The Madmen's City by Cady Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Madmen's City by Cady Vance
This novel helps fill out the growing number of super hero novels I've been reading lately. It's a tough job without all the panels of drawings; but when done right they read quite well. This one is definitely going into the well done pile. This novel is more about vigilante than super powered heroes; but that's what Batman started out as. And this novel fits well with that in that it is drawn in a dystopic world that has the noir mood and images that go along with crime bosses and thugs and suspicious authority who don’t know what to do about the vigilantes.
Silas Snow is the rougher side of vigilantism. The story opens up after his having cleaned one more soldier from the Nerozzi crime family off the streets. Disguised as the faceless Ethos he's cleaning up the Coil; in part because he's the son of a crime boss that is in prison and he'd love to see a few more of the crime bosses sent away. Tonight while disposing of the body he is confronted by Phantom, Damian Kane, who is more like the morally correct super hero in the story. Phantom asks Ethos to vacate this particular area of the Coil: while Phantom is busy with some unknown project. Instead of vacating Ethos sticks around to find that Phantom is training his daughter to become a vigilante. At the same time some of the Nerozzi thugs show up threatening Phantom and his daughter; and Phantom is forced to leave with them to save his daughter; who ends up still in danger, but Ethos helps her get away in time for them both to see her father, Phantom, being arrested and placed in a police cruiser. Gwen Kane, Lady Hood, would rather not have had to rely on the seedy Ethos to get away, but she has no choice.
As it turns out Gwen's father is charged with the murder committed by Ethos, which fact Gwen does not yet know. Gwen also, in super hero irony, is not aware that her friend Silas Snow (she befriended him after the trial that sent his mother to prison) is really Ethos. Ethos is quickly placed in a tough situation with her father taking the blame for his crime. There's a long dance of the secret identities where Ethos helps Gwen and her friends try to get to the bottom of things. Once the cat is out of the bag and Ethos is unmasked, Silas decides to turn himself in; except other people have other plans; and Gwen might have to now return the favor and save Ethos, before they can clear her father's name.
The story is an interesting if frequently used storyline in this genre. The Phantom's vigilante justice is righteous and clean, but is falling short of effective. Ethos is brutal and exacting and perhaps has wakened the crime community to a point of wanting to pull his plug. Gwen, Lady Hood, must learn to walk the line between the two types of justice in order to help her father and she'll have to see how far she might go to compromise everything her father has stood for and taught her.
This is a well written evenly paced story with interesting characters in a typical situation for the realm of noir vigilante justice. A great read for fans of the Graphic Noir (Suspense and Mystery) novels minus the graphics and a pretty good read for YA and even some SFF fans.
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