5 Stars, Cari Z., Reviewed by Angel, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Where There’s Smoke by Cari Z.

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Title: Where There’s Smoke

Author: Cari Z

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 88 Pages

At a Glance: Where There’s Smoke is The Incredibles on steroids, and I totally mean that as a compliment.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.

But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.

Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.

Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.

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Review: Where There’s Smoke is a novella, but it is a fully complete story, and I wanted more. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel that’s coming out later this year. I think the author said it best in her forward dedication:

“For everyone who has always preferred the villain. I feel you, people.”

Yes, indeed! This is for all those who fell for Bucky Barnes (Captain America and the Winter Soldier), Brigadier General Francis X Hummel, as well as John Patrick Mason (The Rock), Gru (Despicable Me) and just to date myself, Darth Vader, from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Where There’s Smoke is an action/adventure tale with corruption, politics, heroes, villains, and romance, and I loved it. I normally don’t like the first person POV, but it works here. It works so well here, in fact, that you almost forget you’re being told a story. Cari Z throws you right into her world with some telling, but it’s mostly showing, which is explosive. Once I started this novella, I couldn’t put it down.

Edward is a wonderfully normal guy who puts himself in a new city to find his excitement, and find it he does. I could feel his wonder about the city of Panopolis, and how the fantasy didn’t quite live up to the expectation. Then, he meets a “villain”, and in one sense of the word The Mad Bombardier is the bad guys. But…I loved him, just as I did all those other villains previously mentioned. Raul, the life he led, the one that made him our villain, makes you wonder about how your own children will turn out, and if you are doing the right things with them. Or, at least it did me. This is just the beginning of their story, and it was a grand slam right out of the park.

The heroes, some mentioned only by name, made me want to know their stories, too. Freight Train, our “hero” of this story, seemed to have that same aspect—the fully justified arrogance about being a hero, with a bit of “Aww shucks, just doing my job” thrown in for good measure. This is what makes them our supposedly beloved heroes, and despite the fact, he made my skin crawl. Some of the other villains are over-the-top creepy, and it made me wonder about the speculation that, for all intents and purposes, it seems the city made both the heroes and the villains. Even the exposé writer SuperTruther is a viable presence, and I so wonder who it is.

I loved the world building Cari Z has done for this verse. The city of Panopolis is recognizable as both a regular city and one from a popular superhero series, be it Gotham or Metropolis. It has that adult, gritty and realistic feel to it. I’d say it was The Incredibles on steroids and totally mean that as a compliment. I am a first time reader of this author, but I will definitely be going back for more of her work. Thanks for a wonderful tale, Cari Z, I’m looking forward to reading more!

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You can buy Where There’s Smoke here:

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