Killer of Enemies

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Author: Joseph Bruchac

Publication: 2013, Tu Books

Pages: 358

Overall Rating: 3.5

Rating for Action: 3.0

Quantity of Action: 4.0

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Lozen lives among the torn remnants of the electronic age, in the years after a strange cloud destroyed everything with an electric circuit. Now genetically engineered monsters – once the playthings of the rich and crazy – roam the land, eating everything in their path. Lozen is an Apache warrior who uses her considerable skills to hunt monsters for the group of power-hungry warlords who have kidnapped her family. But the clock is ticking. Lozen’s new masters are psychotic, her family’s life hangs by a thread, and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue them soon it may be too late.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: The way Bruchac mixes Apache history and culture into the story. It gives Lozen’s character a solid foundation, adds that extra mystical twist to the story, and meshes nicely with the stark Southwestern landscape.

The other highlight of this one is definitely the monsters. In between return trips to the prison where Lozen lives – an amalgam of short visits with her family and terrifying interviews with the psychotic warlords who kidnapped them – she heads out into the desert to be the Killer of Enemies. And the enemies she faces off with are wildly creative and terrifying in equal measure – 200 foot snakes, a bison the size of a three story house, and a bird that could play chicken with a 747.   But Lozen stalks each one as if she were hunting deer, calmly trapping them and taking them out. Well, maybe not always so calmly, but she does it with style.

What I Liked the Least: Like I said, Bruchac has more than enough genetically mutated monsters to make this story over-the-top fun. Unfortunately, he doesn’t just give us the monsters and leave well enough alone. Instead, he takes things a step further by trying to weave everything from vampires to Big Foot into the story.

The vampires play such a minor role I’m not even sure why he included them. Lozen’s world is scary enough as it is. There was no need to throw vampires into the mix, turning a straight forward post-apocalyptic tale into a paranormal mishmash.

And Big Foot? He does play a major role. Turns out, Big Foot is one of the few survivors of a pre-human race of technologically advanced beings who were wiped out by a meteor (presumably the same one that destroyed the dinosaurs). He manages to get into some fairly ridiculous philosophical conversations with Lozen, while also becoming her guardian angel and saving her from several tight spots that would, frankly, have been much more exciting if she’d had to save herself. It got to the point where I stopped worrying about Lozen because I knew Big Foot was looking out for her – and that’s never a good thing.

How Good was the Action? Well, there’s a lot of it. But honestly, much of the action is kind of ho hum, because Bruchac has the annoying habit of constantly digressing, bringing the tension to a crashing halt before it has a chance to build up steam. Here’s one all too common example:

I reach for my belt to try to slide out the hidden blade I have sheathed in there. But there’s not time enough for that. His eyes blood red, Edwin is leaping at me like a tiger. He’s pulled a long razor-bladed knife from a calf sheath.

The objective of the gentle art of Aikido, my Uncle Chatto taught me, is to deflect the energy of an enemy’s attack. You are at the center of a circle, and that which seeks to strike will flow past you even faster.

And that is what Edwin does as I grasp his wrist and shoulder, turn and throw. He flies past me.

You catch that cerebral break right in the middle of the action? Bruchac does that all the time, breaking up what could have been an intense scene to explain what Lozens’ doing, to philosophize, or to reflect on how she learned the skills that are now saving her life instead of just letting the action speak for itself.

How Engaging was the Story? I loved Lozen’s character, the cool monsters, and the gritty, hardscrabble world she inhabits. All the same, I found the book far too easy to put down. Why? Because the villains (not to be confused with the monsters) weren’t really scary enough to give the book its proper measure of suspense. There are four psychotic rulers holding Lozen and her family prisoner – four villains – but we hardly get to know them. Three of the rulers we meet for just a scene or two each and the fourth, the one who had Lozen’s family kidnapped and is supposed to be the worst of the lot, we only see in passing. Sure they’re strange and obviously psychotic, but there were too many of them and the contact with each was too brief for me to be properly scared. Besides, by the time we reach the final showdown Lozen has dispatched so many truly terrifying monsters that seeing her face off against a psycho or two wasn’t all that worrisome.

Overall Assessment: Killer of Enemies has tons of potential, but the action scenes were too slow and the story as a whole lacked suspense. It’s definitely interesting. I loved Lozen, and Bruchac does an awesome job of weaving in Native American history and lore. But in the end it wasn’t exciting enough to make me want to go back for a second helping.

Profanity: Little to none.

Sex: A few veiled references to scantily clad women – and to the fantasies Lozen knows some of the guards are having about her.

Violence: Naturally. This is a monster book set in a post-apocalyptic world. Or course, most of the violence is inflicted on the monsters, but people suffer too – one man has a finger cut off in fairly graphic detail, others get beaten or trampled by beasts. Nothing hugely bloody, but Bruchac doesn’t try to hide reality either.

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