – until Eddie is mysteriously and summarily exiled, becoming a hunted man on the run. He has to turn to former enemies and other exiled and presumed dead members of the family in order to stay alive while he tries to figure out what caused his family (never on the best of terms to begin with) to declare him rogue and declare it open hunting season. When Eddie finally gets to the bottom of the plot, the reason is a shocking twist worthy of the spy/thriller genre.
- I like Eddie Drood. He mixes swashbuckle, mild cynicism, and devotion to the family cause to be more than what you expect in either urban fantasy or the spy novel. He is a very believable character who has emotional highs and lows that are human and believable … unbelievably multi-dimensional in the middle of a very improbable story. While the “Shaman Bond” alias is an obvious bow to the genre being co-opted, Drood is a far more attractive and human character.
- I also liked Molly, the wild witch. As a former enemy who gradually warms to Eddie, she becomes his guide and connection to the world that Eddie used to stomp out with his golden-armored foot. She is very powerful in her own right and remains a strong, independent woman throughout the book, never turning into a limpid hanger-on.
- During the Man With The Golden Torc, Eddie’s view of the world is totally turned on its head, and he sees that what he believed in turned around to be an even greater evil than he believed they were fighting. It is well-done and even mildly thought-provoking.
- Secondary and tertiary characters were well-developed and usually had far more complexity than expected. There are some out-right baddies who are rather two-dimensional, but many of the people around Eddie have complex motivations and act in unexpected ways.
- The friendship between Molly and Eddie developed gradually, but I kept hoping that Green would stretch it out even further into the subsequent books. When you realize that all of the action fits into 4 or 5 days, their personal relationship develops rather too quickly from being enemies (nothing personal of course … its all professional in the spy game) to being very emotionally attached to one another. Green’s writing style hides this well within all of the action, but when you step back a moment and take a breath, the pacing could have been slower here.
Overall, I loved The Man With The Golden Torc and am going back for seconds in Green’s Secret Histories series. Like potato chips, it’s hard to stop at just one.
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The Man With The Golden Torc by Simon R. Green
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