Thursday, January 30, 2020

New Book Alert: A Bounty With Strings (Book One in The Bounty Series) by Markus Matthews; Fun Engaging Superhero Novel Delivers A Brilliant Postmodern Team

New Book Alert: A Bounty With Strings (The Bounty Series) by Markus Matthews; Fun Engaging Superhero Novel Delivers A Brilliant Postmodern Team

By Julie Sara Porter

Bookworm Reviews

Spoilers: Forget Avengers, X Men, and the Justice League. This year the ultimate superhero team is that of Zack Stevens: the former Hamilton Hurricane and his Bounty Hunters.
Markus Matthews's novel, A Bounty With Strings, is a fun and engaging novel that gives us a great plot as well as a brilliant postmodern team of super powerful characters.

Zack is a former superhero once called the Hamilton Hurricane. His ability to control air (including flying) and seeing auras made him a very powerful adversary against villains. Unfortunately, his superhero days are behind him. He is now a bounty hunter going after "Enhanced Individuals" or E.I. (it's no longer PC to call them Monsters) for pay.

While on assignment to catch his latest quarry, Zack gets in the way of a team of four female bounty hunters after the same catch. The team consists of: Stella, an over 100 year old Englishwoman in the body of a child that turns into a Mr. Hyde-like monster, Blue, a blue-skinned alien who can travel long distances through shadows, Bree, a bad tempered werepanther, and Olivia, a dizzy vampire. Initially mistrustful of each other, Zack and the quartet team up to catch the quarry. They then have to pool their resources when they learn that there is a price on Olivia's head from a court of very powerful vampires.

The novel brims with clever touches that play on conventions of super hero fiction. For starters, it's rather refreshing to have a super hero that hails from Hamilton, Ontario Canada. Aside from Wolverine, Canada is not often selected as the setting for such stories. There are some brilliant jokes such as Zack's displeasure at being mistaken for an American ("the gun toting neighbors to the South.") and his adamence that the Reader not mistake Hamilton for Toronto.

There's also some cute incidents where the characters use their superpowers for mundane tasks as well as to defeat enemies. Stella's secret lab has a Food-a-Tron which creates and prepares meals as long as the meals and recipes are described in its system, leaving Blue to use her shadow ability to transport her friends to the grocery store for food and to a blood supplier for Olivia's plasma (which she calls "juice boxes.").

Of course, while chasing super villains, it is always important to fly over Tim Horton's and make a pit stop to get donuts as our heroes do. The quintet act in many ways the way regular people would who suddenly have awesome powers that they can use to go to the store and avoid traffic jams.

Zack and the other bounty hunters are a likeable well-characterized bunch that bounce off each other brilliantly. Zack, the newcomer to the gang, is confused by his new friend's behaviors but he is able to do some strategic thinking to help them out and make plans to face enemies with minimal injuries.

It is also particularly refreshing that romance does not play into the novel. Even though the team consists of one straight man and four women, none of the women become love interests for him. There is also no triangle between friends to gain Zack's affections. Mostly their sexual tension is reduced mostly to jokes and innuendo amongst friends. It's a nice change and reflective of reality that men and women can work together and just be close friends.

The four women also stand out. While young in appearance, Stella is a wise old soul. She has a sometimes cold analytical nature that served as her defense mechanism from a traumatic past from which she still suffers. However, she is a surrogate mother to the others, treating Bree and Olivia like daughters.

Blue gets the least amount of focus since she spends much of the book in a healing coma. But she is an enigmatic figure and loyal friend to the others. There are also hints that she and Stella may be more than friends.

Bree and Olivia make for a brilliant odd couple like team. Bree is a temperamental tomboy while Olivia is a sunny fashionista. Bree is more dour and sardonic while Olivia is cheerful and at times flighty. (One of the best running commentaries in the story is that Olivia contrasts with the typical Goth dark dour vampire by being the most optimistic one in the group.) The two tease and bicker like sisters but their love and protectiveness is never in doubt. This is especially shown when Bree, in her werepanther state, protects Olivia with all of the rage and fury of her were form. It is also shown when Olivia considers taking one for the team and turning herself in to the vampire court. Only Zack can talk her out of sacrificing herself for her close friends and surrogate family.

A Bounty with Strings is the first of a new series. If Zack, Stella, Blue, Bree, and Olivia's next adventure is as well written, fun, and engaging as this one, then it will be a great adventure indeed.

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