“It defied all logic. But maybe logic had too many boundaries.” (Vespia pg. 122)
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Cover blurb (from Amazon): “A mask, a makeup brush, and amazing powers. It’s all in a days work for supermodel turned superhero, Karma. Silke Butters lived within the glitz and glamour of the modeling world, until the day that world was turned upside down. Suddenly embodied with superpowers, she finds herself thrust into a world of heroes and villains, each enhanced with powers of their own. As Silke’s powers begin to grow she finds herself caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between both a subdivision of the U.S. government known as Shadow Company, and a ruthless terrorist organization known as The Sin Squad. Both entities want the “enhanced” for their respective teams with Silke as the main prize.
To disguise her famous face, and protect those that she loves, Silke invents an alter ego. Karma is born of necessity to decide the fate of those who are ill-intentioned and empower others with hope. With the help of her former flame Joe Riggs, and her computer hacker friend Maki, Silke develops a heroes call-to-action to battle the dark force that threatens to annihilate humanity. Karma, the 1st in a 5 part series, blends the over-the-top punch of popular comic book stories, with the literary nuance of an urban fantasy novel. A genre-blending roller coaster ride, Karma will delight both superhero fans and fantasy readers alike.”
I received a free copy of Karma in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.
What I liked:
Karma is fun and fast-paced. As the cover blurb says, it has the feel of a comic book (but it isn’t a graphic novel). X-Men is a decent comparison. The “enhancements” backstory is easy to follow and the various powers are each interesting. Action and relationship scenes are well balanced and I enjoyed the family drama aspect.
The secondary characters are a real strength in this book. The Sin Squad members each embody one of the seven deadly sins from the Bible. Maki and her family were also a high point for me. I really enjoyed the fact that women drove the story. Silke is a model, but her beauty isn’t relevant when it comes time to throw down. Maki is a computer whiz and work-at-home Mom, and both pieces of her personality are equally valued.
I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but sci-fi/fantasy isn’t always know for being inclusive. Karma breaks the mold. Vespia includes a number of diverse characters and that inclusion earns a big thumbs up. Multiple main characters are WOC and they all kick ass.
What I didn’t like:
As much as I enjoyed the supporting characters (and the villains) I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interest, Joe. His decision making was pretty questionable to me, and I found myself losing patience with him about a third of the way through the book. Silke is quick to forgive him after the truth comes out, which was also annoying to me.
Karma relies heavily on superhero tropes. I won’t go into a ton of detail, to avoid spoilers, but there were some aspects that felt stereotypical. I didn’t hate it, because I think most superhero stories share common threads. Having said that, I do think there was room for more creative detail.
Would I recommend this book?
Yeah. It’s a solid addition to the genre and includes some underrepresented characters.
**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** Karma includes scenes of sex, violence and torture but none of them are described in great detail. For context, I think it would be a light PG-13 rating. There is one event that some might find particularly upsetting. ***Major spoilers*** Maki is 8 months pregnant, but during the course of the book, she loses the baby. This miscarriage is brought about by violence.**
Karma deserves credit from a racial diversity standpoint. Silke is half Indian, half Welsh and her “exotic” looks are a point of contention within the modeling world. Her ethnicity is a talking point for reporters, but “to stay grounded, Silke reminded herself that only a handful of years ago, nobody even wanted to look twice at the young Indian newcomer.” (Vespia pg 8) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another urban fantasy novel with an Indian protagonist. Cleo, an important supporting character, is African and Cherokee. The shadowy leader of the Sin Squad is of Chinese heritage (based on his name and description).
Silke’s friend and makeup artist, Damien, is openly gay but it isn’t a huge part of the story. Silke is Buddhist but again, it isn’t discussed in any great detail.
Vespia brings some much needed diversity to the superhero genre. Karma is book one of five, so I’ll be curious to see what happens to Silke and the gang in the next installments.