End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence Book 2) by Joshua Landeros

The Borgs are back in this absorbing first installment of author Joshua Aaron Landeros’ much-anticipated sequel to his debut SciFi thriller Reverence.

Early in the book, Chancellor Venloran pays tribute to UNR troopers Valerie Iglesias and Luis Viramontes before a packed pavilion honoring those who fought — and died — to make the ruthless new megapower a reality.

“The cost of insurrection is always tragedy,” Venloran intones.

His words prove prophetic as subsequent events spiral into still more action and intrigue — definitely the author’s strong suit. Jacob, Miles, Angela, Victor and Neal are a close-knit cadre of cadets at the academy, where training includes dealing out death to dissidents by firing squad.

Not everyone can handle the brutal executions, though, and Miles is sent to a Correctional Unit for failing to kill a preteen girl who stood trembling before him, waiting for the bullet that never left his weapon..

It’s indicative of the cracks beginning to appear in the UNR facade of unity, and the Chancellor must become ever more vigilant as even the cyborgs who are key to enforcing UNR absolute rule begin to show signs of siding with a small but ever-growing dissidence.

As the story progresses, one cyborg in particular goes rogue and must be hunted down like a rabid dog. Except this dog is ready to bite more than its former master’s hand. His pre-cyborg name was Will, and his quest for justice — for true independence from Venloran and the ever-reaching tentacles of the oppressive UNR — is single-minded and relentless.

Even his good friend and fellow cyborg Luis fell to the long sabre hung at his side. It was a deed for which Will remains deeply sorry, as he explains one day to Luis’ only daughter, Alyssa.

Meanwhile, super soldier Mari kicks ass in a rebel takedown, wondering as she does so about the righteousness of her vicious actions. She’s not the first SSC unit that’s contemplated her orders to kill and maim the UNR’s puny opposition forces.

But now there’s more at stake, as Venloran — a complex character who often rises above the two-dimensional cutout reserved for most megalomaniacal villains — is constructing a world summit that will once again make the venerable United Nations organization relevant.

Driving through a run-down stretch of Chicago one day, he turns morose. “I’m sorry,” he says to his wife. “it’s just… sometimes I worry I might lose. If I do, things will only decay even more.”

“‘Sorry? Worry?'” These are not words you hear from the lips of many all-powerful world leaders. But it’s just one more layer to a decidedly flawed and human player in Landeros’ complex plot.

And then there’s Super Soldier 37. Mari is hard-wired to save the world personally, yet it’s her personal demons that often get in the way. Raised by an obsessive Catholic mother, she typifies the reason why some units are being recalled for “modification” by UNR biomechanics. And even though her military training forces her to comply when it comes her turn to submit, the order nevertheless bothers her. A lot.

Strange behavior indeed for a being engineered to fight and kill without remorse of any kind. The perfect soldier in this intriguing intro to the Reverence sequel is, in fact, imperfect. And that’s what makes the entire book’s concept so appealing.

Go ahead. Get hooked on this carefully constructed series of novelettes that, together, will complete the next segment of the saga. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose — except, perhaps, some sleep as you go with Will and the other freedom fighters to their next meticulously choreographed fight scene.

With this diverse cast of characters, you truly will wonder who the bad guys really are.

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