The Sword Of Michael
by Marcus Wynne
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong
All of us have something we are passionate about, be it a hobby, our jobs, or our kids. Sometimes the passion overwhelms us and we just want to share. But if our passions are a bit odd or off the beaten path we have to do quite a bit of explaining along with our sharing. When people lose interest in our passion we can't always stop ourselves from talking about it. We may end up talking to ourselves, or writing a book. Dispossession is the passion here, and author Marcus Wynne practices what he preaches.
Fictional hero of The Sword of Michael Marius Winter is a shaman-warrior. He spends his time fighting the forces of evil and throwing out demons that hitchhike into our world through others. Marius surrounds himself with spirit guides and powerful friends to aid him in his battle. Marius is doing his shaman/depossessionist thing when he draws the attention of a dark sorcerer, one he has fought often before in different lives. Wynne tosses the reader right into the action...only to yank them right back out with heavy explanation and digression. Unfortunately it isn't just a one-off. Wynne continually launches into long, explanatory diatribes as the novel progresses.
Marius does a few routine depossessions and we learn just what that entails. He has a few run-ins with dark forces that depict what is normal for the character and introduce us to his friends: Dillon, the gunslinger warrior; Jolene, the love of his life and an avatar of the goddess or female spirit, and Sabrina, a biker that is also a shamanic healer. We also got to see the first use of the Sword Of Michael as it quickly dispatched a big baddy. But this engenders what I call the Pacific Rim question: If the sword is so powerful and has no real limitations, why not use it all the time to fight the evil doers?
A dark sorcerer kidnaps Sabrina and the team jumps into action to save her. Dillon and Marius run into a doorway to hell with guns blazing while Jolene stays behind and uses her powers to help. The men rescue their friend only to find out that it was a ruse so Jolene could be possessed and have her soul kidnapped. Now they have to go back to the same doorway and then descend into hell and fight seven demi-demons representing the seven deadly sins to save her.
Some novels aren't plotted out before starting them. The author has an idea and runs with it to see where it goes. Stephen King does this often. He uses the metaphor of digging the stories pre-formed like sculptures out of the sand. When it works, the method can produce a fantastic read that keeps you guessing; when it doesn't it just feels like whatever idea came up got plopped down on the page. I'm not sure if this novel was plotted out first or not but it didn't feel like it. It seems to start off being about something entirely different before changing to the hero descending into the underworld to save the love of his life. There are two different types of kidnapping (and why the women? Why wasn't Dillon himself snatched?) and two travels to the same place in the underworld. There is no clear antagonist. It just seems like all evil guys are out to get our hero. The whole thing is peppered with digression and telling versus showing. And the hero likes to "borrow" one-liners from other forms of popular media, though he really seems like the type who would have tons of his own.
The novel isn't a total loss--far from it. Marcus Wynne is a practicing depossessionist and actually explains the process in a very interesting way (actually the whole novel could have been stronger if dispossession was the focus over guns and witty quips). The seven demi-demons that represent the seven deadly sins were great. The amount of detail and effort put into these scenes really changed how I felt about the book. Wynne takes a page out of the Raymond Chandler book of writing and has someone kick in a door and start shooting every time the plot slows down, so there is never a dull moment.
Overall it is a fun book, fast paced with oodles of action. There are some plot holes here and there but they can be overlooked. The Sword Of Michael probably won't win the Man Booker Prize, but the depiction of hell is worth the price.
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