For several years now I've been meaning to give the Rogue Angel series a try. I love action/adventure novels, I love history, I love fantasy, and I love stories with kick-ass heroines. So I'm definitely the target audience for a series like this. The fact that I hadn't read any of the novels until recently is just another case of too many books, not enough time.
But the release of the latest entry in the series, MAGIC LANTERN (by my buddy Mel Odom writing under the Alex Archer house-name), finally prompted me to get around to it.
Before I read MAGIC LANTERN, though, since I already had a copy of DESTINY, the first book in the series (also by Mel Odom), it seemed to make sense to go ahead and start with it. The books are stand-alones for the most part, which is common in a series written by multiple authors, but DESTINY serves as the protagonist's origin story, to use a comic book term.
Annja Creed is an archeologist who finances her academic efforts by working as one of the hosts of a cable TV series called CHASING HISTORY'S MONSTERS. It's pretty sensationalistic, but it allows Annja to pursue various historical mysteries that interest her. She's in France trying to hunt down the truth about a rash of serial killings several centuries earlier that were attributed to an alleged supernatural beast, when she stumbles into a dangerous criminal's search for some ancient treasure. In the course of this, Annja also encounters a couple of enigmatic, somewhat sinister individuals, Roux and Garin, who are either old (and I do mean old!) friends, deadly enemies, or both.
The upshot of this is that Annja winds up recovering the last fragment of the broken sword that once belonged to Joan of Arc, and once it's placed with the other fragments, the sword reforms into a mystical weapon that only Annja can use, as well as giving her increased speed and strength to go with her already formidable fighting and survival skills. (That's not really a spoiler, since it is the basic concept of the series and is spelled out pretty plainly in the cover copy on all the books.) Naturally Annja untangles a centuries-old conspiracy, uncovers the truth about the treasure and the murders, and defeats the villains.
As MAGIC LANTERN opens, she's in London on the trail of a new serial killer who calls himself Mr. Hyde and claims to have uncovered the formula that transformed Robert Louis Stevenson's mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll into the brutal monster. However, she's quickly diverted into a different mystery involving the murder of an 18th Century French phantasmagorist who staged horrific magic lantern shows for wealthy Parisians. At least two different groups of villains are after an ancient lantern the murdered Frenchman brought back from China, a lantern which has recently surfaced in London and is in the possession of an English professor of literature befriended by Annja.
As you can tell, these books are not lacking for plot elements. Odom does a very skillful job of weaving them all together, even though there were a few times when I wondered how in the world he was going to tie everything up. But he does, and in ways that make perfect sense. Along the way there are plenty of very well-written action scenes, and Annja is a very likable heroine who reminds me a little of Modesty Blaise. I really enjoyed the well-researched history angles of these novels, as well.
Several other authors have written Rogue Angel novels, with Victor Milan being the most prolific of them. I plan to read some of them as well. And I think I have most, if not all, of the ones Mel has written, so I definitely plan to read them. For now, though, I had a great time reading DESTINY and MAGIC LANTERN, and both of them get a high recommendation from me.