fantasy and science fiction book reviewsBlades of Winter by G.T. AlmasiBlades of Winter by G.T. Almasi

Alix Nico is a red-haired, nano-teched, jacked-up, hard-drinking, part-android, smart-ass, homicidal, loose-cannon Interceptor, an operative for a shadowy intelligence gathering agency called Extreme Operations or ExOps. She is nineteen years old, following in her alcoholic really-loose-cannon father’s footsteps, in a 1980 that’s nothing like the one where Jimmy Carter was finishing up his single term and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was playing in theaters. Blades of Winter by G.T. Almasi is the first book of the Shadowstorm series, introducing Alix, aka Scarlet, aka Shortcake, aka Hot Shot, Angel, and a few other names as well.

Almasi’s world-building goes like this. (He draws a deep breath.) “Okay, um, Germany conquered Europe during World War II and there’s a four-way Cold War among Greater Germany, USA, China and Russia. Germany owns most of the world’s oil supply. All the groovy sci-fi tech that we love, nanotech, bio-tech, drug-tech, info-tech and geno-tech has all happened just like we imagine in 2012, only it’s 1980. Now don’t ask any questions, ‘kay?” With all these geopolitical changes (Jews are enslaved in Europe and Richard Nixon is on his third term) it’s a little disappointing that the villain is a garden variety middle-Eastern terrorist.

The world-building is good enough, though, to carry the action of this plot, and Blades of Winter is basically one wild ride after another. The best-written action sequence is Alix’s operation to rescue her kidnapped mother Cleo. The most hilarious one is a high-speed car chase through the streets of Paris, with a crazed driver/tour guide.“L’Arc de Triomphe! Erected to commemorate “ Jacques cranks the wheel right and left to avoid a police car. “ ze victory of Napoleon “ He chases the BMW into the huge traffic circle at the monument. “at Austerlitz in 1806.”
The most exciting, if unlikely, action sequence is the final one, when Alix abducts the cookie-cutter terrorist from a top secret lab in the middle of Persia, seconds before the USA destroys the installation with a cruise missile.Shadowstorm by G.T. Almasi

That’s really the reason to read Blades of Winter, for the adrenaline-triggering, white-knuckling breakneck crazy-time thrill rides that make up 75% of the book. If Alix’s role as an ExOps Interceptor is to be dropped into foreign cities and create acute mayhem, she totally rocks. If she is supposed to actually carry out a mission, like the covert abduction of an intelligence asset, then she is terrible. This is confusing, but ExOps keeps promoting her, usually using lines like, “Wow, you killed, like, eight people and you didn’t die — Good job!” So I think maximum damage is the intent of ExOps.

Shadowstorm is a series, and none of the overarching story questions about cloning, double agents and what really happened to Alix’s father, are addressed here. Alix and her tream — her Intelligence guy and her handler, called the “Front Desk” in this universe — are developed enough to carry the action and meet the mandatory wise-crackery quotient. Blades of Winter is fun, fun the way a gory, fast-paced ultra-violent video game is fun. If you like video games and lethal red-haired women, check out Blades of Winter.

In one of the most exciting debuts in years, G. T. Almasi has fused the intricate cat-and-mouse games of a John le Carré novel with the brash style of comic book superheroes to create a kick-ass alternate history that reimagines the Cold War as a clash of spies with biological, chemical, and technological enhancements. Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels. Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.