Caroline Fréchette is one of my favourite fantasy writers in the National Capital Region.
Last year, the Gatineau-based author released Blood Relations, the first book in a five-part series. Now she has published Brothers In Arms, the enjoyable sequel in her action-packed world filled with gangsters, a mysterious corporation and young people with superpowers.
Published by Renaissance Press, this well written series tells the story of Alex Winters, a teenage boy who can create fire with his thoughts. Growing up in rough circumstances and running away at the age of 13, Alex now works with gangsters, where he puts his powerful abilities to work.
At an age when most people are still in high school and living with their parents, our brooding and moody protagonist must deal with being a young father, while juggling the stress and danger of being an important figure in an organised crime ring.
What is particularly interesting, however, is his continual struggle with morality.
“[M]ore than anything, [Alex] wants to not be like his biological father, to believe that he can be different, and that he’s not doomed to be a monster,” says Fréchette, who works at the Ottawa Public Library. “[Crime Boss] Mister Lupino is certainly a big part of what keeps him sane, but mostly it’s doing things for others, doing ‘what must be done,’ in a way.”
It is a challenge to release a good sequel, whether it is a book, movie or TV miniseries. The weak ones tend to repeat the same story as the original, and then keep recycling the same narrative over and over and over again. (This is the case with too many horror movies).
Epic tales, in contrast, divide a large continuous story into different parts. As such, the sequel is really just one volume in a multi-part story.
Brothers In Arms does not really fall into either of the latter two categories. In fact, a reader could easily read this sequel without having picked up Blood Relations. (Although I would still recommend reading the first book as it sets the scene and provides useful background).
In the first novel, Alex fights a deadly gang of vampires who invade his turf. The sequel completely changes scenes by introducing a mysterious organisation that conducts research on supernatural powers. When Alex is kidnapped by this secret group, he meets a whole slew of characters with fantastical abilities who he never knew existed.
Fréchette tells Apartment613 that many of these new characters will appear in future books.
“Blood Relations was really about establishing the setting, and the characters, and Brothers In Arms is where the real story of the series begins,” says Fréchette. “The theme of superpowers and people is definitely going to be very present for the next two books.”
If you are a fan of fantasy I would definitely encourage you to pick up both of these books. The story has a great pace and the strong writing makes them an easy read. As well, Alex Winters is a very interesting character.
“At this point in his story, Alex has no idea what he wants to do with his life,” says Fréchette, who is originally from Montreal but has been living in the National Capital Region for many years. “He spends so much time running from his past, and who he thinks he is doomed to become (his biological father) that he never once stopped and thought about where he was running to…. Of course, as his author, I could tell you what he needs, but as far as what he wants to do with his life, he hasn’t quite figured it out. He starts to figure it out in the third book, and really gets it in the fourth one.”
The third book in the series is scheduled to be released this October.