Unfettered by the obligation to establish a world and characters in BOUNTY CALLS, the fourth volume of his Bounty series, Markus Matthews experiments with chapter-long vignettes involving a host of supernatural circumstances and relaxes into creating vivid, buoyant stories within the larger story. The fantasy genre often enough leans toward epic Manichean battles with the world hanging in balance. Sometimes, as here, fantasy shines in shorter, simpler forms. Like good sea shanties and comics, sometimes there is delight in a simple problem-action-reaction story. Matthews rises well to this challenge of constructing engaging incidents that essentially stand on their own—especially one related to a squirrel. Also in evidence are zombies, werewolves in bar fights, a gremlin, hundreds of rapkeys–all in one two-week period. Racking up lucrative bounties is helpful, but are all these uncanny events coincidental? Or is there the glimmer of a possibility that something, or someone, else is at play? Also, as a coda: Matthews’ choice to start nearly every chapter with breakfast creates a repeated structure that helps hold the disparate stories together.
Matthews challenges himself—more than in previous volumes—to write from multiple perspectives. While Zack’s voice carried the story almost entirely in the first volumes, in BOUNTY CALLS every team member narrates a chapter. Except for external attributes like gender, skill and history, there is some commonality in the way Bree (the Werepanther), Liv (the vampire ) and former superhero Zack sound—their wit and manner of thinking can be a little hard to distinguish. As a personality, Liv is more distinct as she is described by others rather than through her own voice. When Matthews writes from the perspectives of Blue (a shadow traveler) and Alteea (Liv’s pixie)–perhaps the least human of the crew– idiosyncrasies emerge clearly; their distinctive personalities, already externally manifested, are enhanced by hearing their thoughts. Matthews’s strength at orchestrating encounters that balance playfulness and suspense is engaging and well-highlighted in this volume.
BOUNTY CALLS, the fourth in Markus Matthews’ Bounty series, is a bright, energetic and playful next installment and fans of the series, along with new readers with a taste for contemporary fantasy, will be pleased.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader