Barbara Everette is back, fighting for the Light in the second Special Circumstances book Queen of Wands by John Ringo.
Note: Queen of Wands is the second book of the Special Circumstances series. The review of the first book, Princess of Wands is here. Otherwise, read on!
In Book One 'The Shadow of Death,' Barbara is having some problems. As she goes through her altogether too normal life as a PTO member and active stay-at-home mother, she's started hearing things. Voices, mostly too quiet to make out, but the ones she can make out are negative.
She's not going crazy, though. In fact, this is yet another manifestation of her powers as a warrior of the Light. Now, along with being able to channel the power of God into her weapon, she can both hear demons and angels, as well as see their physical manifestations and peoples' auras. And a new ability means a new type of training, so Barbara takes another vacation from her family and heads to FLUF.
While at the Foundation for Love and Universal Faith, Barbara learns that her partner and High Priestess of Freya Janea has gone down during an investigation, so Barbara heads out to see what's going on.
Quite a bit, actually. We have patients at a hospital who are in full hard restraints. Acting almost like people on PCP, they're fantastically violent, unaffected by pain, and tend to be bitey. The autonomic responses and reflexes are also shut down, which is baffling the doctors. Barbara, however, with her newfound Sight has one extra bit of information that the doctors can't discover: these patients have no souls.
Yes, Special Circumstances has zombies on its hands.
From there, the situation simply spins out of control. Chattanooga still has a fairly small-town atmosphere and, well, we all remember what happened the last time Barb was in a small town.
Meanwhile, we meet Doris Grisham. Doris isn't sure exactly who she is, both literally and figuratively. Last she remembers, she was in some sort of battle, then she appears in a very crowded and strange hotel. A very strange hotel. In fact, I'm not sure if there's any place stranger to wake up from an apparent blackout in than the Hyatt Regency Atlanta during Dragon*Con. There probably isn't a better place in the world to discover who you truly are than at a convention like this, and on the astral plane, perhaps there are a few special attendees.
In Book Two, 'Old Time Religion,' Janea is on her own again, on a mission in Tennessee, following up on the murder of a couple and the kidnapping of their daughter. Special Circumstances might not have been called in on this one, but there's just too many strange happenings with this one. Especially the pervasive stench of death, completely out of place with the freshly dead bodies in the house.
Barbara isn't called in by FLUF or Special Circumstances on this one. No, a much higher power gets ahold of her this time. While working with a Wah Lum master at a dojo, she is struck dumb by the most powerful communication she has ever gotten. The White God speaks directly to her, telling her to go to the aid of the Priestess of Love. And when the White God tells you to do something, you do it.
This investigation seems like a fairly standard SC project at first. Go in, send demonic baddies back to where they came from, and clean-up. Then the level of the players is revealed. For it is not only the White God who is paying attention. This time, our heroes are up against one of the Old Ones, and it'll take more than even their combined faith to put a stop to it.
John Ringo has some fantastic, intricate military science fiction to his name. Series within series, spanning generations. Far-future society reduced to Legionnaire-style battle after an apocalypse. Even spoiled prince crash-lands on a planet and has to rescue himself.
Then there are books like this. Books that are a break from the world-building that make the others so deep. Books that seem tailor-made for blockbuster movies or cable mini-series. Books you read quickly, and immediately start waiting for the next, whenever it might come out. In Queen of Wands, John Ringo proves once again that he's a master of both science-fiction and fantasy.
Highs: The mutual respect between Barbara, Janea, Sharice and and all the rest at FLUF, even when it's hard, makes me happy.
Lows: It's a good thing that Doris is hot, or else the bellydancing and getting almost naked on stage wouldn't have worked out so well...
Verdict: Another hit by Ringo, and hopefully we'll get another book sooner this time.
Further Reading: Live Free or Die, Dororo