Under the otherworldly Blue’s rigorous training regimen, A BOUNTY OF EVIL (the second contemporary fantasy in Markus Matthews’ Bounty series), former Hamilton Hurricane Zack Stevens and the rest of the team–Liv the vampire, Bree the Werepanther, and a Stella, an English schoolgirl/ monstrous Hyde creature–have been preparing for their first bounty hunt together. When hideously mangled corpses begin appearing around the dark northern forests, they must decide whether they are ready for a case this dangerous. Can they stop a malevolent creature whose tremendous strength overwhelms even the government’s most elite enhanced strike team?
Balancing the original and the familiar in genre fiction is tricky. Adhere too much to standard plots, character and banter and your work is lost in the sea of similar fiction. Stray too far and risk losing an enthusiastic audience expecting the familiar satisfaction of the form. Matthews walks this fine line well, working within the fantasy genre while creating unique moments that flow organically from the logic of character and story. From Liv’s driving skills and the meeting of the Barrie pack to teasing Agnes and well-paced, detailed, well-choreographed scenes, Matthews is maturing as a storyteller who simultaneously works within and transcends the genre.
Genre fiction often contains thematic depths inside the pleasures of story. Among other themes, this volume explores the nature of good and evil, a common preoccupation of high and low fantasy. In BOUNTY OF EVIL, malevolence is remote, wandering and solitary which is juxtaposed against a collaborative good with its psychic center in the team’s shared home. In a perfect, funny mid-book metaphor, that shared home is almost blown up in a moment that could risk the stability of the team.
Matthews has some small linguistic weakness that offset by his many strengths, particularly his satisfying development of secondary characters. His descriptions, like ‘tank,’ seem to draw on the language of role-playing games, which can pull readers out of the specificity of this unique world. Still, Matthews makes increasingly savvy choices about plot and the introduction of interesting characters, especially Ben Cooper and Dmitri of GRC13. These additions bode well for continued volumes in the series where the judicious use of new characters is refreshing.
A BOUNTY OF EVIL, the second book in Markus Matthews’ Bounty Series, is a solidly written, diverting contemporary fantasy with well-constructed action scenes delivering a satisfying yarn about a team of bounty hunters and their attempt to stop a dark, violent, shadowy creature with malevolent intentions.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader