CAPTAIN MOXLEY AND THE EMBERS OF THE EMPIRE by Dan Hanks (BOOK REVIEW)
‘‘Those who seek power can only ever see what’s right in front of them. There is no patience in their makeup. They simply look for the gleam of the treasures they desire, without taking the time to follow the twists and turns of the trail that brought it there. My knowledge was earned through years of late nights in the place that keeps the answers to every problem – the library!”
When I first saw this book I instantly fell in love with the cover by Dan Strange. Covers genuinely do entice a reader to want to dive right in and this worked a treat here. I believe the artwork by Strange has a real Firefly vibe to it, it speaks of high-octane escapades, a thrilling rollick if you will, with just a hint of creepiness too. However, did the story live up to my expectations? Fortunately, yes it did.
Travel back in time to 1952 and join one ex-spitfire pilot – Captain Samantha Moxley – as she races to protect her archaeologist sister from the shady US government who will stop at nothing to retrieve an artefact in her possession, an artefact that could very well change the world as they know it. You see, there are two keys which are believed to lead to a long lost empire – the fabled Atlantis – and within its realm hides a formidable power. With a former Nazi who now works for the US government, alien monsters and genetically enhanced soldiers all at her heels, well dear reader, as promised you’re in for a rivertting ride!
Our main protagonist Captain Samantha Moxley is the driving force of this novel, with the narrative mostly being told from her POV. Initially I thought the lighthearted tone and snarky voice of Sam would grate on me, I don’t usually find that kind of character trait appealing. However there was something about her character which I couldn’t help but like. As I settled into the story I found that Sam was far more than her outward appearance suggested. Hanks represents Sam as a take-no-nonsense, feisty and strong-willed character, yet she has her weaknesses too, her flaws. Years of fighting have definitely not left her unscathed. Sam’s overprotective nature towards her sister and others, her blinding belief that they aren’t capable of keeping themselves safe and her lack of trust ultimately leads to her unraveling. As the narrative progresses we see that although Sam remains her quick-witted feisty self, her vulnerable nature is also laid bare. Underneath all the bravado Sam is simply tired and lonely.
“Are you saying this isn’t why you got into your line of work?” Sam replied, wiping her jacket across her bloodied face. “The study of long-lost civilisations. How they lived. How they died. Lots of death in archeology I always thought?”
“Other people’s deaths, Captain. Not ours.”
Then we meet Sam’s sister, Jess. For all that the two sister’s clash against each other, they are actually one in the same – both are stubborn and both want to protect those they love. However, where Jess differs is at her heart she is an archaeologist who holds an immense thirst for discovery and her work takes precedence over all. I feel Hanks portrays the Moxley sisters as having a credible love/hate relationship which many siblings bear, yet I couldn’t help but want to see a few more tender scenes between them. Although we are briefly told of a few memories from their childhood, I’d have liked to have seen them play out in a bit more detail to show the bond they once had, which would also strengthen Sam’s emotional connection towards her sister.
Along for the adventure with the Moxley sisters were Will and Teddy, who both served as the intellectual additions to the party. They also both brought a lot of light hearted entertainment to many scenes and helped to bring out both Jess and Sam’s more affectionate sides. The gang together truly made for some chaotic scenes which I found was fantastically amusing to read! Yet Hanks doesn’t just deliver us humour, no, to undercut through all the crazy shenanigans he also creates characters such as Agent Taylor and Agent Smith to show us the damaging effects of a government who disguise murder, theft and the drive for absolute power under the notion of it being ‘for the greater good’. The question Hanks continuously makes us question is: whose greater good?
In the space of just a few months this is the second Indiana Jones esque novel I’ve read, the first being The Shadows of Ivory by TL Greylock. Although both are vastly different in tone and narrative arc, they both explored themes of archeological discoveries and they share the moral philosophies of who should be allowed to keep historical artefacts? Should it remain with the culture and people it originated from or should a government be allowed to study it for hidden knowledge and then preserve it in their own museums? Who has the right? I thoroughly appreciate the way Hanks shows us both sides of the argument through the characters and gives the reader much to ponder over.
‘More and more, the glorious ideals of ‘Empire’ were revealed to be nothing more than fancy dressing when you saw the realities of those who came to suffer beneath its polished boots, blinkered ambition, and secret agendas.’
Ultimately though Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire is distinctively an escapist read. If, like me, you’ve watched and loved movies such as The Mummy and of course as I mentioned Indiana Jones, then you’ll be able to recognise the type of tone and story arc which this book follows. Hanks forces us to suspend reality, embrace the chaotic ride and revel in the fun-factor. Become captivated by car chases, boobytraps, risen corpses, enclosing walls, spiders, and many puzzles too. The pacing in this book is relentless and Hanks’ storytelling is one that keeps you consistently glued to the pages.
In fact as I reached the climax of the story I was very much left wanting more as we are left with a few loose ends, exciting loose ends mind you, the kind of ones which make you want the next adventure immediately!
With 2020 being an utter ass, if you’re looking for something that is escapism to its core then here’s your perfect pandemic read to get lost in.
E-ARC provided by Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Thank you for the copy! Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire is out today!