Fresh Meat: Hammer of Angels by G.T. Almasi

Hammer of Angels is a the second novel in the Shadowstorm series by G.T. Almasi that takes place in an alternative realty where Germany won WWII and super-spies fight a secret Cold War (available February 25, 2014).

Alix “Scarlet” Nicois back in this slam-bang sequel to the thrilling alternate history Blades of Winter. She’s more determined than ever to discover what really happened to her super-spy father and whose footsteps she’s followed by joining Extreme Operations (ExOps) as a physically augmented secret agent, or Level, as they’re known. The fallout from the events of the first book has America’s sole superpower ally, Greater Germany, threatening to leave their alliance for the friendlier embrace of either Russia or China. In an act of supreme realpolitik, ExOps decides that the best way to head this off is to remind Germany why it needs America – by secretly fomenting a slave rebellion in Greater Germany that only the Americans will be able to help them recover from.

In this alternate history, the Germans won World War II and decided that a better solution to their Jewish “problem” would be to force the Jews into slavery instead of annihilation. Alix and her partner, Patrick, are sent in by ExOps to kick-start the rebellion by assisting the underground freedom movement, the Circle of Zion, in freeing slaves and causing as much mayhem as possible. Complicating matters – for Alix, at least – is the restriction on the use of deadly force, allowable only when confronting members of the Staatszeiger (SZ) the sociopathic organization in charge of the institutionalized slavery system. The SZ is loved by very few citizens of Greater Germany, as many of whom believe that slavery is wrong. Thus, getting rid of SZ troops would constitute an acceptable form of collateral damage for the ExOps. Killing off regular members of the military and police, however, would not endear the cause to the average German and could backfire on the Americans.

So Alix and Patrick, along with several other Levels, help orchestrate an uprising, with the action and humor that are a hallmark of this spy series:

[My gun] Li’l Bertha sights in on a black-shirted Staatszeiger soldier at the end of the hallway. He fires his MP-50 at me. I pop a few .30-caliber slugs into his face and twirl away from his 9-mm burst. A door to my right whips open, and a huge SZ trooper reaches out to grab me. I smack his meaty paw out of the way, leap in the air, and ram my foot into his face. The brute staggers backward but remains upright. Blood runs out of his nose. I execute an arm-swirling swim move to get behind him and forcibly eject him from the room. Private Brute stumbles through a door across the hall, where a flurry of gunfire rips him apart. A cry of dismay rings out. I imagine it translates as, “Oh, shit, Private Brute still owes me two hundred marks!”

Things do get serious as Alix deals with her on-going post-traumatic stress, as well as with discovering the truth about her partner and, later, finding out what happened to her father. But her spirit is irrepressible, even in the face of the sternest authority, such as here, where she’s being chewed out by her boss, Cyrus:

“Freelancing is prohibited by Extreme Operations because the brass hats upstairs think that agent is probably moonlighting for a competitor. Freelancing is prohibited by me because sooner or later the brass hats upstairs order me to interrogate – and typically eliminate – that agent[…] Imagine my thrill, Scarlet,” my boss rumbles, “when I got a call at four o’clock this morning to inform me one of my Levels had pulled a mission I knew nothing about. After I heard about the gunfight on the Metro, my first thoughts were of you.” He catches my expression. “That was not a compliment! Wipe that smile off your face!”

I force my mouth to stop smiling.

While Hammer of Angels felt more expository than its predecessor, it also signaled that, if the roller-coaster twists Alix gets put through in this installment are any indicator, the next book will be a doozy. I personally enjoyed how easy it was to slip back into Alix’s world. Her narrative voice is so fresh and memorable that it’s hard to believe that I read Blades of Winter on its debut over a year and a half ago. I am eagerly looking forward to the completion of the next book, and I’m hoping that the time until the third installment will feel just as inconsequential.

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.