Title: Hearts of Darkness
Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
At a Glance: Reluctant superhero novel, perfect for those who maybe want to stick it to the standard favorite superheroes a little.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: Kaede Hiyashi is sick and tired of living in the shadow of his father, supervillain Doctor Terror. Brilliant but crazy, Doctor Terror sends his son to Corwyn, California, for reasons Kaede can’t imagine. Sent to accompany and protect him is Ash, a genetically modified supersoldier raised and trained by an infamous death cult.
Corwyn is lousy with superheroes, led by the obnoxious Dark Justice. Kaede finds himself dancing around Dark Justice as he digs into his father’s mysterious business and teaches his socially awkward—but physically lethal—bodyguard to acclimate to “normal” life. Can these two wacky supervillains figure out what Doctor Terror wants them to do, solve the riddle of the villain known as Black Hand, and keep Dark Justice from raining on their bloody parade? The course of love—and world domination—never did run smooth.
Review: This was a nice superhero read. There’s action, good characters, and a smidgen of a love story. Also, I really liked Dark Justice because he reminded me of my favorite action hero, even though he was kind of a pain in the ass for most the story (which also seems accurate concerning my favorite action hero).
One of the best aspects of the novel was Kaede himself. Kaede’s father, Doctor Terror, is a supervillain and legitimately insane, so Kaede spends most of his life training for oddball catastrophic scenarios, learning innovative and cutting-edge technologies, practicing how to be an entitled dick to everyone, and moving from city to city—because no place is safe for a supervillain’s son. If Kaede isn’t the target of some nefarious plot to get even with his father, then he’s surrounded by sycophants who are desperate to get on his old man’s good side. It’s safe to say he doesn’t have any real friends. Possibly the most concerning aspect of Kaede’s upbringing is that he isn’t even sure if Doctor Terror is his real father, or if he’s just a clone of him. If that doesn’t describe their family’s dysfunction in a nutshell, I don’t know what does.
Despite all that, I think Kaede has turned out rather well. Sure, he doesn’t seem to have a problem killing people, but they are mostly bad guys, or good guys who are really bad guys. That’s a theme I encountered many times in this book, that being good is about more than what color leotard you wear. It’s about the content of your character and your actions.
What gets the plot rolling is when Kaede finds himself under attack—again. And again, it’s people who want to get even with his father. But does Doctor Terror come down to help keep his son safe? No. Instead he sends a genetically engineered and possibly mentally damaged thug, and some cryptic and mostly unhelpful emails. Because that’s parenting at its finest.
Kaede has sort of a resigned but semi-Zen attitude regarding his father, so I was a bit surprised when he took the bait. From that data, I can only conclude Kaede is a bit like the old man, in that he constantly seeks a mental challenge. There was also the matter of Kaede having a crush on his new bodyguard, Ash. Although his father’s call to adventure was a great way for Kaede to impress his new date with his supervillain skills, I’m not sure I was completely buying their romance. But that’s okay. They’re both a bit screwy, so I guess it works.
My biggest problem with the novel was the pacing. Yes, it was fast in parts—you’d expect that with a superhero novel—so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for touchy feely stuff, which I didn’t have a problem with. However, the way the scenes ended and began made the entire story read slightly stilted to me. Instead of organizing the scenes around an action sequence, there were awkward passages of summary in between them. These passages weren’t like normal breaks in action, where the reader can take a breather and maybe get to know the characters better, but were more like laundry lists of what the character was doing: brushed teeth, went to bed, had breakfast, etc. And some of the super intense action scenes had no build up, which gave me reader whiplash.
Overall, it was a fine book. Kaede was fairly interesting, and I really liked Dark Justice. I don’t have time for boy scouts, and DJ didn’t disappoint me.
You can buy Hearts of Darkness here: