Book Review of Edge of Desperation (Wielder World #1), by Nat Kennedy

I picked Edge of Desperation, by Nat Kennedy, up from Amazon as a freebie.

Description from Goodreads:
Assistant Professor Reggie Wolfe has simple goals: to help his engineering students succeed and to stop male Wielders from falling into Taint without drawing attention from the Bureau of Wielder Services. A select few can Wield the Nerve of the World. Women Wielders do so freely, without any repercussions. For men, it’s another story. They fight Taint and Corruption for the same power.

Reggie’s easy life upends when Kyle, a young male Wielder, lands at his feet, trapped in his Taint and pursued by the very criminal Wielder cults the Bureau is fighting. As the two work to control Kyle’s Taint, Reggie realizes he will do everything he can to help Kyle, even follow him into darkness.

Edge of Desperation is the opening novella to the Wielder World series—gay urban fantasy full of magic, suspense, and dedication born of trial and blood.

Honestly, better than I expected, but I think it really wanted to be a full length book, not a novella. There was too much going on to really fit in 100 pages and the world really could have done with quite a bit more fleshing out, especially around how the different power dynamic would make for a different society, which didn’t seem to be considered at all. This would require more pages or fewer plot points. And some of the plot points were unneeded. We really didn’t need the randomly evil female student to accuse him of sexual harassment. We really didn’t need the behind the scenes family drama, etc. It was nice and in a longer piece it would have made for good filler. But it seems to me that to make a novella really work an author has to drop the filler to keep the word count down. So, I think the book was a little confused about what it wanted to be.

But the writing was pretty good and I liked the characters a lot. I liked seeing the strong older sister and the younger brother who gets protected. I liked the way the author played with gender. Though I thought it was a little compromised by the woman (being vague to avoid a spoiler) that was resented for being good at her job and asked to quit. I get it. It was supposed to be like a man being accused of working too much and not giving his family enough attention. But men in that scenario still aren’t generally asked to give up their career.

And as much as I appreciated the twist on the genders, I never could get comfortable with it. The idea that men are prohibited from doing something because of their biology and therefore oppressed by women, who are physically more capable, read very much like the reader was invited to feel sorry for the ‘poor oppressed men.’ And given the current state of the world, that was a request that chafed. If this was a book written with an intended male audience, such that they were being invited to put themselves in women’s shoes, I would rally behind it. But it’s not. It’s written with a female audience in mind and, as a woman, I’m just not really interested in being asked to ‘think of the poor, pitiful men,’ when they still wield the bulk of social control in real life.

Lastly, the whole latter 1/3 of the book, when Reggie ran off to do something incredibly stupid, made no sense. I could find no logic in this action that made it even remotely believable. I basically think the book just spiraled off into nonsense at that point. Also, I was fine with it, but in case anyone else isn’t, I wouldn’t really call this a romance. There are two gay men and a bit of flirting, but no romance, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’ll come in future books.

Over all, not a bad read, just one with a few problems.

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