Review: Alliance of Shadows
Disclaimer: Anyone familiar with my reviews will likely know that Larry Correia is my favorite author.
Once or twice a year a new Larry Correia title hits the shelves and for a brief, shimmering moment everything is right in the world. In this case the title is ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS, Book 3 in Larry’s Dead Six collaboration with Mike Kupari. I wasn’t overly fond of DEAD SIX, the first book in the series, but SWORDS OF EXODUS won me over and I’ve been waiting three excruciating years for the conclusion to the trilogy. In typical Correia fashion ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS does not disappoint.
The Dead Six is a quite the departure from Larry’s other series. ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS features the same emphasis on badass heroes, believable villains, well crafted plots, and stunning action scenes as his Monster Hunter series, Grimnoir Chronicles series, and his new Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series but is set firmly in the military techno thriller genre. There are no overtly supernatural elements to the trilogy (though there are some possible subtle hints) and readers of Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and the like will feel right at home. Larry’s ability to diversify and branch out into new genres can only continue to grow his already considerable fanbase and Mike’s ability to match pace with such a powerhouse author will serve him well as his writing career develops.
ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS is set in the aftermath of the failed assault on Salah Jihan’s fortress in SWORDS OF EXODUS. The Pale Man remains in power, the global vigilante task force known as Exodus is in disarray, Lorenzo is held captive, and Katarina Montalban is poised to unleash Project Blue on an unsuspecting Europe.
The setting of ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS is an all too familiar Europe, beset by crisis after crisis. As a result the novel feels contemporary and prescient in a way that Tom Clancy and his successor Mark Greaney have always succeeded at. The plotting and the events from ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS threads into DEAD SIX and SWORDS OF EXODUS incredibly well, to the point that it ties up loose ends I had forgotten existed. It’s satisfying to see some of Valentine’s missions in Zubara and Lorenzo’s relationship with the Montalban family connect to the overarching plot. It’s tempting to go back and re-read DEAD SIX to see what else I may have missed.
Valentine and Lorenzo have come to grow on me over the course of three books. Much as I enjoy the military techno thriller genre the main characters tend to feel replaceable. You could pluck Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath and drop him in a Mitch Rapp novel and not much would really change but I don’t think that’s the case with Valentine and Lorenzo. Valentine and Lorenzo are at their best when interacting with each other given the complicated relationship that began hunting each other on the dirty streets of Zubara. Their conversations are frequently humorous and they each have a different style of approaching problems. I’ve enjoyed Lorenzo’s character from early on in DEAD SIX but Valentine took some warming up to. Valentine originally came off as somewhat of a crybaby but Larry and Mike’s willingness to poke fun at Valentine (having various characters call him a drama queen and mopey) helps endear the reader to him. By the end of ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS Valentine has grown into a formidable leader and a man with a cause worth fighting for. Lorenzo’s character development isn’t as satisfying but he starts badass and finishes badass and his love interest Jill teaches him to be a little more human along the way.
Looking back at my original review of DEAD SIX I remarked on the best part of the story being the conspiracy theory stuff. I said that the biggest draw for future novels would be Larry an Mike embracing the conspiracy angle and five years later that remains my favorite aspect of the Dead Six trilogy. This series has got shadowy organizations, mind control experiments on human subjects, plots to overthrow foreign governments, a global vigilante task force labeled terrorists by authorities, a family crime empire, assassinations, and more.
Reading ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS it struck me how well the trilogy would translate into a video game — it’s reminiscent of a much better written version of Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. Between the two protagonists (Valentine and Lorenzo) and their different styles of attack (direct assault vs. stealth), their colorful cast of NPCs (Reaper, Shen, Tailor, Skunky), the dastardly villains (Katarina and Anders), shadowy organizations (Majestic, the Illuminati, and Exodus), the awe-inspiring set piece action scenes (the siege in DEAD SIX, the assault on Salah Jihan’s fortress in SWORDS OF EXODUS, and the maglev in ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS) it all would lend itself well to the First Person Shooter format. Call of Duty: Dead Six has a nice ring to it. If Tom Clancy can have his name tacked on multiple franchises I think it’s only fair to plaster the Correia brand on some games.
ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS neatly wraps up the Dead Six trilogy but I’m not entirely convinced that we’ve seen the last of Valentine and Lorenzo — in any case I certainly hope we haven’t. There’s a new world order established by the end of the novel and I’d love to see how Valentine and Lorenzo fit into it. I’ll try to be vague here but’s extremely refreshing to read a story where the action heroes don’t escape the crucible entirely intact and they may not be 100% successful in saving the day. Larry Correia has once again proven himself the unmatched king of action scenes and Mike Kupari is a highly capable writer with a bright future in the industry.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Equivalent to an R-rated action film
- Violence: If Larry Correia ever writes a book without violence please contact the police because he's obviously been replaced with a bodysnatcher. Lots of shooty-stabby-explodey fun.
- Sex: Innuendo but not detailed scenes