Monday 28 September 2020

Review: Liberty Justice for All: A Marvel: Xavier's Institute Novel

Liberty  Justice for All: A Marvel: Xavier's Institute Novel Liberty Justice for All: A Marvel: Xavier's Institute Novel by Carrie Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tie-in novels, novelizations of movies, and so forth are all too often hack-work, poorly edited and relying on coincidence, cliche, and the popularity of the franchise to carry off a mediocre story. Happily, this X-Men novel does not fit any of those stereotypes. While strongly tied into the lore of the long-running Marvel franchise, it's mostly fresh, well executed, and gives some depth to the characters and their relationships. There are some gaping plot holes, but for me they didn't spoil my enjoyment too much.

The protagonists are two new recruits to the New Xavier School, run by Cyclops in the wilds of Canada. We first get some scenes with their roommates and other classmates and teachers that establish not only their powers, but that they are emotionally intelligent, keen to help others, able to take effective action, and more sensible and mature than some of their peers. They're college age, but read more YA than new adult.

Sent off on a training exercise in the X-Copter, they pick up a distress call from the infamous mercenary Sabretooth, and decide to help him. This was the weakest part of the story for me. Not only is there never any explanation of how Sabretooth was able to radio them, but the stupid decision they make to ditch their training mission, not tell their seniors, and help someone untrustworthy with an unknown danger is distinctly out of character for them. Unfortunately, it's also necessary in order for the plot to exist.

Bad decision made, the action moves swiftly, and they encounter hostile police (until they inexplicably stop encountering police where I would have expected them); Sentinels; a dangerous magical artefact reminiscent of Night at the Museum which can kill the living and resurrect the dead (including, apparently, models of the dead such as Neanderthals, who are stereotypically dumb cavemen communicating in grunts); and a powerful enemy they've previously encountered in backstory, who they're terrified of. Throughout, they manage to be courageous, mostly effective, clever, and committed to doing the right thing, and it was this, and the well-handled dynamics between and within the characters, that kept the book its fourth star for me despite the handwaving of some key plot points. All the characters, even a couple of the minor ones, come across as complex people, not flat stereotypes, and the main characters experience satisfying development throughout.

It's a pleasure, too, to get a book from Netgalley that isn't full of basic editing issues. Kudos to the author and copy editor.

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